Back from our annual Maine adventure. Two nights in Portland brought us two great dinners. Hugo's and Fore Street. Both would be at home in NYC in terms of quality and price.

Hugo's is perhaps a bit more experimental with pistachio encrusted lambs tongue being the standout of my meal (with an honorable mention going to the tongue in cheek "general tsao's chicken" made with sweet breads.) The room is tiny though, and not really in a good way, while the wine list left me severely underwhelmed. Reading on Chowhound I see a lot of complaints about portion size. Possibly the restaurant read these too as our waitress went to great lengths to describe how all the dishes on the menu are appetizer size and you really want to order a minimum of three. We ordered three each and then two more to share (at her urging) and of course it was way too much food. Still a very nice meal from a chef who was the 2009 James Beard Foundation winner of Best Chef Northeast.

Fore Street, in contrast, is a beautiful room. Huge open warehouse loft with the completely visible kitchen in the middle of the room. Great great energy. Lots of fresh fish and vegetables on display in glass enclosed walk in refrigerators. Staffs seemed a bit more professional as did the over all feel. Not quite as experimental as Hugo's but that might be a good thing. The focus is fresh local ingredients and they don't get in the way of them by trying anything too fancy. I had some of the best oysters I've every had to start and tasted an incredible (tender!) squid dish. My dinning mates had an incredible lobster dish for their main and I had a nice pheasant. The wine list is very interesting including some old Lopez which is a fav around these parts and not something I necessarily expect to find in Maine. And it didn't seem out of place on the list.

If I had to go back for one night I'd do Fore Street for sure, but Hugo's definitely has some interesting cooking going on.
- jim 7-13-2009 4:45 pm

One of my top ten meals ever was at Fore Street, blown away by the open kitchen, it seemed like there were four or five wood fires going on at once. I had local rack of lamb with panfried mashed potatoes (a childhood leftover fave). And rosemary infused pear tart tatin for desert. It was a good 8 or 9 years ago and the first time I ever saw a farmer credited on a menu.

In August I will be going to a Outstanding in the Fields dinner held at Elliot Coleman's farm featuring the Fore Street Chef. There are still tickets available.
- adman 7-13-2009 5:06 pm [add a comment]

Looks very nice. Dave and I lived in Blue Hill one summer. Beautiful place.
- jim 7-13-2009 5:20 pm [add a comment]

Have wanted to try Sam Hayward's food after Saveur did 15 pages on the place 5+ years back, have not made it.....

I was in rural MA at the Olive Garden for my annual July trip since my mom sold the Cape shack:<(( I have to say it was not as good as last year, and it was easy to sit at 7pm on Friday which last year was 45+ min's wait.....they said they are slow
- Skinny 7-13-2009 5:30 pm [add a comment]

Sam Hayward Biography

Sharing the delights of maine
When life on the road as a 1970’s R & B musician lost its charm, Sam Hayward traded in his bass guitar for a sharp set of knives and a summer job on Maine’s Appledore Island. With his roots in Louisiana, Tennessee and upstate New York, Sam took to the new coastal landscape and immediately fell in love with Maine.

After a year in New York City and New Orleans kitchens, Sam moved to Maine permanently. In 1981, Brunswick – a college town – was the first to experience Sam’s cuisine when he bought 22 Lincoln and started concentrating on local food sources. His restaurant consolidated the community of local growers and showcased the unique specialties they produced in Maine's challenging northern climate. After 10 years, 22 Lincoln closed its doors to a saddened community.

In 1996 Sam opened Fore Street Grill, a brick building on the fringes of Portland’s Old Port district. Huge wood-burning ovens dominate the open kitchen, and the daily changing menu reflects specialties of this method: turnspit roasted pork loin, wood grilled yellowfin tuna loin, wood oven-roasted day-boat halibut fillet. Fore Street diners are treated to ingredients found in local waters and forests, reflecting Hayward’s passion for the distinctively characteristic food of Maine and the Maritime Provinces.

This year, Hayward received a coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast. He has also been named Best Chef by Casco Bay Weekly. He has been featured in Atlantic Monthly, Saveur, Food Arts, Wine Spectator, and The New York Times, and Gourmet Magazine has rated Fore Street Grill 16th out of 50 Best American Restaurants.
- Skinny 7-13-2009 5:31 pm [add a comment]

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