The Culinary Delights of Portland, Maine

rosemontI am not just a blogger, an armchair theologian.  I am in fact a part-time, self-appointed tourism assistant for my beloved home state: Maine.

Acting as I constantly do in this role, and recently surfing various websites, I came across this NYT article on the excellent cuisine of one Portland, Maine.  I might note before hastening on that this article was the number one article on the Times website.  Eat your heart out, Maureen Dowd. (Photo: Stacey Cramp/NYT)

Here’s what the piece, entitled “A Rich Symphony of Food” (interesting how we often mix metaphors to speak of food and the arts) by Julia Moskin, has to say by way of summary.  Why is Portland, Maine a hotbed for great cooking?

In the last decade, Portland has undergone a controlled fermentation for culinary ideas — combining young chefs in a hard climate with few rules, no European tradition to answer to, and relatively low economic pressure — and has become one of the best places to eat in the Northeast. The most interesting chefs here cook up and down the spectrum, from Erik Desjarlais’s classically pressed roast ducks at Evangeline, to the renegade baker Stephen Lanzalotta’s gorgeously caramelized sfogliatelle (sold out of the back of Micucci Grocery, an Italian-imports shop), to Mr. Potocki’s simple but brilliant chili-garlic cream cheese and handmade bagels.

Read the whole article.

Can I share something with you?  Maine, speaking generally, has amazing food.  I swear.  I’m not making it up.  You could eat your way up the coast and back.  That’s right–on top of being breathtakingly beautiful, Maine boasts excellent cuisine.  In my college town, Brunswick (a quintessential New England college town), there were three Thai places, one Indian restaurant, several good Chinese establishments, an incredible old-fashioned donut shop, another incredible old-fashioned drive-in burger place (Fat Boy’s–wow), an Irish/German fusion restaurant, a gourmet pizza place (Benzoni’s, RIP), and more.

So here’s the point: plan a vacation to Maine.  It’s not that expensive to go there.  Early fall, late spring, summer, or winter (if you want to ski) are all great seasons.  Go up route 1.  Rent a car and drive up it.  Along the way, make sure you eat at Amato’s, where you will get the best Italian imaginable.  Go to Epi’s in Bangor or Bar Harbor, where you will a sandwich Greater Than Which No Other Can Be Conceived.

You could not go wrong with a stay in Camden, one of the prettiest towns you’ll ever see (couples might want to honeymoon or visit here for a getaway).  Sugarloaf is great for skiing or golf.  Freeport has incredible shopping in a charming environment.  And, if you make all the way up the coast to my little hometown, Machias, you could lunch at The Artist’s Cafe and eat a sumptuous dinner at The Riverside Inn.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.  Honestly, you should plan a vacation to Maine.  Don’t take just my word for it–take that of the NYT.  As they say, “Go to Portland and eat.”

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  • Make sure you let me know if you ever make it back here – we will have grab a bite to eat!

  • owenstrachan

    Sounds good, Josh. I would love to.

    What are your favorite places to visit in Maine? What restaurants do you recommend?

  • Ryan Hill

    I moved to South Hamilton, MA this summer and visited the southeast coast of Maine on a day trip. We went to two restaurants. The Sun’ N’ Surf restaurant on York Beach for lunch and the Maine Diner for blueberry pie. I think they both kind of touristy places to eat but the view from the Sun ‘n’ Surf was incredible since it’s right on the water. I had my first lobster roll which was good and the pie from the Diner was good was well. But, all these places sound really good so next time I get up that way I will definitely have to try some of them

  • anna

    don’t forget Big G’s in winslow. and The Coffee Pot in bangor could easily give amato’s a run for their money. also the Friar’s Bakehouse.

  • Ross Shannon

    Great post! Having grown up in Woburn, MA, the Maine coast was my family’s weekend getaway (or day trip) of choice. I would add that the State Parks are exceptional, perhaps the best in the Northeast (think Arirondacks and Baxter).

    More generally, I enjoy and benefit from the blog Owen. Thank you brother.

  • Donna Strachan

    Two points of interest – the artist’s cafe in Machias has unfortunately closed, building sold etc BUT I hear that the Chandler River Inn (House?) in Jonesboro is wonderful…..and, isn’t the best eating of all to be found in the kitchen of 36 Elm, Machias?
    Ha! mom

  • owenstrachan

    Ryan and Anna, thanks for the recommendations. I’m glad they’re entered into the public record! Ryan, I hope that your time in New England has been and will be richly beneficial.

    Ross, you’re quite right about the state parks. They are incredible. Cannot recommend them highly enough–and thanks for your kind words.

    Mom, as usual, you’re setting me straight! There is no finer meal to be had than the spaghetti cooked out of a kitchen well known to both of us.

    To any skeptics out there, there is something special about Maine. Go to it before you die. It’s a place where, on a nice hike or a visit to the ocean, you get a sense for the grandeur and majesty of God. Being in touch with such natural beauty makes one all the more amazed that this same God has reached down to draw us to Himself.

  • Richard Glenny

    Blueberry pie at the Maine Diner in Wells after a walk on the beach at Laudham Farm.

    We live outside Providence and we really enjoy those special days in Maine.