A few days short of a year ago, we went to Portland for a day and caught the tail end of beer week. We weren't really planning it that way, it was by chance that my parents were in town for work and we decided to drive over to pick them up from the airport and have dinner with them. The year before that, we drove to Wells Beach to let the dog run around and find a cheap lobster roll after Labor Day. It seemed like a nice tradition to start: Maine in a day in the shoulder season.
We got in the car before dark and drove straight to Wells Beach again, no stops. We got there around 9am with the most beautiful morning light for pictures and for a nice long walk to stretch our legs. It was freezing! But it was worth it. I love getting to watch Ella run all over the beach, chasing waves and then running scared away from them. As much as she hates water, she really loves being around it! She loved the canoe, loves boat rides, and prefers to stand on shore and bark at dogs and other things that are in the water while she stays dry on land. Even just getting her paws wet was enough to have her rolling around the back seat of the car like a seal.
Fully frozen and ready for something to eat, we headed towards Portland with one thing in mind: doughnuts.
The Holy Donut has become something that I dream about. Other doughnuts just don't do it for me. I do love a good cider doughnut this time of year, but these are just so dense and moist. The flavors are also amazing. I really wanted to get the Allen's Coffee Brandy, but sadly they were out by the time we got there. I settled for Coffee Cake of the doughnut variety and was not disappointed.
We walked around Portland a bit doing some window shopping and killing time before it was a reasonable hour to go find a lobster roll. We didn't branch out too much from last year's trip and found some lunch at 3 Buoy's while we waited for Oxbow to open just around the corner. This year we were ahead of Portland Beer Week (which is going on right now!) and didn't get a chance to try some of the beers Oxbow was releasing, but all of the beers that we did have were delicious (and not pictured here this year). I think Oxbow is on the forefront of some really cool beer trends. They have been brewing, and bottling, and blending things, like sours, that are just now becoming popular for mainstream craft beer drinkers. I held on to their Oxtoberfest, a smoked farmhouse ale that had been blended on 12/13/14, for a year in our beer cellar and just cracked it open last week. We also made a visit to Liquid Riot for a couple of 4 ouncers. I was tempted to try some of the spirits they are distilling, but stuck to the beer. The 4 ounce pours are an awesome option for getting to taste a few beers without it going to your head.
After taking our time at Liquid Riot, we met up with some friends who were also visiting for the day at FoulMouthed Brewing. We were sticking to mostly sours and farmhouse ales in the early part of the day, where things got hoppy with the lemonless lemonade IPA, which gets its citrusy flavors from hops.
Our last brewery stop for the day was a place that draws a pretty serious crowd on a Saturday afternoon in Portland. Bissell Brothers is dog friendly, so it's obviously worth the trip because even if the line is long, you can pet doggies while you wait for your delicious beer. Ella did not make an appearance in the brewery, she was still sleepy from her morning romp around the beach.
With a serious commitment to not spend a boat load of money and take beer home, we passed on the can sale that was happening and grabbed a beer to have outside. Nothing Gold, a double IPA, is unfiltered (clearly) and at 8.2% alcohol is something that you probably shouldn't drink a 10 ounce pour of if you have already been tasting beers all day and plan on driving because you're visiting Maine in a day, remember? I wasn't driving, so I was all set.
For our last non-beer-centered stop of the day to fill our bellies (to the brim), we grabbed dinner at Bao Bao dumpling house on the way out of town. So listen, for us country folk who don't get to the city often, finding a good dumpling place is like striking gold. You might not get dumplings again for like, 6 months to a year, you know?! City people just will not understand because you have all of the dumplings at your disposal all of the time.
I thought we were sticking to dumplings, but my husband went rogue right off the bat and ordered an appetizer. I did the same. The Asian Slaw was a great starter for the dumplings, but even better were the smashed cucumbers! It was a bit of an impulse order, but I'm glad I did it. They were smashed and then dressed with a sesame oil/herb mixture. I already know I'm going to have to recreate it and wished that I would have had the idea with all my garden cucumbers this summer.
I ordered the pork and mushroom dumplings (steamed) and he ordered the cashew chicken dumplings (pan fried). Both were a great choice! My only regret was not ordering more. But realistically, it was plenty of food.
We waddled back to our car for the trip home, feeling grateful that these New England states are as small as they are! I love Portland, it's by far one of my favorite cities I've visited. The food is unbeatable, the people watching is something else, and the beer is fantastic. I can't wait to go back already.