Portland ME

We just got back from 5 days in Maine. Beautiful weather, drove a lot, and had some great meals in Portland.

One night we at at 555. It was very nice, but the Grilled salad (greens with roasted peaches, bing cherrys, and pecans) was over sauced and the scallops were a little salty. However, the rest of the meal, mussels and a hanger steak, was excellent, the service very good, and the price not unreasonable. The wine list was fun, but I've seen bettter (well maybe not in Portland)It is a pretty place and they were very friendly. Excellent resteraunt. I was a little concerned when they brought the 2002 vintage of the Fess Parker PN I ordered when the 2001 was listed on the menu, but they were quick to point it out before I read the bottle and explained that they were out of the 2001.

However, we had two better meals while there. My first choice would be Cinque Terre (right across from Street and Co)on Wharf Street. We had the 6 course tasting menu for $55. Excellent. It started with oysters two ways (a Darmisgrotta raw and a Prince Edward Island fried) then crab and fresh peas risotto with white truffel oil. Next was the lobster tail with bread crumbs and basil oil. It was followed by a perfectly cooked hanger steak with chantrelle mushrooms. The next course was cheese, pecorina and toma with peanut jelly and an italian baggette. Last was the dessert, lemon grappa panna cotta and maple gelato with biscotta. Service was exceptional and the wine list, while all and only Italian wine, was reasonably priced, very extensive and long, and very representative of Italy. They also had a nice selection by the glass. I had a 2000 Antinori Toscana Tignanello which was exceptionally well priced at $100.

Our other great meal was at Hugo's. A four course meal for $60. The food was excellent, very well presented (maybe a little over the top, but really pretty), and the service very good. I ordered two half bottles (a 2002 Daniel Dampt Cablis and a 1996 Chateau Meyney St. Estephe) since it was only the two of us. For our first courses I had Maine raised rabbit chartiterie with grainy mustand mousse, pistaschio, and celtic vinegar. My wife had the smoked ****ake mushrooms and asparagus with capri pasta, milk foam and lily buds. The second course for her was the crispy skin loup de mer (rockfish this time) with artichoke en croute, basil seeks and warm olive oil panna cota. I had the honey mead glazed pork belly with sweet potato tot, tomatillo relish and ginger red pepper coulis. Third was the pan roasted tasmanian sea trout with fried fennel, pineapple salad and smoked trout roe. I had the Sous Vide duck breast and leg with golden beet, kola nut pudding and pickled plum. For dessert I had a superb Mita Cana Spanish sheeps milk cheese cake while my wife had the Maine rhubarb and pineapple with Greek yogert panna cotta and Thai basil. The plates may have looked skimpy, but we left stuffed. Very pretty place, but unless you want to sit in high bar type chairs, don't take a table in the window.

A third excellent meal was at the Roma Cafe on Congress Street. Excellent Italian food. We just walked in late (at about 9:30 and they stop serving at 10) but we were treated extremely well and the food was delish. Nice place, white linens and soft music, excellent service. I started with the fresh mozzarella and plum tomatoes with roasted peppers, pesto and garlic crostini. It was out of this world. The pesto was some of the best I've had in a long time. My wife had the calamari and it was perfect. For entrees we had the pasta de mer, perfectly prepared and full of lots and lots of seafood (I got to eat the mussels since she doesn't like them) and a wonderful duck breast rubbed in jerk spices and served in pan juices. Very enjoyable but we felt guilty about keeping the staff there just for us as everyone else had finished and gone by the time we started our entrees.

All in all, Portland has some execellent places to eat, and we didn't even try them all.
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