Since moving back to New Hampshire for the summer I’ve been itching to get back to that urban atmosphere, so when I saw the kickass forecast for the past few days I knew it was the perfect opportunity to give that itch a good ol’ scratch. Said itch was scratched by the amazing city of Portland, Maine. Now, most people outside of the New England area hear Maine and think moose, snow, and “that’s pretty much Canada isn’t it?”. Well, to those people I say you are doing yourself a huge injustice by missing out on all this great state has to offer, but I also say more for the people who recognize its awesomeness. Portland is about a 45 minutes drive from the ME/NH border and is nestled onto a peninsula along Casco Bay. Portland has always been a popular summertime tourist attraction due to its great ocean views and activities, however in the last 10 years or so the city has really come into its own and become a budding cultural epicenter (and possibly home of the original hipster, but don’t tell Brooklyn or Portland, OR). Unique shops and restaurants began popping up on every corner and started to fill up every block. They even have their very own Urban Outfitters (the true stamp of a trendy city, HA HA HA). But let me get onto what I know you all came here for, THE FOOD!
First off there is such a variety offered from your staple seafood joints, to Indian, to organic/ Farm to Table, and American fusion style cafés. I had the pleasure of spending 2 whole days wondering the city while visiting some friends, and I can honestly say almost every little neighbor has its own handful of exciting edibles. I unintentionally ended up eating my way through Portland tasting a plethora of iced coffees, soup (Kamasouptra), freshly made smoothies (Maine Squeeze), pizza, cakes, doughnuts, gelato, and a pretty impressive breakfast sandwich (Mister Bagel). Portland is also the perfect size in which you can walk practically anywhere, but as a result of my constant walking (and Portland’s variety of elevation) I didn’t get the chance to photograph everything I ate! Peep what I was able to capture on camera before I so gracefully stuffed it into my face, below.
The Honey Baby Latte from Local Sprouts Co-Op on Congress St, is the perfect marriage of aromatic, nutty coffee and cinnamon, nutmeg, and local/organic honey. For someone with a killer sweet tooth ,like myself, this drink was the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. I got it iced because, well it’s Portland in the summertime, and it was amazingly refreshing!
Vena’s Fizz House
This is actually the one spot I regret not ordering from before I left, but let me tell you I WILL be back! Vena’s Fizz House on Fore Street, is a super-innovative mixology shop & soda fountain that pumps out both alcoholic and non, uniquely flavored beverages. The retail section also has probably one of the widest varieties of cocktail fixings, paraphernalia, and mixes outside of a kitchen supply store. My favorite item is stored in the back inside a large, opened up china/buffet cabinet. These beauties are called Infusion Kits, and are mason jars filled with dried fruits, herbs, and spices that come with a recipe simply recommending what liquor to pair the contents with. There was such a wide variety of flavors that I couldn’t choose just one, but I assure you I’ll be picking some up to try in the very near future!
I also had to stop and grab lunch from OTTO Pizza because what’s a trip to Portland without it, right? I am going to spare you the details on my one slice, which was a sweet and savory, perfectly crunchy slice, and tell you to just get your ass there and try any of their amazing and constantly changing flavor combos for yourself (in fact, if you’re staying in town for a few days I would suggest getting a whole pie or 2!). OTTO makes such a killer pizza with simple and fresh ingredients, it’s comparable to NYC pies that have won over my heart the past 2 years. There are tons of locations throughout Portland and Boston, so just get there already!
Since Portland is no stranger to the innovative food scene, of course they have an eclectic doughnut shop cutely named, The Holy Donut. What makes their doughnuts extra-special and unique is their potato base which gives the doughnuts a more fluffily, cake-like consistency (which I prefer). They had so many unique flavors to choose from, from dark chocolate sea salt to Allen’s coffee brandy. I went with the Ginger Glazed Sweet Potato. It had a clean, almost carrot cake like flavor, was not super fried or greasy, and had a refreshing finish with the ginger glaze. Definitely recommend this spot on Exchange Street for when you’re craving that little extra somethin’!
I picked up my last little snack before laying out at the Eastern Promenade from Katie Made Bakery on Munjoy Hill. It was later in the day but this little bakery was still pumping out fresh baked goods and pastries. I landed on a piece of nectarine coffee cake and an iced coffee. I had never seen a coffee cake quite like this one. The top of the cake was more crust-like than crumbly, and I was nervous the cake would be dry as a result, but I was pleasantly surprised! This little cake was flavorful, moist, and chocked full of sliced nectarines. I could definitely see Katie Made being up there on my go-to list of places off Portland’s beaten path.
Upon this last trip I have truly fallen in love with the city of Portland, Maine. It has so much to offer and seems to just be built for exploring! I’m looking forward to spending my last summer in New England discovering this beautiful city and all of its food and adventure.
***If you absolutely cannot make it up to Portland (which I find rather hard to believe because this place is totally worth the trip) many of these bangin’ eats are available to be shipped practically nationwide! You can also find Vena’s Fizz Shop Infusion Kits on Etsy!**