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.

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