This past weekend, with my two partners in crime, we set off to Portland, Maine to take a Culinary Walking Tour of the Old Port area. Not only did we get to learn the history of Portland and visit many of its culinary venues; we also got to sample local favorites at each location! It was such an amazing and educational experience, and our tour guide, Pat, was absolutely amazing. I could've just followed her around that city all day listening to her every word. She was extremely knowledgeable and has a deep passion for food. annnd she is from Central Mass, like me!!
I have always loved Maine. It is such a beautiful state to runaway to. It is simple and relaxed and it has so much to offer. The city of Portland is known for it's chefs, bakeries, and breweries and for the abundance of local resources; including organic produce, dairy products, and seafood. As you walk the streets, there are beautiful shops, farmer's markets, fish markets, bakeries, restaurants, live bands, and much much more. I plan to runaway to Maine someday! :)
Our first stop on the tour was the Old Port Wine Shop, where Pat introduced us to a few local Maine wines. My favorite was the Honeymaker Dry Hopped Mead, which is a white wine that is made with 100% wildflower honey, harvested in Maine and is aged with whole leaf hops. It has a wonderful taste and the hops make it extemely unique. Maine Mead Works has a whole line including a Blueberry Mead and Lavender Mead. I ended up buying a bottle of the Dry Hopped and Lavender.
We sampled the Dry Hopped Mead at the shop next door called Vervacious.
Vervacious is a family-owned store that sells high-quality balsamics, sauces, spices, and preserves. The store is absolutely GORGEOUS! You walk in a you feel like you are in a NYC loft. Everything is so trendy and unique, including their bottles and jars which are designed to stack on top of each other and to sit side by side.
This was my happy place. If you read my recipes, you know how much I love balsamic!
Along with the Dry Hopped Mead, we got to sample fresh pineapple dipped in their espresso balsamic and chocolate balsamic. It was heavenly! We also got to try their Star Anise Salt sprinkled on fresh cantaloupe, and their Harissa Spiced Hot Mustard, which was tossed with fresh maine lobster and served on a cracker.
I came home with a bottle of their Spiced Balsamic Reduction, which is made with a tellicherry black pepper. The flavor is woodsy and sweet but then the pepper gives you a pop at the end. I can't see this bottle lasting me very long!
We then headed over to K. Horton Specialty Foods, a small farmers market to sample a variety of native cheese. My favorite was the garlic and herb goat cheese. I don't think I've tried a creamier cheese!
Next stop was Stonewall Kitchen. Who doesn't love Stonewall Kitchen??? Stonewall originated in Maine. Here we tried warm and flaky scones with Wild Maine Blueberry Jam. They were seriously to die for! I love their products! They also have the best gift baskets and gift sets that you can order online. That day I came home with their Fig and Walnut Butter and my mom bought their Pumpkin Caramel Sauce.
Next on our list was the Harbor Fish Market. This place is another reason why I'd love to runaway to Maine. Their variety of fresh lobsters and seafood was unbelievable. They also have a vast selection of smoked seafood, chowders, and other "temptations" as they like to call them. We got to sample smoked trout during our visit, which is something I wouldn't be apt to try on my own. My mom definitely turned her nose at it, especially after hearing it was prepared with a broth made from miscellaneous fish parts haha, but we were glad we gave it a try. It was fabulous! and nice and smoky! I could have eaten the entire plate.
Next on our adventure, we stopped at Dean's Sweets to sample some wonderful chocolate truffles! What makes these truffles so special is that they are actually made with Aroostook County potatoes. Pat explained that in the 1800's farmers found that Maine hosted the perfect soil and climate conditions to grow potatoes. Although the market for Maine potatoes has declined since then, Maine foodies have kept their potato resource alive by using them in different ways, including in dark chocolate truffles! After sampling some of their truffles, including a chocolate, maple, and cayenne pepper, you would never know they were made with potatoes!
Next we headed over towards Two Fat Cats Bakery, which is home to Maine's original whoopie pie! The bakery is gorgeous and was actually featured on the Food Network and TLC! The whoopie pies were amazing and probably my favorite part of the tour! My mom has a great recipe for whoopie pies and they are pretty similar. We've already decided it's been way to long since she's made a batch, so when she does, I will definitely share them with you! :)
We concluded our tour at Shipyard Brewery where we got to sample a variety of local beers and learn a little history about the company. Then we headed off to grab some lunch. (yes even after all that, we still managed to fit more of Portland's goodness into us!) We ate at The Farmer's Table, which is the cutest little bistro. They serve all local and organic dishes. We were there for brunch so I enjoyed a wonderful hash made with sweet potatoes, onions, and beef brisket, slow cooked in beer. It was topped with two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. My mom had a gorgeous salmon salad, and Eric had eggs, bacon, and toast (real adventurous!)
|In his happy place|
We had a wonderful time exploring Portland, Maine and will return in the near future. I highly recommend this tour if you are visiting. Not only is it educational but it gives you and introduction to the area that will help you plan the rest of your stay!