Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Eve, and Other Stuff

Well hello there. Its Mateo, your friendly food blogger here to wish you and yours a festive and safe New Years Eve. Can you believe its another year come and gone? Auld Lang Syne ya'll! I wanted to take a moment and get you all excited about some changes to the Novice Fork in the up coming 2012 calendar year. (I started this website/food review blog/best thing you've ever read over a year ago, and my how time flies!) 

I hope in the coming year Novice Fork can branch out from this one man operation, highlighting foodies and food appreciators around the country (yeah I got friends that can string together sentences), delve deeper into the "cultural highlights" of the many places I've traveled to and will travel to in 2012, and become better about posting about EVERY restaurant I go to, be it a Taco Bell (perish the though) or a 5 star (or fork) French institution. Wait a tick! This is smelling an awful lot like a New Years resolution. Am I going to become a better, faster, stronger blogger? You bet your bippy I am! So look out interwebs, I'm coming for you. 

So a happy New Year everyone, may the coming year bring you nothing but joy, lots of happiness, and a crap ton of good food to eat. And if you wanna, send some info my way, I want to know where to eat next. (Take that Urban Spoon!) The Novice Fork and 2011, over and out. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

City of Sin: an Overview

Greetings intrepid eaters/brave travelers and welcome to another installment of the Novice Fork. Well, tts that time of year, when the world falls in love. That’s right, in case you didn’t know (for some hermit behavioral reason) the holiday season is in full swing. It’s a time when carols are a singing, the Maine Mall is a busy, and the snow begins to fly. (Except this year, on today, December 5th, its currently 52 degrees in Port City. This is an issue.)

I love the holidays for many reasons and they all relate to my interests as a food critic. The food, first and foremost, is always more festive and lavish, the shopping is fast paced and fun, (minus the Black Friday cattle call now employed as a sales gimmick) and the world shines just a bit brighter from all that tinsel… (However a bitch to clean out of a vacuum, take it from me.) I love wrapping gifts for friends and family, I love the feasts, I love Christmas Mass at the Cathedral. It’s all good stuff. But maybe your poor soul is not a fan of the Christmas (or holiday) cheer? Allow me to offer some friendly advice. Get over it. Stop being a Scrooge and smile a bit, sing a carol, wear that ridiculous sweater, and wrap a damn gift, you’ll be glad you did.

So, aside from all this holiday cheeriness and general merriment, I recently traveled to Sin City and enjoyed a week in the desert. Wait, was I in Las Vegas? Heck yeah I was, Viva Las fantastic time out west! Now you, the reader, get to share it with me. Giddy up.

Today I’m going to highlight Celebrity chef and “The Chew” cohost Mario Batali’s Restaurant, B&B Ristorante.

B&B Ristorante
The Venetian 

3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Las Vegas, Nevada 89109 

702- 266 -9977

The Novice Fork gives this celebrity restaurant 5 forks,
for professional service, amazing,
gourmet food, and calm classy atmosphere.

Classy, no?

Why Vegas? Having never been, I was always curious about the adult Disney World, where gambling, drinking, and debauchery is a 24/7 business and where the word “entertainment” takes on a whole new level of enthusiastic tackiness. Having friends with altruistic tendencies doesn’t hurt either and when they invite you along for a week long trip to the City of Sin, you don’t say no.

So I packed my bags (overly so) and jumped on the next plane out of Maine. And what a week it was. I stayed at The Venetian, and what a hotel! It was opulent and totally over-the-top, and yet tasteful at the same time. My room had its own gold velour sectional, a crystal chandelier over the king bed (complete with a canopy) and a bathroom so gilded I thought I was a Medici. This place was awesome. I felt like Scarface.

The strange and awesome thing about Vegas is the total inauthenticity. (Obviously) You have “New York” next to “Paris,” “Venice” complete with singing gondoliers under a fake sky in The Venetian, and even fake palm trees in the airport, complete with plastic coconuts. This environment creates a sense of disorientation that lingers into everything you do. So stealing myself away from the hotel room and from the overwhelming spectacle that is Vegas was difficult, as was not spending 3 hours a day at the resort’s spa, none other than Canyon Ranch, or shopping the many, many malls. But I did have to eat sometime, right?

Luckily, in my hotel alone, there were 20+ restaurants from which to choose. Literally like throwing a dart at a dartboard (with or without a picture of Penn and Teller attached) my friend and I decided upon celeb chef Mario Batali’s restaurant B&B Ristorante. None too surprisingly, this was a fantastic idea.

The review…

When you enter this old school, dark wood paneled eatery the confusion, excitement and chaos of Vegas melts into a quite white noise and you are actually transported to Italy or New York, someplace decidedly less “Vegasfied.” White tablecloths, candlelight, leather bound menu books; this place is classy. The fact that it’s right next door to the casino floor, makes this fact all the more remarkable.  After being watered, and fed an amuse bouche, compliments of the kitchen, our very knowledgeable waiter gave us the complete rundown on the slightly esoteric and very authentic fine Italian menu. (He even spoke Italian himself, bonus points.) The service here matches the high price point for the meal, as it should. Check one for B&B.

The guest, this particular evening, had the option for a prix fixe tasting menu selected by the chef, or choosing menu items a la carte, which is what we did. In true Matt tradition, I ordered the beet salad with local Vegas pistachios (what?!) and baked ricotta over field greens. At $17, this salad was spectacular. (Whether its worth it to you or not is your call.) I followed this with Capellacci di Zucca, a spaghetti similar pasta with almonds and sage in a ultra-light cream sauce. This was simple, delicious and the perfect portion size, paired with a side of roasted root vegetables, this was the perfect, gourmet meal. The bottle of wine we ordered for the table, a fantastic Pinot Grigio sent this meal over the top. Ending with a flight of daily house made gelatos (because I was clearly forced to eat more) made the total experience complete. If you eat here, be prepared to pay, a lot. But when in Vegas, where better to experience this kind of gastro-excess? Trust me, the food more than makes up for the much lighter wallet.

Now what makes this a 5 Fork restaurant, one may ask? It has to do with the fact that the experience was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was an inspired and authentic meal in a strange new land, it provided top quality service and an amazing atmosphere in which to enjoy it. Maybe Mario’s celebrity seduced me, maybe it was the Pinot, but this was a meal I wont forget for a long time. That is worth 5 Forks.  I’ll be back and when I return watch out Mario, I’ll want an autograph.

Monday, November 7, 2011

*!!!News Flash!!!*

Portland, Maine will soon play host to a delightfully urban clothing outfitter. That's right, ladies and gents, Middle Street in Portland's Old Port will soon gain some much needed shopping punch with Urban Outfitters! Opening later this year. Soon every area teen will be spotted wearing "Kanye West shades," Grandpa cardigans and Levi's so tight certain appendages will need to be amputated due to gangrene (lack of circulation is serious issue peeps!) Portland rejoice. We are finally a big boy city. 
(Took long enough, didn't it?) 

-The Novice Fork

On the Oregon Trail Part II: Voodoo Americana

Hello readers! How are you all doing? Drinking enough water and getting enough rest? (You don’t want those unsightly under eye circles now do ya?) The time has come again that I must begin another review and again I find myself reflecting on the amazing food I had in the Oregon-side of things. I literally ate for a week straight and, in doing so, gained some much-needed west coast perspective on food. But the city is about much more than that. Portland, Oregon itself is a sprawling network of old growth forests holding hands with its city boroughs, (aw how romantic) where it seems dogs outnumber people, where those same people are crazy about being outdoors (Biking, hiking, skiing… the list goes on and on…) and where you can often find hole in the wall shopping gems around every turn. (For serious guys)

Ultimately though, the city simply has good eats. The cuisine of the Pacific Northwest is vast catalogue of evolving, internationally derived and often locally sourced vittles. I was actually overwhelmed by how many choices I had while eating out here. Even at Voodoo Donuts, the food network famed donut shop as eccentric and badass as its’ home city. Or the food carts that, like the trees of the city itself, spring up from every street corner, every alleyway, every street. This city loves food and enjoys it in droves.

Such is the case with our restaurant today…

Chez Machin
3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd,
Portland, Or, 97214
(503) 736-9381

The Novice Fork gives this East Side Portland spot
4 forks for fresh Bistro food and a fun,
relaxed Provence atmosphere

The inside of Chez Machin, love the color

On my last day in town, after more shopping, sightseeing and oooing and ahhhing than I can even describe, my family and I decided to check out the East Side of Portland OR, where the young, hip, and all artistic like congregate. On a little road named Hawthorne you’ll find a hole in the wall bistro called Chez Machin. With amazing French bistro fare, including an inspired crepe menu, this spot that will have you speaking the language of love in no time (Ohh La La).

The best thing about this little Bistro is that, well, its not large. Step inside the yellow painted room and you are greeted with French flair all over the place and only a dozen or so tables, with little elbowroom. (Even the wait staff here has authentic accents, so it keeps it fun.) With chalkboard specials on the wall and a back patio covered in a lattice arbor, the space is charming, warm and gracious. With decent prices and a good vibe, I was excited to eat.

With a small but robust menu, it was hard to choose just one thing to eat. So of course I didn’t. Our table started with an olive and bread place with feta. This was so good I was practically licking the plate. (Yikes). Then, once I saw my most favorite of menu items, a Salad Niçoise, my decision was made for me. The salad here might be the best I’ve ever had. Rare tuna, al dente salted green beans, soft boiled egg, new potatoes, roasted red pepper, and the star, those little black olives. It was uber fresh, tasty and the perfect healthy/incredibly satisfying lunch. You heard? My cohorts both ordered crepes, which looked great too (I’m not big on the thin pancakes, so I refrained). All washed down with lemon water and good conversation, I felt, for a moment, as if I was transported to Provence. (One can dream).

Over all, with the ambiance, the food, and the super friendly wait staff, the experience here is solid and worth the trip across the river to East Portland (again this is the Oregon trail after all). 4 Forks it is, this place is amazing and you’ll agree, I hope. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On The Oregon Trail, Part I: Fleeing My Homeland

Well Hello my intrepid eaters. It’s been a few days but I have some new reviews and fantastic news to report. In a bold and exploratory fashion reminiscent of Jonny Appleseed or Daniel Boone (or is that Pat?), I hitched up my oxen, grabbed my Dutch oven, and some of Mr. McCulleys medicinal tonic water and wagoned (see "flew in a Boeing Jet") west. This means I was recently in the "other" Portland. That’s right, Portland, Oregon! This trip to see my family marked many firsts. I had never been to the west coast, never put my feet in Pacific Ocean, never saw Mt. Hood, all until now. I was over the moon excited to venture west because when you grow up not traveling all to often, these experiences seem larger than life. Arriving late last Friday night jet-lagged and hungry, I was prepped to begin my tour of the wild frontier with, what else, my taste buds. And did I eat… holy crap. I felt like Paul Bunyan or at least a flannel donned and bearded Portland Oregon local. (I'm hip to that kind of stuff, although my beard is slower to arrive).  

I could bore you here with the obligatory slideshow of Mt. Hood, (massive) my pilgrimage to Astoria and to the Goonies film locations around town there (Hey you guys!) and the amazing waterfalls dotting the Columbia River Gorge (breathtaking). Or maybe describe, in detail, my too full suitcase complete with my Tillamook Cheese Factory postcards, wackado knickknacks from hippy stores and my souvenir Oregon Ducks Tee shirt, but I wont even go there. What’s really important here is where I ate and what was good eats in the larger (but not necessarily better) Portland. So my cross country cavalcade must be split into at least 2 posts, if not three to fully encapsulate the Portland, Oregon foodie experience (I hate the term foodie btw, it sounds like gastronomic footsies or something… [He shudders]…)

So on to the reviews! To the Oregon Trail we go…

One of the first, and best restaurants I enjoyed while cross the country was Meriwether’s in the Knob Hill area of Portland

Meriwether’s Restaurant
2601 N.W. Vaughn Street Portland, Oregon

The Novice Fork gives this farm-fresh
spot 4 Forks for amazingly delicious food
but slightly pricy menu and rushed staff.

Meriwether's warm glow

The first thing you notice about this restaurant, naturally, is it’s how attractive the outside is. With bamboo and other rain loving plants everywhere, an outdoor deck with a fire pit, and nature inspired architecture, it exterior promises big things for the interior. Once inside, the wall-to-wall packed restaurant is just a beautiful, one part Provence, one part New England farm house with a very large and rustic wood burning fireplace, and extra wide floor boards it’s a cozy, gracious and beautiful place to enjoy brunch.

The food here is touted as being farm to table, and Meriwether’s delivers. The restaurant has its very own farm from which to construct it’s menu, Skyline Farms produced over 8000 lbs. of fresh ingredients to the tables of its restaurant. This type of control and sustainability makes for a very tasty menu. 

I ordered the Farm Scramble with Egg, Feta Cheese, asparagus and tomato. It was so good I couldn’t put my fork down. Presented with potatoes au gratin and sourdough toast, it was a simple, filling and perfect breakfast. I also had the “fruit salad” but really this was more of a giant plate of succulent and ripe strawberries, figs, raspberries, bananas, honeydew, cantaloupe and kiwi. Lightly coated with sugar syrup, this was the perfect companion to the savory eggs. All washed down with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, I was in heaven.  

The service at Meriwether’s was the only slightly sour note here (and I say slightly because they were pleasant but very busy.) Our waiter seemed preoccupied by the unseen forces of restaurant chaos and another poor server dropped an entire glass pitcher of water, spraying the table next door like a sprinkler. (I laughed silently.) 

However, all and all this place rocks! Whether its brunch, lunch or dinner, you wont be disappointed. Its simple farm eating turned elegant and it works very well.

On to the next review…

Masu Sushi
406 Southwest 13th Avenue # 202
Portland, OR 97205-2359
(503) 221-6278

The Novice Fork gives this sushi paradise 4 Forks,
or its top-quality sushi,
attentive wait staff, and hip/modern vibe.

The Sign... Love this place.

When visiting the Pacific Northwest, the traveler must have the local salmon and other aquatic life forms. If not, it’s kind of like traveling to Maine and not having Lobster or an Amato’s Italian. (Perish the thought.) It just isn’t done. So imagine my delight when my cousin introduced me to this stylish and metropolitan restaurant for a belated birthday dinner. Let it be noted that it was here that I enjoyed the best sushi I have ever had. In other words, this place is bomb. (Very tasty for all you non-street folk out there.) The place itself is up a flight of stairs in a mid-century modern warehouse type structure, on a tree-lined city street. However, when you ascend the stairs and turn the corner, you are greeted with inner city cool. A giant pop-art mural occupies one entire wall; the restaurant’s seating centered on a sexy and sleek bar area, natural blond wood chairs in a mid-century aesthetic and perfect lighting, creating the best upscale, mellow, warm and hip ambiance. (I just felt cooler being there… oh don’t judge… you would too.)

The food is the same way as it’s artful but familiar and approachable and above all fresh. Starting with the featured cocktail on their menu, I ordered the “Hello Kitty” a drink of muddled raspberries and Vodka with Lime Juice. (After ordering it, I had to retrieve my nuts because they deserted me from humiliation, but it was also one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had so it was worth it.) The house also brought out edamame for us to snack on while we ordered our sushi and this is always a hit with me. Salty, tender and addictive, I couldn’t get enough. After the edamame and miso soup I settling on several Sushi pieces and a few Maki, most of which involved salmon. This was a wise choice.   

The Pacific Northwest is salmon country and when eaten raw, the salmon is so sweet, tender, and full of the nuanced flavor that we just can’t get over here in the east. So I gorged myself on this frutti di mare and fully enjoyed every minute. Our server here was witty, corky and full of personality. He was attentive, and was always ready to make a suggestion, like leading me to order the mackerel, which was out of this world. His personality only added to the meal and made the experience all the more memorable. So, when in Portland Oregon and in need of your sushi fix, head to Masu, and eat it up, you wont find fish like this very often.

After this meal of meals, my cousin and I decided to head to her favorite cocktail lounge at The Nines Hotel,

The Nines, enough said.

This place is over the top cool and full of funky style. With several bars in this ultra swanky boutique hotel, too choose from, including one roof lounge that overlooks the entire city of Portland, The Nines Hotel is the perfect place, after a long meal, to enjoy the September air, people watch, and toast to birthdays (mine) belated or not. Head to The Nines to pregame with Portland’s hip and stylish and to enjoy a little NYC in the Wild West

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Muggy

O Hey world. How are you? Welcome to another, slightly overdue installment of the Novice Fork. My B. With work in full swing and a wedding I just attended, I haven’t had much time to sit down and write. But I simply had to annotate some recent restaurants I visited in the past few weeks. Fun stuff right? I though so anyway.

But before we dip into the restaurant judgment pool, I need to ask an important question to all your faithful readers and pit stoppers. What the heck is up with the weather lately? I thought August was supposed to be hot, hot HOT! Not 72 degrees and rainy? And while it may have been hot as hades when I went to both restaurants, two weeks ago, August just hasn’t delivered. I’m kinda disappointed in the lack of “stick to your chair” or “I wanna die” heat that I’ve grown to love. I haven’t been able to fry an egg on the sidewalk in front of my apartment, or boil water left in my car turned oven, and this I find troubling. (Am I alone?) Thus I am titling this post “The Good, The Bad, and the Muggy” because I went to a good restaurant, a poor one, and it used to be hot out and I want it back, dammit!

Ok enough ranting, I’ll still go to the beach even if its overcast and 60, who am I kidding? The tan must live on. So lets start off good shall we?

505 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101

The Novice Fork Gives this upscale, modern Mexican restaurant
4 Forks for its elegant and minimal décor,
fresh gourmet Mexican food, and great service.

Zapoteca's Mole Poblano Chicken Enchiladas, so good.

When a new restaurant joins the ranks in an already jam packed food city like Portland, it can sometimes become lost to the white noise of all the other options out there. But when one is special, like this place, they rise above the “fluff” and call your attention loud and clear. So on a hot (read muggy) late July night, a friend and I stepped into a new Mexican spot for some food to match the “caliente” day.

The first thing you notice when you enter this space is how minimal and chic it is. Beautiful décor and furniture, elegant tables and linens, even the wineglasses are nice. What gives? Aren’t all Mexican restaurants supposed to be clichéd and kinda corny, complete with bright day glow colors and a birthday sombrero to the lucky guest? No, and what a welcome change.

To match this fresh look is a welcoming and knowledgeable crew, our waitress super friendly and attentive and ready to answer any question my friend and I had for her. Settling on a traditional margarita (a real one with lemon juice not “sour mix” ickkk) and a “flight of salsas” two of which were served hot, we began the meal. These were fantastic, each one different and each one better than the last. The cuisine here is a sort of traditional meets modern Mexican, upscale and never stale or tired. For my main meal, I tried a mole poblano chicken  enchilada with traditional mole sauce (that’s a spicy sauce made with coco) accompanied with rice and refried beans. This was fantastic. My friend got the same meal, but with a cheese sauce instead of mole. Had a bite and same prognosis… amazing.

When the chef came to the table and welcomed me to her new restaurant, I was hooked. This is a great restaurant, one where the customer is valued and the food is top notch. I was so impressed. They naturally have dessert but I was too full to eat another bite, so I passed and will most assuredly be back to have one. So, to summarize, if you eat here you’ll be surprised, pleasantly so, by how good the food and overall experience is. Trust me, it’s worth the trip. Don’t be fooled by imitators in town, this place is the real deal.

And now… the bad. Can you handle it? I’m sorry to do this but…

El Rayo
101 York Street
Portland ME 04101

The Novice Fork gives this Mexican Taqueria 
2 Forks for its fresh authentic food, 
but poor service and overall lacking experience.

El Rayo's sign. Pretty cool branding. 
Now before you, the villagers get your pitchforks and torches out to kill me in my sleep, let me preface this side of the review with a decent food rating for the food here at “charming” El Rayo. I’d say 3.5ish for the cuisine, not challenging to make, but damn good when all you want is a well made burrito. But… where this spot falls very short (we are talking Napoleonic proportions here) is in its service and over effect this has on ones eating experience.

I get its just a taco stand with overpriced drinks and some chips, but why must the diner suffer from lack of attention and overall sense of exasperation the staff here exhibit. I am actually sad I didn’t have a better time here. The colors of the restaurant and the “branding” of the space is cool and hip. They use mismatched linens and bright colors, ball jars as drink glasses and a diner style kitsch is really fun. But the ride stops here.

Like having customers come to support their restaurant is just too much for them. The hostess told us about a 45 minute wait outside (hottest day of the summer so totally understandable), so we went to the “el fresco” bar section of the patio to wait patiently. The dude that served us here, and yes he was a “DUDE” to the highest degree, seemed way to busy bringing overpriced margaritas in way too small glass jars to others to ask if we needed any help at all, and when we finally asked for chips and salsa, he brought some 20 minutes later, without asking if I wanted anything else, like maybe a different salsa or another drink, which I would have happily ordered. So once the hostess “saved us” from this dude, she sat us at a table with people still on it.

Again I have no problem with family style dining or communal tables, like they have at Flatbread, but I do have a problem waiting for this when my friend and I could have sat ourselves, sans useless hostess, with two other diners who I’m sure wouldn’t have minded if wed join.

The joy doesn’t stop here. O no, there’s more. Our waitress was completely distracted by nothing in particular and only came over to our table when she sensed my flagging her down with flare and a foghorn. She didn’t answer any questions without an eye roll so I got the easiest thing on menu. A burrito. This is where the meal finally took an upswing. After all of this shuffling and rigmarole, and with some really tasty fried plantains I had my food and I was a bit happier. Only a bit. We paid, we left, and i forgot about this meal until now... Thanks for bringing it up, geez.

So, so summarize? The food here is good, great at times, but be prepared to feel like something is lacking. And really, after two hours of bull hockey, I should have gone to Chipotle. And that’s the truth. 

So there is it, another double header, stay tuned next time when the Novice Fork tackles the east end haunt the Blue Spoon. Have a great day everyone, stay fresh. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hot Night, City Lights

Greeting intrepid eaters! Welcome to another long (I repeat, long) overdue issue of the Novice Fork. I apologize. However, life can even get in the way of eating one’s way the city one lives in.  With starting a new job at an infamous floating restaurant, and working on my tan (coming along very well) and a litany of other responsibilities, have kept me away yet again from my blog and from you. But baby, I’m back!

With the city and the weather heating up and settling into midsummer quite comfortably, the streets are full of white shoe-adorned tourists from overly large cruise ships, bumper to bumper traffic plagues commercial street, and sidewalk vendors selling everything from CDs of seagulls squawking (because the real things aren't charming enough, especially the little gifts they leave on my car daily) to purveyors of overprices shell necklaces. Ahhhh summer is here in the old port. Is there anything better? I think not! But my favorite thing is that when the calendar reads a certain intangible date, the city suddenly comes alive, people hit the streets in full force, farmers markets open their stands, and every restaurant in town offers romantic alfresco dining. Quite simply this is awesome.

Also, it’s not unheard of to have roommate’s friends and relatives stay the night for the million things the city has to offer, the food variety or other “thrills” of the Shipyard Seasonal variety. So what do you get when you combine outdoor seating and visiting relatives? The Corner Room of course.

The Corner Room

110 Exchange Street 
at the corner of Federal

Portland, Maine 04101

The Novice Fork gives this Italian hotspot 4 forks,
for its authentic and fresh food,
great location and laidback, beautiful dining room.

The Corner Room's street sign, love it. 

Walking the few blocks it takes to get to this little jewel of a restaurant from my apartment with my roommates and hangers on in tow for a perfect, sultry summer night, I was reminded of the many great meals I’ve had here. I have been to the Corner Room many times before, and I keep coming back because it is the perfect place to get unpretentious, authentic Italian food with an upscale presentation and locally sourced produce and house made pasta. The beautiful, warm and cozy décor is just icing on the cake. It’s truly a great restaurant. During the week, this spot isn’t packed but steady, so you’re almost always sure to get a table. And, since it is summer, their outdoor seating options are plentiful.

So properly seated and watered, the four of us overlooked the special summer drink list, and the Corner Room doesn’t disappoint. I had the summer white wine sangria and two of the party enjoyed the cucumber infused mojito. Both were fantastic and refreshing. (Summertime calls for sangria, so if you don’t care for the boozy beverage, get over it and drink up.) Their menu reads like an all-stars list, with the more traditional meals like pasta with meatballs, garden salad and cheese plates. But what the corner room does perfectly is to deliver the freshest ingredients often using their own farm raised produce and meat whenever possible. This means the salads taste amazing because the produce is ultra local, the pasta tastes that much better, because its hand made there in-house, and their meatballs are that much more savory because the pork was raised directly for them by them. (Sorry Babe).

When we ordered dinner it was still hot out, and I wanted a cold salad and a Caesar with delicious white anchovies fit the bill. Perfect. For my entrée I ordered pappardelle pasta in a light cream sauce and wild Maine mushrooms topped with Parmesan cheese. Again so good. One of my companions ordered a perennial favorite native Maine Mussels and they were amazing too. (But I’m not surprised.)

Lastly, the service here isn’t swift (possibly because we were outside) but when you are enjoying the sweet summer night air you don’t want to be rushed. But our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the food and this always makes me, as a food writer, happy. All said and done this was yet another great experience at the Corner Room.

So go to the Corner Room and you’ll be impressed, not only by the food, but how nice it can be to slow down and enjoy eating outside during Maine’s short summer. You’d be a fool not to. Just watch out for the seagulls, or those awful shell necklaces, which ever come first.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Great Migration

Heyo! How's it going world? You, undoubtedly, may have asked yourself where has our intrepid eater been for, o I don't know, 2 months! I even caught myself asking, "wow, what is this little site? It looks like a really cool restaurant review blog yet there hasn't been any news posts since March? Weird."

Regardless, this break has occurred for a reason, and the answer is too awesome to contain any further! I'm moving to my beloved city of Portland, ME! You know, to be "closer to the action" so to speak. That means that the No. 1 food destination in the US of A will be just outside my front door. Which neighborhood have I chosen for my headquaters? The East End of course, like there is any other. The view from my third floor apartment overlooking Casco Bay is fantastic, so feel free to be appropriately jealous. 

East End Beach, perfection. From

A few job developments, namely the possibly and probable acquisition and ownership of an art gallery on Congress Street, (ummm excuse me?) and the excitement to live with two of my best friends, my relocation to Portland is looking better and better. Summer in the City... Has a ring to it doesn't it?

But what about a review? Well I've been to a whole mess of great restaurants, but it has been so long since i've written down my travels, they have all become blurred. I guess (none to begrudgingly) I'll have to revisit a few stars from the past two months, not to worry.

So, as our friends on Oregon Trail do, load up the Conestoga wagon with provisions and a dutch oven, hitch up some oxen (or draft horses, your preference), and make sure while fording the river not to die of dysentery (or is it drown or something), because I'm moving out of the country! Look out Portland, here I come... to eat. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Little Grace Under Pressure

Hola readers. Well it’s been a few weeks, two to be exact, and man has the time flown. But what, you may ask, has been going on in my foodie life in all that time? Well… I was contacted for a job interview in Boston, score! I went to several amazing restaurants (double score) and it’s now the 8th day of spring (thank the lord). My trip down to Boston last week was great, albeit a little out of sequence for the few reviews I have to cook up. But since it was the latest adventure I’ve had, I think it makes sense to include it here now. But, the review, a supplement to the Novice Fork review of Masa Restaurant, in the South End of Boston, will be coming soon. Let’s turn now, to a wonderful Portland restaurant I want to give a little attention to, Grace. Was it good?  For certain.

Grace Restaurant

15 Chestnut Street
Portland, ME

The Novice Fork gives this church
turned luxe dinning establishment
4 Forks for its amazing atmosphere,
killer cocktails, and overall metropolitan appeal

The interior of Grace, so beautiful

What happens when you take three plucky twenty-somethings, a large (read very generous) gift certificate to one of Portland’s best restaurants, and a Friday night? Well a fantastic dinner and cocktail hour at Grace, of course. On this particular Friday, armed with two good friends and this (very generous) gift certificate, I thought a break from the normal bar hopping was in order. I crave good food, as most of you know, and thought how fun it would be to share this passion with a few friends. So to Grace we went, expecting the best. And we were not disappointed.

While Grace’s food is very good, the space and the drinks are really what one comes for. The site of a former church, the dinning rooms maintains most of the original gothic details, right down to leaving the altar intact behind the open concept kitchen. You enter on the main floor, with the spectacular central bar, round and with three gothic “sculptures” radiating out from it. And upstairs is more seating and a second bar, all overlooking the dinning room below from old church balconies. It’s simply a beautiful place to eat.

Before the food was decided upon, my friends and I enjoyed a few cocktails, a Greyhound for me, red wine for them. All of it was very tasty. The food? We, none too surprisingly, had enough money to sample a variety of different things so we did. I started with a warm salad with prosciutto and walnuts. Very good. My friend had the Pork Cretons, or a type of pork paté served with mustard and pickled vegetables. Wicked good. My other friend? The slider of course, which was perfect. (The girl loves her burgers) Are you sensing a trend with this restaurant?

These “starters” were all digested at the upstairs bar, but 4 lounge seats opened up right next to us so we migrated there and got even more food. For me it was the Pan Seared Goat Cheese Gnocchi, which was sweet, savory and fantastic. And my friend got the Hanger Steak, which, cooked medium rare, was perfection.

Now with this lavish meal you’d expect great service, and that’s certainly what you get here. Our bartender was excellent and I see her there every time I go. And our waitress was prompt and easygoing, my two favorite things and we felt taken care of but also left to our own deep conversations.   

So, if you go to Grace, you will find a diverse, inspired menu, banging good cocktails, and an atmosphere more big city than you’d expect to find in our little Port City. 4 Forks it is! You should go to Grace now if you’re smart… but no pressure.