By FoodiesInNYC Guest Blogger – Mitch Wexler
As an avid home cook and outspoken foodie, certain things about a restaurant can really catch my attention –a menu printed daily featuring great ingredients, a functional open kitchen with an efficient system at work and a wood burning oven that serves as the cooking method for a third of the menu. Throw in owning a bakery underneath the restaurant that provides for an amazing bread basket – and I’m one happy guy. Fore Street in Portland, Maine got off to a great start for me before I even perused the daily menu. I’ve long wanted to visit, and on a recent trip to Ogunquit, we headed up to the big city to give it a shot.
Fore Street splits its focus three ways – veggie based items, locally sourced meats and seafood, and things that turn out awesome when you cook them in a wood-fired oven for a few minutes. My four dining companions and I had a diverse set of tastes that allowed us to embrace all areas of the menu, while finding common areas in wonderful places like a bowl of mussels and a plate of foie gras. The appetizers were highlighted by a tangy and unique mushroom salad – finished perfectly by a delightful vinaigrette. The seafood sampler was a creative array of raw seafood items, highlighted by an eye- opening flounder tartare. From the wood-fired oven, we had the mussels, which were plump and delicious, but did suffer from the unintended consequence of the inferno – cracked shells galore.
The main course is where the gem of Fore Street, and possibly all of the land-based meals in Maine, occurred. The rack of pork, a simple, thick, spit-roasted pork chop, served with sauerkraut, elicited an immediate ‘wow’ from me, along with a giggle. The strong but complex flavor, highlighted by the delightful aroma of fennel pollen, made this the second best pork chop I ever had. The first, for those scoring at home, resides at Centro Vinoteca in the West Village – try it if you haven’t, nod in agreement if you have.
Other dishes included a flaky, if plain, whole black bass, and a duo of duck that featured a nicely under cooked duck breast and some delicious duck confit. We were able to order a reasonably priced Cali Cab to complement the cocktails that we started the night with, and overall, the drink menu and wine list were well created and fairly priced.
Not one to do much with dessert, I was ready to call it a night, but the ladies at the table called for the closer, and out came two unbelievable desserts, a perfectly executed bread pudding and a chocolate dish so rich and divine they might have named it Oprah.
For anyone visiting Maine, your first stop has to be a lobster shack (or Barnacle Billy’s) for the best lobster in the world. But if you are near Portland, and love to eat, make Fore Street your second.
http://www.forestreet.biz/288 Fore Street
Mitch Wexler is an advertising exec, part-time sous chef and full-time foodie based in Hoboken, NJ.