Maine, the way life should be
I have returned from vacation and I would like to thank the very awesome KillerCoconut for her three fine posts while I was gone. Cripes, lady, those were so good they shamed me! Time to step up my game. Or at least try to. No guarantees with this, my first back-from-vacation, mind-still-beach-&-freedom-addled post though.
As per usual, I vacationed on Peaks Island in Maine, a short ferry ride from the coast of Portland. Peaks is a quaint little place with all the beauty of southern Maine and none of the crowds.
And while it certainly has serenity, it’s a bit lacking in some conveniences. There is a market on the island that carries most of your basics, although one year I was out of luck when I forgot my toothbrush. They were out of stock. What followed was a nightmarish 2-1/2 days that featured brushing with my fingers until I finally broke down and… I can barely say it. Yes, it’s true… I used someone else’s toothbrush!! At least it was my husband’s, but still. Oook.
As I was saying, it’s a lovely little place but there’s not that much there. There’s a little cafe that serves breakfast and sandwiches, and three other restaurants that vary in quality from passable to pretty darn good. But, since we’re on vacation and we want to treat ourselves, we want better than pretty darn good. So, we hop the ferry back to Portland, which is becoming known as a truly excellent restaurant city.
And it’s not in every city that your local coffee shop features lobster rolls with the free wi-fi.
The last few years, we have treated ourselves at either Fore Street or Street and Company, both excellent and both have the same owners. Street and Company serves amazing seafood and Fore Street features not only seafood but also excellent game, meat and poultry. But, we decided it was about time we tried something new and settled this time on Cinque Terre, an Italian restaurant known for its farm-to-table philosophy.
It’s a fairly small open space that seems larger with its high ceiling and seating on two floors.
We were seated upstairs and the service was prompt. We were a little put off by the fairly hard sell on some very expensive bottles of wine but stood our ground and selected something much more reasonable that we were happy with.
The menu changes with the seasons and the version posted on the website now is not current. The appetizers did feature many locally grown salads and other intriguing vegetable creations, but I couldn’t help myself but order oysters instead.
It wasn’t the best choice. No fault of the oysters, I just wasn’t thrilled with the mignonette it was served with, which I think overpowered the oyster flavor. My dining companions chose more wisely, like Anne’s minestrone, bursting with farm-fresh vegetables and served with fabulous-looking garlic toast.
Okay, that kind of looks like a big ol’ fish filet on top of that soup but no, really! Garlic toast.
Once again, I promise, that is NOT a fish filet draped over this bowl of mussels. It is more garlic toast, although this piece was charred a little too much. My husband shared this with me and oh, what luck that he did! Here’s the thing – we LOVE the mussels at Fore Street but these mussels kicked those mussels’ butts. (Okay, I don’t think mussels have butts. Just that one big muscle of the mussel. They kicked mussel muscle!) It was broth they were prepared in that was just amazing – we had to ask for extra bread so we could sop up every last drop. That broth will haunt my dreams.
Moving on to entrees, I selected the lobster gnocchi. Do you sayNo-key? Knock-ee? Gyuhnuh-ahh-kee? Ganochies? Who cares how you pronounce it – they are little potato pillows and that is good enough by me. These particular potato pillows were made with white truffle flour and served in a lobster reduction with lobster meat and mushrooms and oh, hell yes. Good, good stuff and not stingy with the lobster meat either – there was probably a good half a lobster in this dish. The gnocchis were light and fluffy (unlike the gummy little rocks I made once and shall never speak of again), and the sauce was nothing short of divine. My husband and our friend Ronnie had the same thing and we were all very happy.
Anne had the veal cheeks, and I think that was served with prosciutto on top. Yes, veal cheeks are exactly what they sound like, but I tried not to think about that as I tried a taste and wow – I don’t think I have ever had such a tender meat with such delicate flavor. It was lovely.
My stepdaughter had this steak which she enjoyed and she even liked the beets which is more than I can say. I tried a beet, because that’s what I do – I just keep trying them because everyone tells me how great they are, they just have to be prepared right, blah blah blah. Every time I try them though they taste the same – like acrid dirt. Sort of like chard and coffee in a frightening blood-red orb. Nightmare!! Let’s move on to happier things!
Ahhh, dessert! If food is going to be blood red, it ought to be a warm strawberry raspberry tart with struesel topping and vanilla bean gelato. It was beautiful and intensely flavored and a perfect way to finish a lovely meal.
And then to really finish that lovely meal, a glass of port at a nice little pub doesn’t hurt either.
We dined in for the rest of the week with mostly just vacation staples – red hot dogs, burgers, grilled chicken, steak and of course a big fat lobster, best eaten in private without goofy plastic bibs. It was a lovely week with great beach weather and just a little rain and I can’t believe it is over already. At least I still have my pictures to enjoy!
p.s. – It may or may not have been KillerCoconut herself who complained about the Ozzie pictures on my food blog. I’ll never tell.