Brunch Run – Slab

Finally!  A real, honest to goodness breakfast run!

Austin Marathon is two weeks away!  We woke up early and tried to decide if we should try to squeeze in one more long run (Good Table and back would be about 22 or so), or start our tapers as our training plans are telling us to do (a 10 mile loop could put us pretty much anywhere in Portland).

I think the long run would have been good for us psychologically but physically cutting it a bit close with time to recover for the marathon.  At least that’s what I convinced my lazy self made sense.

So, we woke up and debated about that for a while then went back to sleep and woke up again and struggled some more with the decision.  We finally figured out a loop that would give us about 8 miles before we ended up in town.  (One of my favorites; Back Cove to Eastern Prom Trail to Fore St. to Danforth St. to Pine St. to Congress, etc.)  Still we hadn’t decided on a place until after we crested the hill by Western Cemetery.  Maybe, subconsciously, we wanted to see if we would make it before we got excited about breakfast.

Since we got a much later start than usual, we had a lot more options as far as what was open.  We were on the fence between Slab and Isa and happily ended up at Slab.  (Not to imply that Isa’s not good – we haven’t been there yet, and I think it would have been more lunch than brunch.  Soon, we’ll get there.)

I think it was probably around 11:30 or so when we got there and were able to get right in and sit at a nice quiet four-top by the window.  We had a nice view of the little square there.
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I think their patio must be great in the summer and fall, but it was empty today.  I had a good view of one of my favorite fabric stores in town, Z-Fabrics, but was really just focused on food and drink right then.
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(Or maybe nothing, I look pretty spaced out.)  The decor is simple and clean but not too Spartan.  Looking up we could see remnants of the old Portland Public Market and missed our visits there long ago.  We wondered if it would have been more likely to survive in today’s foodie world.
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We both started off with mimosas.  It was one (okay two) of the best I’ve had in Portland.  I will drink just about any mimosa, but I am pretty picky when it comes to judging one.  I like it to be mostly prosecco/champagne with just a splash of juice.  These fit the bill nicely and were also quite a generous pour – and only $4.

The menu was a glorious carb-lover’s dream (although they did have plenty of bread/gluten free options).  It pained me to have to just pick one thing.  The “chit-chat” (some kind of fried dough), blueberry cornbread (anything but ordinary cornbread), and pull-apart bread box jumped out at me immediately.  The scrambled egg sandwich cone (beer-batter deep fried Luna wedge?!!!!) and “eggs in hell” were also calling my name.  Oh how I agonized!  In the end, I decided to give in to the Katie I know, and go with the highest carb dish.  I mean why waste any calories on veggies or protein?  I got the pull-apart bread box.  The only regret I have is that I couldn’t eat the whole thing – no matter how slowly we ate and how long we lingered.

The bread was called poppy seed schiacciata.  The closest thing I know of to what it was is a giant, light, tender fougasse.  If you’ve had the luna bread from Slab or Micucci’s, you’ll understand how light and fluffy this was.  It also had a nice touch of olive oil like you might expect in focaccia.
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It came with all kinds of wonderful things to dip it in.  My dream meal!  My favorite was to dip it in olive oil then the pistachio dugga (chopped pistachios, sesame seeds, salt, and other delicious spices).
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My second favorite was the sugo di pepperoni – a perfectly spicy tomato sauce.  It also came with warm honey and artichoke ricotta – both also good.  If we hadn’t been running, I would have brought every single sauce home to savor with other (of course, substandard) bread all week long.
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That’s the sugo di pepperoni on the right, artichoke ricotta on the bottom, and honey on the top.  I wouldn’t be sad if they replaced this normal honey with Mike’s Hot Honey.  (And I don’t mean me.  LOL.)

Mike had the “hangover wedge” which was also amazing.  Think their classic Sicilian Slab with it’s wonderful crust topped with perfectly crispy pepperoni and all kinds of wonderful other stuff.  We were scheming on how to duplicate the bacon roast onion at home.  He also got the slab scramble (one of your gluten free options).  The eggs were made wonderfully fluffy with sour cream and the pepperoncini were a really creative addition (but not spicy enough for me), but, for me, they just didn’t stack up to the more carb-y options.
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All in all, it was a wonderful experience.  We lingered.  We read the Portland Phoenix.  We agonized over our children’s lack of desire to drive (we would have called for a ride in a heartbeat).  Our waitress was great- checking in as soon as our mimosas got low but not rushing us at all.

I love Slab as a lunch/dinner place, and it seems like restaurants like that often do breakfast/brunch as an afterthought, but definitely not so with Slab.  It’s unusual for me, but I think I actually prefer their brunch menu.  (But definitely don’t skip it if you’re not here on a Sunday.  Go!  And, if nothing else, get the classic namesake Sicilian Slab.)

They serve brunch until 8:00 tonight.  Would it be weird to go twice in one day?

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Lil’s Cafe, January, and Other Random Stuff

We haven’t done a breakfast run in a while.  It seems like we’re still recovering from the holidays, financially, and mostly – organizationally.

By New Year’s Day, I’m usually gung-ho to put away all the Christmas stuff, clean up my diet, and plunge back into a routine.  I was there this year, too. For my book club this month, we read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  I went a little nuts applying that to my bedroom; got rid of a ton of clothes, cleaned out years worth of junk from my nightstand drawers, and applied the recommended clothing storage methods.  Diet-wise, I made some healthy bread and bagels, bought some almond butter, and vowed to eat more fruits and veggies.  With a marathon on the horizon, I planned to not going to miss a. single. day. of running.

All of a sudden though, the cold and dinginess of January just sapped my enthusiasm.  I’m not used to the folding method recommended by Marie Kondo, so it’s become too hard to put clothes away.  My bedroom is now worse than ever.  I did eat a banana and some cucumbers and tomatoes this week, so that’s something, but not the pristine diet I had in mind on New Year’s Day.  I missed a long run on Sunday partly because we couldn’t organize transportation for the kids who didn’t end up needed to be transported after all, and if I’m honest, partly a lot because I didn’t want to face the cold and the 20mph winds that day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy or depressed.  I’m just feeling like I can’t don’t want to do anything but the bare minimum; run, work, eat, curl up under a blanket and watch TV.  I’ll crawl out sometime in May.

Actually, we had a 40+ degree yesterday!  I can already feel my attitude changing.  One of the things that makes me really grumpy is running on ice and slush and frozen chunks of snow.  It’s even worse when it starts to soften a bit – like running on sand – not the hard-packed stuff near the water, but the other stuff that makes you awkwardly slide all over the place.  We went for a run last night, and the messy trail I had struggled to run on just 48 hours earlier was almost completely clear.  I do worry about global warming, but I’m so excited that the temps are forecast to be above freezing for the next week or so.  It’s going to make running (and even just walking out of my house) so much easier when this mess melts.download

 

The conditions of the streets and trails bother me so much more than the cold, but it’s amazing how much better it felt to run yesterday minus a few layers.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like the little brother in A Christmas Story.

I’m sorry if you were just looking for info on Lil’s and had to read through all this complaining to get this far.

After our lovely visit to Popovers on The Square in Portsmouth, we decided to go back to the French bakery to pick up a baguette to have with lunch or dinner later that day.  We had gone there the night before and split a macaron for dessert.  We did go back.  It was dark and barely looked open.  The romance and French accents (imagined by us?  faked by them?) of the night before were gone.  Worst of all, no baguettes.  What kind of French bakery has no baguettes?!

Problem quickly solved, however, when we remembered that Lil’s was just over the border in Kittery.  I was getting hungry again by then anyway and was hoping to sneak in one of their yummy crullers for the ride home.  We’d been there back in October after doing a little shopping at the outlet malls.  The Lil’s side of Kittery is totally different from the shopping side of Kittery.  Definitely worth a little (quick) detour.

Here was our spread from the first visit:
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Coffee, traditional sour cream coffee cake, cruller with Butterfinger topping, and almond croissant.  It was all pretty rich and filling.  That day we got a baguette with some butter to eat on the way home.

This time, we didn’t stay, but I snapped a few shots while we got our baguette.


There are so many other things there that I’d like to try that I feel like I can’t really do a real review before I visit a few more times.  I’m guessing they make a mean breakfast sandwich (oh, just looked at the menu and saw that you can get one with candied bacon.  I feel like I need to go back.  NOW.), and it looks like they have some really good lunch offerings as well.


The place has a cool vibe with exposed brick, flour sacks on the ceiling, and a Vinyl Vault!

And I did get my cruller!
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That’s the only thing I can honestly vouch for.  Recommendations:  Get one!

But . . . come with an empty stomach.  The egg-y interior of a cruller can make it seem deceptively light.  The crooks and crevices on the outside are perfect pockets for glaze and the oil from frying.  So delicious and so rich.  I could only eat half at a time.  Also, don’t bother with the ones with other toppings – that’s just over the top rich and takes away from the cruller’s perfect, straightforward simplicity.

Popovers (on the Square)!

Popovers have always held a special place in my heart.  We’ve had them for breakfast on pretty much every Christmas morning for the past ten years or so.

Here’s Mike making them this year . . .
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And my brother making them last year . . .
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(Funny that they both have the same expression and cooking stance.)

And my dad making them back in 2008 (he’s made them lots of other times, too). . .
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And Frank enjoying them back then . . .
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They are a glorious vehicle for lots of butter and jam.  They have to be hot though, to melt the butter.

We’ve made them so many times that I know they’re on page 42 of the red Betty Crocker cookbook.  My version of it anyway.

As many times as I’ve had popovers, I’ve never had them in a restaurant, so when we were in Portsmouth last weekend, we made sure to visit Popovers on the Square.  I’d been there before but didn’t notice whether they had popovers or not, so we walked by and looked at the menu the night before to make sure.

I still like our homemade ones much better, but the ones at Popovers on the Square were big and fluffy and still delicious.  They came with maple butter which was soft and creamy and sweet.  I’ll have to add that to our menu for next Christmas.

I was worried the restaurant would be packed on a Saturday morning, so we got there right when they opened, but there were actually just a few people in there.  I was excited to see that, even though you order at the counter and don’t have traditional wait service, they still had mimosas.

We enjoyed a nice view of downtown while we ate.

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They had a lot of other delicious looking baked goods, but we just stuck with the popovers.  One each was plenty for a light breakfast.

While we both really liked the place and had fun trying our first non-homemade popovers, if you only have one day to eat breakfast in Portsmouth, I would definitely try out The Friendly Toast or Colby’s instead.

As far as popovers, it seems like Jordan Pond House is the quintessential place to get them.  Even though we live in Maine, we’ve never been (that we really remember anyway).  We plan to remedy that, with a breakfast run, as soon as they reopen in the spring.

Race Review – Hangover Classic

Great name for a race, huh?  This one is becoming a tradition for us.  It’s a New Year’s Day race which seems like the perfect way to kick off the year.  We discovered it last year when we were looking for a 10K on that day.  It was going to be Mike’s first one.  There were a lot of 5K’s in the area but only a few 10K’s;  this Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA and one in Lowell.  I’m not sure how we decided on the Hangover Classic whether it was the name, the free beer, or that it’s a bit shorter drive.  In any case, we had a great time in 2015 and decided to repeat this year.

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This was 2015, we didn’t take any pictures this year.

 

The race starts around 11:30, so we had plenty of time to get to Salisbury from Portland and were even able to sleep in a bit after seeing in the New Year the night before.  We had a glass or two of champagne but didn’t party too hard, so for us the race was Hangover Classic in name only.

There is also a 5K option which had more runners.  There’s also the option to do a quick plunge in the ocean from the expansive (and wintertime-empty) Salisbury Beach (there were a few crazy surfers out).  Mike and I didn’t go for that option, but it was interesting to watch the people who did.

The course is super flat, so it’s great for a PR.  Mike and I both managed to hit one this year.  In spite of that, I still came in 5th for my age group which is that same as last year.  I wanted some “hardware” even if just age group hardware.  They do give out nice glasses to the top 40 male and female finishers.  I was able to snag a glass, so that was cool.
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There’s a great after party at The Carousel Lounge with free beer and pizza and wall to wall people.  It seemed like everyone there knew everyone else which gave it a great vibe although we didn’t know a single soul.

My favorite part of the race was when I passed a guy about 0.1 miles from the finish, and he shouted out encouraging words to me.  I always wish I would think to do things like that in a race.

We enjoyed our post race, post PR high and after consuming our free beer and pizza made our way to Portsmouth, NH where we had booked a hotel for the night and had a great time restaurant hopping for both dinner and breakfast the next day.  More on that another day.

Hangover Classic Race Summary

Best Parts:

  • New Year’s Day Race!
  • Flat course
  • Great party atmosphere; before, during, and after
  • Cool glass for top 40 finishers (each male and female)
  • Cool long-sleeved cotton T (although both years, we signed up too late to get one, we did get a free pair of gloves)

Complaints

  • Slow start – it’s a big race.  Both races start at the same time at the same place.  Not that it ever really works, but runners were not encouraged to line up by time, so the start was clogged with walkers and runners who insisted on not only starting at the front but staying abreast of one another and really clogging up the first quarter of a mile or so.  I know I’m being a total running snob even bringing this up, and it probably added less then 15 seconds to my time, but it was annoying at the time.

Year in Review

It seems like it’s getting a little past the time to write a “Year in Review” post.  Only ten days into the new year and it feels like I’m already back into a nice routine.  The fun and craziness of the  holidays seems like a long time ago already.

We had one more thing to celebrate on Friday with our oldest son, Joe’s 20th (TWENTIETH!!!!!!) birthday.  Something about that number is making me feel really old.  We had a nice dinner at Otto’s on Munjoy Hill.  I love a good slice from Otto’s on Congress and definitely won’t say no to takeout, but having it fresh from the oven was glorious.

None of our kids have really caught our running bug, but Joe has done three races with us.  First the St. Brigid’s Harvest Hustle where he placed first in his age group.
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Then The Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K and finally The School’s Out 5K as a Lincoln Middle School alum.  Certainly more than I ever did before 20 (or even 40).

Anyway, back to the year in review, mostly I just want to document my stats.  I’m a total nerd about record keeping when it comes to running.  I want to track every tenth of a mile that I run.  I have a spreadsheet on Google Docs where I track every second spent running.  It’s a little thing, but I really enjoy entering the numbers in after each run.  I have formulas in it that track my total miles for the month, for the year, for my current pair of shoes.  It’s fun to watch those numbers change every time I enter a run.  I have every future run entered into it between now and April 18th.

My total mileage for 2015 was 2,280.8.  Not too shabby.  I hit my goal of 2,015 back in the middle of November and estimated that I’d be able to do another 350 before the end of the year – based on all my spreadsheet entries.  Unfortunately, I really fell apart running-wise in December.  I didn’t quit altogether, but I missed multiple days in a row which I hardly ever do.  I think it was good.  I was getting a little burnt out, and the days off helped me get motivated for a better January.  So far so good with 65+ miles this week.  Unfortunately, I’m skipping a long run today.  It’s pouring rain, and I’m just not feeling it.  This one day won’t kill me, but Austin’s not going to be pretty if I miss many more days.  It’s barely a month away!

I’m rambling – thinking out loud.  What are your goals for 2016?  I’m shooting for 2,016 miles this year but will hopefully get more.  How about races?  The only ones I’m fully committed to right now are the Austin and Boston Marathons.

Happy Running and Happy New Year.  Hope it’s not too cold, rainy, icy where you are.