March 17, 2010

Eat & Run

— In Portland, few things say spring better than a raspberry lime cooler from Artemisia Cafe.

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John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer:Monday, April,14, 2008. Jessica Roy serves a vegetable dumpling salad and a greek salad at Artemisia Cafe in Portland today for eat & run.

The carbonated concoction tastes like summer in a glass, teasing the taste buds with light, fruity flavors and bubbly delight. The only thing missing is a shot of vodka. But that's easily solved if you get it to go.

Seriously, though, with the weather forecast calling for highs around 60 today and a three-day weekend at bay, isn't now a perfect time for a refreshing drink?

When I was a kid, we used to order raspberry lime rickeys at Brigham's, an ice-cream chain that operates mostly in Massachusetts. At Artemisia Cafe in Portland, they're called coolers, and the name couldn't be more appropriate. It's a combination of carbonated water, quartered limes and raspberry syrup, all mixed together in a tall glass filled with tiny chunks of ice.

A couple of tugs on the straw, and the workday stresses melt away.

With spring at the ready, we stopped in at Artemisia, one of our favorite Portland neighborhood cafes, for lunch and a cooler. The cafe is at 61 Pleasant St., just up the street from the John Ford statue in Portland's studio district. It has a reputation for serving excellent lunches at reasonable prices.

I ordered the lemon dill tuna salad wrap served with garden salad on the side. Perhaps because of the sunny day, I felt the need for something refreshing. The tuna wrap sounded good -- albacore tuna with fresh dill and lemon, wrapped in a flour tortilla with lettuce, tomato and red onions -- and didn't disappoint.

The dill proved to be a perfect herbal accompaniment to the tuna. It complemented the light fish taste, but didn't overwhelm it. Similarly, the diced tomatoes and onions added subtle flavors.

My friend ordered the vegetarian dumpling salad, her standard dish at Artemisia. Try as she might, she can't bring herself to stray too far from what she knows she will like.

The pan-fried dumplings are served on a bed of greens, topped with Asian slaw, snow peas and ginger soy dressing.

She likes the salad because it has heft to it. As she said, ''Salad is girly food, but this is not a girly salad. It's definitely not rabbit food.''

Normally, I would top off lunch with a cup of coffee. But on this day, with the sun shining and the prospect of a leisurely walk back to work, the raspberry lime cooler somehow seemed like a better choice.

Spring, anyone?

The Features staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram anonymously samples meals for about $7.

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