Are you a fan of Dine Out critic Andrew Ross’ reviews? (And if not, you should be: they’re smart, fair, thoughtful, sometimes funny and always well-written. ) Today, we launch a new online-only feature: Ross’ picks for the 75 best restaurants, cafés, bakeries and bars in the Greater Portland region in 2019, including his top 15. Food and drink are far too important to crowd-source. Go to pressherald.com/bestrestaurants.

Curtain Up, Light the Lights

Restaurant openings and closings tend to come in waves, and we’re hitting another wave now, just as summer dining season is fully underway. Read on for news on expansions and upcoming second locations, too. Here’s the round-up:

With a quack, quack here and an oink, oink there …

City Farmhouse Kitchen & Bar, the new restaurant at the Portland Sheraton at Sable Oaks (formerly the South Portland Marriott), opens today at 200 Sable Oaks Drive. The restaurant comprises several dining areas with down-home names, from the main gathering room of the Big House to more intimate settings such as the Farmhouse Kitchen, which has a stone hearth oven, and the Little House, which sits under a farm mural. Diners also can gather around a fire pit on the patio, known as the Back Forty. Want something lighter for takeout or delivery? Check out the Express Feed Shack, the dining area with the name that makes us want to go “moooo.”

Interior photo of new City Farmhouse Kitchen and Bar at Portland Sheraton at Sable Oaks Photo courtesy of City Farmhouse

Like most other hotel restaurants, the menu includes a little bit of everything – chowders, pastas, steaks, pizzas, burgers, salads and sandwiches. Prices are all over the place, which means there’s something for all budgets. For example, the “Artisan Burgers” cost $14 to $16, salads run $10 to $12, and pastas come in half and full orders and are priced accordingly. The most expensive dishes are dinner items: ribeye steak ($38), and fishermen’s stew and seared dayboat scallops, $30 each.

Chef Chris Merriam (he’s also food and beverage director) is a native Mainer who graduated with honors from Southern Maine Community College and has been working at the Portland Sheraton since 1993.

Take a Roman holiday in Portland

Steve Quattrucci’s new Italian market and pizzeria, Monte’s Fine Foods, has been three years in the making, but he finally sees the finish line.

Monte’s, located on the corner of Washington and Ocean avenues in Portland, will open its doors at 9 a.m. Friday. On Monday, Quattrucci was just finalizing the menu and pricing. Look for Roman pizza to eat on the patio or at the dining bar, and imported foods on the shelves.

The hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The market/pizzeria will be closed on Mondays for the summer, but will go to seven days a week in the fall.

Yo ho ho

Three of Strong Spirits, a rum distillery at 35B Diamond St. in Portland, opened quietly last week in East Bayside, with master distiller Graham Hamblett, formerly of Dogfish Head Distilling, at the helm. The hours, for now, are 4-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Dave McConnell, one of the owners, tells me the grand opening is planned for Aug. 16-17. For now, the cocktail menu in the distillery’s tasting room is set, but the food menu is evolving, he said. The distillery recently hired Josh Worrey to oversee the food, and he is developing a menu including items such as housemade coffee-rubbed chorizo with onion jam, cotija and pickled vegetables. Worrey also plans to offer a farmers market special once a week.

Oh no no

Local Sprouts Café, which served Mainers locally sourced foods for nearly a decade, closed last week. Run by a cooperative of worker-owners, the café on Congress Street in Portland’s Arts District had catered to both meat-eaters and vegans since 2010. I tried calling last week to confirm the closure and to find out what happened, but none of the worker-owners would speak publicly. Too bad, because this place deserved a better send-off.

Our next road trip

Acadia House Provisions, the new Stonington restaurant from acclaimed Chicago chef and Maine summer resident Ryan McCaskey, held its first dinner service July 1. The very next day McCaskey posted on Facebook that the seasonal restaurant was already nearly booked for the season.

Acadia House Provisions serves elevated but still affordable takes on Maine favorites, such as lobster rolls, dayboat halibut and blueberry streusel.

Master sommelier and wine consultant Scott Tyree of Freeport designed the restaurant’s wine program.

Belgian brews for Yeast Bayside

Brewery Extrava, in Portland’s “Yeast Bayside,” had a soft opening over the weekend, and will be open again this weekend to anyone who wants to get an early peek (Friday 12-7 p.m. and Saturday 12-4 p.m.). The brewery has scheduled its grand opening for July 19.

Brewery Extrava serves Belgian-inspired ales in its 1,000-square-foot tasting room at 66 Cove St.

Another location for Speckled Ax’s wood-roasted coffee

Matt Bolinder, owner of Speckled Ax Coffee at 567 Congress St., has announced plans to open a new location in Portland in the fall. The second coffee shop will be at 20 Thames St., near the Ocean Gateway Pier.

Summer is a lobster taco and a beer on this new patio 

The Highroller Lobster Co. at 104 Exchange St. in Portland has completed its expansion into the former tattoo parlor next door. (The new main entrance is now to the left of the original.) Among the improvements: a new patio/courtyard for summer dining, and a gift shop stocked with T-shirts, hats, bandanas, glassware, and so on – all with the High Roller logo, of course. The restaurant’s summer cocktail list launches this week, featuring drinks with obligatory cute names like “High Tai’d” (get it?).

More cheese? Please!

Mary and Will Sissle, owners of The Cheese Shop of Portland at 93 Washington Ave., have announced they’re moving from their renovated shipping container into the building next door at 107 Washington Ave. They said the move will allow them to triple the size of their shop while staying in the neighborhood they love. Expect the move to happen in September.

Celebrity bagel

Bagels from the Purple House in North Yarmouth will be featured on Monday’s episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Cooking Channel. Don’t go running out to get a bagel, though; the Purple House is closed for the summer; it will re-open in October.

The episode, titled “In the Last Place You’d Expect,” was filmed last year and will be shown Monday at 9 p.m., and Tuesday at 1 a.m. Subsequent showings will be at 8:30 p.m. July 29; 12:30 a.m. July 30; and 7 p.m. Aug. 15.

Celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli talks about her love for Purple House chef Krista Desjarlais’ bagels in the episode. Also featured is a “game-changing falafel” that Jeff Mauro discovered in the back of a jewelry store, and “hidden Mexican treasure” unearthed by Geoffrey Zakarian in Buffalo, New York.

Oenophile adjustment

Joe Appel, wine director and jack-of-all-trades at Rosemont Markets, is leaving his job in August. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Joe Appel, a fixture at Rosemont Markets where he has worked in many positions, including wine director, since the first store opened in 2005, is leaving his job in early August. While he is not yet ready to share specific plans, “I intend to remain in the wine world in southern Maine,” he said. Appel wrote a wine column for the Portland Press Herald, Appel on Wine, for five years.

You could storm the Bastille, or maybe just eat a crêpe

If you’re a Francophile, you’re in luck: Petite Jacqueline is once again celebrating Bastille Day in style. The French restaurant, at 46 Market St. in Portland, will celebrate with a full crêpe and oyster bar, as well special desserts and drinks, and dishes such as duck confit poutine and French hot dogs. What’s a French hot dog (also known as “Le Hot Dog”)? It’s a hot dog (or sometimes a sausage) served in a baguette, sometimes with a sauce (of course, it’s French).

These short ribs are out of this world

My family was on vacation on July 16, 1969, the day that Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. We ended our road trip early that day (I can’t even remember where we were going) and my father got us a hotel room so we could watch the historic moment on television. We bought a Richmond Times-Dispatch the next day; it had a huge headline that said “MAN LANDS ON MOON.” I still have that newspaper, now yellowed and falling apart, tucked away in a box somewhere. Thus began my lifelong fascination with the space program. So I was excited to see the Apollo 11 astronauts’ “post lunar isolation menu,” courtesy of Stouffer’s, show up in my email box this week in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon walk.

Stouffer’s served the Apollo 11 astronauts 38 of the company’s products while the men were in quarantine following the moon landing. Photo courtesy of Stouffer’s

It turns out that Stouffer’s provided the Apollo 11 astronauts with a lot of the food they ate – 14 main dishes, side dishes and meat pies – after they returned to Earth, while they were in quarantine for three weeks. The menu included Escalloped Chicken and Noodles for lunch, served with a dessert of Stouffer’s Spice Cake. For dinner there were Boneless Short Ribs served with Stouffer’s Au Gratin potatoes. The company re-created the short ribs dish – now called rosemary beef short ribs – for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the moon walk. (Email me if you’d like the recipe.)

Stouffer’s also sent copies of the 1969 press kit that touted the company’s role giving the astronauts re-heated frozen entrees “served the same way they are served to millions of American husbands every evening.”

The vintage press release reads like the plot to a science fiction film. The men were quarantined, the release notes, “to make sure no hostile organisms have been transported to the earth from the moon. During this period, the scientists looking for signs of alien organisms have demanded assurance that diet will cause no illness that might mistakenly be attributed to hostile bacteria.”

The food was heated with microwave or quartz ovens, which cut the heating time from an hour to 10 minutes. At the time, microwave ovens were still space-age gadgets and not in widespread use in American homes. The first popular home model (the Radarange) appeared in 1967 and cost $495, or $4,000 in today’s dollars.

Stouffer’s follow-up ad campaign? “Everyone who’s been to the moon is eating Stouffer’s.”

 


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