13 November 2010

1st Anniversary Road-trip Day 7

I want to start this post with a quote from Homer Simpson’s high school year book: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Yes, that was the primary theme for Day 7 of our road-trip--our first full day in Portland.

I’d reserved a 2-hour Schooner Tour of Casco Bay for a nice start to our day so I was thrilled to find that Standard Baking Company was a short walk from the pier. Unfortunately, I was a tad skeptical after our so-so dinner at Fore Street (they’re owned by the same restaurant group) the night before, but nevertheless I had a hankerin’ for baked goodies.

They were bustling when we entered through the double glass doors. As soon as we saw an opening we dashed up to the counter to peruse the display.

I rubbed my morning bun with nuts all over your chocolate cork
I noticed their almond croissant looked a helluva lot better than the one we had at Olive et Gourmando so I opted for one of those, the wife had her heart set on a pain au chocolat so we also ordered one of those, and then after seeing this beautiful sight:

How could we not order one of those? So, a blueberry oat scone was thrown in. The Mrs. gets the gold star for the day after noticing a sign on the door advertising their peach ginger iced tea. I could’ve kissed her, that sounded delightful! Two of those finalized our order.

If only it tasted as good as it looked
While quite pretty, the blueberry oat scone was the worst of the bunch--soft and dense, reminiscent of a grocery store-bought muffin and containing not quite as many blueberries as I would’ve liked. The pain au chocolat was flaky and buttery and pulled apart wonderfully.

Mmmm, hershey highway...
The stripe of chocolate running through it’s core was deceptively substantial, each bite yielding a significant amount of perfectly sweet chocolatey goodness. The pastry to rule all other pastries was the almond croissant.

Tyrannosaurus Rex
In other words in the battle between the Valorians and Rulons, consider the almond croissant the muthafuckin T-Rex, ya dig? Upon biting into it rich almond paste squirted out from between equally tender and flaky layers of croissant. The sliced toasted almonds added a great crunchy texture making this without a doubt the best baked good of the trip so far.

Ginger peach tea or afterbirth?
The iced tea was light and refreshing with subtle flavors of both peach and ginger. Bonus points awarded to Standard Baking Co. for having simple syrup at the bar. Why don’t more places do that?  After obtaining a fairly intense sugar high we merrily skipped out onto the pier to lounge around for a bit until our schooner tour was ready to set sail.
Does your mother still hang out at dockside bars?

Dat's mah boat

Whilst enjoying the view I noticed these happy little freshwater seals gallivanting around the harbor. Until then I had no idea there was such a thing as a freshwater seal. Cute lil guys.

Taken right before he got decapitated by a boat prop
The tour was very relaxing and I even managed to get off my lazy ass to help the crew raise the sails. That was fun, and definitely helped in some much needed digestion.

Ah, so that's how I got hemorrhoids!
Overall the tour was nice, but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t narrated whatsoever nor did it really lead anywhere. We just sailed out for an hour and then sailed back in. I was hoping we would make it out to the point to see the some lighthouses or something, but we didn’t even come close.

When the Mrs. gets a hold of the carmera I end up with artsy-fartsy pictures like this...
Pretty fort thing
Ah, well it was a great way to enjoy the amazing weather and just take a break from our busy schedule. I mean, we were on vacation right? Aren’t you supposed to relax on vacations? Not when I’m running the show, we gots too much shit to do/see/eat!

Speaking of eating, after the tour we decided it was time to stuff our face some more. I was interested in checking out a tour of Shipyard Brewing Co. and since it was on the way to my chosen lunch destination, away we went. Unfortunately, upon arrival we were told that they were having a going away party for an employee and brewery tours wouldn’t start back up until the afternoon. We weren’t waiting around so we kept right on trucking up to our lunch spot: Silly’s. Along the way I couldn’t help but take a picture of this wonderfully nostalgic sign:

Damn, I wish they were still open
Can anyone fathom why flat-tops are a dollar more? Maybe because of all the straightening/edging involved? A hilarious sign nonetheless. Anyway, back to lunch. Silly’s is exactly my type of place: a sickly sweet staff, boatloads of random crap plastered all over the interior (and exterior for that matter) and a wide menu of seemingly random flavors combinations that work surprisingly well together. Yes, certainly my kind of place.

I first learned of Silly’s after reading it’s Best Dessert Place + Best Sandwich/Wrap + Best Waitstaff/Service award from the 2010 Portland Phoenix Reader’s Poll.  After checking out their menu, and reading positive reviews on yelp, I was sold. The menu itself was quite glorious but in the end I was torn between two of the specials listed on the blackboard: Fancy Cakes which are curry and sesame seasoned fish and scallop cakes served with spicy pickle dip and The Red Light Special which is a veggie burger topped with spicy vegan dip, vegan sweet potato chili, lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles.

In the end we decided to split the Fancy Cakes and tacked on a side of sweet potato fries and we also decided to split the Hippy Hippy Shake (choosing a shake was one of the harder decisions of the trip) which our server was happy to split into two glasses for us. Couldn’tve had better service I tells ya.  We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we ordered that seemingly innocent side of sweet potato fries. Holy hell! But first things first, the Fancy Cakes.

Do you want me to fry you up some fucking potato panckes? Some latkes?
They were nicely spiced and kind of reminded me of a Mainer spin on a Maryland crab cake, albeit a tad greasy. The flavors of the sesame, curry, fish, and scallops were all present and identifiable. The spicy pickle dip was basically just a dressed up thousand island.

Uh, excuse me miss, someone dropped some pretzels in my shake
The shake, which I forgot to mention was peanut butter, chocolate, malt, and topped with pretzels was as good as one might expect those flavors to be. It had a very strong peanut butter flavor and it coated the pretzels well. The pretzels provided great crunch and a buttery note that rounded out the flavor. My only complaint is I wish the pretzels were mixed throughout the shake instead of just being perched on top.

How many spuds died in the creation of this dish?
And finally we come to our mountain o’ sweet potato fries. I loved how they were cut into coins as opposed to wedges, a technique I’ve since mimicked in my own kitchen, and while they were served with honey mustard I felt I had to try them with hot sauce. Luckily, Silly’s makes their own. I’m usually not a fan of sweet hot sauces. I don’t know how many iterations of mango-habanero I’ve tried, none of which have been worth a damn. Silly’s sauce had only a very subtle fruity sweetness to it, which only served to enhance it’s addictingly salty-vinegary herbaceous depth of flavor.

My personal sauce mixing station
The funny thing is I’m not a fan of honey mustard either, but when, on a whim, I tried mixing the two together I discovered the hidden path to supreme deliciousness. I must be an elf, as I don’t remember declaring I was searching for secret/concealed doors. Or maybe I inadvertently spoke the secret password, but I don’t recall saying mellon…

After lunch at Silly’s we did some shopping along Commercial Street then headed back to the hotel for a bit to freshen up before heading out to lunch #2 at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights.

Unfortunately, these stairs lead to the edge of the world

Fortunately this retirement home serves up some damn good lobster rolls

I’d read all about this place as being one of the most beautiful places in Maine to enjoy a lobster roll, and while they may not be unanimously touted as the best in town, I couldn’t resist the allure of enjoying a lobster roll with a view and the love of my life.  Expecting the place to be utterly packed we were pleasantly surprised to find it moderately busy with only about a third of the outside tables occupied and the entire interior vacant.

During our meal I witnessed no less than three elderly get devoured by ravenous seagulls
I took the opportunity to chat it up with the kid behind the counter for a few minutes. I finally got around to asking him for a slice of blueberry pie to go along with our lobster roll and he informed me that unfortunately they weren’t offering slices of blueberry pie that day. He said it with such harsh finality that I almost started crying right then and there. A few seconds later he bothered to finish the statement by saying they were offering these adorable individual blueberry mini-pies instead. I should’ve told him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol? While neither my wife nor I are usually fans of whipped cream, on a whim I agreed to a healthy dollop of white fluff (on the pie, that's mayo on the lobster roll).

I'm tired of writing witty captions.  Dude mayo.
Yeah, I'm done.  If you can think of any more witty captions, post them in the comments below and I'll add them in
Overall, I enjoyed this lobster roll more than Red’s which solidified Red’s in my mind as more of a tourist destination than a real deal lobster shack. The lobster was just as sweet, but significantly more tender. The bun was toasted more, but overall didn’t pack quite as much flavor as Red’s bun. After scooping off a significant portion of the mountain of mayo I actually enjoyed the creaminess it leant to the meat and the sandwich as a whole. Surprisingly what really did it for me was the fresh, crunchy layer of lettuce at the bottom.

The pie was everything I hoped it could be. It was packed to the point of bursting with blueberries and had a great brown sugar crumble topping. The crust was the perfect thickness to contain the blueberries while not dominating the rest of the ingredients and the fresh whipped cream was silky and not too sweet.

My only complaint about The Lobster Shack at Two Lights is that there weren’t two lights. One would expect with a name like that that the two lighthouses after which the park is named would be in clear view, but alas they were nowhere to be found. I saw one structure that was a pretty poor excuse for a lighthouse to the east, but I was hoping to see the Portland Head Lighthouse which just happens to be the most photographed lighthouse in the world. I guess I didn’t do my research… Boo! Actually I have two complaints. The goddamned fog horn from the lighthouse is loud as fuck. And fuck is loud I tells ye. Bring earplugs if you decide to check this place out. You’ll thank me later.

Now I know you must be thinking to yourself that our grazing must’ve stopped there, right? Nope. We’re just getting started. I was full for the moment, but I’d heard that Portland brewed some of the best beer around and I was hellbent on judging that for myself. And there’s only one place to go when you want to try a crapload of local beers: The Great Lost Bear.

They do beer flights at the GLB and that’s exactly what I was going for, limiting myself to local beers only. I was given a beer list and a nifty little card to write down my choices and away I went. I tried A LOT of beers and overall they lived up to the reputation. After being told they were out of the Shipyard Old Thumper my choices for my first flight were (from left to right): Shipyard Pumpkinhead, Shipyard Summer Ale (I was making up for missing out on that damned tour earlier) Allagash White, Gritty’s Vacationland, and Sebago Runabout Red,.

Now bear with me I don’t remember this whatsoever since it was so long ago so I’m going off of strictly what I said in my voice memos. The same goes for dinner, but we’ll get to that in a moment. So from what I can gather from my memos the Pumpkinhead went the savory route, tasting more of fresh pumpkin as opposed to the sweeter pumpkin pie-esque variants. Surprisingly I enjoyed the Allagash white, even though I usually run screaming in the opposite direction whenever I hear the phrase white ale. My favorites of the bunch actually ended up being both Shipyard offerings. Allagash white came in a close third, with the Vacationland and the Runabout Red failing to impress.  Round 2 proved to be much tastier indeed. My second flight featured (from left to right) Geary’s Summer Ale, Seadog Blueberry Wheat,  Shipyard Export Ale, Allagash Black, and Geary’s Porter.

The shining star of not only this round, but of all the beers I sampled that day was the Allagash Black. Wow. I’d never tried a beer like that and was thoroughly floored. It has all of the complex flavors of a dark beer while maintaining a surprisingly light body (much like the Sprecher Black Bavarian I had in Philly). I actually loved every beer in this flight with the exception of the Export Ale. I felt that the Geary’s Summer offering had a great hoppy snap which topped Shipyard’s and Gritty’s and have since indulged in Seadog Blueberry, which had the wonderful aroma of blueberries without being too sweet, a handful of times after spotting it at my local beer emporium. While I didn’t have too many words for Geary’s Porter beyond that I liked it, I did mention that it smelled of toasted marshmallow and soy sauce--an intriguing combination.

As I was raving about the Allagash Black to some of the locals sitting at the bar next to us, the Allagash brewmaster walks into the bar and saddles up right next to us. After chatting him up for a few he turned out to be a really nice guy who graciously took all of the sloppy compliments I gave his beer (I was getting pretty sauced by this point). The locals recommended I try the 2010 Allagash Fluxus which is an annual offering that changes every year, this year being a stout, but unfortunately they were out of it. At this point I was just about to ask for the check and stumble off to dinner when Joe (the regular next to me) informed me that I shouldn’t leave just yet. Come to find out the manager of the GLB was behind the bar and he just returned from a trip to Sierra Nevada in CA where he was given the opportunity to design his own beer that they would brew in a very limited release. His beer was a Black IPA and he just so happened to have some on hand and I was fortunate enough to be given a sample. It assailed the taste buds hitting all corners of my mouth, simultaneously bitter and piney while maintaining a smooth drinkability. It was an awesome way to end our visit to the GLB which was truly one of the highlights of the trip (for me).

We drove back to the hotel and dropped the car off and headed over to Miyake for our dinner reservation. While they offer a full sushi menu, at Miyake the real magic happens in the Chef’s Omakase which they offer in three, five, or seven courses. Being the uber-glutton that I am, I still know my limits so I opted for the five-course, not the seven. Three is right out! The wife had the same. The pretty plates cometh.

I’m getting pretty damned worn out writing this post so I’ll keep this short (well, short for me). I apologize in advance since I wasn’t given a written menu the details of each dish are somewhat sparse. First thing to note was they were out of tuna toro which made me a very sad clown. We ordered a pot of green tea which was served extremely hot, the intention being that the pot was to sit allowing the tea to steep as it cooled. We were provided a nice amuse bouche of tuna tartare with avocado and lightly dressed with a spicy wasabi mayo.

This was a hell of a way to start the meal because the tartare freakin rocked. If he’d just handed me a huge bowl of that I’d tell him exactly what to do with his five courses. Ah well, our first (second?) course was a sashimi plate featuring maine lobster, Japanese octopus, fluke, and hamachi.

The lobster was dressed with a very potent garlic oil which I utterly devoured. The fluke was topped with a salty plop of salmon roe and according to my memo the hamachi was “simply lovely”, whatever the hell that means.

Course two was seared scallop in some sort of sauce and local tomato. This was another dish that I really enjoyed. Fore Street could learn a fucking thing or two from Miyake about how to clean a scallop. The scallops were cooked through and buttery with a nice light sear. The sauce paired well with the acidity from the tomatoes… And that’s all I got. Sorry. It eternally shames me that I’m failing you as a detail-oriented food blogger. I will fall on my own sword after completing this post.

Poached halibut dressed with a bonito vinaigrette and black forest mushrooms, turnips, and leeks was the next plate to arrive at our table. Our waiter was eager to tell us exactly how each component of the dish was prepared, which we loved… at first. It was quite comical and sometimes we found ourselves snickering behind his back as he walked away because by the way he presented the dishes it was like he was personally handing us the greatest dish to ever come out of a professional kitchen.

This proved to be another wonderful dish. Mushrooms = good. Halibut = gooder. Leeks = goodest. I’ll be damned if I remember the three minute speech he gave us on how the vegetables were prepared, but those leeks were straight up gooderiest. It’s also nice to know that I apparently like halibut as I’ve been trying to educate myself more on what fishies I deem delicious. I should eat more fish. I should eat more a lot of things. My day-to-day eating habits are akin to those of a 7 year old. I like cereal and peanut butter (not together mind you), don’t judge me.

For the “main” course of our five course omakase we were treated to seared duck breast over braised kale, white asparagus, and beet (above right) and duck confit with some sort of peach sauce (above left). Both applications of duck were without question the tenderest duck I’ve had in recent memory. This was also another plate where the veggies almost outshined the protein because the ginger pickled white asparagus and the braised kale were out of this world. The peach sauce was very subtle and highlighted the flavor of the confit rather than overpowering it. This was my favorite course of the meal.

Finally, the sushi course featuring sockeye salmon with wasabi, Japanese eel with eel sauce, and Japanese pike. The salmon was fine, the pike was way too fishy for my tastes, and the eel was buttery, flaky, and delicious. As we considered whether or not we wanted to add on a sweet treat to conclude our meal we were very put off as our waiter kept trying to add on savory dishes for an obscene upcharge. Eventually that lead to us just asking for the check, venturing forth to seek dessert somewhere else. We made sure to gather our party before venturing forth. We both agreed the food at Miyake would rank above Kazu, but when considering service and atmosphere Kazu was head and shoulders (knees and toes?) above.

Goddamnit, would you really be that upset if I just skipped telling you about the lovely experience we had at Five Fifty Five for dessert? My freakin’ fingers hurt, people! Sigh.

We saddled up to the bar and ensured we still had time to order dessert and a round of beverages to complete our day of gluttony. We went with the beignets and the grilled peach upside down cake. I asked for an alcoholic beverage served warm with the flavors of mint and chocolate and that’s exactly what he gave me. It warmed my belly and head.  The bartender was uber, uber nice which was refreshing after overbearing guy at Miyake. He was so interested in our little road-trip and had so many questions about where we were from and why we chose to visit Portland.

Both desserts were great too, although in both cases I liked the supporting cast more than the starring role. The banana mousse with candied peanuts and toasted marshmallow served alongside the beignets was every bit as good as it sounds and the candied basil ice cream that came with the cake was reminiscent of a sweet-savory take on a margherita pizza.

That’s it, I simply can’t type any more. I’m not even going to bother proof-reading this thing, so I apologize if some if it reads like a dim-witted three toed sloth typed it up. Goddamn, 3,640 words just to describe a single day’s worth of eating. I need to install an edit button on my brain. My wife and I are lucky that we enjoy running and working out else we’d be nothing short of living, breathing mountains of gelatinous blubber. Until next time, I’m going to go ice my hands.

Standard Baking Co on Urbanspoon
Silly's on Urbanspoon
Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon
Great Lost Bear on Urbanspoon
Miyake on Urbanspoon
Five Fifty-Five on Urbanspoon

Other Similar Ramblings

Widget by Hoctro | Jack Book


theminx said...

You know, you could have made 3 or 4 posts out of this one. :) But it was an entertaining read, as usual. I don't know why you didn't run away with the Mobbie, because your blog is always pretty terrific.

And I like the Mrs' artsy-fartsy photographs. :)

Mr. Micro said...

Yes, I apologize for the long-windedness. I wanted to keep it consistent with each post representing a day. I think the last two days will be condensed into one big mega-finale though.

Holy shit I didn't even know I was nominated. Hell, I didn't even know what a Mobbie was until I was reading up some some Baltimore bloggage yesterday. Well, thanks to whoever nominated me. You'd think they'd send me an email or something...

Caligula said...

I still think you would have been happy with the savory dishes, despite the obscene upcharge...

S. said...

Great write up of Portland... One note, though, you mention "Scratch" when I think you're referring to Standard. Scratch is over in South Portland :)

Susan said...

GLB --- good beer
Food sucks.....

Mr. Micro said...

Cali: I may have considered it if the guy weren't so pushy. Add to that the fact that my wife's huge sweet tooth has rubbed off on me and we were off looking for something sweet!

S: Thanks for the catch! I'll make the correction.

Susan: Yeah, I was just there to drink. As you can see we ate more than our fair share eleswhere.

Thanks everyone for your comments. They warm my bowels.

Post a Comment