Road Trip: Maine with a Sprinkle of Boston
Working in the foodservice and hospitality industry often provides us with a unique perspective on everyday indulgences – like food, coffee, wine, and the environments we enjoy them in. Whenever my husband and I go to a restaurant, a vineyard, or a hotel, we’re always looking around and noticing what’s trending in kitchen and dining design … let’s call it a job hazard.
So, last week, while on vacation, I was thinking about what I could share with our readers that would support local businesses in the industry and remain on point with ‘Quel’s Corner. I can’t say I’m a foodie or an expert traveler, but I can tell you that I enjoy food, vacations, coffee and wine … who doesn’t!? So, without further ado, I’ll share some small bites of our vacation in Boston and Maine, and maybe we’ll do this more often.
I love Boston. I always have. On the way back to our hotel from Fenway, we passed the Prudential Center, and I noticed the Pressed Café. I’m so glad I did. Between the Mediterranean flared menu, large portions and fabulous design elements, it was a home run! This warm, unique space evokes the aura of Israeli food markets. Having been to Israel twice, one of my favorite design elements includes the nod to Israel’s street signs identifying food pick-up areas and restrooms complete with accurate Hebrew. I also want to note the high-top bench seats, which were spotted by our team members at NeoCon 22 earlier this summer, and the incredible dual dining atmosphere. On one side is the airy dining experience for meals, and on the other is an amber-hued bar allowing Pressed Prudential to be part of Boston’s nightlife.
Images from Juno Lighting
Now, onto Maine. I’m not going to talk about the places so many of the other bloggers do because the Holy Donut, Allagash Brewing Company, Duckfat, Standard Baking Co., and others come up on nearly every foodie and travel blog about Portland, ME. Trust me, I did it. And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about … Google it. I’m sure you’ll find it.
Our first evening in Portland, ME, we went on a wine sail. Sailing around Casco Bay is certainly a must do when you’re visiting, but when you don’t have the kids, this is a great way to do it. We enjoyed fine wines and views of Maine’s lighthouses, waterways and islands while taking a wine class. Our sailing focused on Italian wines educating us about the regions, grapes, and other details of each of the five wines we tried. Erica, who owns Wine Wise Events, was lovely and knowledgeable, and the nearly all female crew on the boat, including Captain Megan, was something to note.
It’s not often that my husband and I like a place so much, we go twice while we’re on vacation! I’m always about trying new things and eating local. So anyway, the first night we were in Portland – after the wine sail – we were just walking the streets looking for something sweet that wasn’t ice cream (his request, not mine). At some point in Old Port, we turned the corner and there was a greeter at the top of a small flight of steps – Gross, a dessert bar. We were intrigued and decided to try it.
Photo from heidikirn.com
Walking into a dark, cozy space it reminded me of something from the speakeasy era. The dessert bar boasts stunning arched brick rooms and tall wooden beam ceilings that take you back to a simpler time. Reading a bit online, the location was an 1883 John Calvin Stevens building initially designed as a bank. Similar to many of the local restaurants, the design maintains aspects of the building’s history and a sense of sustainability, reusing materials (If you're interested in reading about the construction process, click here).
Organizing the menu by plate size, my husband and I had our own beverages and shared two items on the “taste” menu – Maine Blueberry Cheesecake for him and Espresso Chai Latte Mousse for me. Needless to say, we were sold and I’m still shocked that this gem isn’t written about more.
For our second visit, we picked up breakfast on our last day in Portland. We ordered three items and Coffee By Design beverages – by the way it was the best coffee I’d had the whole week. I’m not 100 percent sure what most of the food was we had, but obviously it was awesome. I checked on its Instagram account and one of the items we ate was an everything scone with goat cheese and apricot jam. It was not something I’d ever think to eat, but if I ever go back (keep in mind I live six hours away), I’ll certainly get it again. Bonus is I saw a chat on their Facebook page that says it's a regular item on the menu!
Central Provisions offers interesting and flavorful small plates. The roasted cauliflower was definitely one of our favorites. It was number 3 on Spoon University’s list of foods to eat in Portland, ME, before you die citing notes, “This cauliflower is crispy and topped with Feta, but is refreshing nonetheless, garnished with mint.” (right image below) But I’m not a food expert so we’re not really talking about the food. Let’s say it was really delicious and lives up to the hype.
From the second I walked into Central Provisions, I knew it was special. The restaurant occupies two floors in a former warehouse and maintains the original character and history of the building exposing brick, heavy timber beams and wide plank wood flooring.
When you enter the restaurant, you’ll find yourself in an intimate dining room anchored by a large open kitchen surrounded by a wraparound counter seating. The counter is designed in chef’s table fashion providing diners with a ringside seat to watch Chef Chris Gould and his team craft your meal.
According to Bon Appetit magazine, nearly everything in the dining room is made locally. Even the marketing materials embrace Portland’s history. Developed by the creatives at Might & Main, the menu, logo, signage and other brand items were inspired by 19th century apothecary labels, railroad tickets and other ephemera related to Portland’s history.
Another reason we loved Central Provisions is the incredible interactions with the staff. All of the waitstaff is extremely knowledgeable about the menu, presenting a verbal rundown of the ingredients as each plate is presented. And they were extremely hospitable too!
Before you actually order a drink at Lincoln’s you’ll have to find it. Truthfully this one is just about the experience. A nod to the Prohibition Era, Lincoln’s is a true speakeasy with no signage and a hidden entrance.
I love ridiculousness on vacation (we also saw the largest Paul Bunyan statue and a life-size moose made out of 1,400 lbs. of chocolate named Lenny … so just add this to that list). But before I tell you about Lincoln’s, I need to thank the gentleman who lives upstairs. If he ever reads this, he ruined my speakeasy fun a bit ... I wound up down an alley looking for the entrance and met this resident while he was taking out the trash. But I feel for him, I can’t imagine how many tourists he finds looking for Lincoln’s. Apparently, I was the second one that day.
That said, Lincoln’s boasts a no-frills bar and low-key vibe with minimal lighting. Every drink is $5 and there’s lots of Lincoln (get it?). Aside from looking for the entrance, there are two things you need to know … it’s cash only and if you're lucky enough to find the entrance, don’t photograph it.
I hope you enjoyed a taste of Maine and Boston. Let us know what you think about continuing this Road Trip project ... our team travels across continental North America for business and you never know where our personal travels will take us. But until the next time I post remember this quote from one of my favorite chefs, Julia Childs, "People who love to eat are always the best people."