Today we opted to sleep in. Yesterday was such a long day and by day’s end we were exhausted. Since we are no longer young a firmly established in our middle agedness, we decided to not kill ourselves with trying to cram everything in. We did have a long day of walking ahead of us so an extra bit of sleep was well in order. The Freedom Trail
Our only plan today was to walk the Freedom Trail with stops along the way to see other sights not part of the trail but easy to visit as they were in the area. Many of you may be thinking of the Freedom Trail in Boston which takes you through the streets of Boston by several historical revolutionary sites, ending at Bunker Hill. Portland’s Freedom Trail is about a different type of freedom. The trail is dedicated to the history of the Underground Railroad in Portland and the abolitionist movement in Maine. It is part of a network of Freedom Trails in Maine. While the trail is certainly worth walking, because you will go through real neighborhoods and past other sights, don’t expect to actually see much remaining from the trail
itself. This is primarily because Portland has been burnt to the ground on a couple of occasions. There are at least two buildings that still remain, both churches, the rest is a series of stone markers that describe what as there and how it played in the freedom of slaves.
Our journey started at our hotel, the first marker was across the street at the wharf. I will not give you the details of the trail itself, as that is for you to discover on your trip here. Since we got up to late to have breakfast, we decided to get some sandwiches at Duck Fat. Duck Fat is a very popular sandwich shop known for their Belgian Waffle Fries that are fried in, Duck Fat, what you were expecting lard with a name like that. It was about 12:30 when we got there, it was just a half of block from stop number two on the trail. I did say it was a popular spot and the lines proved the point. We didn’t really have time to wait so we went back to a small bakery to get something to hold us over until we found somewhere to
Two Fat Cats
On the way to Duck Fat we passed a bakery with a great name “Two Fat Cats” so we went back there to get something to eat. This bakery is pretty small, but makes a ton of pies. It was a bit late in the day, and they were already sold out of most of their baked items, but had many pies to choose from. We both had a mixed berry slice of lemon bunt cake. The berries where cranberry, blackberry and raspberry. It was very good.
We finished our cake and left the crumbs for the birds and then continued on our way. This was the uphill climb portion of the trail. There were a couple of more stops along the trail, before we took a slight detour to head up to the Portland Observatory. The observatory is not what you are thinking it was not used to gaze at the heavens but rather to look at the bay to assist the merchants. It was built in 1807 and is the only structure of its kind remaining in the United States. Its purpose was
to identify the various ships that were coming in and then notify the merchants that they were approaching so they could prepare their crews to unload the goods. It was in operation until 1939, if I remember correctly.
There was a guided tour that lasted about 45 minutes and 104 steps to the top. It was by far the easiest 104 stairs ever climbed as there were 4 landings along the way and we stopped at each landing for a bit of history and explanation of the observatory. When we arrived at the top, the view was spectacular. If it would have been a clear day, we could have seen to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire over 70 miles away. It was well worth the $10 a person and very informative. Our particular grouped ranged from people from England and Ireland to North Carolina. There were of course the teenage boys who very much didn’t want to be there with their parents.
A side note. Since I am again writing this the day after, it is very difficult for me to not just rush through the day and get to dinner. So a bit of foreshadowing,
dinner was incredible.
After the observatory we continued down Congress Street, the main street in Portland, and our travels along the Freedom Trail. We walked by the obligatory cemetery filled with famous and not so famous Mainers and a few more stone marking posts. We then came to a corner and to our right was a lobster shack, so taken as a sign from the lobster gods, we decided it must be time for lunch.
3 Buoys Seafood Shanty & Grille
If you are on the Freedom Trail this is your place for lunch. If you are not, it is worth the trip for lunch or dinner. It is nothing fancy, looks to be a former gas station, a few tables inside and a few tables outside. It is decorated in typical beach side décor. The menu is extensive and has something for everyone. If you are a seafood lover you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for burgers, pulled pork or surf and turf, they have it all. It was trying very hard to rain, (ok it was barely misting but these east coaster are very much afraid of getting wet, I
guess they all might melt) but we sat outside anyway. Ordering was easy for me, what else but a lobster roll; I took a picture this time. Jerry again went non-seafood and had a pulled pork sandwich and onion rings. We got an order of fried pickles to stop. I had never had fried pickles, but they were pretty damn good. My only decision was whether to get a regular or large lobster roll; thankfully I went with the regular, large game on a hero and was more like a lobster sub.
When our lunches came both portions were large, I have never seen such a large pulled pork sandwich or order of onions rings. Everything tasted great and was well worth the price. Jerry even had a local beer and I had a hard cider. It wasn’t exactly the place to order a glass of Rose; quite sure they might not know what it is.
Back to the Trail
After lunch we continued down Congress Street stopped at a few more markers, but were really heading to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow house. Unfortunately, when we got there it was closed because of the holiday.
Jerry took some pictures and then we were on our way, a quick stop at the B of A ATM to get some cash before we continued down Congress headed for cocktail thirty. Yes, in a huge break from tradition, we did not have wine-thirty but instead headed for a gay bar we had seen on the trolley tour and stopped in for a cocktail, before heading back to the hotel and the rest of the Freedom Trail. Blackstone’s, the name of the bar, was nothing fancy but was inviting and the bartender friendly, we ordered a cocktail and had some conversation with the locals (most of which were older than us).
We didn’t stay long, even though there was a pool table which was calling my name. It had finally started to sprinkle a bit harder but nothing really serious, it wasn’t like we were actually going to get wet. From Blackstone’s we headed down state street past a monastery, several churches and large house in route to the next stop on the trial, we were back tracking since cocktail-thirty took us several blocks if not a mile off the trail. Fortunately we were
now in the downhill portion of our journey. Our route took us past the Victoria Mansion, I don’t really know who built it or lived there, it is a very large house that is not a museum. We continued on back toward the port and the last two stops on the trail. Both were on Exchange Street. This part of town is really the heart of the tourist section. There are numerous shops selling local goods, bars, restaurants, the Holy Donut (potato donuts) and the list goes on. We were now at the end of the trail and in route to the hotel. No trip is complete without a stop in the local kitchen store. We stopped in at La Roux Kitchen, standard kitchen store selling gadgets and local food provisions. There was nothing that I had to have, so temptation was low on this trip.
Jerry wanted to go back to Stonewall Kitchen to purchase a thank you gift for Maureen our neighbor who was checking in on Tarragon while we were away. That meant back tracking up the hill a bit and my feet were yelling “NO NO we have had enough.” As
is common in our travels Jerry continued on and I headed back to the room to rest my weary flat feet. Stonewall Kitchen is based in York Maine and produces specialty foods from local Maine products such as Blueberries. Dinner at Hugo’s
It was not around 6 pm and dinner was not until 9:15. I had some wine and finished and posted the first day’s blog and Jerry took a quick disco nap. I was looking forward to dinner, but also had some doubts given the experience of the night before. I would soon learn that my doubts were misplaced and I would not be disappointed.
This was on our list of must eats, and it should be on everyone’s list. It was by far one of the best meals we have had since Europe 2 years ago. Sorry Manhattan, but the plethora of mediocre and over priced restaurants have nothing on this place. It was a short two block walk from our hotel. It is located in a building that contains a series of three restaurants all owned by the same person. There is Hugo’s, a Raw Bar (drawing a blank on
the name) and the newest call The Honey Paws (a fusion of Asian and local seafood). They all share a kitchen; however Hugo’s primary kitchen is in their space. Most of the seating is at a bar looking at the kitchen, which is of course our favorite way to enjoy a dining experience. There are a handful of tables, but mainly for parties of 4.
We got a perfect spot at the chef’s bar right at the end and a perfect view of the entire operation, including the expeditor. The menu is designed entirely as a tasting menu. There are five dishes in three different categories, you can choose a category in its entirety or mix and match. The three categories are: Foraged & Farmed; From the Sea and Forest & Field (the vegetarian option.) We choose the mix and match. I could spend several pages describing this menu in extensive detail, but I will try to give you the highlights and of course pictures. In between most courses was a mini course, so in total we had at least 10 different courses, many of the mini courses I cannot remember but will do my best.
took our drink order, the first thing that came out was the sashimi fluke, very small bite but very wonderful. That was followed by apricot bear bread with scallion butter. The rest is as follows:
Jerry – Grilled Mustard Greens with prosciutto, rhubarb and rice crisp (not to mention 5 other ingredient’s that I will never remember)
Chris – Smoked Bluefish Salad with mustard emulsion, Napa cabbage (great and I hate cabbage but this worked) and crispy pretzel.
Jerry – Local Pork, with gruyere custard, tarragon powder and kohlrabi and again many more things that are beyond my memory.
Chris – Spring Onion, marinated in mayo (sounds awful but not) grilled bread crumb and crème fraiche
Jerry – Orecchiette Bolognese. Not your meat type but was off the veggie menu. Mascarpone, collard greens and fermented carrot puree.
Chris – North Atlantic Halibut with green strawberry and tofu and so many other flavors it was insane.
Jerry & Chris – Veal Choucroute Carnie. Veal three ways including belly, leg, and bratwurst. Done with onion
reduction, hash brown and celery.
My descriptions are underwhelming, because the food was so intense and beyond anything we have ever had, I just have no words. I can’t even begin to describe dessert, Jerry had strawberries three ways with many other items, I had something with asparagus ice cream, yes I said asparagus ice cream and it was to die for.
That is just the tip of the iceberg of items we had, there was also a sampling of cold asparagus soup with chive oil, a pre dessert I can’t even remember and at least two other things.
It was truly the most memorable meal we have had in ages. It put Five Fifty-five to shame.
That was pretty much the day, we walked home I had a bit of wine and we passed out. Tomorrow a day on an island and Sunday Brunch, and what a day it was, hint it has already happened as I write this entry.
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