An Evening In Portland

Every year my mom and I head to Freeport and Kittery, Maine, in November to get some Christmas shopping done. This past year we were away on a cruise when we'd normally head up there, so we postponed our trip to the first weekend in December instead. And because I'd been hearing so much about Portland, I suggested that we tack an extra leg onto the trip.

We headed out on a Friday afternoon and slowly made our way north, stopping at Stonewall Kitchen and then at Clara's Cupcake Cafe along the way, and finally ending up in Portland.

Our first stop was Rabelais -- a bookstore I would want to own if I ever owned a bookstore.

It's filled wall to wall with cookbooks and food books. It's a heaven for those who are as fond of cookbooks as I am. I could have spent hours in there.

Surprising myself and my mother, I left without buying anything! It was close to Christmas and I thought I should give to others instead of to myself, and I think I was just a little overwhelmed by the number of books and couldn't focus on what I actually needed (as if I need any other cookbooks).

We said goodbye to our new, small friend on the way out.

And then we were immediately drawn right into the next store: Dean's Sweets.

Here, we sampled chocolates and bought some provisions for the rest of our trip: an assortment of truffles and some bacon butter crunch candy. I was particularly smitten with the lemon apricot chevre truffle.

After tearing ourselves away from the truffle display, we ventured back out into the cold and walked down toward the shops and wandered in and out of them, looking for gifts, browsing, and enjoying the season. We even stopped into a bridal shop -- the first one I've gone in since I got engaged! It's such a different feeling when you know you're looking for a potential dress for your own wedding.

When it was nearing dinnertime, we made one last stop at Le Roux Kitchen, which boasts all the kitchen tools you can imagine, from baking supplies to chef's knives to oils and vinegars of various flavors. We had a great time wandering around in here. It's the place to stop if you're looking for kitchen stuff.

And then came the moment I had most been looking forward to: dinner! I had planned for us to have dinner at Fore Street because I'd been hearing incredible things about the restaurant for quite some time.

Even though I had checked a month in advance, I couldn't get reservations. Luckily though, Fore Street sets aside a certain number of tables for walk-ins each night. You can go in at 5 and put your name on the list, and they'll give you an estimated wait time. We were there right when they opened and were able to get a table for 5:30 so we settled in at the bar and ordered cocktails and looked over the menu while we waited.

I got a roasted apple martini, which was much stronger than I anticipated, so the bartender sweetened it up with some simple syrup for me.

Shortly thereafter we were shown to our table and ordered a couple of appetizers to start with. The menu at Fore Street changes regularly to make use of what's available locally and what's in season, so I can't promise you'll find the same things we had. (And some of these pictures are terrible because I was trying not to use my flash and ruin the rustic, dimly lit ambiance of the room we were in.)

We tried a salad with beet panna cotta and goat cheese that had a mustard dressing on it. I love panna cotta and thought it was interesting to incorporate it in a savory dish like this.

Along with the salad, we shared a bowl of soup. This was the favorite dish of the night for both of us. It was a luscious pumpkin soup (not overly spiced like most pumpkin soups) with a pile of Jonah crab meat in the middle and some pepitas and other garnishes on top. If this is on the menu when you go, definitely order it!

My mom ordered the beef short ribs for her entree. And I got the duck breast with gnocchi for mine. Best duck I have ever had.

And we shared a side of brussels sprouts.

And a bottle of wine.

Even though we were both stuffed at this point, we couldn't leave without trying some dessert.

We both agreed that the one dessert that called out to us was the warm chocolate cake served with espresso creme anglaise, vanilla bean ice cream, and caramelized cacao nibs.

We couldn't finish it, but it was definitely worth trying! The chocolate was so rich and fudge-like.

We left the restaurant, warm and full, and stepped out into our first snow of the year (which you can barely see in this picture).

I think we'll be stopping in Portland again next year, and it may become a permanent add-on to our yearly Freeport and Kittery shopping trip!

Have you spent much time in Portland, Maine? What are your favorite places to shop and eat at there?

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