When Sam Hayward opened Fore Street restaurant in Portland almost 20 years ago, he helped put the city’s food scene on the map. In the years since, he’s won a James Beard Award and has been a force in growing the city into a hub for innovative restaurants taking advantage of Maine’s fresh-caught seafood and local dairy and produce. In a city surrounded by beaches and not far from the woods, there’s also plenty of opportunity to bring some of that delicious food out into nature. We asked Sam for his tips on where to pack a picnic basket, the places to take it, and what to do in between outdoor adventures.
Recipe: On Moveable Feast (Season 2, Episode 6) Sam created Beer-Steamed Mussels.
He stresses the importance of restraint when cooking with mussels: “Keep it simple to let them sing.”
“I always tell people to go to East Ender. It’s a neighborhood place run by two guys who used to operate a food truck. They do classic dishes with a twist—local ingredients and very well prepared. It’s on a part of Middle Maine Street that’s become a restaurant row of sorts. Hugo’s is also down there. It’s one of the original fine-dining local-food places in town. It changed hands a couple of years ago, and the new owners also opened Eventide Oyster Co. next door, which is a more casual place that does really interesting things with seafood beyond just oysters.
“One of our newer restaurants is Central Provisions, which does small plates. They’re also big on using local ingredients. I like their salads and caramelized goat cheese.”
“If you want the real, rustic lobster roll experience, go over to Cape Elizabeth, just south of the city, to The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. They do a great New England lobster roll (and you can eat outside at a picnic table if you want).”
Where to eat
“We’ve got some really terrific bakeries in Portland, where you can go pick up lunch to take on a picnic or get some nice bread to take home. Standard Baking Co. makes the bread I use in my restaurants. (Full disclosure: It’s owned by my partners.) I think their miche is fantastic. Scratch Baking Co. also does nice breads, pastries, and sandwiches. Both are using a lot of grains grown in Maine.
“Something that’s fun to experience is Harbor Fish Market in the Old Port. It’s got that bustling feel, with fish coming in right off the boat, and they can pack stuff for travel or ship it if you’ve got a long trip home. There’s also Browne Trading Company, which supplies fish to high-end restaurants in New York City and Boston, but they have a retail operation that also sells great wines, smoked fish, and caviar.”
Where to shop
Where to play
“Cape Elizabeth is a beautiful place to go walk on the beach or climb around on the rocks with the waves crashing below. I also love to go up to the North Maine Woods, a few hours out of the city. It’s one of the most scenic parts of the state, with the best fishing and hiking.”
“The Old Port is a bit of a touristy area, but it’s also still a working port, with some of that gritty feel left. It’s got all of these great old buildings, and some of the streets are cobblestone. There are lots of cute little shops. You can’t really come to town and not see it.
“The Portland Observatory is also worth a visit. Before there was radar, people would go up to the top of the tower, at the top of the hill, to see ships coming in and signal to them. You get 360-degree views of the city, with the cove, the Gulf of Maine, and the Fore River.”
Where to stay
“The Old Port Hyatt Regency is a pretty new hotel. You can’t beat the location, right there in Old Port, and it’s got a contemporary, swanky feel. It’s a very modern building, but it actually works really well in the neighborhood.
“The Danforth Inn is more of a luxury boutique hotel. It’s been around for almost 200 years as a B&B, but it was sold a few years ago, and the new owners put in these very high-end, European-style touches. They’re going to open one of the city’s first fine-dining Southeast Asian restaurants on the property, too.”
• East Ender eastenderportland.com 47 Middle St. 207-879-7669207-879-7669
• Hugo’s hugos.net 88 Middle St. 207-774-8538207-774-8538
• Eventide Oyster Co. eventideoysterco.com 86 Middle St. 207-774-8538207-774-8538
• Central Provisions central-provisions.com 414 Fore St. 207-805-1085207-805-1085
• The Lobster Shack at Two Lights lobstershacktwolights.com 225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth 207-799-1677207-799-1677
• Standard Baking Co. standardbakingco.com 75 Commercial St. 207-773-2112207-773-2112
• Scratch Baking Co. scratchbakingco.com 416 Preble St., South Portland 207-799-0668207-799-0668
• Harbor Fish Market harborfish.com 9 Custom House Wharf 207-775-0251207-775-0251
• Browne Trading Company brownetrading.com 260 Commercial St. 207-766-2402207-766-2402
• Cape Elizabeth capeelizabeth.com
• North Maine Woods northmainewoods.org
• Old Port portlandmaine.com
• Portland Observatory portlandlandmarks.org/observatory 138 Congress St. 207-774-5561207-774-5561
• Old Port Hyatt Regency portlandoldport.place.hyatt.com 433 Fore St. 207-775-1000207-775-1000
• The Danforth Inn danforthinn.com 163 Danforth St. 207-879-8755207-879-8755
Find out when Moveable Feast is showing in your area at: FineCooking.tv/schedule.