Guest Post: Hooray for Beignets! And Other Gastronomic Adventures in Downeast Maine


Today’s post is extra-special, because it’s not written by me! The fabulous words and images come from the witty and talented “Easy Bake.” If you’re not starving after this post – and eager for a trip to Maine – you’re a better person than I am. – TRM

I was trying to think of what would be a good blogger name for myself. I thought since I am guesting for The Red Menace, I could be The Brown Menace, since I have brown hair. But that sounds more like something you deal with in Mexico than a blogger. I think I’ll go by “Easy Bake”. It describes both my affinity for the childhood toy that cooks by light bulb, as well as baked goods. I’m sure there are a lot of other meanings that can be extracted from the moniker, but I’ll stick with those two.

So, I am here to report on my recent excursion to and throughout Maine with my boyfriend, let’s call him Lieutenant Funyuns. This trip was planned as a birthday present for me. I was told about it last September and had to hold out until May, which was very difficult as I am a fan of instant gratification. But hold out I did. Our trip took us from Cambridge to Acadia National Park, and back. Of course I was excited to see the scenery and explore the wilderness that Maine is famous for, but really, I was in it for the food.

We left the wilds of Cambridge on Thursday with the goal of stopping in Ogunquit on our way to Portland. We pulled into Ogunquit without a plan. This was unlike me. For those who know me, know I am a planner. As a child, I started planning my Halloween costume for the next year on November 1st. I always have a plan. This time I did not, and it worked out for the best. We strolled around Perkins Cove looking for a place to eat, almost enticed by the kitschy, touristy vibe of Barnacle Billy’s. But then we saw MC Perkins Cove with a small sign on the door that read: Home of 2010 James Beard Foundation Best Chefs of the Northeast: Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. Um, yes please! If this place didn’t have spectacular food, it would be worth going to just for the view. But Lt. Funyuns and I both in the Mainey mood ordered fresh, local fish. He ordered fish and chips and I ordered fish tacos made from local Cod. Perfection in a taco! This is on the list to go back to, and visit their sister restaurants.

Fish Taco

Bellys full, Lt. Funyuns and I made our way to Portland where we were staying in the Old Port district – lovely. My first stop, after dropping our bags in the hotel room, was a quick walk to Two Fat Cats Bakery. A local told me that this was the place to go for cupcakes. I am a sucker for cupcakes. I know cupcakes are so “in” right now. But I am a cupcake purist. I don’t need bacon (no offense bacon) or any other exciting ingredients in my cupcakes. Give me some chocolate cake and some buttercreme frosting and I am like Augustus Gloop in a fudge river. Two Fat Cats delivered. It is a very small establishment across the street from a meat packing facility that apparently just burned down. Had a very pungent smell. But that didn’t matter. I walked in, there was one chocolate cupcake left, and I knew it was meant to be. My mother has this process when she eats Sanders Hot Fudge Sundaes – it’s a Detroit thing – she closes her eyes, and doesn’t let anyone speak to her, that was my experience with this cupcake.

Heaven

We did some other stuff around Portland that day, but really it was all just trying to waste time before our dinner at Fore Street Fore Street is the type of restaurant that I love. They take pride in their food, everything is local and fresh, and if it isn’t, it isn’t on the menu. They change their extremely extensive menu daily. I have to say, I thought Fore Street was good and not great. I think part of this was because I didn’t do a great job ordering. I started off with a salad with shiitake mushrooms – good, and my main was salmon. I always have a hard time with salmon in restaurants, I don’t know why, it just is never that good. That said, Lt. Funyuns really enjoyed his meal. He started with mussels, he actually made me eat two of them, my first two mussels ever, and his main was the duck. He was impressed, and Lt. Fun. is a tough boy to impress. The ambiance and service was grand, so overall, recommended. PLUS, our homeboy (waiter) Lance gave us the inside scoop on what to get for breakfast the next day, so to him I am eternally grateful.

Fore Street Dinner

Friday morning we started our drive up to Rockport, our home for the next two days. However, not before we stopped at the other recommended bakery in Portland, Standard Baking Co., which coincidentally is directly below Fore St. Holy Macanoley, this place was the shiz. As I mentioned, Lance recommended the fougasse. He said this word like I was supposed to know what he was talking about. I did not. The fougasse is a bread product that is shaped in a ladder. Why? I don’t know. I suppose I could wikipedia it, but this post is long enough already. (Editor’s note: click the link!) It comes in different flavors, Lt. Fun. got the Asiago cheese and I got Sesame and Poppy seed. If there is a patron saint of butter, I would like to show some sort of gratitude in whatever way you do to saints (I’m a Jew, we don’t do saints). This was amazingness in a way I can’t describe. Just get one.

Fougasse!

We did some non-food related activities in Rockport, and then the next day made our way up to Acadia and Bar Harbor. Unfortunately I do not have food adventures to report from there, (Jordan Pond House was closed) but it’s a good place to go to if you’ve been eating your way across the state and might perhaps need a hike to burn some calories.

Saturday night we had reservations at Primo, back near the hotel in Rockland. I learned about Primo from the New York Times, said it is one of the best restaurants in the state…I concur! First of all, it is beautiful. Primo is in an old house, that feels welcoming and warm. The staff feel like they have been your best friends since second grade, but just went to school for food instead of Mason-Rice Elementary School. The bread – delicious, but then…then an AMUSE BOUCHE! Of course I know what this is from all my years of studying Top Chef. I casually explain to Lt. Funyuns it is a precursor to the appetizer, literally to amuse the palate, a gift from the chef. I swear to god this one bite is the best thing I have tasted all trip. It is a potato croquette with short rib marmalade. It tastes like the lightest, fluffiest, cheesiest tater tot you can image. Then I got the farmer’s salad which comes with a poached egg and bacon – perfection. Lt. Funyun ordered olives stuffed with sausage breaded and fried for his starter. For his main he had the Pork Saltimboca, which came with garlic, mashed potatoes. This man is a mashed potato fanatic, and when he says “Judas Priest, these are damn good potatoes!”, I know they’ve done something right. I got a pasta dish with fried eggplant, fresh tomatoes, some sort of salty cured pork, and other sorts of deliciousness. I wasn’t going to order dessert, but my best friend, waitress dimples, convinced me (she was good). I ordered the Zeppoli, which is basically Italian Fried Dough balls covered in cinnamon sugar – commence drooling. I did this even knowing I was planning on getting the Beignets the next day, but I was unstoppable, and once I took my first bite, I didn’t regret it for a second.

Amuse Bouche

Saltimbocca

Zeppoli

Lt. Funyuns and I often like to go through our many experiences at fine eateries and compare them. We did that again on this night. Primo unexpectedly shot to #2 on our list of Best. Meals. Ever. Second only to Craft in New York, which can only be explained by divine intervention. If you are ever, anywhere near Rockland, Maine, go, go, a thousand times, go.

So that brings us to our final day in Maine. The day I saved my jeans that are one-size too big for, but on this day felt surprisingly snug. One of my goals had been to get an authentic Maine Whoopie Pie. On our drive back down Route 1 we stopped in at Moody’s diner and snagged a cream filled wonder. I am actually snacking on it now as I write this. You would think I would have had enough, but no, Easy Bake is insatiable. Our final stop in my quest to raise my cholesterol 50 points three days before my yearly physical (not kidding, the weigh-in should be fun), was at DuckFat in Portland. Two of my best pals, Fred and Baby Panda have been raving about this place for years, it was only fair to them that I check it out. We got a table outside, again across from the burned down meatpacking plant, and ordered up a large fries with truffle ketchup. Those people know how to do fries! They were perfectly cooked, some crispy, some soft, but none undercooked which really is my pet peeve when it comes to fries. And here comes my confession…I did not have the Beignets! After the cupcake, and the fougasse, and the Zeppolis and the Whoopie pie waiting for me in the car, I just couldn’t do it. But the way I look at it, now I have a reason to go back.

Whoopie!

Thank you so much to the Red Menace for suggesting I document this trip as a blog and graciously allowing me to post it on her fabulous Foodie blog!

Places mentioned:
MC Perkins Cove Restaurant, Ogunquit, ME – http://www.mcperkinscove.com/index.cfm
Two Fat Cats Bakery, Portland, ME – http://www.twofatcatsbakery.com/
Fore St. Restaurant, Portland, ME – http://www.forestreet.biz/
Standard Baking Co., Portland, ME – http://www.yelp.com/biz/standard-baking-co-the-portland
Primo, Rockland, ME – http://www.primorestaurant.com/
Moody’s Diner, Waldoboro, ME – http://www.moodysdiner.com/
Duckfat, Portland, ME – http://www.duckfat.com/

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7 responses to “Guest Post: Hooray for Beignets! And Other Gastronomic Adventures in Downeast Maine

  1. Great food adventure!
    It’s a shame that you had no food adventures in Acadia. I can understand though since it’s mostly tourist traps there. I’ve camped with my family in Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island a handful of times & after biking up & down Cadillac Mountain we’d negate our exercise with a heaping banana split at Mt. Dessert (someone had to take that name).

  2. Sarah Lamstein

    First time I read and drooled at the same time.

  3. negation of exercise is a wonderful rule by which i certainly live. excellent post, easy bake! it sounds like you had a wonderful time. also, i will forgive the lack of beignets at duck fat, because you both put such heart and soul into the whole weekend. ROAD TRIP BACK TO PORTLAND.

  4. Loved the blog! Loved the writing! Was just short of being there myself sharing in the experience -smelling, touching and eating. Sure you weren’t meant to be the next Ruth Reichl? By the way, those whoopie pies, are they “Wiked Whoopies? Those ARE the best.

  5. No lobster?

  6. anniekai - bikergirl

    hey, easybake,
    the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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