Early December during dusk, a dusting of snow, and frigid temperatures surrounded us as we stepped onto the streets of Portland. An initial interpretation of this tiny town garnered phrases like, “Who lives here?” “This is so adorable!” “It’s so far away from everything else.” Never judge a book by its cover, as Portland is full of delicious small eateries, quirky shops, and beautiful bakeries. Please ensure that day trips turn into an overnight stay, so that you can truly experience the cozy nightlife and locally owned establishments that give Portland its charm.
A two hour drive from Boston is a quick jaunt, and an afternoon snack and drink is a perfect pick-me-up to pass the time till hotel check-in. Fellow oyster bar friends, Eventide Oyster Co. has been written up in every national food magazine and local paper for their succinct, well-rounded raw bar selections and menu. Boston receives a few common Maine oyster varieties, but not to the extent that Eventide offered: Winter Point Select, Browne Point, Norumbega, and beyond. John’s River had the perfect amount of salinity that I love in an east coast oyster. After Bloody Mary’s, we shared the Peeper Ale from Maine Beer Company; so refreshing to share with a yellowfin crudo and brown butter lobster roll! I exclaim because the browned butter is a welcome twist that didn’t overpower the lobster, or the crustless, pillowy white bread it was nestled between.
Knowing that we need to return another time, it was bittersweet to leave our window counter nook. We knew this town had tons more in store for us. Sauntering towards the hotel in non-weather appropriate shoes on slushy sidewalks, we abandoned our belongings for the evening and hopped around Portland. Novare Res was a requirement to re-experience since our last endeavor: Valentine’s Day weekend 2012. I’m in Saison heaven here, and John has his ambitious foray into strong Belgian beer land. Oxbow is a newfound local favorite for me, located north of Harpswell and specializing in farmhouse ales.
I know I’m late to the Duckfat scene, but this was an ideal place to soak up our libations from Novare Res. I comprehend that the fries are actually fried in duck fat, but this was way better than I expected. They were seasoned beautifully, texture was amazing, and not too skinny, not too fat, perfect. Charcuterie was playful, poutine was saucy, but I could have eaten three more batches of those French fries on their own, easily.
Considering this point in our Portland exploration was the furthest from our hotel, walking back to make room for a cozy nightcap turned out to be the perfect strategy. Hunt and Alpine Club is another intimate bar staple for the town, which surprisingly found us catching up with a former Boston colleague of mine. The Sherry Flip is spiced, nutty, and makes one feel thoroughly wrapped in a wool blanket or wish there were an instant blizzard outside. I think this final cocktail of the evening facilitated less of a hard hangover.
But John and I digress, as one nightcap turned into two, then sleeping in a little too late to check the surf found us pursuing baked treats to take on the road back to Boston. The Holy Donut became our savior, and John waited in the car while I “picked up a couple of things.” Big mistake, as I was swept up in how amazing the menu and variety of donuts there were, I got back in the car with two savory potato donuts and a half dozen sweet ones! Bacon and cheddar stuffed potato donut was so melty and indulgent, and a few sweet favorites were the chocolate toasted coconut and the dark chocolate sea salt!
As much as we love Boston, it is pretty amazing how many New England towns there are within a quick drive. Whether it’s one overnight trip or a day adventure, we cannot wait to explore Portland again. I can imagine in the summer there is an endless array of outside activities to explore, and we haven’t even touched the plethora of breweries and tasting rooms to hop along!