A food-lover’s adventure Portland is a playground for people who love food. Covering it all in a short time frame is impossible, but I happily accepted the challenge to visit some favorites in a mere 24 hours.
Petite Jacqueline, Portland’s only French bistro, occupies a prime corner in the Old Port. A light snow begins to fall as my family settles in for lunch, giving the place the feel of a snow globe. The moment calls for hot chocolate and crepes: veggie and Gruyère for me and BLT for my husband, Bob. Our daughter Sage opts for the croque-madame, and we all share a cone of PJ’s fabulous frites. Dessert? Of course. Nutella crepe with strawberries for Sage and a small pile of house-made macarons for us all to share.
While my family heads home, I beeline to Browne Trading Company on Commercial Street for their annual Champagne and Caviar Tasting. It is in full swing by the time I get there, with a festive crowd enjoying life’s luxuries. Champagne stations are set up around the store, offering sips and information about the various labels. We nibble on smoked salmon—a Browne Trading specialty—and three types of caviar on blinis, as well as an excellent assortment of cheeses.
The light fades in the late afternoon, and the snow is falling heavily now, but there are lots of shoppers out and about, enjoying the novelty of the season’s first storm. Skordo is a new and welcome addition to the Old Port, a well-curated shop with an enormous selection of beautifully packaged spices and herbs, cookbooks, and tabletop accessories. Owner Anne Karonis Weiss and her husband Seth Weiss help me choose a marble salt cellar and a couple of jars of salt blends as a gift. I make a few more stops, including LeRoux Kitchen for my favorite olive oils and flavored vinegars, before checking into the Danforth Inn, where I’ll be spending the night.
The Danforth is a historic gem in the West End, elegantly renovated and restored. I’ve been to Tempo Dulu and Opium, the restaurant and lounge located within the inn, but a chance to experience the inn’s full hospitality is a real treat. My room, Eastern Promenade, is spacious and luxuriously appointed, a snug and sumptuous haven.
After a short rest and wardrobe adjustment, I head down to Opium for a cocktail. The chic lounge is an ingenious blend of New England architecture and Eastern opulence, unique in Portland. Bar manager Alexa Doyer is the creative force behind the impressive, Asian- inspired cocktail program. She offers me an antique wooden box filled with cocktail cards, which serves as Opium’s menu. It’s hard to decide among the many appealing options, but after talking about what kind of flavors and spirits I enjoy, she conjures up the new East Meets West for me. The blend of Gunpowder Irish gin with Aperol and orange bitters is exactly what I want, and it’s fun to watch Doyer work. She uses all kinds of techniques, like smoking, and tools to create astonishing drinks.
My friend Claire joins me for dinner at Tempo Dulu, the inn’s outstanding restaurant, where chef Michael McDonnell presents a menu of Southeast Asian dishes. Dinner here is leisurely, with highly attentive, personal service. Our server, Harry Livingston, explains the menu, pointing out various options, including the lobster tasting menu and the traditional Indonesian rijsttafel. After we opt for choices from the four-course menu, sommelier Matt Lambert stops by the table. Lambert is a knowledgeable and engaging wine enthusiast, talking us through pairing choices that include some unexpected and delightful bottles. Each dish we’re served is exquisite, from the scallop crudo amuse-bouche and the chili-smoked lobster to the tamarind glazed duck and the spekkoek, an Indonesian layered cake.
Afterward, I climb the stairs to my room and settle gratefully into the big bed, full and content.
The sun is shining but with several inches of new snow, it’s suddenly winter. Downstairs, breakfast is cooking at Tempo Dulu and the smell of coffee wafts towards my room. I’m shown to a table and handed a menu with my name at the top—a very nice touch. A big bowl of yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola makes a refreshing breakfast.
After (reluctantly) checking out of the Danforth Inn, I need to catch up on a little work, so I head to Coffee by Design on Diamond Street. It’s a pleasant spot to work and both the coffee and staff are awesome, so I often visit with my laptop. Plus, they have croissants from Standard Baking Co., which I can’t resist.
It’s hard to believe, but I’m actually hungry again at lunch time. I meet up with my friend Abby at Isa Bistro, a relaxed spot perfect for Sundays. We both order the poached eggs with mushrooms on parsnip puree with grilled bread, and agree it is an excellent choice. We linger over coffee, not quite ready to leave this pleasant, relaxed spot.