Thursday, December 30, 2010

Homeward Bound, In Reverse Part II

Greetings gang! Well it has come and gone, another Christmas season, did you survive? Santa was pretty decent to me, and I love my new g-shock watch! Score. But now the New Year is upon us and I’m pretty happy about it. This year was a roller coaster and while it has brought many good things in my life, a new year is a refreshing and rejuvenating promise of better things to come. I can’t wait. I’m very ready for new beginnings and a new, clean slate. Along this same vein, you, the faithful reader, can expect bigger and better things for this modest little blog, so watch out for them. (It will all be fabulous I assure you).

New Years Eve this year promises to be great. My outfit is picked out and my friends actually planning something out for once… shocker… I’m all geared up to get my Old Lang Syne on. So, a day early, a very Happy New Year everyone! Have a ball, you (and I) have earned it. (Maybe I should insert a Will Smith, “we’re gonna party like it’s 1999” joke here? Thoughts?)

Now, on to the review du jour! Yippy Skippy! Even though this review comes about a week past due, I thought it still important to relay the message of good food from Boston to you folks. The second restaurant I went to on my Boston day trip was the very delish Douzo, This is some of the best sushi I have had in the city, and I am a devout Fugaku fan, the legendary, homey and slightly kitsch Brookline sushi spot,, so this is saying something.

Douzo's sign out front of the restaurant, at 131 Dartmouth Street in Boston's Back Bay

Douzo, by sharp contrast, is very downtown Boston. Sleek, modern and stylish, the term feng shui comes rushing to the top of my list. I have always said that a restaurants appearance can only directly influence your meal and the lush atmosphere here most certainly makes their artisan sushi rolls and sashimi taste that much better. I loved it here. The service was a bit slow to seat my friend and me, but once we sat down, our waitress was attentive and very personable once dinner got rolling.

As it should be, however, food was the star here. I started with a delicious Miso soup and seaweed salad, and my friend got the edamame, always good. But the main event was a lavish assortment of the freshest sushi in Boston (I’m pretty certain anyway).

I chomped down on wild salmon and striped bass sashimi and an eel roll (my fave) and my friend ordered a few different rolls to try out, including the Spider Roll which was a “soft shell crab tempura, avocado, cucumber and Tobiko and spicy mayo rolled with vinegary Daikon Radish” completely delish. The flavors of this sushi were so light, fresh, sweet, and salty that I didn’t want the meal to end. (The best compliment of a restaurant I can think of.)

The only proviso I have about this restaurant for the general public is that this place isn’t the “cheapest.” So be prepared to have a bit of money to spend. The food is worth the cost and the experience of having a upscale dining experience at one of Boston’s best restaurants is worth a few dollars. Right?

Now, this restaurant, with all of the décor, service and food is worth a 4 Fork (just shy of a five because my friend and I waited like idiots at the front door for a few solid minuets before being seated at one of many open tables). Such is life, but go to Douzo, you will not be disappointed.

There you have it, my last posting in the great year of 2010. What meals will the New Year bring? Stay tuned, you won’t be sorry.

Words for the day? Yes…

As stated above, the New Year is upon us. This is a big deal, because given the amount of harm we do to our planet and to others, it’s amazing we have held out this long. So, in the coming year, be kinder to your fellow man and to our planet, because without both we would be alone and floating in space cold in an awkward space suit and probably without great sushi to eat. And that future sounds awful… doesn’t it? Happy Happy New Year world! Get ready 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homeward Bound, In Reverse, Part I

Good day everyone! Well it’s December 23nd and that means only 2 days till Christmas! Holy Crap! This also means if you left your holiday shopping until now you’re pretty much screwed. Try finding a size you need at the mall-turned-war zone or reach for that last Christmas Ham and tell me why it has the strange smell wafting from it. I, by contrast, have all my shopping done and am now counting down the hours, sans smelly ham, until I get to rip into what Santa has for me under the tree. Can’t wait, man I love this holiday.

However, with all the commercial frenzy that surrounds the holidays, sometimes a simple day trip to get away from your responsibilities and mounting credit card bill is in order (not to mention the crazed shoppers with fists instead of smiles, yikes!). So that’s exactly what I did. I packed an overnight bag, bought a bus ticket, and headed to my former home base of Boston, MA. With my wrapped Christmas gift for my friend in tucked under my arm, I departed Maine leaving the stress and holly jolly bloodbath behind. And two hours later, with some iPod time and a few articles in Rolling Stone Magazine, I arrived excited, refreshed and needing a restroom (I was totally not dealing with the one on the bus, please).

The moment I was picked up by my friend, we went straight to brunch at Masa Southwest Bar and Grill, and man I love this place. A South End institution, it’s the type of restaurant that is familiar yet exciting, upscale yet comfy. When we arrived, the restaurant was decked out in festive holiday decorations, with a Latin bent, to make it extra festive. It really is the space itself you notice first when you arrive. Beautiful warm colors, metal ceilings, and white linens combine tastefully, making the meal you have here as visual as flavorful.

Here is a picture of the dining room, from Masa's website. Beautiful, right?

On this particular Sunday, the place was chock-full of diners, literally wall to wall. (Always a hallmark of a good restaurant, FYI). Luckily there was one table open. It was brunch on Sunday, so this isn’t a surprise, but what was a shocker was the service. They, even being as busy as they were, were prompt, friendly, and always ready with water, another Mimosa or anything else we needed. Brownie points!

Our meal started with complimentary spicy corn bread and a trio of Chipotle Butter, Raspberry jam, and a spiced marmalade. These flavors are what take center stage here; Latin inspired, upscale food, but always with a bit of whimsy and modernity too. All of this goes very well with their Mimosa, maybe the tastiest one I’ve had yet.

For the main event, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros, and another mimosa (can’t help it). A favorite of mine, the Sunnyside-up eggs in a savory Ranchero sauce, over a bed of corn tortillas and refried beans, I have to ask, is there anything better? Theirs was very good, and it was the perfect size, I finished the whole thing. My friend got a breakfast burrito, which was also good, because I got a bite.

Huevos Rancheros, yummo! (pulled from

After all of this, I wasn't able to order anything else, I was just too full. Even though I really wanted to order more because its hard to find this kind of cuisine in Maine, and sometimes just as hard to find this kind of dining experience this far up I-95. But fully sated, we left to go on our next adventure for the day, appreciating the time just to sit and talk for an hour or so. I let the delicious brunch wash over me and savored a rare moment, before the big day December the 25th were I could do nothing but enjoy.

So rating time? Yes please! This is a 4 Fork restaurant, but there should be no surprise there. The food is suburb and inventive, the environment festive and classy, and the waitstaff attentive and friendly. Go here, and you will not be disappointed, at all.

*Since this post has been published, I have been back to Masa on a Thursday and all night long they have half off appetizers! This is amazing considering that their appetizers combination plate is only $10 normally, and that same plate becomes only $5. Get here on a Thursday, after work, and you won’t be disappointed. Sangria and tapas happy hour? Yes sir!  

Now on to… Words for the Day!

As stated above, Christmas is two days away. This is the time to reflect on the past year, surround you with family and friends, and understand the true spirit of the season is to love one another, dammit! And if dynamite food happens to sneak into your plans too, all the better. Merry Christmas everyone! Eat, Drink, and be Extra Merry!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pizza News Flash

*!!!News Flash!!!*

Otto's Pizza has opened a second location in Portland, ME. In the old North Star Cafe at 225 Congress Street, this second Otto's location will become the accessible choice for those East End Portlanders who love their traditional Naples-style pizza, but don't want to walk the entire length of Portland to get at it. This is a good thing and we should all be excited about it.

That is all, enjoy your day everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Burrito News Flash

*!!!News Flash!!!*

Chipotle, the national Mexican Burrito chain is now open by the Maine Mall in South Portland. This is not a test. I repeat this is not a test. Please walk, fly, bike or walk to Chipotle calmly but swiftly and enjoy some of the best chain restaurant burritos around.

This alert is paid for by The Novice Fork broadcasting system, made possible by the support from readers like you. Thank you.  

You may now return to your regularly scheduled lives.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Ham, Anchovy, and Planet Fitness Cocktail, Over Ice

Ho Ho Ho Ya’ll! With every post in the month of December, you and I get a little closer to Christmas and all of its appetizing trappings. And I can’t wait! I love this time of year, with sugary ham, chocolate galore, and my Madre’s pasta salad. Man, after all of that, I’ll be lucky if I fit into the same pants I’m wearing as I write this, they are really nice pants, so I hope I do. Because I fear this, I joined Planet Fitness this week. God help me. A member when I lived in Boston, I thought it was high time I got my slightly expanding bum off the couch and got physical (thank you Olivia Newton John).

Also I’m certainly in full holiday swing this year. Almost all of my shopping is done, I have Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas to You” on constant rotation, and I’m wearing some combo of red and green almost daily. Wow, in reflection, I need it to be summer again, apparently something about this cold weather makes me crazy. Just how much Christmas can one man take? (Apparently a lot)

Anyway, regardless of your score on the Christmas Cheer-o-meter, or your P.E test results for that matter, there is something in the air that makes dinners out this time of year a bit more special. Restaurants are decorated in “holiday style,” and each meal you enjoy feels more and more like a present to yourself, as opposed to sabotage to your workout plan. This could not be truer than the meal I recently enjoyed in Newburyport, MA.

This Sunday, or as it should be renamed, the day Mother Nature was pissed, was the day I choose to enjoy a nice, pre-holiday dinner out. It rained so much I couldn’t see in front of me as I drove down 95 to meet with my date for the evening. My journey to get there was awful. A bridge I needed to take was closed for repairs, I had to get back on the highway twice, and while I looked nice when I left my house, when I arrived, on foot to the restaurant, I resembled more of what you find after you run a washing machine.

Anyhoo, I made it to the restaurant, finally! The spot for the night was 10 Center Street,, and it was great! The place is the type of upscale rustic restaurant where you get what you pay for. The website claims this is a restaurant with "New American Cusine with French Flair," and this is certainly what you get. Fresh, hearty plates with an emphasis on cream and protein, the food here is French lite, with strong New England sensibility.
The waitstaff are very professional, gracious and relaxed, while swift and attentive. We were seated within seconds, and enjoying a cocktail within minutes. We sat upstairs in the rustic and cozy yet grand dining room, with lots of dark, character rich exposed brick, long family style tables and more intimate seating options. Our table was right next to a roaring fire, which was uber-comfy and a bit romantic too (hehe). To start, I enjoyed my favorite cocktail, a Greyhound, or fresh squeezed Grapefruit Juice and Vodka, and it was delish there (they made a great one, but not the best, for that, go to Sonny’s in Portland, ME)

Here is a picture of the upstairs dinning room, from the restaurant's website.

For starters, my date and I enjoyed a dozen oysters and I devoured a Caesar Salad, which was perfection dressed with Radicchio, and white anchovies, normal anchovies more refined cousin. It was sooo good I could eat it everyday. For my entrée, I chose the Lobster Mac & Cheese, with English Peas and aged cheddar cheese. It was so tasty I could almost overlook the massive portion I got. This was enough for a family of four to eat and possibly have seconds, it was ridiculous. My date had the “Herb-Encrusted Organic Statler Chicken Breast,” served with the Incan grain Quinoa and pumpkin risotto, it was healthy and rich simultaneously and since I managed to grab a bite, I can say with certainty that it was very tasty too.

This was a nice, rich, and expensive meal, and because of this, I figured dessert was in order. We shared a Creme Burlee, which was ok, but I should have had something chocolate because who was I kidding, I needed some. The meal was filling, delicious and gourmet, and what else would someone need? Maybe one more Greyhound, but no, I was satisfied.

It was still raining when I left Newburyport that evening, but for some reason I didn’t mind the drive home as much. A belly full of really good food may have helped. And the date, that was pretty nice too. So, rating time? Yessah! This is a 4 Fork place, because the food is on a caliber that impresses but the prices gouge a little bit while you eat. But, as I always say, you get what you pay for, and if you want good food, you gotsta spend some green, yo! (Or be prepared to spend a little on quality)  

Words for the day? But of course…

Christmas is coming and this goose is getting fat. Why wait to start your New Years Resolution on New Years day? Mine this year is look all Arnold Schwarzenegger-ish by beach time (but without the governator implications). And I also intend to enjoy many good meals in the coming year, so I had better start the gym membership now, just to get a head start. Moderation is a good word people, use it (in moderation).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eating Past The Brink

Hello all! Well another weekend has come and gone, my gastronomical wanderings have found me at yet another set of restaurants and this time, my eating got the best of me. This past Sunday I was stricken with what I believe to be food poisoning. (Cue dramatic music and thunder sequence!!!)

Now don’t be alarmed, I did survive, just barely. So please, in lieu of flowers, make a donation in my honor to the Porcelain Foundation, a non-profit helping those suffering from food-born maladies. I’m serious. (For context, I could have changed my name to Linda Blair, it was that bad)

Now, I do not want to call out any restaurant unnecessarily, but later in this program I may have to throw said establishment under the bus. Regardless, I had an enjoyable weekend up until this point and here it is, listed below. Enjoy! (Only keep a bucket near you, just in case.)

So Friday night, I traveled the two hours up to Bangor, “Bangaah” to you Mainers out there, and found my wayward stomach at Luna, Bar and Grill, A nicer spot in Bangor, Luna Bar and Grill has the kind of fare standard for that kind of upscale bistro bar. Laden with spinach cheese dip, fried calamari, and an assortment of burgers, salads, grilled proteins and such, the menu is slightly unremarkable. The quality of the food is there though and if you plan out what you order, you won’t be disappointed. I had a very good Caesar Salad, and the evenings special Fettuccini Alfredo with roasted veggies and chicken, which was pretty good too, although the portion was massive and kinda grossed me out. My friend had the “All American Burger” which they said was pretty good, and started with the Thai-Style Red Curry Steamed Mussels, which were wicked tasty, yessah!

With exposed brick and a viewable kitchen with a large copper range hood, the space is large and pretty neat. Most of the tables are bar height, at least in the room I was in, so if you don’t enjoy sitting very high up, ask for their traditional seating options too. Besides the copper range, the space is sort of nondescript which can be a good thing, because a décor shouldn’t take away from the food.

So, to sum up? If you are in Bangor and want a civilized but slightly traditional meal, go to Luna, the rolls are hot, the Caesar good, and the waitstaff are really friendly. This might be the best strength of the restaurant, how efficient and kind the staff are, service with a smile is the only way to go, and they get it right!

So fork time… This is a 3 Fork spot, because of the quality of food is there, but maybe not the most original. It however is a good meal in a sea of Central Maine white noise. You’ll enjoy it here, and that’s for certain.

So, on to Saturday shall we?

Saturday I was asked to the Maine state ballet’s Nutcracker performance at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, and the evening was awesome. The dancers were amazing, and Tchaikovsky is my all time favorite composer. So it’s a holiday tradition I can’t miss. If you have a chance to go, take it! You’ll be very impressed. Before the performance, I visited the Maine College of Art Holiday Sale to see what current and past MECA students had for purchase. The sale was beautiful, and I love supporting local artists and students. I bought a beautiful plate from artist Liz Proffetty, and her website is Her work is stunning, so you should check her out!

 Here is a shot of MECA's window for the Holiday Sale. It looked amazing!

Then I went to Nosh Kitchen Bar,, but be warned that this is the point in the program kids where I may have gotten sick. I have eaten at Nosh before and have always loved what I’ve gotten, and this time was no exception. I must put in a disclaimer here as well and state that this IS a good restaurant and the possibility of you getting sick, I’m sure, is slim. But still please exercise some caution. You have been warned.

I started with a side salad, simply trimmed with a few carrots, pickles and onion, with a thick balsamic dressing. Then I had the “Big Tuna” sandwich and it was one of the best I have ever had. My friend got a steak and cheese and the “bacon brushed fries.” Which were really good, like delish! This is what makes this adventure so sad. I really would have liked not to see this same meal again in the morning. Yep, I said it.

The space is also interesting. A former nightclub called The White Heart, Nosh's kitchen is more like a hot salad station where it’s cooked and raw foods are prepared. It has a long bar that runs the entire length of the space, and the other half of the restaurant there is a long banquette with single tables and chairs facing it. It’s a pretty cool space and the menu matches. If you visit their website, their mission statement is for creating an “urban-style eatery with a casual, neighboorhood environment,” and it totally is, as the overall effect is gourmet pub food and in a laidback, cool space.
This is a good restaurant, and I would give it a 4 Fork actually. Again, I may have just made a bad choice in getting tuna. But in servitude to you, the reader, I must chronicle the results of dining out, be those results good, bad (or maybe Exorcist like) The question is will I be back? Not sure, ask me in a few months.

So what can be summed up from this adventure? I made it out of my porcelain prison alive, a few pounds lighter, and all the wiser. But I had fun eating it, so it was only half a loss (that makes sense right?)

Words for the day? Most definitely…

It’s the holiday season, and from The Nutcracker, to Holiday parties, to dinners out, you will be seeing, doing and consuming a lot. Just do make sure you think before you eat. That’s it, ho ho ho ya’ll, eat drink and be merry! And, give someone the Exorcist as a gift. The recipient may personally understand its meaning one day. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When Harry Potter and Tryptophan combine

Well… What a week it has been! I must apologize, faithful readers, that you have had to go without me for such a duration, but this week kicked my butt! What with many Thanksgiving festivities, a thoroughly awful cold I had to endure, and two Harry Potter viewings, I was busy, wiped out, and neglected the very Blog that keeps me sane. So…I have a lot to report back to you all. And I hope you’ll forgive me… but I have a good feeling you just might.

Thanksgiving was really nice this year, and I got all crafty and made a centerpiece for the table, which is on display below. I was proud of it, so I’m shamelessly promoting my botanical abilities here.
Fancy right? It's in a Pumpkin!

And now let’s begin in the cinemas, shall we? Well Harry Potter Rocked! Deathly Hallows, Part I might be the best movie in the franchise yet, beside the third movie (with the time travel and such) because it most accurately follows the plotlines of the seventh book. This is something Potter enthusiasts insist is the test of the movie adaptations. As any reader knows, the books are so good because of what J.K chooses to include in rich details and plot twists. Mess with this perfection, and you get a lot of angry fans. Go see this movie, for sure. And if you have been to all of the others, you certainly don’t need me to tell. O, this is a sad movie, so be prepared with some hankies, you’ll need em.

The second movie I was at this past week was Burlesque. Staring Cher (who hasn’t aged a day in 30 years), Christina Aguilera, who sang her fanny off, and Stanley Tucci, who is just funny and pleasant to watch. This movie, while not the stuff of Casablanca, certainly isn’t Glitter (sorry Mariah, I do love you) and it was pretty enjoyable to watch. I think to hear Christina sing would be enough, but Cher was good too, as where the supporting cast members, including a brunette Kristen Bell (what up Veronica Mars). The dance numbers were on a grand scale and the entire movie reminded me of Chicago, with the glitz, glamour, and really good music. Not Oscar worthy, but it’s defiantly not Showgirls, thank god!

So, on to the food, right? Ok.

This past week saw me at several different restaurants. (I know, I know, where do I find the time to go out to eat so often? Its really a full time job, so good thing I don’t have another one currently, haha.)

The real star of the week is where I pigged out twice. Otto’s Pizza and Enzo Wine Bar, This place is fantastic. Period. It’s a casual and laid back hole in the wall, and the pizza stands out as straight Naples style, street pizza. I’m talking GOOD! With a crispy and sweet crust, inspired and fresh, seasonal toppings, a very sweet and savory sauce, it is my favorite traditional style pizza in Portland. Because pizza is all they serve, they literally get it Right.

On both trips I had their seasonal specialty of Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Cranberry with fresh basil on top, which was simply amazing. You can either get their pizza by the slice, $ 3 dollars a pop for a generous size, or a whole pie, with prices varying on the toppings, with combos either dreamed up by the kitchen or by you, the hungry hippo.

Here is the menu, painted on the subway tile, I love how this looks.

Its space has the quirky authenticity of a place that has been there for ages and its setup is smart too. Otto’s is the small kitchen side of the restaurant, with a takeout setup and a few stools. Next door at Enzo, they have a pretty good wine selection and a more traditional sit-down style dinning, still with a rustic, family-style charm. The décor is really cool too, with everything made to look old. In reality, everything is either new materials or reclaimed from other places. In a rush or with time to kill, this place is for you. You truly won’t be disappointed by the food and the service.  

And, after talking to the helpful waitress about the place and its history, I made a new discovery. (Well new to me anyway).  The former North Star Café on Congress Street in the Munjoy hill area of Portland will become another Otto’s! So Portlanders will have two times the pizza loving fun, and we may all rejoice!

Fork time for Otto’s? Sure, this is a 4 Fork place. I think the quality and price is spot on, but since pizza is the only thing they have, it might not be for absolutely everyone, even though it should be. It really is my fave place for a slice, and if you go, you’ll get it too.

Sooo… words for the day?

There is no cure for the common cold, but good pizza, some turkey and plenty of DVD’s (Momma Mia! Any one?) can help with the boredom. And ABBA is really like pure cane sugar, so you’ll probably get some energy from it too. Have a good, and healthy, day everyone! Over and out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Land of a Thousand Meals, Part III

Well hello world! Notice anything different? The website has upgraded! Right on! While the basic template served us well for the infancy of The Novice Fork, (thank you, the savvier I become with designing this charming little website, the better it will look… basic cause and effect people. I hope you enjoy!

And we have also made it to the end of our trilogy, in the grand tradition of Lord of the Rings or half of the Star Wars series…. wait, hold on...

A long time ago, in a restaurant far, far away…

sorry, I couldn’t resist. Even though it wasn’t so long ago, more like Monday night, and the restaurant isn’t really that far, about 25 minutes away without traffic, give or take….

Sooo anyway, moving on, Monday night I went to an Indian restaurant in Portland, ME, which was a first for me. I have been to Indian restaurants all over, one really great hole in the wall in NYC, the best Indian French fusion restaurant in Boston called Mantra,, which rocks my clock! But never have I tested Indian cuisine in Portland, ME, so I was very excited to try some downeast Indian and see what our great city has to offer.

Choosing an Indian restaurant if you haven’t been to any in Portland can be tricky. There are a lot of options out there and I resisted because I didn’t know where to start. Well I manned up and randomly selected Tandoor Restaurant,, at 88 Exchange Street in Portland and took the plunge into the world of Curry and Basmati rice. And man I’m glad I did!

Here is a picture, from their website. Cute right?

The tiny room of a restaurant, with no more than 20 tables, was quiet and pretty empty, with only 3 other tables occupied. The single waitress was swift and gracious, seating and watering me, (yes we are plants) within seconds. The aroma of the place is the first thing you notice, savory, spicy and thick, it’s how you want and expect an Indian restaurant to smell. This really got me excited for what was to come. The second thing you notice is the revolving crystal chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. Great touch, Liberace would be proud.

The menu was wayyyy to long, and I tend to get overwhelmed with too many options. But it all looked good, so I relied on my previous knowledge of what I liked in Indian cooking and started with two Samosas, “Deep fried, spiced and shredded potato turnovers” so says the website, which were delish and piping hot! Then onto some Dal Shorba Soup, “A traditional soup made with split peas & lentils, subtly flavored with spices, garnished with cilantro” so says the website again. This was good but not amazing, and I thought the lentils would have been whole but the soup was puréed instead, which was sort of anemic and was more of a sauce. Then I went with the Lamb Dilruba, which is lamb in curry sauce with mushrooms, garlic, fresh ginger, and this, served with Nan bread (the most delicious bread in the world) and a trio of chutneys and sauces, was wonderful. Hot, spicy, and filling, along side a large dish of Basmati rice, the dish was perfectly cooked and lovely. With all this, and about 5 glasses of water (they don’t mess around with spice), I really enjoyed my meal.

So, stuffed, and my nose dripping from the profuse spice used in the curry, I left a happy man, and discovered I like Indian food in Portland, ME.  The meal was a little over $25 dollars, but, for the sake of research, I must spend a little green to get gold. (Like that? Knew you would…) o and gold seems really fitting once you see the décor. Wow, that really tied up nicely!

So, rating time already? Aww shucks, I was having so much fun. I think this place is a 3.5 Fork joint. Keep in mind that even if the restaurant gives off a “questionable” vibe at first, the authentic food is the winner here, and isn’t that what’s important? You know, coming here, by the way it smells and tastes, you will be getting a great Indian meal from people who know how to make one. Go here, and you won’t be sorry.

There you have it, the final chapter of the trilogy. I have a feeling that if Smeagol had some decent Indian food from Tandoor, maybe he wouldn’t have obsessed over a stupid gold ring, just sayin’

Words for the day…

Today is Friday, and the precious weekend is upon us (thank you again, Smeagol). So enjoy the end of the work week, you know I will be. And heck, if you see me out, shout a good restaurant idea at me, I’m open to suggestions, and free drinks. Peace out cub scouts!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Land of a Thousand Meals, Part II

Hello again y'all!

Well I had a day to reflect on the genius of my previous post, and gave my hands a bit o' rest. Now I'm back at it, hooray! Thanks for hanging in there kiddies!

So Monday, for part II of my dining adventures, I was treated to an impromptu lunch at David's,, by a fellow classmate after my first official docent class at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA for the cool kids). 

Located on 22 Monument Square, off Congress Street, and right next to another Novice Fork review, Shay’s, David's has that been there a long time vibe, with a strange decor of lots of brick and faux flowers (welcome to 1995). However, the waitstaff here get it right, friendly, attentive, and swift, we had a table in seconds, and water in little over a minute. This is a good thing, because after a long docent class, my eyes were the shape of T-bone steaks. The clientele of mostly business lunchers was subdued and buttoned up and sleepy, even though the place is large and was mostly full (an universal sign that the food is good, btw).

The menu, for lunch anyway, is a combo pack of lots of different things: Pastas, entrées, pizza, sandwiches, appetizer salads and larger entrée salads. It all looks good, but it’s somewhat hard to find a common theme, which I look for when dining out. If I had to, the overall theme reads as “innovative” with an attention to seafood and steak… nothing wrong there. I’ll call it “Pan-American” with Mediterranean and Asian influences. That said, there is something for everyone, even if the overall effect of the menu seems a bit scattered. 

I had a Grilled Chicken Sandwich (wow so original… I always get one when I don’t know what to get), and it was really good, char grilled, tender and juicy, with tomato, onion and BBQ sauce, it was the perfect chicken sandwich. My friend had a Hamburger because, in his words, he “needed some red meat after a week of salads” (I hear that). We both got fries, which were decent too.

I think the true test of a restaurant is if I can’t wait to go back, and I can’t say that about David’s. It’s the type of place I know will be there if I need it, but if another place opens up, one I truly love, I’ll be there instead. That said, it was a good lunch, I was full, the bill was small, $18.00 for the two of us, and the service was awesome, which always contributes more to an experience than I realize sometimes. So…

Rating time, yay! I think this is a 3 Fork spot, for nothing wrong in particular, but more because the place feels a bit old, menu a bit scattered and simply it is not my fave restaurant in Portland, ME. Then again, you’ll get a good meal, at a great value, and with great service, all things to be thankful for.

Words for the day? Sure, why not…

When it rains, like today, you want to get all cozy and cook at home, so do so. Bake some brownies, call some friends over, watch a movie or reruns of Glee, and enjoy being indoors, sometimes the best meal you can have is at home. Aww now I’m all sentimental, it’s fine for a guy to cry, right?   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Land of a Thousand Meals, Part 1

Wow, a week has gone by, and not only have I realized I want to go to grad school (shocker) but I had some kick butt meals, at THREE different restaurants, in three days!

But how is this possible you may ask?... Its called dedication people, get some.

Because of my restaurant hopping, this would have been a long post, but I’m going to split it up into three parts, like a miniseries, (move over Sarah Palin)

So hang in there, there is some good info for your next dinner out... no, like real good info.

Sooooo… I'll start things off with Saturday night, and a trip to an Italian restaurant I haven't been to... shocker again! I feel like if there is an Italian place in Portland, ME, I have been to it. So, imagine my delight when I got the opportunity to go to Paciarino Restaurant and Store, Located on Fore Street in Portland's Old Port district, its a charming, small restaurant and store where one can purchase fine Italian food products straight from the boot (Italy).*

*(Disclaimer... I have had a lot of good Italian food in Portland and around the US, so I'm bit biased and have things I respond to better than others... just sayin')

I had reservations for 8 pm, and arrived early, mostly because I was hungry, but also I wanted to survey the place and get a little recon in before dinner. The space was friendly, colorful and small, with yellow walls and blue windows. Seating, aside from the cute and comfy vestibule couch, was hard "Bob’s furniture special" chairs. When seated by the flustered by kind hostess, I looked at the menu, and instantly became confused.

Wordy, disjointed, and with several grammatical mistakes, the menu makes it hard to focus on the delish plates they do have. Their menu is primarily pasta dishes, with their own special sauces straight from Italy, and their appetizer menu seemed promising as well, with standard fare like Caprese Salad and a plate of Crostini, Crostini all'Italiana, toast with various Tapenades (ground up olives and eggplants, etc...)

So to start, I ordered a Caprese salad and my friend ordered the Crostini. My salad was perfect!!! Fresh basil, light and moist mozzarella, and sweet, ultra ripe tomatoes, with sea salt and cracked pepper atop, drizzled with olive oil (wow I need a moment, and maybe a cigarette)

Ok back, the salad was really good! But… the Crostini were kinda weak. I prefer Tapenades saltier, and with more flavor in general, and the only one that was really exciting was the hot pepper pate, because it was stronger than bland.

This, then, is a common theme for this restaurant. It has the right idea, and the ingredients are right on, but somehow the entire combo just misses the mark. This is true of the service as well. While some tables had bread, we did not receive any. Our table had a candle, some tables didn’t. The entire experience seemed a bit frenzied, but every table was packed so I’m sure that has most to do with that.

Ok, entrée time. I got a special of the night… Ravioli filled with Porcini mushrooms, toped with an uber-rich (too rich) butter sauce, fresh parmesan, and walnuts. The ravioli themselves were amazing, and the Porcini filling was savory yet light. However, the sauce was way too rich and buttery, and competed with the delicate and earthy mushroom filling. (If this were a light cream sauce, this dish would have been far better). I was also able to sample another special, as my friend got the sweet Pumpkin ravioli with fresh Parmesan, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, almost too sweet, almost.

The wine selection was good here, but for non drinkers, there really isn’t much more than water or tea. However, the dessert menu was traditional. I had to get dessert, naturally… for you know research… and settled on my fave, Tiramisu!!! Absolutely delish, might be the best I’ve had. And for $7.95 I'm glad it was.

So, is it time for the fork test? I think so. Overall fork rating this time is a 3 Fork, with maybe half a fork toward the authenticity of the food. Grand total then? 3 Forks because that Tiramisu and Caprese were both so good, but the service, overall entrée impact, overall dining experience, and food’s value fell a bit short (the shiz is not cheap here).

There, 3.5 Forks, we are done with Paciarino, and I’ll be going back, for a lunch Caprese Salad.

Words for the day?

Thanksgiving is almost here, and for better or worse, family will be around you. So surround yourself with a buffer of good food, as this will make you happy, your family impressed and jealous, and maybe you’ll slip into a food coma and sleep right through the pain… Gobble Gobble y’all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Art, Fries and other Musings

Sorry gang, it’s been a few days. Here is what you missed...

It rained, I ate some things, and it rained... (Glad we are all up to speed)

So the most pressing thing I can post about was my adventure with the Portland, ME First Friday Art Walk, Sponsored by the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance,, and dinner at Shays,, in Monument Square.

Everyone was out during the Art Walk, I mean EVERYONE, the sidewalks were completely overrun with artistic voyeurs in hot pursuit of free Pinot Grigio and Hummus dip, paintings of trees or, egad, lighthouses, and the air was humid and merry.

There are so many wonderful galleries on Congress Street, Portland's official Arts District where the Maine College of Art,, is located, as is the Portland Museum of Art,, where I currently volunteer. The Art Walk is a great way to explore these spaces of creativity with the social lubrication and buffer of hundreds of other visitors, artists, students and tourists.    

After all this oil paint, slightly lightheaded, I walked down to Shays for a bite with my friend. It was easy to get a table at this small restaurant, dimly lit and local art littering the dark painted walls. Having been here many times before, I already know the Fork rating for this establishment... drum roll please, this is a bonafide 3 Fork joint, for satisfying "upscale pub food," really good fries, and a small bill. Two people for $23 bucks!    

I had a Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Gouda cheese and bacon, smothered in a BBQ sauce. Fries were piled high and were crispy and delish. (A small disclaimer... I have a weird need to always have a side salad no matter what I eat) so I also ordered a small side Caesar, and it was good, not great.

My friend had the Pulled Pork sandwich, also with fries, looked great and clearly was, because it was finished in a few minuets.

Sooo, Go to Art Walk!!! And if all the other wonderful places to eat in Portland, ME are full, go to Shays, because it is also good eats (for sho).

Words for the day?

When it rains, organize your house. You’ll feel accomplished about something indoors and you’ll work up an appetite to go OUT and eat. You don’t want to be a hermit, trust me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

White Mountain Holiday (complete with snow and good service)

Greetings all!

Well first off, today is November 2nd, and you know what that means, Voting day!!!! Go out, go forth, go on and vote for who you think will best serve you, the public. (Small word of advice... if the candidate has a "D" next to their name, its probably the better choice, but who am I to suggest such things...) Ha! its fun to wear political pants sometimes.

I digress.

Now this is going to be a long post so hang in there baby, I promise it will be sorta worth it. This past week, from Thursday to Saturday morning, I attended a rehearsal dinner and wedding in the absolutely beautiful WHITE MOUNTAINS! I have only been through that region a few times, when I was much younger, and forgot how natural, rural and peaceful that area of northern New Hampshire.

Of course, for anyone who knows me, I love a good wedding (and outlet shopping in North Conway, what up Ralph Lauren.) So imagine my surprise when I was asked by a very good friend to accompany them to a wedding at the  Mountain View Grand Resort,, in Whitefield, New Hampshire, and the place was breathtaking! I checked into the Mountain View Grand around 2 pm, where that staff was friendly, gracious and relaxed, a big plus for me. The lobby was rustic but classic at the same time, with plaid upholstered wing chairs, lots of leather, and a bevy of crystal chandeliers. I checked into my room, which was huge and had its own walk in closet! (move over Imelda Marcos). Even the bathroom was nice... those things are important from time to time!
But on to the food!

They have two main dining rooms on site, the formal Main Dining Room, where breakfast is served each morning, and The Tavern, where the two lunches I had there were amazing. The best table in the place, however, is in the Wine cellar, where a handful of small tables are surrounded by the resort's wine collection. Quite the beautiful space! For lunch both days, I enjoyed a sandwich, first a grilled chicken, and then a grilled veggie and hummus (delish) and two different salads, again first a squash and fresh berry salad with vinaigrette and then a caesar with anchovies! (imagine that!) But anything you see on the lunch menu is worth getting, trust me. (seriously)

So after check-in Thursday, that delish chicken sandwich, and a few laps in the warm and inviting pool (and sauna) I got dressed and headed for the rehearsal dinner at Littleton New Hampshire's The Beal House Inn,, the next town over. When my date and I arrived, a long and lavish cocktail hour was in full swing, with the bartender, full of sass and stiff drinks, was eagerly entertaining the crowd. The venue was cozy, warm, intimate and the perfect place for well wishes, sing-a-longs on the piano and one too many white wines. Then dinner was announced and there was a delish carving station with ham, turkey, and roast beef (oh my!), salad with really fresh veggies and a melange of savory side dishes, potato included, that reminded me of a Thanksgiving dinner without the awkward family moments, and again, white wine aplenty! It was a great time!

That leads us to wedding day...

Back to the Mountain View Grand, where breakfast was a near delight, with fresh berries atop cold cereal, a must in my morning ritual, bagel with lox, and some decent but not amazing sunny side up eggs (they sort of tasted like onion, like the griddle was used for another dish before mine, a pet peeve I have.) But the morning was bright, and the world was my oyster, so I went to the on site library and leisurely read a few books about nature, took a short walk around the grounds, and went back to the pool and sauna, quite the relaxing day! (Feel free to gag anytime, who do I think I am, Hugh Hefner?)

And on to the main event, after showering and dressing in my snappy finest, complete with festive paisley tie (again Hugh, are you there?) My friend and I walked down to the ballroom for the ceremony, which was short (plus,) I didn't cry (bonus,) and it was really short, (o said that already.) Then it was right out the back doors into cocktail area for, well cocktails and appetizers, which were really tasty, with cheese, veggies, scallops wrapped in bacon...original :-/...and fried artichokes, which were really good.

Thennnnnn... nearing the end, I promise.

Dinner was in The Tavern again, like the lunches, and I had yet another salad and the Chicken Parmesan which was the size of Jerry Stiller's hands (taste wise it was a total yawn but hey it beats the Olive Garden) but the experience, the people and the service of the hotel more than made up for it!

Saturday morning, as I drove home, it snowed and it was beautiful. End of story.

So, rating time, this one is a bit split. For service, the Mountain View Grand is 5 Fork resort, but I have to give the food overall a 3 Forker (that damn chicken parm). The Beal House is a solid 4 Fork experience, because the service was da Bomb!

So, that wasn't too bad was it? You did it, you made it through the review, congrats! Prize? No no, no prize here, just another words of the day... yay!

Its November 2nd y'all, so vote, and when I did, I got a muffin... because I have political hookups, and they were gonna be thrown out anyway, so really I was doing them a favor. So sometimes when asked to do good you get baked goods, just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rating System à la Moi

Greetings all!

It has come to my attention that I currently have no way of grading my dinning and exploring experiences and need, like Junior year English class, a way to score and assess restaurants like my, eek, writing.

So, taking inspiration from my collegiate days as food reviewer for the Wheaton Wire, I will revive my rating system of 1-5 "whisks" or now, more appropriately, Forks to give my eating time a more quantifiable and tangible grade for you! (Hold your applause please) 


The grading will be on a 1-5 scale and will cover the three major factors of a food experience:

The food itself (most important)
Service (the theater of the food world)
The value (am I being ripped off or man that was cheap!)

Additionally, if you see score of 1-5, these mean something more, a more emotional grade of the overall experience and also how innovative and local the food is, very important given almost everything today has corn syrup in it, yucko!… enjoy the descriptions below!

1 Fork: disappointing experience or fail... i.e. visit said establishment at your own risk.

2 Forks: Passable but nothing special... i.e. if you want a similar experience, go to that little gas station and you tell me how good their pizza really is, sober.

3 Forks: Good and would go again, if no other options are presented... i.e. its the upscale chain restaurant or the tried and true "establishment" where the rolls are hot, the salad fresh-ish, but the menu was last updated 10 years ago, a guilty pleasure.

4 Forks:  Great and excited to tell people about it... i.e. that place where not only the food is delish but the service matches, and would have been a 5 if the prices were only a bit more of a value, but it still rocks.

5 Forks: You get what you pay for, which is good... i.e. that special restaurant where the food is ever changing, fresh, and inventive, the service is great and easygoing, and no matter how much you pay it really doesn’t matter because you want the food, like seriously crave.

Here you have it, my grading system. (Fab I know)

Now if you get too attached, don’t be surprised if I, a.) Change it at any time, b.) Have some opinions that go against the system, c.) Make no apologies for changing or diverging opinions stated in a. or b. I promise that the insanity of my actions will make sense, as not all food joints are created equally, but, as I have found, good food can be found anywhere.

So enough of this jibber jabber, enjoy your day world! And remember, eat anything you want, the treadmill will always be there... as a clothes rack.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Organic Pizza, music, and beer... oh my!!!

Well last night I was hungry and big surprise I reached toward pizza again (I know I know, I'll be checking into the Papa Johns clinic soon, make room Lindsay...) but when two good high school friends ask you out for Flatbreads Pizza,,... located on Commercial Street in Portland's Old Port district... you go, because you know the pizza will always be good and the atmosphere, on an unseasonably warm Monday night, will be fun and relaxed. And it was!

When we got there around 7:15pm, a fantastic acoustic musician was in full swing, singing her bum off! (Her name escapes me but man was she good!) I started dinner with an old standby, a Shipyard Pumkinhead (seasonal delicious) and two of the three of us started with Flatbreads amazing salads, complete with goat cheese and fresh seaweed on top, yummo! Then we all shared a large "Coevolution," which is a sauceless pizza with goat cheese (yes more) olives, fresh herbs, red peppers, and red onions. However, if you get this same pizza with both red and caramelized onions, its that much better, as the sweet onions play off the olives briny, savoriness. Its also a pretty good value at around $19 bucks for the flat bread, and its really big, so great to share with friends!

Then, as if we were not full enough with our pizza and spirits, we all shared my favorite part of Flatbreads, their dessert. The best, semisweet chocolate and cinnamon brownie sundae with organic ice cream, need I say more?   

What can be gleaned from this fun Monday night? Well, when friends ask you out, go because its nice to feel loved, but also, go Go GO to Flatbreads! Simply because it is my favorite pizza, and if you HAVE been there before, you know what I mean.

(Since this post was published, I have arrived at a rating system, and will give flarbreads a 4 Fork rating, because it totally rocks)

Thoughts for the day?

Go out there and explore, try a new restaurant, and drink a little wine. Life will be better and you'll live longer. Proven fact (I think)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Connecticut or Bust!

So, after a fun-filled and sleep deprived weekend in Mystic, CT, visiting a college friend, i have come to understand two, or maybe three truths about the land of famous pizza 1.) Pizza is good from this town, 2.) Eclectic American bistro food is even better, 3.) you really do wish Julia Roberts was around (had to, sorry).

My friend and I, after walking around town, sat down to Azu Restaurant & Bar, at 3 pm, and had a blast. Minus the random time of day and being the only two to sit at the bar, we had a great and affordable meal. I had some delish oysters, followed by a perfect Salad Nicoise, and my cohort scarfed down a Grilled Salmon sandwich and fries. The atmosphere was relaxed and cozy, the waitress/bartender friendly and fun to talk to, and the meal was cheap, 13 bucks for each of us!

Here is their website, its worth checking out!

The following day, a slightly sleep deprived Sunday, I wanted pizza, so I was directed to Pizzetta, the answer to the touristy but also good Mystic Pizza. The space is the first thing you take in, a charming, rustic and artistic restaurant where fresh ingredients and a sense of humor take center stage. We split a Green Salad, which was alright with only feta and olives, but the main event, a pizza with Ricotta Cheese, Eggplant, onions and Basil, was divine! 

Again, their website to check out.

So, what can be summed up by all of this analysis? Food in Mystic is good, and if you try something other than what the free town tourist guide tells you, you'll be happy, and full.

Until next time, keep a fork on you, you never know when you'll need it. Trust me.

The First Day!

Hello everyone!
Well I did it, I bit the bullet, took the plunge, fell off the wagon (correct reference?) jumped the shark, (now i know I have it wrong)... anyway, I created a blog! Yay, but now what? Well, plagued with unemployment and wayyy too much time on my hands, I decided to create this blog to talk about my many loves and hopefully help YOU, the restaurant customer, sift through the endless gastrointestinal choices afforded to you. I'll give you some great places to eat, and detail some of the fun I've had exploring, with my stomach, our 50 States, (or the places easy to drive to)

Along the way, I'll give my advice on other things, from where to shop, galleries to visit, and places to see (the tourist stuff), so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ramblings of an opinionated consumer. I hope you enjoy!