In the past year (OK, past 10 months), I’ve been lucky enough to sample a lot of seriously delicious things while filming my Foodie Files video series. Since I started this project in March, I’ve been all over the state: as far south as South Portland, and as far north as Millinocket. Next year, I plan to make it even farther — St. John Valley, I’m coming for you, and watch out, Ogunquit.
In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite things I’ve eaten this year, all of which are featured in this week’s video — a look back at 2012 in Maine food and drink. I can’t wait to get out and experience more, and I hope that you’ll be able to enjoy it right along with me. Happy eating, dear readers!
Long Grain, Camden: Pad Ke Mao
I could eat this every day of my life, and I would probably never tire of it. Chef Ravin Nakjaroen makes magic with fresh mushrooms, pork belly, crunchy bites of kale and wide, flat rice noodles. Packed with loads of whole chilis. It’s very spicy, in that slow-burning kind of way, but it balances wonderfully with all the other ingredients. A must-eat.
Holy Donut, Portland: Bacon cheddar doughnut
There is nothing nutritionally redeeming about this. It’s a doughnut filled with bacon and cheddar. Like all of Holy Donuts’ treats, it’s made with their potato flour-based recipe. You do not eat this doughnut because it’s good for you. You eat this doughnut to be taken to another world, a wondrous place where calories don’t matter, bacon grows on trees, and we pay for things with hugs.
86 This, Ellsworth: Boss Hog wrap
Jeff Kelly’s citrus pulled pork would be good on its own, but mixed with crispy slaw and beans, rice and cheese and rolled into a giant, awesome burrito, and it’s something else entirely. Best lunch Down East? Unless you’ve got a hankering for a crab or lobster roll — a different thing entirely — I’d say that’s a fair assessment.
The Lost Kitchen, Belfast: Strawberry shortcake with creme anglaise
Part of me feels bad listing this, because The Lost Kitchen changes its menu constantly and this particular dessert probably isn’t on the menu most of the time. But Chef Erin French’s treat — airy puff pastry filled with fresh Maine strawberries and topped with clouds of frothy creme anglaise — is Maine-grown perfection.
Sonny’s, Portland: Warm smashed beets with goat cheese and garlic chips
No, I didn’t go to Sonny’s for Foodie Files. I just went on my own. Like the first dish I mentioned here, I could eat their warm smashed beets with goat cheese and garlic chips every day. The beet-goat cheese combo has been done plenty of times before, but something about Sonny’s take on it is better than anything else I’ve tried.
The Brickhouse, Searsport: Perry’s fried clams
A family recipe, handed down for three generations. Joe Perry Jr. used the same recipe they served at Perry’s Restaurant in Bangor at his Searsport eatery, and, by golly, they’re still excellent. You like fried clams? This is the place. Trust me.
Edna and Lucy’s, Pownal: Roast beef reuben
This place is, to me, the dining equivalent of your mom’s kitchen. Sunny, warm, beautiful garden out front, big, satisfying sandwiches and soups and cookies and other good things inside. In all truth, I’d eat anything Steph Dexter and Sabrina Warner make, which is truly gourmet comfort food. I just want to curl up in a sunbeam afterward and take a nap.
Again, I did not eat here for Foodie Files. I tend to eat here after getting out of a show at Space, Empire or the State Theatre, sweaty and full of post-show excitement. A slice of Otto’s butternut squash, cranberry and ricotta pizza is exactly what I want, and lookie there — it’s mere feet away on Congress Street, and open ‘til midnight! It’s the best pizza in Maine. If you want to debate me, I welcome your letters.
The Fiddlehead Restaurant, Bangor: Lobster pappardelle
I very rarely order pasta dishes anywhere, because something so simple is so easy to screw up. But Mel Chaiken doesn’t do that. The cream sauce is light, not gloppy. The asparagus and peas compliment the big — but not huge, thankfully — chunks of lobster. The pasta is cooked just right. I don’t feel full afterward, I just feel happy. Which is what Fiddlehead does best: take classic dishes from around the world and re-create them in a tiny Bangor kitchen, beautifully.
4Points Barbecue, Winterport: Brisket
It’s brisket. It’s awesome. I want it right now. I also want it to be 80 degrees out, and I want to be sitting on the 4Points patio, listening to music and drinking beer. But I can’t have everything I want, can I? I guess I’ll just have to wait til next summer. Or just enjoy it in the winter. Barbecue doesn’t taste any less awesome in winter.