While the weather is good, you can eat at the outdoor tables in front of Bread & Friends. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

I went to Bread & Friends, a new, urbane bakery/cafe in the Old Port, by myself. I bring this up because the name alone implies I should have invited a chum. Its website continues in that vein: “Let’s eat, together,” it says cheerfully, “… our mission is to foster community through delicious food that is meant to be shared.”

To make up for my dining singledom, I ordered enough for two. In truth, I ordered enough for two because I was having a ridiculously hard time settling on one thing – or even two things – on the menu, which offers breakfast, lunch, baked goods, snacks and beverages including coffee, house-made sodas, wine and beer.

The temptations began at the pastry case at the counter. Here is a very partial list of the many good-looking items it held that I wanted: the blueberry pop tart ($5), the mushroom ricotta danish ($6), the ginger pull apart ($5). On the shelves behind the pastry case, I eyed the beautiful breads, including oat porridge ($8.25) and seeded ($9.25), wanting them, too.

Somehow, I restrained myself and sat down at one of the Scandinavian-esque blonde-wood tables in the light-filled interior of Bread & Friends; in this season, you can also sit out front at tables under umbrellas. There, my solicitous-but-not-too-solicitous server (that balance is an art) was patient and polite while I looked at the (local, seasonal) menu and dithered. Eventually, I settled on an order of cold brew coffee ($5) and potatoes with a sunny-side egg, green chermoula and Spanish chorizo ($13).

For good measure, I added a demi-baguette with salted cultured butter and house-made strawberry fennel jam ($7); I’d been eyeing that intriguing jam for months on the shelves of Portland’s small upscale grocery stores. You can find Bread & Friends’ breads in retail markets, as well.

Crispy red bliss potatoes, sunny side up egg, green chermoula and Spanish chorizo at Bread & Friends in Portland’s Old Port. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

The coffee was perfect (and came with a biodegradable hay straw!). The egg dish was easy on the eye, the egg perfectly cooked, the flavors balanced, and the textures a pleasing counterpoint of creamy and crispy. The dish was delicious but, as the website advised, probably meant to be shared. I could have made three meals out of the potatoes, which were boiled, smashed and deep-fried and tasted uncannily like those at Biddeford’s legendary Palace Diner.


But, oh, that baguette. The salty, cloudlike, silky butter – the server told me it is cultured with Freeport-based Winter Hill Farm yogurt – made me think I had never tasted butter before. How I will ever be satisfied with store-bought sticks again? The jam was a rare strawberry jam with depth, neither monotonous nor cloying. The baguette was letter-perfect: crispy exterior, chewy interior, and how did they draw so much flavor from white flour?

My smart server saw me gawking at the busy bakers through the big glass windows into the kitchen and offered a clue. “Did you see the grain mill?” he asked, pointing out a piece of equipment I hadn’t noticed. Bread & Friends mills some 75% of the flour for its breads, and also uses the freshly ground flour for some pastries and other items, according to Tanner Rubin, one of four friends (two couples) who own the place. Only a bit of the flour for the baguette is freshly milled, Rubin added. So, skill? Talent? Magic?

As it happens, I arrived alone, but I left with friends, or at least acquaintances. The young out-of-towners at the table to my left, in Portland for a conference, and I began to talk. We oohed and aahed about our breakfasts, then about the food scene in Portland generally. I grumbled to the woman at the table to my right about having to work on such a spectacular spring day, and that set us off to the races, conversationally speaking.

By the time I left Bread & Friends, I actually had two things that I hadn’t arrived with: a rosemary-umebochi sandwich cookie ($3) for later and a lunch invitation – and potential friend? – from the neighboring table.

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