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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shell's Southwest Grill- Rockland, Maine

  The first thing you would think of for food when visiting Rockland, Maine is probably not Tex-Mex. You also would probably not count a food shack behind the police station in a parking lot at the public boat landing on the waterfront as one of your must eat destinations, but perhaps you should. Shell's Southwest Grill is a not to be missed food experience. A small food cart with lots of spicy attitude and food, its a place for those that are looking for something other then the usual seafood ( THAT'S ME !!).

  I found this place by looking at an old local flyer tacked to the wall at the train station. The add claimed it was home to the original pulled pork burrito ( I never knew there was a debate about this). I love pulled pork so I thought it sounded like a good place for lunch. The weather outside was rainy and dreary so I was looking forward to a real sit down restaurant affair. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I realized the Shells was basically a funky designed and painted shack with a few picnic tables placed on a lawn to eat at.

I already knew what I was going to try but Simone was unsure of her meal so we looked over the hand written menu for a few moments.  The ladies behind the counter ( I assume that one was Shell herself) highly recommended the 12 inch pulled pork burrito, a little spicy but wonderful they told me. I liked the sound of that and placed my order.   Simone looking up at the cloudy skies and feeling the chill decided to warm up with some black bean & beef chili. I also ordered some homemade limeade which reminded of how summer is supposed to be. My pork was quickly placed on the grill to heat along with the tortilla. Cheese was melted on top and then the whole thing was topped of with a mountain of fresh made cilantro coleslaw and wrapped up. The ladies sadistically chuckled, and let me know that I was going to need lots of napkins for this meal but it would be well worth it.  They also finished of Simone's Chili  with some cheese and scallions.  As the sprinkles came down, Simone and I had a seat at one of the picnic tables.

I hunched over with napkins in hand and took a large bite from my Burrito. While the ladies in the shack looked on , I proceeded to spill slaw and pork juice down my face. The ladies were correct- it was messy, but it was a delicious mess.

The pulled pork was juicy, tender and filled with a spicy and smokey heat from the rub. The slaw cooled the seasoning down just enough and the combo of the hot and cold just worked perfectly. This was so good that I had to find out what was on the pork so I asked. The response from the shack came quick. With another sarcastic and sadistic tone I was told that I would never know the rub, even if I guessed all day. The secret would die with Shell herself (even the other girl in the shed was not able to know- she could only cook and enjoy the mystery also). 

Simone's chili was also very good- It was received piping hot with a side of tortilla chips. It had great flavor with layers of smokey cumin, chili spices and Cilantro. It was thick, hearty and beefy and a great choice on such a cool damp day. I had no problam helping Simone finish it off.

Simone and I really liked this place. The location, the ladies, the funkiness and the food were all unique and I would urge you to take the time to find Shell's Southwest Grill and give it a try. It is truly some great Tex-Mex food in the heart of coastal southern Maine. (Just done ask about the pork rub)  4.5 stars for Shells.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Miss Portland Diner- Portland ME

Not that you probably care, but my favorite kind of food is diner food. Its menu is simple and reminds me of home. Its comforting and filling and has no words that I can't pronounce. It is, at its heart, food for people that just want something good to eat and a place to sit down and talk with friends over a cup of coffee. So is the case with the Miss Portland Diner located on Marginal Way in Portland.  Miss Portland is just what you imagine when you think of a Diner, it is one of the originals built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, that made a bunch of them back in the late forties and Fifties. They have added on to the back of the car to provide for more seating over the years but the rest of the car is the original classic.   

 We arrived on a rainy morning for a late breakfast and both seating areas were full.  We were seated within about ten minutes and were placed in the front booth area which was part of the original building so I loved it. Nostalgia aside, we looked over the menu. Nothing fancy here, just the basics.  I decided for my breakfast I would have my go to breakfast dish, Corned Beef Hash with scrambled eggs and a side of toasted Rye bread . Simone decided to go with French Toast and a side of Bacon.  While Simone sipped her coffee the kitchen cooked our meal. It only took about ten minutes and our food arrived.

My Hash was cooked perfectly, Homemade and nicely browned and crispy on the outside and still moist on the inside. It was different then some other hash I have had, as it had cabbage in it. This gave a great and unique flavor and also a little crunch and I loved every bite of it. This was definitely in the top 3 of my favorite hashes.  The eggs were not bad, but were also not exactly scrambled. They were basically poured on the grill and then chopped up and put on the plate. They also needed lots of salt and pepper. The Rye bread was buttery toasty goodness. Although I wish the portion had been a bit bigger ( I so wanted more hash) the meal was very good.

Simone's French Toast was also very good. Hand hipped in a cinnamon egg batter and griddled to perfection served with melted butter on top and a side of syrup (you have your choice of the fake or real stuff for a small added cost). The bacon was cooked perfectly crispy and Simone was happy ( this is hard to do as my wife is very picky and always tells me when the bacon is "jiggly"). Overall this was very good diner food for an average price in a great nostalgic atmosphere, but I do wish the portions had been a bit larger.  Miss Portland gets 3.5 stars.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Great Lost Bear- Portland ME

The Great Lost Bear on 540 Forest Avenue in Portland Maine will appeal to your senses. Your eyes will be captivated by the decor, your mind will be tested by the novel like size of the menu ( including a Bears load of local brews) and your taste buds will be tantalized by the all the deliciousness that they will experience. This is a place for foodies, families, hippies and college kids alike. Vegans, veg heads and meat eaters unite, I think anybody could find something they would enjoy on this menu.

The Great Lost Bear is located just minutes away from a number of schools and colleges in the Portland area, this helps to keep the place hopping at all hours.  Parking can be a bit troublesome but if you take the time to drive around a bit, a spot can usually be found in the small lot beside the building or along the street. Once inside you will probably get lost yourself ( apparently just like the Great Bear ). The rooms are a little dark and dimly lit, some may call this romantic, some with bad eye site may consider it a safety hazard. There are many side rooms with a larger dining room and bar area to sit at and if you are lucky you may even get to sit underneath a dead animal head on the wall.  After being seated, Simone and I ordered our drinks and got down to the task of looking through the extensive menu options. After much debate, we decided to start with some healthy sounding Teriyaki Grilled Mushrooms with house made Parmesan Peppercorn Dip, and the not so healthy Poutine with local Pineland Farms cheese curds that was being advertised on the specials board. 

The appetizers arrived and I was completely blown away by how delicious they were. Lets start with the Pountine ( which I have become an expert on over the years). This was better then any I have ever had. The fries were drowned in a rich gravy but somehow remained super crispy.  The cheese curds were sharp and fresh tasting in all their melted goodness. Most Poutines I've had, have been sprinkled with bland curds that have just been chunky and stringy with gravy poured over them. The Poutine from the Great Lost Bear is nothing like that. The cheese, the gravy and crispy fries cook and melt together after being baked in a casserole dish in the super hot oven. I think this was the biggest difference and it really works perfectly.I almost ordered a second helping. 

Not to be outdone by Poutine, the Mushrooms were equally as delectable. A simple sweet Teriyaki glaze combined with the flavors of the Char broiler grill to make these Mushroom morsels addictive. The Parmesan Peppercorn dressing was the best I have ever had. It was thick, cheesy and had just enough bite from the black peppercorns. The Teriyaki Mushrooms and Dressing worked perfectly together . Again, I almost had to order more.

After over filling on appetizers it was on to the meal. Simone ordered an appetizer side of the Specka Spanikopita, a Greek pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese and seasonings. It was baked to a flaky golden brown crust and came out of the kitchen piping hot. I found it to be a little bland and needed some salt but Simone enjoyed and finished it completely. 

For my entree I deiced to have the Thai Peanut Chicken Sandwich with a side of Red Beans and Rice.  The chicken was grilled perfectly- moist and tender.  The peanut sauce was good, not overly spicy but plenty of flavor.  Much like the soanikopita, The red beans and rice were not as flavorful as I was expecting but a little dash of salt fixed that. Both the entrees were good but not as tasty as our appetizers and both of us agreed that we could have just kept eating the apps all night and skipped the actual meals.

Somehow we managed to find space for dessert. Although we debated having the Carrot Cake special we ultimately decided upon the Snickers chocolate pie. This was a great choice. The crust was perfect. Flaky and tender. The filling was a semi solid fudgey, deep, dark, milky, chocolate lovers wet dream. And the whipped cream and caramel sauce was the perfect way to top it all off.

The Great Lost Bear was as good as I hoped. The appetizers were the best I have ever had, The entrees although not as tasty as the appetizers were still good, and the dessert ( which the waitress told me wins awards) was a perfect rich and filling end to the night. I will definitely be back , especially for that Poutine. 4.5 stars for the Great Lost Bear.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bombay-Mahal- Brunswick, Maine

So a few days ago Simone and I headed out for a weekend on the coast, and of course while on the coast we had to sample some of the fine cuisine that makes Maines coastal towns famous, Indian Food ! (Did you really think I was going to say Lobster ?).  We found a great place on Main Street in Brunswick. Bombay- Mahal is a no frills tasty Indian Eatery.

Simone and I visited late on a Friday night and had the place almost all to ourselves. When we arrived we were seated right away and the waiter asked us if we were familiar with Indian food. I let him know we were and then he told us about the evening specials. He was very happy to tell us that the eggplant was a house specialty. Now I'm almost as excited about eggplant as I am about seafood, so I respectively declined the eggplant dish. This was probably a bad idea because for the rest of the evening my waiter was almost somber in his mood. He went about serving us but was not real quick to smile or ask how our meal was or even if we wanted dessert.  However, my meal was delicious and possibly the best Indian food I have ever had.

                                                                                                                                                          Simone and I started out with the Bombay Appetizer Sampler. The platter had something for everyone- a Keema Samosa, which is ground lamb, shredded potato and green peas folded over in puff pastry and baked. This was very good and not to spicy.  Pappadam was a baked very thin craker which tasted like a Saltine but was good with condiments. Rikki Tikki Tavi was a fried round pastry pocket stuffed with spiced vegetables, this looked like it was over cooked but tasted better then it looked. The last (and I thought the best part of the platter) was the Chicken Pakoras with big chunks of Indian spiced chicken breaded with Chick Pea flour and deep fried. A nice ethnic twist on a chicken nugget. The platter came with  a very spicy fresh made mango chutney.  Simone enjoyed it but I, but I found it overpowering. It also came with a nice cooling yogurt Raita which was excellent, and a sweet tamarind sauce that was equally as good.

For our next course, Simone and I had the Peshwari Nan Bread. Nan Bread is an unleavened white flour bread that is similar to pita bread. This variety came stuffed with potatoes,pistachios and almonds and was drizzled with butter. It was heavenly, sweet, savory and sinful.

Simone and I finally made our way to the entree portion of our meal and decided to order the Moghalai Chicken with Briyani Rice. This is a dish consisting of boneless marinated chicken pieces sauteed in a creamy, silky, rich and smooth yogurt tomato and butter sauce then topped with almonds. This sauce was so good I could have just drank it.  I don't ever want to know how much butter went into it , but it was well worth the early heart condition that I will probably develop if I keep eating food like this.

Not that my heartbroken waiter actually asked us ,but Simone and I did not order any dessert as we were way to filled up on all the buttery goodness of our meal. I think if we are in town again we will look to return to Bombay-Mahal. The food was absolutely a 4.5- the service a 3. Overall... I give this Brunswick Indian eatery a happy 4 stars.