For my anniversary with Mrs. Portlandeater, I decided it would be nice to go out somewhere special. When my wife suggested Fore Street, I thought that was a great idea. I’d heard so much about the award-winning Portland institution – in 2002, Fore Street was #16 in Gourmet Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants of the U.S. and in 2004, chef-partner Sam Hayward was named Best Chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation. Seeing as I heard it was a pricey meal, it wasn’t someplace I planned on going just for a casual night out – even with all their accolades. This would be a perfect time to try it though.
Fore Street opened in 1996 and is known for their ever-changing menu based on what is fresh or in-season. They work hard to obtain local food and keep it as close to the source as possible. This means they have lots of Maine-grown, organic foods which come in and are cooked on the same day. It also means they don’t post a menu online except to note a couple items that are always on the menu. They may also run out of some items before you show up for your meal.
We arrived around 8:00 for an 8:30 reservation thinking we’d have a drink before being seated. However, as luck would have it, our table was ready right away. We were led to a seat right by the window which looked across a parking lot to the far end of Commercial St. It was probably the best seat in the house. I’m not bragging, but it was pretty posh. I was considering auctioning off the spot, but I decided against it, choosing instead to enjoy the view and secretly laughing at the suckers who had to sit in the middle of the restaurant.
Our menus were delivered immediately and we were poured water. My wife ordered a glass of wine and we had some time to review the options. The front of the menu displayed all the starters. There we’re a lot of them – various salads, seafood, and meat dishes. The back of the menu listed entrees and sides. There were more meats and seafood along with some vegetarian options.
With so many choices and it being my first time there, I was slow to make a decision. After considering salads and various seafood options, l picked the Wood Oven Roasted Mussels, a Bang’s Island specialty, for a starter. My wife went for the Nectarine and Marinated Cucumber Salad which breaks my Fundamental Food Rule #17 that a salad must never contain fruit unless it is a fruit salad. The main dishes looked great. I was leaning toward seafood, but because my app was seafood I finally settled on the Marinated Half Chicken. She ordered the Atlantic Summer Flounder Filet. We ordered two sides to share – Garlic Mashed Organic Maine Potatoes and Broccolini with Grilled Red Onion and Roasted Garlic Butter.
While waiting for our food, we had some time to take in the scenery. The place was packed on a Saturday, both at the bar and in the restaurant. The open kitchen had a see-through walk-in refrigerator which housed fresh food. The cooks were hard at work, working a wood-burning oven, grill, and turnspit with three or so chickens skewered onto it. The atmosphere was casually elegant. The lighting was on the darker side. The staff was jovial and attentive – we were delivered a significant amount of bread and my water was promptly filled each of the many times it was emptied by my dehydrated pie-hole.
The first items showed up in reasonable time. Both salad and mussels looked delicious and my dish smelled like the fruit of the gods. My pan was a giant serving of the delicious mollusks served in almond butter. My wife said her salad was divine. I really liked the fact that once I was done with the mussels, I had the opportunity to finish the almonds which were sitting in the delectable butter sauce. After finishing, we had a little time before our main courses arrived.
Main courses and sides were eventually delivered. By this time, it was actually pretty dark in the room, so I couldn’t see them, but they again smelled extraordinary. My chicken was local and organic. It was served with shallot, wilted greens, and duck fat fried sourdough. There wasn’t much in the way of sourdough or greens, but the sourdough was delish. I’m not a fan of cooked greens, but there weren’t many, so it wasn’t much of an issue. The chicken was tender, moist, and flavorful. As an aside, I think that would be a great band name. Announcer: “Now introducing…all the way from Portland, Maine…put your hands together for…Tender…Moist… and Flavorful!!!” *wild applause*
My wife’s flounder was also delicious. It was served with fairy ring mushrooms, beet greens, pistachio butter, and white wine sauce. The sides were superb. The broccolini and mashed potatoes – two of my favorites anyway – were cooked to perfection. The broccolini was left crunchy and colorful with a good garlic flavor. Adding to my theory that there can be too much garlic on breath but not on food, the potatoes had serious garlic taste and just the right amount of additional seasoning.
After finishing our magnificent rations, we were very full. The huge portion of mussels and the half chicken actually left me feeling like I ate an entire live chicken that was trying to work its way out of me. We passed on desert. We wanted to indulge, but it would have put us over the edge to the point that they would have to roll us out of the establishment.
There was no doubt the meal made us happy. I was thrilled with the portion size. It wasn’t a cheap night at $140 after tip for two people but the meal did include two apps, two entrees, two sides, and a drink. For a special night it was worth it. I’d recommend Fore Street for those times when you’re looking to impress. They’ll provide an excellent meal, but it would probably be too pricey for the average person to visit on a regular basis. Give it a shot and add it to your special occasion list. And make your reservations early because they get booked really quickly.
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