Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Maine Getaway

bakerbiker and I recently took a long weekend trip to Maine, to celebrate various fun happenings in our lives. We've been to Maine many times, which in some ways is good since we know we love it. This time, we made some of our usual stops (i.e., Portland), but ventured a bit farther north to the sleepy town of Camden. For those of you who have been to Maine during the high season, Camden is the opposite of sleepy. But April in Maine is definitely not high season, so we had the town practically to ourselves as tourists. Though the weather was a bit chilly (it snowed one of the nights we were there), we made sure to get a room with a fireplace to stay cozy and still were able to enjoy some nice walks outside along the gorgeous coast in the stormy New England weather. The highlights of our trip, you're probably not surprised, were about the food.

Our first stop was Portland, where we hit Hugo's for dinner. Last year, Hugo's chef Rob Evans, won the James Beard Best Chef Northeast award. We've been there before and ordered a few small plates, but we'd never gone all out with the recommended six-course tasting. Now that I've had it, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go back. We started with an amuse bouche of mussel with red pepper and lemon foam. A single bite of heaven. Second course was asparagus salad with marinated mushroom, a poached farm egg, and fried ricotta. It was very fresh and "spring" and the asparagus was the most tender that I've ever had. The third (and my favorite) course was a porcini mushroom consomme with truffle-pea agnolotti, parmesan, and scallion. Some of you know about my obsession with mushrooms and this dish really proved it even further. I just can't get over how earthy, meaty, yummy they are! The next two courses were fish dishes - a cod and a salmon - both excellent and featuring more spring ingredients. The fifth dish was very unusual - an almond milk mouse with licorice stick, tapioca, and cocoa crumble. This sounds like dessert, but it was in fact just a touch sweet and was described to us as a "palate cleanser." It was very light, surprising, and super-interesting...definitely not something I could make at home. And finally, a sweet and fresh end to our amazing meal - a sort of deconstructed pineapple upside down cake with lime curd, coconut sorbet, and molasses. LOVED the tart, sweet, juicy, milky combo.

Did that whet your appetite? There's more! For lunch the next day, we hit the famed Duck Fat. As you might be able to guess, the theme here is duck fat and everything is cooked in it. Now I'm not a big fan of foods that are super high in fat, but let me tell you, duck fat fries are just amazing. And that's exactly what we had - duck fat fries with truffle ketchup, a simple but super-tasty smoked turkey panini, and a fruit and nut salad (hey - had to have something sort of healthy, right?). I know it sounds simple, but if you're ever in Portland, GO. It's seriously worth the trip.

Next we hit Camden, ME for a couple of nights. Camden is a very beautiful seaside town that is just mobbed in the summer, but fairly quiet during the other months. We walked around the coast and checked out some of the local food spots. The highlight for us was Francine Bistro. I have heard Francine compared to a Manhattan restaurant and I have to agree. Very upscale, European bistro style with a local flair. And lastly, we tried Natalie's, housed in a four-star B&B owned by a Dutch couple, it has a very modern decor and a gorgeous view of Camden Harbor. The dishes were classic but with an experimental twist and the wait staff was very friendly and personable (we even got treated to a little local dessert wine to go with our dessert). All in all a great trip and we can't wait to go again!

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