A Proper Crossing: A Coffee Oasis during a Long Run – The Proper Cup

I set out on a run yesterday with three goals: 1) Run at a liesurely an easy pace, 2) Run ten miles for a longer distance that usual, and 3) finally get across the Casco Bay Bridge during a run from home after several failed attempts.  I’m excited report the I for once met all of the goals.  It was a struggle and there were some necessary walk breaks, but it got done and there was a bonus stop at an oasis for an Iced Latte. Here’s where the run took me:

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Back in the days of being in better shape our original runs across the bridge, mile 3 would come when we were just about half way across the bridge, but of course that route involved the utter Hell of climbing Portland’s State Street hill, which is quite a climb.  I had the bright idea to find a route with less of an incline by running out by the Fore River campus of Mercy Hospital.  I did appreciate some downhill terrain, but there still was a fair share of hills and I underestimated the extra distance to get to the bridge (it added an extra mile).  Due to the extra distance and my fading endurance I changed my run to just getting across the bridge and then heading home rather than a running tour of South Portland.  Although it was a quick turn around in SoPo, I did have nice time running through the Knightville neighborhood.

On the way back home, I did make it up to the top of State Street, but at a considerably slower pace.  It then hit me that I needed a pit stop.  I found an oasis at The Proper Cup.

Before getting to my run stop at Proper Cup, Katie and I recently did a Bike for Breakfast there and enjoyed a nice time, some coffee, and a tasty breakfast sandwich.

I’m not a seasoned veteran of many coffee houses, but I love the atmosphere of Proper Cup.  Of course the first time I went there, the first thing to catch my eye was the Honda motorcycle perched on top of the creamer station.  I don’t know the significance of the bike, but I will have to ask some time.  There also is a lot of cool local art on the walls.  Our favorites are in the background of picture of the Honda.  They’re ink sketches of animals with a story included.  We actually met the artist there one Saturday, and he told us that the sketches were of animals he had encountered during his travels.

What drew me to Proper Cup for our bike adventure was a sign I noticed that morning saying that they now had breakfast sandwiches.  Previously, I think they only offered pastries with their coffee.  I went for the Veggie which had egg, mozzarella, tomato, cucumber, and spinach on an English muffin.  The sandwich was good and was plenty filling along with my Iced Latte.  I am wondering if they make the sandwiches on site, but Katie informed that the sandwiches are made by Sisters Gourmet Deli.  We will have to plan an excursion there soon to try something freshly made.

275px-MRE_No._23_(cropped)Speaking of the Iced Latte, I have to say that I am not really a coffee aficionado.  In fact, I remember my first foray into the coffee world being the instant coffee packs inside Army MREs.  For a boost we would empty the instant coffee grounds, powder creamer, and sugar packet into our mouths and then wash it down with a swig from our canteen.  I’ve yet to see that available on the menu boards in any of our local coffee shops.

I see all the names on the menu at coffee shops and really have no idea what they’re all about.  For a while I was into Flat Whites, because they were being reintroduced at Starbucks a while back and I wanted the baristas to think I was some old school coffee-ite happy that a classic offering was back on the menu.  Currently, Iced Lattes are my thing since Montreal.  I like Katie’s Mocha Lattes, so I order the Latte to be a little different.  I really quite like them now.  I especially like Proper Cup’s iced latte served in the large mason jar glass.  It’s a refreshing drink and lasts long enough for some good coffee shop conversation.  Bottom line is we both really enjoy trips to Proper Cup and highly recommend it.  In fact, some days you might find Katie doing some online work there (she is a bit of a regular).

Back to my Coffee Run…

By the time I hit Forest Ave (a little past mile 6), I was really fading.  My walk and run intervals were becoming increasingly equal in time.  First I saw the “OPEN” flag for Rose Food, but managed to push on.  Finally, I saw Proper Cup two blocks away and pushed a sprint there.

I was a bit conscious of that fact that I was dripping in sweat and felt a bit awkward walking in wearing a Camelback compared to the nicely summer-attired mostly Millennial weekday crowd.  Somehow, I feel my lack of coffee knowledge makes a bit unsophisticated for the coffee shop scene, but I went for it anyway.  Fortunately, I had brought a little cash in my Camelback pouch and put in my order for a large Iced Latte at $4.75 plus a $1.00 tip in the jar.

The latte was ready in a couple minutes, and for a special treat, I went to the Honda motorcycle station and added some simple syrup rather than my usual two packets of Splenda.  I figured six miles earned some high octane sweetener.  I found a corner by the window and just enjoyed a few minutes of AC and a nice beverage to give me a final boost back home.

Seeing a giant squash growing on the sidewalk of Danforth Street with “VOTE” carved into it was an intresting sight along the route.  The other pics include views along the Casco Bay Bridge, the fountain at Deering Oaks Park and part of Woodfords Corner. 

The final leg of the run was nice.  The pit stop at Proper Cup was just what I needed to shorten the walk intervals and get up the final hill on Woodford Street.  At the end, Runkeeper had me over eight miles!  Of course the f&!&ing “Fix GPS” feature on the app put my distance under eight and added ages to my average pace (more on that in future post).  All in all, the whole event was a great ending to the morning.

Whether drive, walk, bike, run or ride a Honda, make your way to Proper Cup.  You won’t be disappointed.

See you on the road!

-Mike

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Run For Breakfast TO GO at Rose Foods

I set out Monday morning to complete Week 5 of C25K.  This day’s training called for a two mile run at 10 minute pace.  On the fly, I decided I would push for that 10 minute pace for the first two miles and then add some distance afterwards.  The run was a great success as I was just under 10:00 pace for the two training miles and then added on an extra three miles of running with some walk breaks worked in.  Turned out to be a nice city loop:

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While running down Congress Street, it hit me that I was going to be hungry for some breakfast after this run, but the cupboards at home were a bit bare of breakfast fare.  I then had the revelation to swing into Rose Foods.

We were very excited when Rose Foods came to Portland a couple of years ago.  It’s owner was also one of the founders of the amazing Palace Diner in Biddeford (I think we posted about Palace previously), so we had high expectations.  Rose Foods is in the mold of a classic NYC Jewish delicatessen.  Despite many trips to NYC in my lifetime, I’m not sure what makes a great NYC deli.  All I know is that I love Rose foods.  Their bagels are classic, and we have enjoyed many items including bagel sandwiches with combinations of toppings and their homemade flavored cream cheeses.  Among my favorites is their Matza Ball soup.

On this day I went for an everything bagel with plain cream cheese and the “Rose” salad which is a delightful combination of cottage cheese, radishes, and spices (mostly dill).  I ordered my treasure and did not mind a wait of any length because the AC was glorious on this warm day.  Once I received my order, I slipped in a few of the complimentary Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (probably my favorite candy).

The run home was a bit slow and I had worries of the bag ripping, but I made it.  I had designs to eat half my order, then save some for lunch, but as usual, the bagel and salad were so good that I finished them off in one sitting.

Yes, that is a selfie I took of me rockin’ the Star Wars shirt running home with my take out bag.

See you on the road!

-Mike

Last Montreal Morning Run Followed by Refreshing “Melk”

Image-1 Well as you have possibly noticed, I have not exactly been chronological in my Montreal posts.  I’m catching up when the spirit and good memories come to me.  This post also seems like a true Run for Breakfast post since it has a run and a breakfast review in it.  Definitely wanted to report about this run because it was my longest distance during the trip and probably the funnest run I did.  I was able to achieve the distance because I took the day prior off for our excursion to Mont Tremblant, and I was running on a high of having such a magical time with Katie north of the border even though we were heading home that day.

Nice parts of this run were that the temperature was perfect (around 60) and there was only one serious hill to climb at the beginning up to Sherbrooke Street.  After it was all flat and downhill which made things pleasant for one last look around the city.

My Runkeeper post sums up the run: “Last run before we depart Montreal 😒. Thought I had 20 miles for the week, but GPS fix put me at 19.8. I’ll take it though. Lots of pauses for crosswalks and photo ops (needed them to get the run done 😉). Great sights at St.Louis Square and a couple nice parks along Sherbrooke. Loved the neighborhood hood cutting back to St. Catherine. Cool art on St. Catherine and it was cool running under the bulbs along the street.”

I thought that the giant slingshot was impressive (it was in one of the parks along Sherbrooke) and I sure did a double-take on some of the art on display along St. Catherine Street.  Katie and I did not explore that end of St. Catherine during this stay, but we have it at the top of our list for our next visit.  This end had more of a feel of an older Montreal unlike the Times Square feeling on the other end.

After the run, we packed our things, but had time for one more stop for coffee and a light breakfast before checking out and heading back to reality home.  Katie found a great coffee shop nearby, MELK Bar à Café Saint-Urbain.

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Besides the great reviews, I think Katie’s motivation to choose this destination is that her dad (aka “Tex”) pronounces “milk” as “melk”.  I’ll have to listen for that next time we are at The Farm.

 

 

 

 

 

Melk was great.  I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of drink choices, but the “The London Fog” caught my eye on the wall.  It was Earl Gray tea mixed with steamed condensed milk and some other things that made a wonderful morning mix.  It was a nice change from coffee and it had a nice sweet flavor without any sugar added.  I believe Katie went for a mocha latte, but I might be wrong on that.  We also went sweet and savory with a chocolate chip cooked and a

Melk had a great atmosphere for a morning coffee and snack and we loved the carton of milk design at the bottom of our cups.  As was the case for most of our trip the service was very friendly (and forgiving of our elementary French).  It was a great send-off as we were about to head back south of the border.

Au revoir Montreal.  On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Finally a Breakfast Run – Local 188

We haven’t stopped running OR eating, but we’ve been pretty disorganized about posting about anything lately.  Our new favorite breakfast destination – running or otherwise is Local 188.  Last weekend we braved the drizzle for our third (or maybe fourth?) visit.

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It took us a while to try this highly recommended place, since they only have breakfast on weekends and not until 9:00.  We used to like to get our runs out of the way much earlier than that.  Lately we’ve been a little more relaxed about the timing of our weekend runs.

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The restaurant is quite spacious, so we haven’t had any issues getting in.

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I like the rotating art gallery they have on the walls.

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All the seating is quite inviting, but we always opt for a seat at the counter.  It’s surprisingly private with a nice view of the English Muffin preparation operation.

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They have a great selection of Bloody Mary’s which are quite good.  The first time we went, I opted for the Cilantro flavored one.  I used to be a hater, but now I love cilantro.  It was a great Bloody Mary, but the cilantro flavor was too subtle – almost unnoticeable.  Mike went for their spiciest option.  My cilantro one was already quite spicy to the point where I thought they might have mixed them up.

Most of the time, I’m more in the mood for a mimosa, and I love the ones from Local 188 – just the way I like them – just a small amount of juice with the option to get grapefruit juice instead of orange juice.  The chunk of grapefruit is a nice touch.

We are big fans of kombucha especially the kombucha from Urban Farm Fermentory, but we were happily surprised to find that Local 188 also makes their own Kombucha (shown next to the Bloody Mary in the photo above).  They have some interesting flavors varying by the day.  It’s quite good but just a tad sweeter than UFF’s which I still prefer.

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Our strategy at Local 188 is to get one order from their pastry/sweets section and one main course.  Honestly, the thing that got me hooked on Local 188 is their sour cream crumb coffee cake with honey butter.  It’s a special, and the wait staff tells us they have it about every three weeks.  Sadly, we haven’t managed to have that again, but I keep hoping.  This last time, we had the ricotta fritters instead, and they were quite a good substitution.  The raspberry jam a top the warm, crispy, barely sweet fritter was a delicious combination.  We’re a bit out of practice when it comes to food blogging, so we neglected to take any photos of the fritters until we’d eaten 2/3rd’s of them.

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Same problem with the breakfast burrito which was our main course option.  This is our absolute favorite.  I’m not sure we’ll ever stray from it.  The beans, the eggs, the crispy tortilla, the mango salsa.  Mmm.  My only complaint is that I could use twice as much of the mango salsa.

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This is a better photo from the first time we had it.  We’ve also tried the huevos rancheros which are also delicious.

Not sure when we’ll do our next breakfast run.  We’ve been busy Coffeeneuring.  Thanks for sticking with us.  We won’t neglect this space for so long next time.

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.

Breakfast At Bayou Kitchen

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We finally made it to the Bayou!  We managed to hit the road early enough to beat the morning rush.  After a chilly 6 miles around the West End, the blast of warm air as we entered The Bayou Kitchen was a welcome feeling.

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We’ve actually eating here since they opened several years ago.  One thing I love here is that you can order from either the breakfast or lunch menu no matter what time of day it is.  Be sure to check the daily
Specials on the wall before ordering.  You may find a gem that is worth trying.  I had the fortune of having Tonga Toast from the Specials list a few years ago.  It was thick pieces of hearty Italian bread with a crunchy coating.  I loved it so much that it has become a frequently requested item for our at home breakfasts during weekends or trips to Rangeley.  The Dark Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Pancakes were very tempting this day.

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The regular menu has many delicious options for both breakfast and lunch (Bayou serves breakfast and lunch only) and every one I have had has been fantastic.  From prior visits I recommend trying the Veggie Homie Plate (home fries smothered with veggies and cheese), the Breakfast Sandwich (traditional style, but for a real treat, order is with the Andouille sausage), or El Rancho Verde omelet (a medley of Cajun and southwest flavor).  If you are in the mood, Bayou Kitchen’s French Toast and pancakes are large and perfectly cooked.  Another item to note is the Home Fries, quartered red potatoes with some light Cajun seasoning.  You can see it all being prepared if you sit at the bar in front of the griddle.

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As great as breakfast and many lunch options (Gumbo or Jambalaya or great choices -if available, get them with crawfish!-), I have one standby order that I order almost exclusively when visiting The Bayou Kitchen:

  1. Chicken Piquant (sometimes I add crawfish): Cajun hot and sour soup with chicken simmered in olive oil and vinegar with onions, peppers, garlic, tomato and spices.  Served over rice.  TALK ABOUT A WONDERFUL MEDLEY OF FLAVOR!
  2. Jalepeno Cheddar cornbread.  Biscuits and other cornbread varieties are available, but I love crumbling a few pieces into the Chicken Piquant.  FLAVORFUL WITH GREAT TEXTURE (crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside)!  It is a special treat with some butter.
  3. Grits.  A nice treat for our Yankee city.  I add a dab of butter and maple syrup, but everyone has their own secret preference for their grits.
  4. A can of Moxie.  I don’t know why, but it is a perfect compliment to this meal.  I actually do not drink Moxie any other time.

 

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My special order at The Bayou Kitchen

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This Portland Yankee loves him some grits with breakfast!

 

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Katie usually goes for more traditional breakfast fare at BK.  The breakfast sandwich with a side of homies.

Katie went for the breakfast sandwich and a side of homefries.  I love the home fries done on the griddle.  On the table I mix ketchup and some hot sauce which is a perfect compliment to the light spices on the potatoes.

The service and atmosphere at the Bayou Kitchen is a treat if your looking for local flavor with some Cajun taste.  The staff is very friendly, the food arrives hot and fast, and the coffee is quickly replenished.  Also, they are reasonably priced (our bill came to $22.00).

I used to think BK was a hidden gem in Woodfords Corner, but the word has been spreading.  They expanded a couple of years ago, but still continue to have a full house for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.  The wait sometimes will be up to 15-20 minutes, but they will call or text if you choose to wait nearby.  No matter what, it is worth the wait if you want a hearty breakfast with some Cajun flavor.

See you on the road!

The Rest of the Weekend – Miyake

Now that this weekend is almost half over, I’m finally getting around to finishing up blogging about last weekend.  As if a lovely First Friday Art Walk wasn’t enough, we had fun plans on Saturday, too.  One of Mike’s students gave him tickets to a matinee Nutcracker performance at Merrill.

For us, no outing into town is complete without some kind of food, so we decided to hit up Pai Men Miyake for lunch before the show.  I’d been there a few times and wanted Mike to try to pork buns which I love.  They’re a twist on the classic DimSum with the fluffy white bun but served more burger/sandwich style rather than the meat being all tucked away inside.  The serving-style isn’t the best part of the twist though.  That’s the tender, juicy, warm pork belly along side the cool mayonnaise and spicy relish.  I thought it would be totally up Mike’s alley, but it turns out he’s a traditional pork bun kind of guy.  No worries though, he managed to clean his plate, and we got plenty of other treats.
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Edamame is always such a great snack, so we started with that, and it was perfectly salted.  I had thought the Brussels Sprouts there were the best I’d ever had, and they were very good but not the ones I remembered.  Now, I’m thinking those were from When Pigs Fly in Kittery.  I’m going to have to go back now to figure this out!

Of course, we also had to try the cocktails.  Mike had warm sake which was perfect for a chilly day.  I had the Smoke & Roses cocktail which is kind of like a rose flavored margarita.  You’d think that drinking rose flavor would be weird, but it’s actually very delicious.  I had to have two.  It’s my favorite cocktail I’ve had in Portland so far.
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We were pretty full of appetizers but wanted to try one more thing so we ordered the Kimchi Pork Ramen.  Mike managed with the chopsticks quite well . . .
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but I was pitiful and had to ask for some American utensils.  My favorite part of the ramen was the egg with the crunchy little onion strings on top of it, but that all quickly got lost in the bowl thanks to my poor initial attempts at using the chopsticks.  I didn’t love the pork itself.  Mike thought it tasted like the meat from a New England boiled dinner.  He meant that as a compliment.  I agreed that that’s what it tasted like, but to me, that’s not a compliment.  Not my favorite dinner!

Don’t let that scare you away though.  The starters and the cocktails are excellent and the atmosphere is nice.
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You can sit at the long, two-part counter, or at one of the high tables for two across from it which is what we did.  I felt like we were in our own pleasant little world.  There are also quite a few larger tables in the front of the restaurant.  One of my previous visits there was for a co-worker’s going away party, and we fit 12 or so of us quite comfortably and had a great time.

After all that eating out, we decided we’d better do some of our own cooking on Sunday.  After our Figgy’s discovery on Friday night, Mike texted me from Addie’s basketball practice to tell me he’d had a revelation.  I was expecting a career change, a move, something life-changing (and maybe it was), but the revelation was that we should have fried chicken sandwiches for “football food”.  I was totally on board thinking we’d do takeout from Figgy’s.  Apparently that wasn’t what he had in mind.  He wanted to try making our own.  Not quite as easy and not as guaranteed to be good, but I was game.

I found a biscuit recipe on-line and sent Mike a grocery list while he picked up the chicken at Pat’s.  I made the biscuits and left the rest up to him.
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I had one with strawberry jam while I was waiting for the rest of the meal to come together. Not bad!

We used store-bought coleslaw and skipped the mashed potatoes and gravy, but they still came out pretty darn good.
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No breakfast run this weekend.  We’re getting ready for a Festivus Party at our house later in the week, and we have a race tomorrow – which actually does include brunch.  I guess we’re technically having a breakfast run after all.

Happy weekend.  Thanks for reading.