Thursday, October 10, 2013

AmtrakEats- Riding the Rails to Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine was my go to spot.  For years when I wanted to get out of the city, relax and have an incredible weekend of food and drink, Portland was the spot that I craved.  As life twists and turns however, I recently realized how long it had been since I'd wandered through the Old Port.  How much time had passed since I'd breathed in the fresh, salty air of the city on the water and enjoyed the hospitality of the town.  As luck would have it, around the same time I received an invitation to join Amtrak in a new initiative they are launching known as Amtrak Eats.  They offered to send me on a day trip to a destination of my choosing to explore, and to eat.  It took less than 20 seconds for me select Portland.  With direct service between Boston's North Station and Portland, the choice was simple.  The kind folks at Amtrak made my travel arrangements, sent me a little fun food money for my trip and I was off.  

I boarded the Downeaster train early one Saturday morning, and I have to say- I was shocked at how many other adventurers there were climbing aboard with me.  It was a packed train but no matter for me, the conductors were friendly and kind, and kept us all in order for easy boarding.  Right on time, the train pulled away from the station and we were off to watch the land pass us by as we barreled north.  I settled into my comfy seat, plugged in my iphone to the convenient electrical outlets at every seat, and opened my book.  Just over two hours later we were pulling into Portland and I was fresh and ready to explore.

First on my list this time, a change from my old routines, was a stop at Duck Fat.  
Specializing in Belgian style cuisine (think waffles, fries and poutine), Duck Fat made a name for itself when it opened a few years back making it a must stop on every visitors list.  I had somehow missed it on previous trips so I made sure to make it this time.  Of course, arriving there around noon on a Saturday may not have been my best laid plan.  The line for a table stretched ahead of me, but I gladly waited my turn in the golden sun outside the restaurant.  Once seated, I knew exactly what I wanted- the most indulgent thing I could think of- Poutine topped with a fried egg.  French fries, fried to a crisp perfection in duck fat, tossed with cheese curds, smothered in gravy and topped with a fried egg- paired with a local Maine beer, this was going to be my brunch of champions.  Good for me?  No.  Delicious?  Yes.  

After my brunch was settled in my tummy, I took to the streets, meandering over to
the waters edge and encapsulating myself with the other tourists who clamored through the streets.  I stumbled on a trolley tour that was leaving in just moments so I quickly purchased my ticket and hopped aboard the open air trolley car, ready to learn the secrets and the culture of Portland Maine.  The tour did not disappoint as the car meandered the streets of Portland, showing off the gorgeous water views, beautiful architecture and showing off the incredible history of the city.  Were you aware that the city had to re build three times after fires?  How's that for a strong city!  The tour included a stop at the Portland Head Light, whose land was used as a perch for our military to watch for incoming British soldiers in 1776, before a lighthouse was built in 1787.  We were given about 20 minutes with which to explore the area, and as wonderful as the rest of the tour was, that made the trip for me.  

After returning from the trolley tour I decided (somehow) that it was time for a lobster roll.  Despite being from Boston and having easy access to lobster rolls, its impossible for me to go to Maine and not indulge.  So I headed on over to DiMillo's on the Water, this funny restaurant located in the water in an old ferry ship.  I love this place, though it tends to be a mecca for tourists.  I was served a traditional lobster roll, with huge chunks of lobster spilling out of a toasted hot dog roll.  A bit of lace layered the bottom of the roll and the addition of a squirt of fresh lemon juice made this a delicious, simple, lobster roll.

After leaving DiMillo's I spent some time perusing the shops of Portland.  Portland has an awesome mix of stores.  Home to a major art community, the downtown area houses some incredible galleries with gorgeous photographs and paintings of the surrounding area.  The streets are also home to clothing stores, cupcake shops, ice cream shops, pottery and home decor and, my favorite, the Le Roux kitchen store.  Two floors, every kitchen appliance, dish, condiment, aid...everything you could ever want for your kitchen all under one is heaven on earth. 

Once I had purchased far too many fun things from Le Roux, I made my way over to my last stop of the day before heading back to Boston-the Merry Table Creperie.  I have been in love with the Merry Table since my first visit to Portland.  Owned by a Canadian French couple, it excels in making French food accessible, and, even more so, delicious. I have always kept my orders savory and I finally decided it was time to indulge- and I settled on a Crepe Suzette which was a traditional, delicate Crepe with a beautiful mix of sugar, butter, Grand Marnier and orange.  Sweet with a tang, this was a perfect sweet note to end my day in Portland on.  

I hailed a quick cab from the heart of Portland and made my way back to the train depot.  I boarded with the other weary travelers to the cars that became incredibly cozy as the sun set, and we roared back to Boston.  I settled back into my seat, curled up, plugged back in my phone and picked up my book.  It was an incredibly relaxing day, filled with incredibly food, culture and a beautiful city.  The Amtrak made it a wonderful experience and I'll definitely be heading back up to my second favorite city soon!  Thank you Amtrak so much for a wonderful day!! 


Michelle Lahey said...

I absolutely love Portland, and it looks like you had a beautiful day to visit. So fun!

Candace @ Cabot said...

What a great post! So glad you had fun in my city. You could spend months here and not visit all the amazing restaurants in and around Portland. But you made excellent choices!

Next time you stop into LeRoux Kitchens, you should drop in to the Cabot Farmers' Annex right next door. You can sample every variety of delicious Cabot cheddar and check out other merchandise from New England artists and artisans.

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