That’s the slogan of the state of Maine, which rests on a foundation of simplicity, peace, sky, sea, and pine trees. Miles and miles and MILES of pine trees!
Portland, its largest city, is something else, however. Located on a bustling harbor, its narrow streets climbing steeply up from the sea, it’s a very attractive place. It’s always reminded me of Seattle (on a smaller scale, of course). Far from being bucolic and serene, though, the harbor downtown is a really happening, funky, edgy place, crammed to bursting with restaurants of all prices and types and ethnicities. Lobster pounds? Of course! Burger joints, natch. But it’s also got two of the finest Japanese omakase restaurants on the East Coast, and teems with bistros from plain to mighty fancy.
There’s such an abundance of choice in Portland that it was really hard to decide where we’d dine on our one evening out. (This was before what turned out to be our late night adventure of not-so-much-serenity.) Finally, after much perusing of on-line menus and discussions on the forums of Chowhound, we settled on Fore Street, where you actually can’t check out the menu because it changes daily, going for what’s best of the local in the market. Our bus brought us to the harbor and off we went in search of dinner —
Fore Street-the-restaurant is tucked away on narrow Fore street, through a parking lot and up a flight of outdoor stairs above the bakery. (Don’t ask!) Its metal sign is so discreet it’s barely visible against the brick factory walls. Despite these obstacles, Portland chow mavens manage to keep it jumping. We scored a reservation by our willingness to eat unfashionably early, like 6 pm.
Roaring fires — just about everything is grilled there, from steaks and game to fish and pizzas —were matched by the roaring of an exuberant hungry crowd even at that early hour.
We were immediately caught up in the buzz, and warm welcome (thanks to Open Table and a responsive Fore Street crew). The Hub had his favorite, pork loin, rubbed and (of course!) grilled.
I had grilled quail. Starters included three kinds of oysters (delicious, not enough!) and an assortment of patés and terrines. Hub’s Rhone red was excellent, and my Riesling was one of the best I’ve ever had (and good Rieslings are not abundant outside Germany, I can tell you). If I were given to more than one glass of wine at dinner, that would have been the glass!
Dessert was a down home peach bourbon bread pudding with a scoop of vanilla.
Simply — the whole meal was a feast. Simple in one way, like Maine — straightforward food, brick walls, high factory windows, no fancy airs — it was actually a sophisticated meal straight out of Manhattan’s elite food scene. And it was fun — What more can you want from a restaurant?