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!