Portland has a uniquely strong farm-to-table movement and is considered the epicenter for the concept on the East Coast. It has been nationally recognized as a “hub of innovative cuisine,” and referred to as a “gastro-tourism paradise.”
For years, talented chefs such as Sam Hayward of Fore Street Grill (opened 1996 and designated as a Top 50 Restaurant in the U.S. by Gourmet Magazine in 2001 and 2006), have been making their way north from Boston and New York City to Portland where they find a wealth of resources from farmers, fishermen, and artisans that provide for year round seasonal cooking and a more welcoming (i.e. less cut-throat) and supportive environment.
Duckfat, which opened in 2005, a restaurant that “comes to mind in the autumn and winter evening” (Portland Press Herald, 2014) and is fun just because of its name, is a local favorite that is still going strong, as can be seen by a frequent line of people waiting to get in.
Indeed, it is the popular Belgian cut frites that many are waiting for. Cooked in duck fat and served with a choice of eight different dipping sauces (garlic or horseradish mayo, truffle ketchup, etc.), the frites were the inspiration for the restaurant, owned and operated by husband and wife team Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh. They have been instrumental in Portland’s culinary transformation, elevating an ordinary sandwich shop to an otherworldly culinary experience.
The restaurant has been a three time “Chopped Champion Restaurant” on the Food Network and Rob Evans was named Best Northeast Chef in 2009 by James Beard.
Duckfat, which is also known for its in-house sodas and milkshakes – the original Tahitian vanilla bean and crème anglaise milkshake are a rich, heavenly delight – beautifully combines the past and its traditions with the present and its new techniques, resulting in a culinary experience that feeds the body, heart and soul.
Two other great body, heart and soul restaurants:
Eventide Oyster Company: a seafood-centric restaurant that offers an amazing variety of oysters (over two dozen) from “Maine and Far Away.” The beautiful display of oysters is a visual feast that one sees upon entering the restaurant and is reminiscent of the great American Oyster bars of times past. They say on their website: “Eventide marks the transition between day and night, a time that calls for refreshment and rejuvenation.”
Central Provisions: With a hugely popular following for their inventive food by Chef and proprietor Chris Gould, Central Provisions offers a cornucopia of small plate feasts of unusual and creative combinations chosen from the Menu headings: “Raw, Cold, Hot, Hearty, and Sweet” (Bluefin Tuna Crudo, Roasted Cauliflower, Duckham and Biscuits, Suckling Pig with Apple and Brown Butter, Fried Brown Point Oysters, Pork and Walnut ravioli).
The description below is just one example of the “unusual” that makes this restaurant an inspiring culinary experience (it was also listed on the 2014 James Beard ten best restaurants in America).
“Consider this little gem on the menu: bread and butter…[s]erved on a stone slab are slices of toasted baguette accompanied by a fluffy mound of local butter with the texture of whipped cream. Alongside this is something that looks like a giant egg yolk. In fact, it was until tempered into a shimmering mousse-like sabayon. This is achieved by heating the egg yolk with reduced white beer and gelatin over a double boiler until thickened. It’s then put through an aerosol can typically used to dispense whipped cream. The mixture is forced through it onto the dish in the shape of a giant egg yolk. You then smear the butter and sabayon together on the bread and the mingling of both – smooth as silk – is rapturously good.” (taken from Portland Herald Press, 2014).