The NY Times article I read a few years back first put Portland, Maine on my radar as a dining destination, but back then, I already moved out of Boston and was adjusting to the more French and Southern inspired DC dining scene. When I moved back this winter, I made a goal to take a trip out with Katie and Krissie and as of this past weekend, I could cross it off my list. Sadly, we did not make it to any of the restaurants mentioned in the list, although Duckfat was by the same people who created Hugo’s.
We arrived Saturday
mid late morning, but not before picking up some donuts at Kane’s Donuts in Saugus, just outside of Boston. The humble donut is one of my favorite junk foods with the ability to be dressed in a ton of ways: cake vs yeast, sweet vs savory, plain vs filled, circle vs stick, glazed vs topped vs glazed and topped etc. Sadly, Katie and Krissie didn’t share the same feeling at least not to the same extent until after the fact the Kane’s was located in the middle of nowhere rather than being conveniently located off a major highway. With anticipation building, we arrived at the counter only to be overwhelmed with the choices. Krissie wanted a muffin and I said no so we ended up getting a half dozen: honey dipped, chocolate, apple cider, chocolate coconut, chocolate glazed with chocolate sprinkles (not jimmies) and jelly. The six set us back $7.50, but upon closer inspection, these babies were huge and heavy. In my old age, I only managed to try 1.5 donuts (honey dipped, chocolate, and chocolate coconut) before starting to feel sick, but man was it worth it. These were easily the best donuts I’ve ever had. My favorite was the honey dipped, as it wasn’t as heavy as the chocolate ones. The texture was soft chewy and not overly sweet. My next favorite was the chocolate coconut that was subtle with a fine flakey coconut covered exterior. If you are a donut lover, make it a priority to visit Kane’s.
Once we arrived to Portland, we went directly to the Portland Observatory to take in some views and pictures while learning some history. History that helped contribute to the creation of one of the top 3 sandwiches I’ve ever eaten at Duckfat.
As mentioned, Duckfat was by the same people that created Hugo’s, which was mentioned in the NY Times article and is also one of the most expensive meals in Portland. The cafe was small, cozy, and there was a wait for the entire duration of the meal. After about a 20 minute wait, we snagged a table outside, which was both nice and a bit awkward as the seating was bar style and facing the hungry patrons waiting to get a table. To start we got the house made grapefruit & ginger soda, mint & lime soda and lemonade. Only the mint & lime soda came up short as it was overly herbal minty overshadowed any of the lime. The sandwiches were the main starts. We got the corned beef tongue reuben, duck confit and B.G.T. My favorite was the duck confit. The duck was finely shredded along with the slaw which gave just the right amount of crunch and the uniform cut made the sandwich easy to eat. The sweet chili sauce balanced out the savory duck and ended with just a little heat. The bread was like a flatbread that was crispy without being dry and held the sandwich contents very well. Thumbs up to the Standard Baking Co. The B.G.T. made me a believer of goat cheese and was the first time I can remember not cringing when eating a stronger cheese. All the ingredients were money individually and together for a great summer sandwich. We also ordered a cone of fries fried with duck fat. These fries were the best gourmet fries I’ve had. They remained hot and crispy for the duration of the meal and were perfectly seasoned throughout. I only wish that the dipping sauces were as good. Truffle ketchup as good and curry mayo was decent as it was mistakenly bought to us, but the Thai chili mayo was weak in flavor.
After lunch we went straight to the Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum and took the last train to get a view of the northern park in Portland with clear views of the Casco Bay. After checking in at the Holiday Inn By The Bay, Katie and Krissie took a nap while I watched Harrison Ford kick ass in Air Force One.
For dinner we headed to Old Port and Waterfront to pick a seafood spot. Portland Lobster Co. was the early favorite, but was crowded so we decided to check out Three Sons Lobster & Fish. This was a seafood market where you mostly buy live seafood or they would steam it for you and you could dig in on a bench outside. It was a low cost operation so 2 1 lbs. lobsters 1 lbs. of clams, 3 pieces of corn on the cob and butter ran us a few cents over $30. However, the place was closing and we didn’t want to return the next day to return a shell cracking set because there was a $5 deposit for it. Let’s just say things got messy. While the seafood was cheap and fresh, the ambiance and service were sub par. It was an experience and probably the cheapest place to get seafood so just remember that before eating there.
For second dinner, we went back to Portland Lobster Co. and got ourselves some lobster rolls. The lobster was served plain with some lettuce and came with cole slaw and fries. I would have liked a little butter to go on the toasted roll to prevent it from being dry and dressed the lobster with just a little mayo and possibly celery and paprika. Sadly, it was a bit disappointing compared to the past lobster rolls I’ve had, but with live music and a lively atmosphere, it was a nice place to enjoy the weather. Plus it had facilities were we could wash up from Three Sons Lobster. I would try some of the fried seafood if I were to visit again.
Before leaving for Hampton Beach the next day, we headed to Becky’s Diner for breakfast. However, after a 20 minute wait, we had to wait another 30 minutes for food. Service was decent, but nothing about the food or cafeteria style OJ made the wait worth while. The corned beef was loosely ground with clear cubes of potatoes and was more like a think chili consistency. My eggs were over cooked as well, but the buttered English muffin was one of the better ones I’ve had. I don’t want to know how much butter went into that to make it happen. The sausage I got from Krissie was also a highlight, but overall Becky’s let me down.
Hopefully this post will inspire you to visit Portland. I hope that I can return again this year, and if not definitely next year. For a smaller city, the dining scene held it’s own and the summer weather was beautiful. The mix of New England coastal vibe, cozy downtown restaurants, breweries and nightlife make Portland inviting and a great getaway for big city dwellers.
Last big win this weekend was that I only gained 1 lbs.