Boston Restaurant Blog -- December, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For the past several years now, I have been going up to Southern Maine in early December to check out the holiday festivals in Kennebunkport and Ogunquit. This year was no exception, and the weather over the past weekend up there was about as good as I remember, with temperatures topping out in the 40s (and the rain holding off until Sunday, which was a travel day anyway). And as is the case each year, I got to try some restaurants in the area, including three that I had never been to. The results were mixed, with one spot being just ok, another being very good, and yet another being quite memorable, with one dish in particular being about the best meal I've had in 2010.
We arrived in Southern Maine late Friday afternoon, having dinner at an Irish dining spot and watering hole on Route 1 in Wells called Feile Restaurant and Pub. The restaurant is housed in a charming 18th-century structure that is cozy and intimate, with ceiling beams, wooden floors, low ceilings, and warm lighting. There are several separate sections to the place, including a quiet dining room to the left when you first walk in and a slightly more boisterous pub area to the right. We were seated in the dining room to the left (and in fact were the only ones there for much of our dinner) and perused the extensive beer menu, which included all kinds of European beers and local craft ales. Perhaps the best beers of the night were both from North Coast Brewing Company in California, with the Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout being rich and full flavored and the Pranqster Belgian Style Golden Ale tasting a lot like some of the best ales from Belgium. The food at Feile wasn't quite as impressive as the beers served there, as the chili was rather watery, being made up mostly of soupy ground beef (a few beans were found at the bottom), while the CBR flatbread (chicken, bacon, and ranch) was basically a salad placed on top of a piece of dough. The Caesar salad was pretty good, however, and the Alehouse Stack was quite tasty, with a juicy burger topped with pastrami, onions, mustard, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut, though it was so rich and filling that only about half of it could be eaten. Both the server and the owner of Feile were as nice as could be, and the prices were reasonable. This is a place I would definitely come back to for the atmosphere and the beer assortment, but perhaps not for dinner, especially with so many great spots nearby.
Saturday was a day of festivals, and we headed up to the Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport in the morning. Before leaving the area for the Christmas by the Sea Celebration in Ogunquit that afternoon, we went to the Sebago Brewing Company in Kennebunk for lunch. Now brewery restaurants aren't always good, and this one worried me a bit, as it resided along the edge of a bland-looking shopping center and the exterior of the restaurant itself looked a bit like one of the countless generic family-friendly chains you see all over the country. But looks can certainly be deceiving, as we soon discovered. Everything about the place, from the comfortable interior to the super-friendly (and knowledgeable) service to the better-than-average food to the outstanding beers made me realize that this is one spot I'll most likely be going back to whenever I'm in the area. First, the beers: The Slick Nick Winter Ale was one of the best winter ales that I have tried, with a terrific malty-caramel flavor and little in the way of bitterness. And the Runabout Red was similarly sweet with hints of caramel and malt flavors. The food at Sebago Brewing Company was satisfying, with the soft and salty pub pretzels going perfectly with the beers, while the black pastrami sandwich had loads of tasty lean meat along with cheese and roasted red peppers. The flatbread pizza, while not quite as good as, say, those from Flatbread Company in the Boston area, was nonetheless very good, with a slight char on the bottom from the wood-fired oven and sweet and bitter flavors from the tomato sauce complementing the greasy cheese quite nicely. Our server helped answer several questions we had about the beers available at Sebago, and I ended up buying a couple of 22-ounce bottles to bring home, as it doesn't seem as if Sebago beers are very easy to find around Boston.
After lunch, we spent some time at the Christmas by the Sea Celebration in Ogunquit, then enjoyed a sunset walk along the beautiful Marginal Way, a seaside path that leads from the center of Ogunquit to Perkins Cove. Then it was off to a combination restaurant/lounge/entertainment spot called Jonathan's for dinner. Jonathan's is located in what looks like an enormous home on a side street near the Ogunquit Playhouse (just south of the center of town). It is a rather romantic spot, with old wooden floors, candlelit tables, and gorgeous views of the outside grounds. A fireplace greets patrons by the entrance, and several rooms, including a cozy bar area, can be found throughout this sprawling structure. We were seated in a particularly nice section of the restaurant, toward the back of one of the rooms at a table by a window. We started our meal with drinks (wine and a manhattan) along with a spinach salad (which featured a nice mix of cranberries, candied pecans, fennel, and feta cheese) and a Caesar salad. Our meals were outstanding, with one in particular being over the top, namely the jaegar schnitzel. The breaded pork tenderloin was pounded flat and was so tender that it could be cut with a fork, while the mixture of mushrooms and demi-glace added a tremendous richness to the pork. The baked haddock was nearly as good, with a house-made stuffing that included shrimp, scallops, and butter crumbs, and a delicious sauce (beurre blanc) made up of butter, white wine, and vinegar. Service was professional and friendly throughout, and while the prices were a bit on the high side, in this case you definitely get what you pay for, and I would certainly be willing to pay the extra money for a meal like this again. The jaegar schnitzel really was quite amazing, competing with the bucatini carbonara from the Metropolis Cafe in Boston's South End as the best dish I've tried in 2010.
On Sunday morning, we had an excellent breakfast at Bintliff's in Ogunquit--including a hearty meat quiche with ham, sausage, and bacon, and a food coma-inducing creme brulee French toast--before heading home. I have written about Bintliff's in the past, so I won't bore you with details again, but it was indeed as good as ever, and marked a fitting end to a fun weekend of festivals in Southern Maine. I do hope to get back to the Ogunquit-Kennebnkport area either in the winter or spring, so you can probably expect another food post or two focusing on that area over the coming weeks and months.
Feile Regular said:
I have a summer place in Wells, and am a frequent visitor to Feile, and while you got it right about the atmosphere and the owners, I think you missed the boat with your food commentary. You didn't try any of their dinners, but recommend not going there for dinner. You should have tried the shrimp and grits or the salmon or any one of the dinner entrees. The Alehouse Stack must be new to the menu, but generally the burgers are fantastic and very cheap during happy hour. The CBR happens to be my favorite when I'm in the mood for something light. It is far more than a salad on dough, and I was in the pub last summer when Andrew came back from the chili-fest with the first prize trophy, the chili is much more than watery soup. I think you're way off base with this review.
Posted on 12/23/10
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