Tag Archives: Portland

That Old Black Magic

Voodoo Doughnut, Good Things Come in Pink Boxes

There really is no other way to explain it. We were caught in a web of dark magic. Portland voodoo had us under its spell and it started in the strangest of all ways, with bacon.

I’m normally an adventurous eater because you never really know. Those beaver testicles might just be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. The way I figure it, food is so awesome that the occasional disappointment is well worth the potential upside reward. So why not go for it?

Doughnuts, on the other hand, will always rank a timid one or two out of ten on any objective scale in the adventurous food category. But who is objective when it comes to doughnuts? When you’re jonesing for a sugary fix, taking a chance on an unusual concoction feels like bungee jumping over the piranha infested Amazon. And we were jonesing. Big time.

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Pittock Mansion Montage

Built in 1914 by newspaper magnate Henry Pittock, this 16,000 square foot French Renaissance-style chateau rests in Oregon’s West Hills, high above the city of Portland. Entrance to the mansion currently costs $8.50 per person, although you can now skip the admission having seen the best bits here.

Curieux, To Say The Least

Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine

Even if you don’t like beer, you owe it to yourself to try a Belgian brew (and if you do like beer, make it a double). The Belgians brew such fantastically flavorful and endlessly varied versions of the stuff that they really need a distinct classification to set them apart. Calling them ‘beers’ is just too limiting. But whatever you call them, Belgian beers are some of the best in the world.

What makes them so good is hard to say. It could be because they’ve been brewing beer seriously since the middle ages. But more likely it is because they’re not governed by some requirement or orthodox notion about what beer should be, they experiment with just about any combination. They add spices and sugars. They bottle them using the same methods applied to high end champagne and age them in oak like wine. If you can think of it, they’ve probably done it. After several hundred years of such experimentation, you’re bound to create something special. And they do.

So it was with great anticipation that we visited Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, ME. Allagash was one of the first artisan breweries to spring up in the 1990s that dedicated itself to the Belgian style of beer making. We had the opportunity to taste their original beer, Allagash White, a traditional Belgian wheat beer that is unfiltered and spiced with Curacao orange peels, and coriander. If that combination of spices makes you think we’re in an entirely different universe of brews, it’s because we are. But surprisingly, the spices are so well balanced and subtle that all you notice is that this golden hued beverage is deliciously different from what you normally get from similar looking beers. White is what we consider an everyday drinking beer; something refreshing on a hot afternoon or with a meal. It is a bit expensive to fill that purpose, but it would be nice to have a couple of bottles around for a change of pace every now and again.

Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine

Barrel aged beer! Curieux?

Then we moved on to tasting the Dubbel and the Triple, which are heavier, more flavorful, and sweeter beers. We think of these as “dessert brews,” to be savored slowly and deliberately for their own sake. The mahogany-colored Dubbel knocked our socks off with its rich malty flavor and hints of sweet chocolate. We picked up a couple of four packs and have been doling them out sparingly like fine truffles. The Triple was also excellent, with a fruit and honey flavor, but we were more intrigued by a beer we didn’t get to taste, Allagash’s Curieux.

The name, Curieux, means ‘curious’ in French, which couldn’t describe our reaction any better. To make Curieux, Allagash cellars their terrific Triple in oaken Jim Beam barrels for eight weeks, a process that has us ‘curious’ to say the least. We know what oak does to wine, softening Chardonnay and giving it a buttery vanilla flavor. But we’ve never experienced it in a beer before. We imagine the Triple picks up hints of vanilla and bourbon from the casks, but at this point, we can only imagine.

We were curious enough about this brew to snatch two 750ml (wine sized) bottles without ever sampling it. So far we’ve remained disciplined and haven’t yet gobbled them up. We don’t have a special occasion in mind to crack them open, but eventually our Curieux will get the better of us, no doubt.

Signs of the Times

During our travels in Maine, we’ve come across quite a number of signs like this one promising us a moose sighting. So far one has yet to cross our path.

By far, the best depiction of Maine’s state animal we’ve seen is this one:

This oh-so-relaxed moose made me wish I had planned a visit to Soakology, a spa and tea house, while we were in Portland. During our trek through the city’s Old Port Section on a culinary walking tour, we noticed that businesses seemed to go out of their way to draw the eyes of passers-by. Props to Portland for its creative and entertaining signage.

Tasting Our Way Through Portland

Maine Foodie Tours ImageFor those who have been reading this blog, you know there are few things we like more than eating and drinking. Factor in my love of walking tours (and Brian’s tolerance of them) and you have a perfect morning outing in Portland. Maine Foodie Tours has several offerings, including the Port City Beer Tour. No, we didn’t do that one.

We set out on the Old Port Culinary Walking Tour, a 2.5-hour stroll along the cobble-stoned streets of the city’s Old Port section. It’s still a working waterfront and also a popular place for shopping and dining. During the tour we learned about the Old Port’s fascinating history (it was twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt), its architectural highlights, and — what we really came for — its culinary gems. Portland was named “America’s Foodiest Small Town 2009” by Bon Appetit.

We tasted local Maine foods like fresh-caught lobster (once considered “poverty food” and fed to prisoners) seasoned with stone-ground mustard, smoked trout with lemon pepper and garlic, and artisanal cheeses, some of which are available only in the area. Then it was on to the sweet stuff: scones topped with wild Maine blueberry preserves, dark chocolate truffles made with vodka distilled from Maine potatoes (sounds strange for a confection, but they’re divine), and whoopie pies, a traditional Maine dessert — two soft chocolate cookies sandwiching home-made marshmallow creme. We walked off the calories in time for a final stop at Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub, which produces its own ales in a small room in back of the restaurant. Cheers to Portland.

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