Due to traffic, the drive from NYC to Portland, ME was seven hours long. I dosed off somewhere in the last two hours. When I woke up, everything smelled like fish.
The night we arrived, Dave wanted to get a lobster. He had never had lobster outside of lobster mac and cheese. When I was a kid, I loved lobster so much that I would order it when I went out to dinner with my mom’s friends. It did not occur to me that it was extremely expensive. Apparently not everyone gets to have this formative childhood lobster-mooching experience. I agreed to share a lobster with Dave. He chose a restaurant called Street and Co. where he found a lobster meal for two that was plopped onto a bed of garlicky pasta and strewn with shellfish.
We had one full Sunday to spend in Portland, ME (The Other Portland). We mostly just walked around and ate food.
First we had brunch at a restaurant called Bibo’s Madd Apple, which lured me in with promise of “Satanic Eggs.” These devilled eggs with a sriracha and garlic filling were the best part of the whole meal. I also ordered a vegetable hash with poached eggs. I kept taking bites of the eggs and veggies, trying to pinpoint why I hated it so much, until I realized that what I thought was spinach was actually whole leaves of wilted basil. That basil had no business being in a potato hash. I really wanted to like the restaurant, with its wizard hat lighting fixtures and painted cardboard skyline. Watching the waitresses parade by with the most beautiful pancakes and pastries for the other patrons, it was clear that we had made a mistake in choosing savory over sweet. This establishment had earned their high ratings on Yelp with the sweet stuff, like a mocha waffle coated in donut glaze. The waitress came by and asked us if we liked our meal. For some reason, I beamed and said it was great.
After brunch I felt nauseous. I suggested we go to a cafe where I could get tea to settle my stomach. We found a tea house called Dobra Tea, which is a branch of the same tea shop I used to go to in Prague. The tea menu there is so immense that it begins with a table of contents. I started out looking for something that would soothe my belly, but then I stumbled upon a tea called “chaga chai.” According to the menu blurb, chaga is a mushroom that purportedly makes you immortal. After some deliberation, I decided that my uneasy stomach problem was minor compared to my mortality problem. I also tried a dessert item called “spicy Bohemian nuggets,” which would make an excellent pet name for one’s significant other. The spicy Bohemian nuggets were little cubes of soft gingerbread with bits of ginger and almond inside and they were amazing dipped into the chaga chai. I wish there was a Dobra Tea near me, but I suppose this one is closer than the one in Prague.
I wanted all the truffles in Portland. I kept finding truffles and buying them and immediately eating them. The night we arrived we found a specialty foods store called Maine’s Pantry with imaginative truffle flavors – strawberry balsamic, rose pistachio. The next day, after eating dark chocolate peanut butter cups in Starbucks to get the code for the bathroom door, I impulsively purchased and devoured more truffles. The best truffle of all was the rose pistachio truffle, which was not only tasty but decorated as lavishly as a tiny wedding cake.
There was a sock shop called Sock Shack that we spotted while passing through the arts district. It wasn’t open the night we arrived and it wasn’t open the on Sunday morning after brunch. We were determined to go to this sock shop. From the window display it was clear that it would be the experience of a lifetime. Eventually the sock shop opened and it was the greatest sock shop either of us had ever seen. Socks with avocados, cactuses, polar bears, dinosaurs, cowgirls. Socks with stripes and psychedelic patterns. They had snarky socks and socks that said “Sock Whore” on the sole. It could have been a dangerous and regrettable situation because I have a credit card, but I left with just two pairs of socks.
[INTERMISSION: We went back to our Airbnb at the end of a quiet dead-end street a mile away from the action of Portland. At that time, it was not so quiet because the neighbors were having a birthday party and their yard was full of six-year-olds hyped up on buttercream frosting. For what seemed like hours the same kid yelled, “Where is the lost city of Gonora?” He yelled it in predictable increments of time, like a cuckoo clock, while Dave attempted to sleep.]
On Sunday night, we went to another seafood restaurant called Eventide Oyster and Co. with the intention of trying raw oysters. Dave thought the portions would be small based on reviews he had read so we ordered several things. The waitress picked the oysters for us since we had no idea what we were doing. The oysters were okay – or perhaps I just don’t get oysters – but the seafood stew, the nori potato salad, the lobster roll, and the green salad were all interesting and wonderful.
We walked up and down the Eastern Promenade, a park full of walking paths that curl around the far east of the peninsula. It was a paradise for dog walkers.
Since my capacity for chocolate was limitless during this trip, we went out for dessert at Bar of Chocolate. The dark chocolate hazelnut torte probably the equivalent of eating five or six more truffles, which was exactly what I wanted.
The next day we stopped for breakfast at café called Local Sprouts. I ordered a breakfast burrito and one contingency pancake, because I had learned my lesson. It completely made up for the previous day’s brunch experience. They also had a tasty kombucha that they make in the cafe.
After breakfast, we sailed north in Dave’s Camry for Acadia National Park, which will need its own post.