Summer grubbin’

While we’re roughly three weeks away from official summer, it’s probably safe to say Mainers are welcoming the rising temperatures with open arms after a relentlessly snowy winter. Warmer weather brings slews of tourists, a new harvest of ingredients, and of course fewer obstacles from Mother Nature which allows construction of new bars and restaurants to go more smoothly.

Lunchtime lull at Lolita

During the week, I work down on Commercial Street which is a blessing to have my pick of the culinary litter in the heart of the Old Port. I tend to rotate through Walter’s, Blue Rooster, Paciarino, occasionally Miyake and Central Provisions. I was asked to diverge from my one-block radius and head over to Munjoy Hill to give Lolita’s lunch service a whirl. I very much enjoyed my experience, but unless you work in the East End, I personally didn’t see it an ideal option for an hour break. That mostly had to do with me losing a few minutes getting to/from there, even with a car. The weather was certainly nice enough to walk, but again, not entirely realistic under the time crunch. Both the kitchen and bartender were efficient in their preparations, so it was not related to service. It’s just not quite the vibe that I get for a place like Lolita. I would much rather order a couple of plates and nurse my mocktail. Savor the scene and lose track of time, not inhale my food and bounce. My meal was very satisfying and also very spicy from start to finish. The cayenne-ginger mocktail, a couple of rogue shishito peppers in the mix, and the yogurt with a kick all gave my upper lip a Bikram-worthy workout. I was crestfallen when I had to jet out of there while the prospect of dessert was being pitched to me. I would return in a heartbeat to hang out midday on a weekend. Lolita is open daily (except Tuesdays) from 11a-11p. Owners Guy & Stella Hernandez are also celebrating their opening anniversary on June 1st, a fun opportunity to check them out if you haven’t done so already or perhaps as an overdue revisit.

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Lunch specials rotate daily, but remain at a cool $10 pricepoint

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Speck, arugula, tomato aioli on sourdough with side of shishito peppers

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Radicchio, duckfat-roasted potatoes, spiced yogurt

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Temperance (alcohol-free) drink: lemon juice, ginger juice, cayenne, ground turmeric, Urban Moonshine bitters

Staple ‘junk’ food: burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream

I’m simply at a loss for words regarding these three items. I hope pictures will suffice.

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The “Palais Royale” double-cheeseburger at Palace Dinner in Biddeford

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Bacon-wrapped dog with house hot sauce, avocado, scallion, garlic aioli at Dutch’s

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Khulfi (sweetened condensed milk, cardamom, pistachio, saffron) from Mt. Desert Ice Cream

Food truck season

Not that cold weather ever deterred the loyal lunch crowds for El Corazon, but with more plentiful sunshine, both new and old food trucks are emerging from the garages.

  • Cannoli Joe’s made its debut at this year’s Street Eats & Beats.
  • Fishin’ Ships has come out of hibernation and CN Shawarma has returned to the peninsula after a season at Sugarloaf.
  • My truck girlfriend Rosie is currently M.I.A.
  • I saw PB&ME post something recently, I went to track them down, and inadvertently crashed a ticketed event…behold the power of social media!
  • Austin Miller is aiming to launch his Japanese food truck Mami within the next month.
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Fish tacos with cilantro, mango-poblano salsa, spicy aioli from Fishin’ Ships

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El Corazon, newcomer Cannoli Joe’s, and The Muthah Truckah parked along Spring Street

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One of CN Shawarma’s treats: Lebanese yogurt, honey, cherries, cinnamon-sugar pita

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Cannoli Joe’s Sicilian and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel varieties (out of his array of 39 rotating flavors)

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Fried peanut butter & jelly with coconut creme fraiche from PB&ME

Vinland hosting more pop-ups

Back in March, I had the pleasure of dining at Vinland where their former sous chef, Ryan Quigley, returned to the kitchen to present his own vision of cooking. Chef-owner David Levi told me he had other guest chefs peppered throughout spring and summer on Tuesday evenings. I received an invitation from the current chef de partie, Chris Newton, for his “Cabbage Head” event. His menu was inspired by Eastern European/Jewish cuisine and like David, also seems very committed to sustainable local sourcing of ingredients.

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Salad (micro-arugula, begonias, violets) with ramp dressing

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Beet borscht with fresh dill & sour cream

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Potato-tarragon-chive latke with beet purée

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Honey-lavender ice cream with candied violets

First imPRESSions at Union

Incidentally, one of the Vinland servers whom I had just seen the night before also splits his time here, so it was cool to have a familiar face to guide me through uncharted territory. Beautiful restaurant and common areas of the hotel (hopefully someday I’ll make it to the roof!). An elegant blend of the Press Herald history with modern design. Pasta dish was a standout, perfectly al dente and the dehydrated olives were explosive on the palate. Dessert was so incredible that I almost re-ordered it, but I exercised restraint…for once.

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Seared tuna, puffed rice, ponzu glaze, scallion, teardrop peppers

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Pappardelle pasta with ricotta, prosciutto powder, kale pesto, dehydrated olives, lemon zest

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Pôt de crème with chantilly cream & Himalayan salt, espresso madeleine, ‘Whoopie Pie’ macaron

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~ NOMaste

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