Snapshots: Fore Street (Portland, ME)

Fore Street is a beautiful restaurant located a block off the docks in Portland. Along with sister establishment Standard Baking Co., it’s housed in a building that sits on a sharp incline, such that while the restaurant is technically on street level, the dining room feels elevated as a result of the way the building is situated. The bakery occupies the bottom half of the building that feeds directly out to the parking lot out back, which the rear windows of Fore Street’s dining room overlook (facing the water). The sense of elevation and the openness of the view that this unique setup provides I found really stimulating. The design of the place channels in equal parts that venerated New England trifecta: chic farmhouse (unfussy wood tables and chairs), sophisticated industrial space (gussied up warehouse), and warm, cozy home (well-placed adornments, like baskets with crusty loaves of bread poking out). Most of the seating forms a crescent around the open kitchen, which centers on a brick and soapstone hearth that features a wood-fire oven, grill, and turnspit. There is also a bar and lounge area out front and a smaller dining section off to the side.

The food: Fore Street was named one of the top 50 restaurants in America by Gourmet–twice–most recently in 2007. The menu changes daily, and unsurprisingly, the focus is on local and seasonal ingredients:

We believe that good food travels the shortest possible distance between the farm and the table. Our menu is founded upon the very best raw materials from a community of Maine farmers, fishermen, foragers, and cheesemakers, who are also our friends and neighbors.

We started off with a seafood sampler: lobster with fava bean puree, fish roe, raw sea scallop, a cured fish, and a ceviche.

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The cured fish and raw scallops were my favorite bites of the batch; while I’m (still) not a fan of raw fish, scallops have a smoother mouthfeel and less fishiness of the sort that seems to permeate one’s entire mouth.

In my excitement, I forgot to photograph the rest of our food. But our order otherwise mirrored this one: sweet, meaty mussels in a white wine and garlic-almond compound butter sauce (the almond lost on me, unfortunately), and the spit-roasted chicken with duck fat-fried sourdough bread and some wilted greens. Mussels are hit or miss for me, and these were a hit with an extra oomph from being roasted. But the chicken is what I would come back for. It’s just roast chicken, right? WRONG. They infuse their chickens with some succulent steroid juice (a salty, sweet, boozy brine) that, combined with the spit-roasting process, saturates the bird’s every pore with full-on flavor. One day I’ll conjure up an excuse to give Tony Maws’ roast chicken a try at Craigie on Main, as I’ve heard it’s also quite extraordinary. Better yet, I can make it! Dinner party, anyone?

Fore Street
288 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101

My first roast chicken

Even though I have tons of food in my fridge (lots of delicious leftovers from Thanksgiving weekend like ham and my dad’s nuo mai fan), I wanted to cook this weekend and decided to roast my first chicken.  I got a nice organic 3.5 lb chicken, shoved some carrots, celery, herbs, and garlic up its arse, rubbed it with canola oil, and seasoned it inside and out.  I roasted it in a cast iron skillet as The Amateur Gourmet did recently, along with some fingerling potatoes.  In at 475F for 20 minutes, then 425 for another 40 minutes.  Rest for 15 mins before digging in.

Out of the oven:

In case the photo doesn’t make clear, I like salt on my potatoes.

Plated with potatoes, ham, and a carrot for nibbling.  So little work with such great reward!  I’m tempted to do it again, and soon.  Maybe after I’ve put a bit of a dent in my leftovers, now that I have even more.

Recipe: three-cup chicken

Last Thursday I had dinner with my housemates again (see here for my previous introduction of the roommies). L and I decided to channel our Chinese-ness and make some Asian dishes, thereby inducting the others into the wonderful world of homemade Chinese food. He made fried rice and and some peppery spare ribs, and I tried my hand at three-cup chicken and bok choy. I am sad to say my camera died just as I excitedly began to snap photos of our food. As a result, I only managed to get a shot of the chicken.

Did this dish originate in mainland China or Taiwan? I’m not sure, and I saw references to both online. I handpicked this recipe from the trusty Appetite for China, who claims it is a Taiwanese dish.  Either way, it was delicious– and this recipe is spot-on. I added some corn starch to the stewing liquid at the end to make it more saucy, so we could lather it over the rice. I think I overdid it with the sauce, but my roommates gave the dish some serious love.  The basil is a crazy/beautiful addition (oh yes, I just referenced that crappy movie).  I am definitely copping this recipe and sticking it in my back pocket.

Recipe after the jump!

Recipe: classic chicken salad

Friend, this is one recipe I insist you try.  95% of the recipes I post are variations of other peoples’, so I do not especially care if you like them, or even try them.  But this one is all mine.  Mine mine mine.  So I insist that you try it.  Please do not tinker too much with the proportions or add foreign ingredients, at least not until you have tried the original first.  This chicken salad is not the ultimate chicken salad; it is not elaborate or extravagant, does not have nuts or cranberries, raisins or curry powder (there is nothing wrong with those ingredients, but they are not welcome here).  No, it is better than all that: what I think is a sheer classic, and I hope you’ll agree.  Some may argue that one person’s version of a classic may vary from another’s, but I think the whole idea of a “classic” anything is that it is timeless and transcends the more particular preferences of our palates, and thus appeals on a universal level.  Now, if you don’t like chicken salad in general, that is a different story, of course.  But if you are a fan, give this one a whirl and let me know what you think.

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Recipe after the jump!