Occasionally I consider going to Ribollita—an old Portland standby that still packs them in--but don’t very often because thinking about its cramped quarters nearly gives me fits of claustrophobia. Yet for others it’s the lure of rustic Italian fare—no New Age Italian here-- that is so appealing like hearty homemade pastas and gutsy entrees at moderate prices served in a cozy-café kind of ambiance.
When you find yourself deep in the heart of small town Maine, the chance of culinary intrigue invariably concedes to some family-style hash house with a disputatious Rachel Ray disciple sweating at the stove.
What more can be said about Portland’s revered Fore Street Restaurant that hasn’t already been an iteration of reverential praise time and again since it opened its doors in 1996?
If you had any lingering doubts about Maine being a mecca for fine dining and other gustatory pursuits, then all you needed to do was attend one or all of the events that took place last week at the fourth annual Harvest on the Harbor held at the Ocean Gateway pier — a celebration of Maine chefs, farmers, fisherman, and wine, beer and cheese purveyors.
I daresay goulash, schnitzel and dumplings? Homemade rye bread and liptauer cheese with cornichons and capers? Spaetzle and caramelized onions under melted Emmentaler or the bratwurst platter with all the fixings?
It doesn’t matter that it sits on a priceless piece of waterfront real estate that could be so much more than its anchorage of assorted kitsch and boundless bad taste. What can I say? Tourists love it like the Seven Wonders.
But who’s to say if the food is good or not since there’s so much on the menu it would take many trials to go through it all. Yet for those of us who reside and dine in Portland not to eat at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant would be a lost experience indeed.
In Maine we take diners for granted. Elsewhere, serious big city food snobs actually fawn over diner fare and its artery clogging fats.
Here, we value them by virtue of provenance—a reverence for the days when granny might have churned her butter or baked her beans generations ago in an old-fashioned kitchen, a reminiscence that goes a long way in fostering a diner’s reputation.