We were running out of time.
It was May of 2017 and we only had one more month together in Boston. Bryan had accepted an expat position for an exciting job opportunity to work in Hong Kong. We had only a month left to say good-by to all our friends, go eat at all the places we had always wanted to visit, and just enjoy all the best parts of Boston.
One outstanding promise that we'd made but hadn't fulfilled yet was a promise to go to Portland with one of our friends. He was downright SHOCKED when he found out we'd been to Portland multiple times, yet had never been to Fore Street.
It's understandable why he was surprised. Fore Street is probably THE best-known restaurant in Portland. Even though it's been open for over twenty years, the place is still always packed (reservations are a must, and definitely make them early) due to its extremely popularity.
Fore Street has received numerous accolades since opening over 20 years ago. Gourmet Magazine listed it in its Top Fifty Restaurants in the US twice (2001 and 2006). Chef-partner Sam Hayward won the James Beard award for Best Chef – Northeast in 2004. More recently, the James Beard Foundation nominated Fore Street for “Outstanding Restaurant” three times.
"I have to take you to Fore Street," he kept saying. "We must plan a trip together."
This went on for almost a year. I guess it's hard to coordinate schedules between a busy traveling executive and a restaurant owner.
So with only one month left, we made it a top priority to make this trip happen. It turned out to be a great 24-hour trip where we enjoyed TWO amazing lunches as well as an epic dinner at Fore Street.
It's not hype, my friends. It really is that good.
Fore Street specializes in wood-fired meats, seafood, and vegetables. The restaurant has a huge wood-burning oven and hearth right at the center of the restaurant. The menu is divided up into sections, which I have highlighted below. We tried ordering from each section, and I think we did an admirable job of touching most sections. It is a pretty big menu!
Roasted, Grilled, and Fried Seafood
Wood Grilled Marinated Atlantic Squid ($14) from Rhode Island came mixed with bacon and grilled asparagus, sorrel, preserved Meyer lemon and basil butter. I loved the wood-fire kissed flavors, and the texture of the squid was perfect. All in all, it was an incredible dish that was flawlessly executed.
Grilled and Roasted Meats
From the meats section, we opted for the Wood-oven Roasted Pork Belly ($15.50) which came topped with a chive blossom yogurt and served with herb-roasted new potatoes and roasted Swiss chard. The top was nice and crispy and the dish was overall very tasty. Admittedly the appetizer was a bit small to split among six people (we had trouble cutting that crispy top into so many sections!). I would advise ordering two if you have such a big party.
Wood-grilled Hudson Valley Moulard Foie Gras ($28.50) came with seared morel mushrooms, marinated kohlrabi, and poached rhubarb served with a red verjus and rhubarb reduction. The tart rhubarb and sauce nicely balanced out the richness and umami of the foie gras and the mushrooms.
We also very much enjoyed the Pan-Seared Chicken Livers ($15.50) (from Whitefield), which came with a sunny side up duck egg, fried cornbread croutons, saba, and toasted pistachio.
Wood Oven Roasted Seafood
There is a separate section of the menu dedicated to wood-oven fired seafood. We opted for the Whole Wild Atlantic Black Bass ($32) from Rhode Island. The whole fish was cooked with brown butter, wild ramp and preserved Meyer lemon.
This dish was AMAZING. It was simple yet so perfectly executed. The fish was tender but had that nice, crispy skin. The pan butter sauce was spectacular. The fish was definitely one of the table favorites.
Turnspit Roasted Meat
The Dry rubbed Natural Quebec Pork Loin is one of their signature dishes that is always on the menu. It comes with "Morse's sauerkraut" made using cabbage from Gracie's garden. It was juicy, succulent, and very satisfying.
Roasted Natural Half Chicken ($26) from Whitefield was marinated in a bourbon and honey flash brine.
Wood Grilled Meats
A perfectly cooked medium rare Marinated Angus Flank Steak ($32) arrived, served over a pile of roasted root vegetables and topped with a fragrant cipollino, celery and parsley leaf sauce. A shallot and horseradish jus completed the dish.
We also enjoyed a Windham Farm (from Maine) Lamb Leg Steak ($40) which came with a wild ramp puree, chive russet potato cake, and a creamy almond herb gremolata.
Vegetables to Share
It's always nice to have a few vegetable side dishes to go with all that roasted meat and seafood. The vegetables here come from area farms and vary according to the seasons. Here are the side that we ordered.
Fiddleheads are super seasonal in New England and typically show up around the spring/early summer. Fiddleheads with Coriander Citrus Salt ($10).
Garlic Mashed Aroostook Potatoes ($8)
Hard Roasted Spring Dug Parsnips came tossed with a spiced red wine gastrique.
By the time we got to dessert, we were really full. However, we decided to try just a few. The desserts in general are quite simple and classic. They are all made in-house using local and seasonal ingredients, such as Maine blueberries, local eggs, and New England butter.
All their ice creams and gelati are made in-house.
Creme Brulee was simple but very good.
We ended the meal with a few house made chocolates, including nut and chocolate butter brittle. The pastry team makes all these chocolates in-house as well, and you can actually buy a box of these chocolates separately for take-away if you want.
General Thoughts - Fore Street Portland Maine
It was a fantastic meal, and I'm glad we finally did it.
It's no surprise that Boston Globe restaurant critic Corbey Kummer and Boston Globe Food editor Sheryl Julian both proclaimed this to be their favorite restaurant in New England. I can totally see why.
The quality and execution of the food is top notch, and the prices are quite reasonable considering the quality. The ambiance is cozy, the food is great, and the overall experience is so perfectly New England. In some ways, it was almost more special that it was a bit rainy and cold outside. It made sitting indoors next to the wood fire all the more special.
Highly, highly recommended, especially for a nice romantic meal or a special celebration out.
Fore Street Portland Maine
288 Fore Street