Brian and I spent a weekend in Maine, exploring the various eats, and cycling around the countryside. It is truly a beautiful state and the cycling was unmatched. Quiet roads, steady climbs, quick descents, and a coffee [beer] at the end of every ride. I have to say, I was also pleasantly surprised by the elegance and creativity of the food in Maine.
The first day, Brian went for an extra-long cycle in 80°F heat. Meanwhile, I did an easy 5k run/walk (Give me a break! It was 80°F!) over to the Portland airport to pick up our chariot for the weekend. I drove up to Brunswick to meet Brian for lunch at a place called Frontier Café + Cinema. It was hidden in the back of a huge old mill overlooking the river. Walking through giant barn doors, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The ambiance was amazing. Old wood floors, a stunning wood bar, giant industrial ceilings, and original art plastering the walls. Much to my delight upon taking a seat, a rhubarb margarita was brought right to me. Brian knows me so well! The marg was incredibly refreshing and perfectly in-tune with the season! Next we ordered a bunch of delicious bites: arancini that was stuffed with gooey mozzarella, a charcuterie plate because meat and cheese, and delicious sliders that came with a kimchi remoulade, a chive aioli, and a roasted shallot sauce. I was glad I had sat the morning cycle out because if I had to get back on a bike after all that food, I may not have made it. Do Ubers come with bike racks?
That evening we stuffed our faces even more. Twenty One Milk Street is a gorgeous little restaurant tucked inside the Regency Hotel. For me, and I think Brian will agree, the stand out dish of this meal was the special starter for the day… Fried Avocado. It was perfectly crusted in panko bread crumbs and flash fried just long enough to make the avocado ever so slightly creamy. It was served with a fresh dill crema and a spicy tomato salsa. It was a perfectly balanced dish and not what I expected from a fancy restaurant in Portland, ME. For a second starter we had Cajun shrimp and scallop skewers which were also delicious and paired nicely with the avocado. Brian had gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms and pesto and I had salmon with caviar and roasted fiddleheads for our entrees. It was all so good! For one of the first times in my life, I could not stomach dessert.
After dinner we went over to MJ’s Wine Bar to listen to some jazz. Brian had made friendly with his Uber driver when he got in to Portland the night before who turned out to be a magnificent jazz violinist.
We had a nice long cycle the next day through the backroads of Freeport, then met up with some friends in Kennebunk for some tacos at Pedros. The tacos were delicious and the spicy margarita was hot!, but I have to give special recognition to those churros. As you know if you have been reading the blog up to this point… I LOVE CHURROS. Brian made the bold move to ask for more chocolate sauce for dipping. No Looking Back! No Regrets!
For Brunch on Monday morning, we made a stop into Central Provisions in downtown Portland. A kimchi bloody mary, jalapeno cheddar hushpuppies, burrata and apricot vinaigrette over greens, and a crab toast deep, we were ready to take on the Breakfast Burger. A delicious onion brioche bun stacked with the juiciest burger patty I have ever had, gruyere cheese, a healthy portion of thick cut bacon, and a fried egg. It was so good. I am salivating just typing out this description. I could have eaten three of them if we hadn’t had so many starters.
Finally, no trip to Portland would be complete without a stop in to The Holy Donut for Maine’s famous potato donuts. We were still so full from brunch that those donuts actually survived a couple of hours until we were sitting on the train heading back for Boston. The salted chocolate was amazing. So naturally I have decided to recreate it…. Enjoy this week’s recipe: Salted Chocolate Potato Donut Holes!
Recipe: Salted Chocolate Potato Donuts
The Bits and Bobs:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbs unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup lightly packed mashed Yukon Gold potatoes (see notes below), ~3 medium potatoes
1/4 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil for frying
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
Wash outside of potatoes and poke a few holes into the skin with a fork. Microwave potatoes on high for roughly 10 minutes, or until soft enough to mash. Once cool, cut each potato in half and scoop insides out into a bowl. Avoid any skin or overcooked bits. Mash until smooth. If you have a potato ricer or a sieve, push the cooked potato through. The more smashed, the fluffier the donut!
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and egg, and beat until pale yellow and glossy. Beat in the potato and buttermilk until smooth. Finally, mix in the dry ingredients until well combined.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Press the dough out into a ½ inch thick disk and turn over to lightly coat with flour. Tear small amounts of dough from the disk and roll into balls. Lightly roll the balls in the flour and set aside.
Heat the oil to 375°F (use a thermometer to monitor the heat, turning up or down as needed). Working in small of batches of 5-6 donut holes, add the balls of dough to the hot oil and allow to cook for 2 minutes, rolling around to avoid burning any of the sides. Set onto a rack and allow to cool.
Make the glaze by whisking together the sugar, salt, and water. Roll each cooled donut hole in the glaze and remove using a fork and tapping off any extra glaze on the side of the bowl. Set over a sheet pan with a cooling rack to allow additional glaze to run off. Allow glaze to set and enjoy!