If you’re like Ian and me, you love trying new things. In Bangor, it’s not always the easiest thing to do, because it’s hard enough to find anything other than the standard cuts of beef, chicken and pork, and a few expensive pieces of lamb and veal, let alone more exotic fare. So, this past weekend we made a pilgrimage to Portland, the “foodie” capital of Maine, to do a little grocery shopping. Thanks to the Portland Winter Market, a seasonal, indoor extension of the Portland Farmer’s Market, we procured a rabbit from Mainely Poultry and a shoulder roast of goat from Tourmaline Hill Farm. (We also picked up a duck at Whole Foods.) After also buying some maple kefir that’s actually from a creamery near my mother’s house and some mustard greens, we browsed the Flea-For-All and an architectural reclamation store before deciding it was time to eat.
We took in lunch at Veranda Noodle Bar with our friend Jenny, who is Ian’s cousins’ cousin, and her friend Christine. Their company was far more enjoyable than the food or the service; our waitress started our meal by spilling sweet and sour sauce all over the table without so much as bringing us a rag to mop it up with, and ended it by demanding our dishes back, claiming the kitchen was running out of bowls… which I am pretty sure is a) code for “get out, you’re holding up a table” — although there were several empty — and b) not our problem. You are a restaurant. Buy more bowls. The shrimp in Ian’s noodle dish came in weirdly spongy patties, and the meatballs in my pho were sort of styrofoamy, while the ‘steak’ resembled nothing less than beef. This being my first experience with Vietnamese food, I can’t say whether the same dishes from another restaurant might have been more appealing, or if I just don’t like pho. I’ll try anything twice, however, and maybe (hopefully!) my next experience will be more pleasant.
Once we finally tore ourselves away from the table at our waitress’ none too subtle urging, we headed to Veranda Asian Market, the first of several Asian grocery stores on our list of places to check out while we were in town — we didn’t get to all of them, sadly. I love working with Asian ingredients, and I needed to stock up on black soy sauce (I was out) and black vinegar (which I can’t find up here.) Some Asian grocery stores in Portland also carry things you won’t find in other stores, like duck and quail eggs, which I did buy, and silkworms and cockroaches, which I did not. I was also able to stock up on a number of spices for a fraction of what I would expect to pay for them, even buying bulk at my local natural foods store.
It was a successful, fun outing, and as we made our way home, exhausted and with a car laden with fun groceries to keep me entertained in the kitchen (and, hopefully, our readers entertained at their computers!) we made a stop in Freeport, at a Greek pizzeria called Antonia. Worn out, hungry and indecisive, we looked at our choices over and over, unable to decide between the many, tasty-sounding pizza selections. Finally, we settled on one, unique-sounding pie: the All-American. It’s a cheeseburger pizza, with ketchup-mustard sauce, a blend of cheeses, bacon, ground beef, tomatoes, onions and — optional but highly recommended — pickles. It was amazing, and not just because we were ravenous — Ian had passed hungry and moved on to hangry, the stage where you get really grumpy and only food will cure it, and I wasn’t far behind him. The blend of flavors was somehow both unique and familiar, and though we had our leftovers boxed, they barely survived the rest of the drive home to Bangor before being devoured.