7.11.2011

Shopping In Old Port (Portland, Maine)

My sister Lindsay just got a job across the country -- yes, she'll be living in California, and yes, I'm insanely jealous but also incredibly proud of her -- so my mom decided to plan a last-minute girls' trip to Portland, Maine, last week so my other sister (Martyann) and my mom and I could spend a little time with Lindsay before she headed off to the West Coast.

While we had planned to be in Portland in time for dinner on Thursday night, as they say, even the best-laid plans go awry, and my mom and sisters didn't end up getting to Boston until almost 8 p.m. to pick me up. I ordered a whole bunch of sandwiches from All Star Sandwich Bar, which we ate in the car along the way. We finally got to Portland around 10:30 p.m., found a room at the Marriott Residence Inn, dropped off our stuff, and went out to find dessert.

Martyann had heard of a place called Bar of Chocolate Cafe, so we went to look for it. We eventually found it on Wharf Street, a small cobblestone road. The inside of the cafe reminded me of a coffee shop, with brick walls and small, cozy tables.

After reviewing the cocktail menu, my mom ordered the espresso martini and I got a chocolate martini.  The rim of my glass had been dipped in real chocolate (not chocolate syrup) and sugared. The drink was a little strong but not so much as to be unpleasant, and it definitely hit the spot.


Then we all took turns walking up to the counter to check out the cake selection. We went for a slice each of German chocolate cake, espresso cake, and the boca negra (similar to the espresso cake but made with bourbon).


I only tried a small sliver of the German chocolate cake, and it was incredibly moist. The other two cakes, though, were more like truffles, with rich chocolate oozing out of them in every bite. These were much more up my alley.


If you're a chocoholic looking for dessert in Portland, definitely stop by this little cafe.

The Bar of Chocolate Cafe on Urbanspoon

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The next morning I woke my mom up super early, and we ventured over to Standard Baking Co. to pick up some pastries for breakfast (more about those tomorrow). When we got back to the hotel, we woke my sisters, and then we all ate and got ready to explore Old Port.

We were just a bit ahead of schedule and not many stores were open yet, so we did a lot of walking around and then looped back to stop in the stores we wanted to check out once they opened. Having been there last winter, I knew I wanted to head to LeRoux Kitchen. LeRoux Kitchen has all sorts of kitchen stuff, like more salt and pepper shakers than you can imagine, bakeware, a huge selection of knives, and so much more.


There are even tons of olive oils and vinegars that you can taste and purchase if you like. I ended up getting a summer white peach vinegar that I'm hoping to use in some sort of salad with peaches and maybe grilled chicken.


The whole upstairs is filled with Le Creuset and kitchen appliances. I had to use every ounce of discipline I had not to pick up something in the new fennel color.


After we pulled ourselves away from LeRoux, we wandered farther down Commercial Street to a new-ish (opened in July 2010) spice shop that caught my eye. We originally walked by Vervacious before it opened, and as soon as I saw the sleek glass containers of spices and balsamics in the window, I planned the rest of our route so we would find ourselves back there once it opened up for the day.


Owner Heidi was actually there when we came in, and she let us try the spices and talked to us about how they could be used. I was especially intrigued by the tomato nibs and the tomato powder. Heidi convinced me to sample the tomato powder, and I ended up buying some to bring home. It tastes sort of like tomato paste with a little more depth. (I've already used it on burgers and in pasta. I think it would be great with fish as well.)


I loved the layout of the shop. It's very open, with spices, balsamics, mostardas, and mignonettes on rails along the walls.




And in spite of how expensive the spices may look in their glass jars, they range from about $6 to $8. The balsamics and cocoas, which are $12, seemed to be the most expensive offerings.

Along with the tomato powder, I also picked up some Za'atar, a plum balsamic mostarda, and an apricot mostarda. (I spent less than $30.) The mostardas are meant to complement cheeses, and I can't wait to open them up and set them out on a cheese platter with some crusty baguette slices.

Everything is made in small batches right in Maine, so it's great to support a local business. I will definitely be back. And I also saw on Vervacious' website that they have a store in Freeport now too. I usually go to Freeport every year, so I'm sure I will be checking out that store soon too.

After we left Vervacious, we wandered in and out of a few more stores, decided we were hungry, and went to Duckfat for lunch (more on that tomorrow). When we left Duckfat, we stopped at Dean's Sweets, where I picked up an lemon apricot chevre truffle. I had tried this truffle on a previous visit to Portland and was thrilled to have it again.


Right next to Dean's Sweets is one of the best cookbook stores, Rabelais.


We all stopped in there for a little while to admire the collection of cookbooks, and I again used all my willpower and left without buying anything.


The rest of the day involved a trip to Cape Elizabeth and dinner back in Old Port. It's too much to write in one post, so look forward to more throughout the week!

Do you ever go to Portland? If so, what are your favorite shops and restaurants there?

20 comments:

  1. LOVE this blog post! I'm definitely interested in checking out the spice shop. We're heading up to Boothbay next month so I'm definitely stopping in to Scratch Bakery for a freezer bagel supply!

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  2. Yayy!!! Can't wait for more Portland posts! :) I've never seen Vervacious, I definitely have to check it out next time I'm there. And those chocolate cakes look heavenly.

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  3. I love Portland so much. It is a great city! And I have been to that cafe. Yum!

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  4. I went to Portland for the first time a few weeks ago. We were more focused on breweries, but it was a lot of fun!

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  5. Love Old Port! It's a must-visit every summer! Becky's Diner is usually my first stop. Way too much food, but so much fun. Maine Foodie Tours is worth checking out, too, especially the trolley tour. Nice piece and pix...inspires me to go back soon!

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  6. I would definitely check out that chocolate cafe! I had a um, several espresso martinis over the weekend - I wish they were chocolate martinis instead. Congratulations to your sister!

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  7. I love wandering about Portland & just might have to stop by that spice shop the next time I'm there!

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  8. Wow! The three of you had just the sort of little trip my mother and I (but not my sister) would have enjoyed just as much as you apparently did! I've just added Portland to my "Must See One Day" list.

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  9. this looks like such a fun trip! you guys packed in so much. That cake looks to die for.

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  10. i keep saying i need to plan a trip up there :) looks like such a great little place!

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  11. OMG! German Chocolate Cake is my favorite!!!! Hmmm.... guess what I think I'll be making this week?? ;-)

    Happy Monday Dear! xo

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  12. Wow! That looks like a fun and delicious trip. I love Portland, especially Old Port. Sorry to hear your sister will be moving far away. Hope that you aren't too sad!

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  13. I've always wanted to go to Portland but haven't had a chance yet. We spent our honeymoon in Maine...Oh Maine, what a beautiful State.

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  14. All that chocolate looks amazing! Portland is such a great little city - sounds like a perfect excursion for the weekend!

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  15. I grew-up not very far from The Old Port and loved having breakfast at Becky's Diner (not technically in The Old Port but not far) and having a drink or two at Novare Res.

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  16. Le Roux is like my heaven - that place is so fantastic. I go every time I'm in Portland and can easily waste way too much time strolling the aisles. I've never been to Vervacious but that looks like a must for my trip later this summer!

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  17. I love Portland! I'm heading there this weekend. I want to try to eat at Duck Fat, but always end up at some hole in the wall instead. Sometimes that's better though :)

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  18. Wow, I would LOVE to visit some of those stores. I'm amazed at your restraint!

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  19. Going back to portland this summer is on my list of things to do. I absolutely love rabelais. they have an email newsletter that is really wonderful.

    Have you eaten at Fore Street? I didn't get to last time I was there but it seems pretty amazing.

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  20. i live in portland and am glad to see that you mentioned vervacious and rabelais. in terms of restaurants i'd highly recommend hugo's, local 188, and figa. all are fantastic. for brunch i'd also check out caiola's or local 188/sonny's. you won't be disappointed. if you want to read more about these places check out my food blog, vin et grub, and maybe upon your next visit i can show you around!

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