Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Road Trip Diaries: Portland, ME

2 October 2012

We checked into our hotel. It felt like we'd checked into Ireland. The Inn at St. John just feels that way. The welcoming lobby, the alarming amount of wallpaper, the skinny staircases, winding each and every way. Did I mention the floral carpets? The hallway is lined with them. It actually somehow works.

We drive to the harbour. The city is dark. Only a few twinkling lights break through the black skies.
We walk the streets. A cool wind blows off the water. Winter is coming. Portland used to be the northern-most harbour which would serve as Canada's main port during the winter months. The sneaky breeze whipping down the streets makes us think how horribly cold it must get here.

We walk past a few restaurants, checking their menus from the outside, waiting for our appetites to grow. We put our name down at one restaurant, and then find a little back alleyway. It's a row of quaint restaurants and pubs - all twinkle and gleam, warm and welcoming.

One in particular pulled us in from the outside - a cobblestone lane, wide windows through which you can see straight into the kitchen. The restaurant looks inviting - low ceilings, copper tables, mezzanine levels. There's almost nothing that holds us back. We cancel our reservation at the other table, and head on in.
Husband says he wishes I could take a picture of the smell. It's rich and warm, so much so that even the air feels creamy. We have front row seats - we could almost touch the kitchen. I can barely focus on my menu there is so much energy in the restaurant - overflowing from the kitchen. It's an incredible experience.

Husband orders the lobster linguine, I order the clams. Big steaming hot pans are put down in front of us. The wine is dry and sweet. The whole meal is sensational.

And then, of course, vanilla panna cotta with a blueberry sauce. Melt in the mouth. Soft, creamy, perfect. What a night.
 3 October 2012

We wake to the rain. Portland is wet. In fact, so far our experience of the upper east coast has been very damp. It leaves a chill in the air. We shower and head down to breakfast - which is continental, and ideal. A little bowl of Cheerios, a Philadelphia cream cheese bagel (shared with Husband) and fresh orange juice.

We decide that the weather is trying to tell us something, and spend the morning in the room, catching up on emails, blogs and Skype phone calls home.

After a purely luxurious day in the hotel - I'm blaming it on the rain - we finally braved the outside, and headed into the heart of Portland.
We were in search of a pub that had been twice recommended - and after a lot of searching we found it.

Novare Res was in an old brick building, hidden away, half underground. It was a typical beer hall-style pub, the long table and benches stretching prominently down the middle of the restaurant. The pub was quiet when we first arrived, and filled up surprisingly quickly once we we sat down. The menu was extensive, endless pages and pages of every kind of beer you could possibly possibly imagine.
I drank a big bottle of cider, Husband tried three different kinds of beer. We had a couple of 'tastes' - one small plate of tangy salami and creamy blue cheese. The bar was definitely worth it (thank you to our waitress in Cambridge, and to our friend Shannon for recommending it!).

After drinks we went in search of a place for dinner. The streets were wet, reflections glistening in the cobbled roads. Luckily we'd had a good look at a lot of the local restaurants last night so knew what we were after.

While we waited for our table - in the restaurant's lounge area - we met some nice Americans who said I looked like Kate Middleton - ace! It reminded me of this recent blog post I did about a very naked Harry.

We kept dinner light - two starters to share. First, the wood oven roasted Maine mussels, in a garlic almond butter; and then a beet fettucine hot salad with chargrilled brussel sprouts. Both were perfect dishes, and completely unique tastes. Another fantastic dinner.

But, as one tends to do after a light dinner, we walked around the corner to an ice-cream spot which had been highly recommended online. The ice-cream was almost indescribable. We tried the Chocolate Doughboy, the Moose Trail, and Peanut Cup. Three scoops between the two of us, which sounds like an easy-going portion. But this is America. It was as if each scoop was a bowl - no, a bucket - no, a truckload. I start to slur. This ice-cream has made me drunk. I'm giggling uncontrollably, torn between stuffing my face, and throwing up. There's just so much of it, and so much sugar.
Luckily, I stop our bingeing. We've got about two-thirds through our shared cup of ice-cream. No more! No more!

Home time, and bed time.

4 October 2012

Quick breakfast, and then time to hit the road. We've got far to travel today, and no real destination in sight. We decided to leave this one night to fate, and see what the roads bring us.

Restaurants in Review:
33 Wharf Street  Portland, ME 04101
(207) 775-0887

4 Canal Plaza  Portland, ME 04101
(207) 761-2437

288 Fore Street  Portland, ME 04101
(207) 775-2717

12 Moulton Street Portland
(207) 828-1335

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Anonymous said...

Winter Is Coming - ;)

Reaching Robyn said...

Winter is coming. But we are chasing the summer! Yeehaw!