August was a super-busy month for Mr. Jones and me. It seemed that a “mini-break”, as they say across the pond, was needed in order to keep our sanity. Over the last twenty-five years it’s safe to say that we’ve trekked up to Maine about a thousand times to visit family. Despite all those trips, we’ve never made the time to stop in the city of Portland. This spot appealed to me for three reasons. First, it’s a seaside town and I just love the ocean (not being in it, just next to it). Second, this place has a reputation for having great live music, of which we can’t get enough. Lastly, and oh so very important, is that this town is reputed to be a stellar foodie destination. We chose to do a midweek overnight at an adorable Bed & Breakfast right in Old Port.
This place had a pristine rating on TripAdvisor and it didn’t disappoint. It was cute as all get-out and so much less expensive than the generic hotels nearby.
The Inn keepers were a bit detail crazy as evidenced by the superfluous folding of the Kleenex.
The accommodations were just wonderful. Large room, lovely details, comfy bed…and private bath, which isn’t always a given for a B&B.
The bathroom was a bit dated with the Waverly wallpaper and brassy fixtures, but it was oufitted with all the necessities.
Now that we were checked in, it was time to set about town and start the culinary/cultural tour. I put the call out to several friends who have spent time indulging in the Portland food scene for some must-dos. Our first stop was strongly recommended by everyone, to a person.
There are no reservations taken for this tiny spot so we were told to expect a long wait. We lucked out and got a seat right up at the bar in short time.
The menu ‘s main feature is that everything is fresh, local and made in-house. The beers on draft are an example of the local bent here. We got the Kash Money IPA and then visited the brewery the next day.
They also feature house-made sodas and shakes. I could not even imagine eating a meal here and downing a chocolate frappe on top of it, but they sure looked good going by. As one may gather, dishes prepared with duck fat feature prominently on the menu. The star of the show here are the frites.
These were beyond my expectations of deliciousness. You’d think that being fried in duck fat would make these cloyingly heavy, but they were light, crispy and soooo flavorful. We chose a curry mayo for dipping. It was a perfect pairing. We exercised some temperance and decided to split just one sandwich. It was stupendous! The bread is locally baked, of course, and had a real sourdough tang to it.
We managed to push our chairs back from the bar and took a walk over the the Shipyard Brewery for a tour.
The last tour had about fifteen minutes left so we walked down to the waterfront for a bit.
Portland is, well um, a port after all so we got to see a cruise ship in dock.
It was time to queue up for the brewery tour. When we had left, the previous group was enjoying their complementary tastings. The boisterous tour guide was leading them in hootin’ and hollerin’ cheers. What fun beheld us!
Our group consisted of us and one guy and the fun tour guide had left for lunch. Sad trombones. We met in this strange church like room.
The girl came in and asked if we wanted to watch the movie or just start drinking. We chose the latter.
I had been on a total of one brewery tour before. I guess I’m naive because we actually toured the brewery in that instance, so I kind of expected the same here. Nope. However, the girl was very informative and knew every nuance of the beer. We tried some usual varieties and could have drank a lot more if we wished. Plus, it was free, so no complaints here.
We walked back to the room for a beer nap. Time passed and we ate some more. This will be a theme if you haven’t caught on. We kept it light here and went for some oysters at Eventide.
This place had a clean, light modern look. I reminded us of one of our favorite places in Kittery, Maine, Robert’s but on a much more intimate scale.
We were sat at a communal table with a nice young couple who seemed to be on one of them Tinder dates. We exchanged appropriate pleasantries and let them be. Martinis started the evening.
Honestly, it had been at least six hours since our split lunch and we still weren’t that hungry. This place had some nice looking tapas, but oysters seemed to be just the ticket. We asked the server to choose a dozen for us.
Then we waited…and waited. Our table companions’ order of lobster rolls and fried fish came right on out. Not to complain, we were enjoying our drinks and conversing, but we were perplexed at why raw oysters would take so long. The server kept assuring us they would be coming right out. They did eventually and they were gorgeous.
Our secondary objective of hearing some live music was not as easy as we thought. Being a Tuesday night there was not as much going on. Blue Jazz Club came recommended by our Inn keeper, so I looked up the schedule. They had several acts that night.
We came in just as this young man was setting up. The place was pretty empty and super dark. You might have mistaken it for the scene of a seance.
We ended up hitting the jackpot on music. This kid was absolutely incredible. He goes by the name of Suitcase Junket. “The band” was built around a guitar, an old oversized suitcase, a hi-hat, a washboard and a gas-can baby-shoe foot-drum among other bits and bobs. The sound he created was rich and full and not gimmicky at all. His lyrics were great too. We bought his album on the way out and discovered that he was setting off for a tour of Alaska the next morning. Cool cat.
You can check him out here. That singing technique is not an effect, It’s only his voice. So cool!
At this point real hunger kicked in. We headed over to another highly recommended place, Central Provisions.
Having a few drinks on board, I was craving crunchy, salty and fried. These two dishes were just the ticket!
The staff here were very friendly. We chatted about whisky with the bartender. Then he brought out the Bible.
He took advantage of our whisky enthusiasm and slightly buzzed state and up-sold us on another appetizer. Something I certainly wouldn’t have ordered on my own, fresh anchovies! He claimed that they would pair perfectly with the smokiness of the Lagavulin. I didn’t disagree.
We finished the evening with a full bodied Cabernet.
…And some apple fritters.
If you’re keeping track, everything we had, save the anchovies was fried. Thank goodness we had a good long walk back to the Inn to burn off a wee bit of the indulgences. Well, probably just the anchovies.
Coming Up: We take in some actual historical stuff, then get back to eating.