Thursday, April 24, 2014
When Casey Sheehan lived in Costa Rica, he'd go to a little shack that sold something called Rundown Stew.
The Caprese and Big O paninis at The Local Press on Woodford Street in Portland.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
THE LOCAL PRESS
WHERE: 276 Woodford St., Portland; 773-0039
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
CHEAPEST GRUB: Soups, $4.95; PB&J panini, $5
WAIT: Five to 10 minutes
PARKING: On street
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes. There are ramps for the curbs, but negotiating the two doors could be tricky.
Based on a five-star rating
He says it was "the most amazing thing I'd ever had. I just begged and begged and begged for the recipe."
Finally, when he was about to leave, he managed to wrangle the basic ingredients, "and I kind of took it and ran with it and did my own thing."
In January, Sheehan opened a panini shop on Woodford Street, where he serves his own version of Rundown Stew, a warm but not-too-spicy Caribbean chowder made with root vegetables, curry and coconut milk. The Local Press does indeed serve great paninis, but it is this stew that customers are clamoring for, apparently.
"Most people are coming for a Rundown and a sandwich, for the most part," Sheehan said.
The most popular paninis so far at The Local Press are the Big O (named after Sheehan's new son Owen), which is made with Boar's Head roast beef, organic caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, organic baby spinach and horseradish mayo; the Orchard Turkey, which is made with Oven Gold turkey, Boar's Head bacon, sharp cheddar, Gala apples and chipotle mayo; and the Good Life, made with Black Forest ham, prosciutto, fig jam, bleu cheese, provolone and balsamic reduction.
The paninis range in price from $6.95 for a Caprese to $7.95 for the Good Life. Most of them cost $7.50.
Sheehan also makes sweet paninis ranging from $5 to $6, such as "The King," a combination of peanut butter, bacon and banana, a tribute to Elvis' favorite sandwich.
Milkshakes are $5 and made with Annabelle's ice cream. Add-ins -- Nutella, peanut butter, bananas, honey, strawberry preserves and bacon -- are 50 cents each. There is also a cooler full of drinks to choose from to go with your meal. Options include coconut water, Pellegrino, Maine Root sodas, juices and Snapple teas.
The Local Press also has a Soup of the Day which, like the Rundown Stew, is $4.95 for 12 ounces. On the day I visited, the soup of the day was tomato and white bean topped with basil and pine nut gratin.
But like most customers, I went with the Rundown Stew. And a panini. It's a lot of food, so go hungry.
The stew is delicious, and will be even more delicious when Sheehan adds lobster or haddock, which he plans to do soon. Sheehan's brother, who is helping out at the shop, is a lobsterman and will be supplying lobster for the stew and a lobster panini.
For my panini, I ordered the Back Shore, which contained Black Forest ham, red grapes, brie, blue cheese, organic baby spinach and a balsamic reduction. It was an interesting combination, with the grapes providing a little bite in contrast to the creamy cheese.
Sheehan said in addition to his core nine paninis, he tries to post a special every week.
"Last week, I had one with ham and pineapple and goat cheese and scallions," he said.
He's also adding a selection of cold sandwiches for people who don't want to wait on a panini.
"I plan on featuring local ingredients," he said. "I do local tomatoes right now. I'm getting my potatoes from Maine, and I plan on doing salads in the summertime. I just bought a new fridge for that. I plan on getting some local greens and maybe some strawberries and some goat cheese."
The Local Press is in a tiny space, with just three tables for two, and two seats at a small bar where you can eat while watching Sheehan make sandwiches. Sheehan, who worked for Flatbread Co. for 13 years, says he chose this location because he and his wife have lived in the neighborhood for about five years.
Even if you don't live in the neighborhood, The Local Press is worth a trip. But if it's crowded, you might have to get your order to go.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.