The Portland, ME Edition: Eating, Drinking and Eating Some More (aka the “Ohh Duck Fat” Post)

There are hundreds of ways to eat and drink your way through photo-10Portland, ME, some probably better than others but few that are really terrible. This combination turned out pretty well:

No. 1: A beguiling “Sandwich of Sunshine” from Rosemont Market & Bakery, coupled with a large iced coffee and the excellent tattoo voyeurism at the coffee shop next door, makes for a quick and delicious breakfast … and only increases the urge to get a tattoo.

My two favorites that morning were the moon-cycle tattoo (was it from waxing to waning, or vice versus?) on the coffee shop clerk’s forearm, and the small flock of origami crane tattoos on a woman’s — what would you call that? Lower bicep? Really lovely and really unique.

No. 2. Keep an eye on the clock so as to time it to get to the Shipyard Brewery photo-6just before the top of the hour.

Put up with the screening of an energetic (and very short) “video tour,” and a much more interesting Q&A session inside the bottling plant after, to get to the sweet spot: Free beer.

Shipyard’s tap room has six beers on tap, including some unusual ones (a barley wine and their just-out fall seasonal brew, a pumpkin ale, were among the samples we tried). Six tastes at about 2 ounces per taste ads up to about a full beer, one that you downed in a few short minutes, so you’ll leave happy.

photo-1… And  in the perfect state of mind for no. 3, lunch at Duck Fat,  sandwich and fry shop from the husband and wife team that also owns Hugo’s, the 2009 Beard Award Winner for food in the Northeast. Given the hype, I wondered if Duck Fat might be more about the gimmick than substance.

I am happy to report that this is entirely not the case. In fact, in my opinion, Duck Fat has nailed it: delicious, affordable food; using really quality components that are often locally-sourced; a menu that’s both accessible and generally appealing, yet marked with little signals of the couple’s serious culinary credentials; all of the above not without a bit of humor, a bit of play.

We shared:

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Belgian fries, large ($5.75, fried in duck fat). The classic. For our dipping sauce, chose the truffle ketchup,, which is just decadent. The garlic aioli, the second sauce that I ordered just for fun, couldn’t even compare.

— Corned beef tongue reuben ($8), marinated cabbage, Swiss cheese and homemade 1,000 island dressing on bread from Standard Baking Co. Now this is one of the most unusual items on the menu, stuck up right up top on the list of paninis, underneath the roasted turkey breast and above the grilled him & cheese. My eyes kind of glazed over the word “tongue” and just read “corned beef … reuben” the first few times.

It has huge flavor, between the sweet-sour-ness of the cabbage, the dressing, the bread and the offal earthiness of the tongue, and the sweet-sour-ness of the cabbage, the dressing, the bread, yeah. I’d do it all over again.

TIP: I had to try the classic fries this time, but next time I’m in town I’ll be back for the Duckfat Poutine ($9) — “layers of our Belgian fries topped with Moon Creamery cheese curds and homemade duck gravy” — a meal unto itself.

There’s magnetic poetry after the jump: Continue reading “The Portland, ME Edition: Eating, Drinking and Eating Some More (aka the “Ohh Duck Fat” Post)”

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The Minnesota Edition: On the Road Again (aka the “Strange Synergy of this Trip” Post)

In several not entirely expected ways, my return home mirrored my journey here.

First, there was the Dairy Queen stop, at the beginning of the nearly 10-hour trip home.

photophoto-1This time, I went for a medium-sized, butterscotch-dipped cone, which I happily devoured while staring out at a local highway. Specifically, I was staring at the sign at the start of the bridge, the far side (which the iPhone camera is too low-res to capture). It reads (“announces” might be a better word): The Mississippi River.

“This is so Minnesota,” I thought, “To sit at a Dairy Queen, just off a local highway, and stare at a turn in the Mississippi River.” A moment later. “And damn, this is good soft serve.”

Transferring through the Minneapolis airport (MSP), I had the greater part of an hour to kill, which meant dinner. I ended up at Rock Bottom Brewery (which I photo-3actually don’t like that much) solely because I saw open electrical outlets, and even one guy plugged in and using his laptop, and I wanted to do the exact same thing.

I ended up with the sampler selection (of the beers that I don’t particularly like or dislike) because 24 total oz. of sampler beers was the same price as a large, single, 20 oz. beer — so, I got 4 oz. free. (Plus, I couldn’t remember which Rock Bottom Brewery beer I liked best. Oh yes, I’ve been to one before, in California.)

photo-4And I ended up with the half-order of nachos, plus guacamole extra, because I saw what they looked like on a neighboring table, and that’s exactly what I want.

Multi-colored corn chips (apparently, they exude some sign of authenticity), pickled jalapeno rounds from the can or jar, guacamole scooped out with a melon baller scoop — these nachos are nothing at all like the fare from my beloved taco truck outside the Jackson Height’s subway stop, but when you’re still three hours and change away from even landing at La Gauardia — just do it.