Honey Paw Review – Lunch-ish Run

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Once again, our daughters’ dance practice conflicted with our breakfast run desires, so we had to adapt.  Years ago, I had investigated places to eat lunch in Portland on the weekend and came up kind of short.  Flatbreads, which I like, was available and that seemed to be about it.  Fast forward 10 or so years later, and the options were happily plentiful.  For many of Portland’s hip restaurants, lunch is a great option.  It’s usually a bit less expensive and definitely less crowded than the dinner scene.

We got up later than we had planned (again, up with the sun did not happen) but managed to squeeze in a run before having to drop the girls off at dance.  We were then left with each other, one son, one cat, and one dog.  Having burned some calories and not eaten breakfast, we, very uncooly, searched for a place that opened at 11:00, the earliest honorable time to eat lunch (and/or have a non-breakfast-related breakfast adult beverage).  Luckily, most places we looked into did open at 11:00.  We’d been wanting to try The Honey Paw for awhile, so we decided on that.  Not wanting to leave our son out, we invited him to come along, and he was game (although I’m still harassing him, with little success, to write a guest blog post on his thoughts of the restaurant).

We ended up having a GREAT time being tourists in our home town.  The Honey Paw was awesome.  Although, I must say, I’m a little worried about writing this review, since I’m DEFINITELY not a professional, and there was some controversy about that fairly recently.  We were the first ones to arrive at the restaurant, so, obviously, we had our choice of seating which is actually quite interesting at The Honey Paw.  You have your choice of the bar,
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something like a bar along the window facing Middle Street,
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and a ginormous table in the middle of the restaurant, so definitely a family-style dining experience provided you’re not the only family there.

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Of course, we ordered a drink right away.  I was impressed that the cool, hip-looking (probably world-reknowned) bartender started mixing our drinks before the waitress even finished taking our orders.  (We were the only ones in there, and I know he overheard, but still, cool.)  I ordered something called the “Lapsang Fizz”.  (Have I mentioned that I like my bubbles?)  It had bourbon, lemon, lapsang souchong (which I assume is some kind of tea), egg white, and soda.  I’ve been hearing about egg whites in cocktails for a while.  I was intrigued and wanted to try it.  It was delicious, but the fizzy cocktails are never as fizzy as I would like.  Mike ordered a Strong Paw as I predicted he would, but I’ll let him blog about that, and Frank ordered a fancy root beer.

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Once we had the drinks figured out, lunch was a bit more challenging.  I had read other reviews that recommended the brussels sprouts, so that was a no-brainer.  They were delicious.
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I loved the shredded potato-chip like topping, but I have to say Miyake still has the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever had.  We ordered a few other appetizers; the duck skewers which were so amazing, we had to order another plate of them, and the fry bread which was actually my favorite and brought me back to our decades-ago visit to The Four Corners, but gourmet-ized.
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We were getting a bit full by then but still wanted to try some of the entrees.  Mike and I struggled to decide between the Wok Fried Rice Noodle and the Vietnamese Pork Meatball Soup to share.  Frank struggled, in general, with the unusual-ness of the menu.  He’s an adventuresome eater (he loved the duck), but this was a bit extreme for him.  I tried to sell him on the Banh Mi special, but he was hesitant about its Chicken Liver Mousse condiment.  He settled on the Vietnamese Masa Corn Crepe.

I loved our Wok Fried Rice Noodle.  I’m not usually a big shellfish fan, but the mussels in it were delicious and reminded me more of nice, tender calamari.  Oh shoot, now I’m reminded that there was squid as well, maybe it was actually squid I was eating, no I’m sure it was a mussel.  The squid was good, too.  Honestly, I wish I remembered the sausage part better, but the noodles themselves were AMAZING, nice and broad with such a wonderful, savory flavor.
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Frank’s crepe, though, was the high point of the meal for me.  The crispy, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth crepe was an orgasmic experience.  That would have been enough in itself, but the melty, farm butter put it over the edge.  The crepe itself was so good that I really didn’t even care about what was inside it.  That said, the smoked chicken and piccalilli filling would have been delicious as a dish on its own.  When we go back, this will be what I order, without hesitation.  It was a special, so I hope it’s available.
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We don’t usually order dessert.  I mean, it really doesn’t make sense for breakfast, but I saw the dessert menu first, and since, Mike and I were splitting a meal, I though we might actually have room.  I’m not such a big ice cream fan.  I know, I’m weird.  The walnut cake, however, was calling me.  Anything that has an ingredient called “white chocolate butter cream” is not to be missed.  And believe me, that was not a misnomer.  I was impressed that they didn’t even bother to call it frosting.  I mean is frosting really anything but butter and sugar?  This was more butter than sugar, and I liked that they didn’t bother to try to hide that.  You might think that would be way too rich in a cake, but the blueberry, pear jam cut the richness perfectly.  So, so good!  I would go back and just get that because after the delicious meal and splitting it three ways, we still couldn’t eat the whole thing.  Why, oh why, didn’t I bring the leftovers home?

The food was so good, that it could have been in a mobile home, and it wouldn’t have mattered, but the atmosphere of the restaurant was really great, too.  The sink in the bathroom was the coolest the boys had ever seen.  The interior of the restaurant was bright and cheerful.  It did begin to fill up as we ate, but being stoic, shy New Englanders, no-one opted to sit close to one another.  I could see it getting friendlier later in the evening, later in the drinking.  A very cool feature is that they had this cool D.J.-type booth, so the background music was all vinyl.  I’ve since learned that they have some events where that is featured.

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We had a super fun time at the restaurant.  It just had such a nice, relaxed aura that we just really enjoyed ourselves.  Mike and Frank did some kind of Star Wars trivia game that was, of course, above me.
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Part of our plan of the day was to visit a local shop called Nomad’s.  I had run by there recently and noticed that they had Icebreaker, Ibex, and Smartwool in their window.  As it gets colder here, we’re wanting to wrap ourselves in more and more wool, so I was curious to see what this place had.  They really had a great selection including our favorite wool socks, Darn Tough, but it was a bit pricier than I’ve seen on-line.  Mike did buy a cool Ibex hat and some Outdoor Research gloves.  I had the same version last year in mittens which I heartbreakingly lost at a comedy show.  They didn’t have any Icebreaker base layer shirts in my size, so the saleslady steered me toward Ibex which did look great but were surprisingly a lot more expensive.  I opted to buy one on E-bay instead.

After that, we swung buy LeRoux Kitchen (which I remember being Whip & Spoon, do you?) because I had seen on Facebook that they were doing a Thanksgiving meal tasting.  It was beyond our expectations.  We could have skipped lunch and had this one for free.  The was a generous taste of tender turkey, mashed potatoes (that weren’t as good as Mike’s), stuffing, a nice Kale salad, and an interesting tomato thing.  To top that off, there was a wine tasting.  They had a bubbly rose which I loved and bought to have on our Thanksgiving.

Finally, we topped off the day with a stop to Gorgeous Gelato.  We normally hit up Gelato Fiasco but wanted to try out their across-the-street competitor.  As I said, I’m not a big ice-cream fan, so I’m not sure I can make a fair comparison, but I do think Fiasco has more variety.  In any case, Gorgeous was delicious, and it was warm and cozy in their home while Mike and Frank polished off some scoops.

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We finished up our Portland adventure just in time to pick the girls up for dance.

Thanks for reading.  Happy running and dancing.

Confessing My Sins: Breakfast Run to THE SINFUL KITCHEN

Last Sunday called for a 10 mile run with a stop for breakfast.  The run was great!  We ran a new route through the Stroudwater section of Portland and then into Westbrook. As we were running, I was surprised that this was the first time I ran over the line into the neighboring town of Westbrook.   In the past year I have ran from Portland into South Portland (first time crossing the city line), Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland, and Yarmouth (during the Maine Marathon).  Westbrook is closer than some of those destinations, but the routes to there are on busy industrial-type roads.  In the early hours of this crisp morning, the roads were quiet and we enjoyed a pleasant paced run towards a fantastic breakfast at The Sinful Kitchen.

First things first.  Check this out:

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Can anyone out there explain to us what a “Pharmaceutical Dinner” is?

Anyway, I thought I’d lead off this review with a new list of Bloody Mary rankings.  I’m a bit new to the appreciating Bloody Marys, so I have a bit of a rooking palate.  In any case here’s my list from our Breakfast Runs so far:

  1. SINFUL KITCHEN “Sinful Bloody Mary” (3 and a half Mary Magdelenes): This was not a full 4 Blessed Mothers (am I getting blasphemous here?), but this drink had a nice touch of heat, a healthy portion of vodka, and, best of all, it’s garnish included a healthy chunk of Ghost Pepper Sausage!
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Look at the beautiful hunk of meat!

2. ABLILENE (2 1/2 Mary Queen of Scots): Abilene had a great traditional (at least what I think is “traditional”) Bloody Mary.  Light heat and tasty olives.

3. UNION (2 Mary Harts):  I’m sure Union had great quality vodka and other ingredients, but the chipotle flavor really did not work for me.  Maybe if you’re a smoky flavor person this concoction achieves the Blessed Mother status.

Onto the main course.  Sinful Kitchen has a very tempting menu that certainly would prevent any mortal from fasting for 40 days in the wilderness…

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This week, my plan was to go with a savory dish.  You know, I’m actually a little embarrassed to say that I’ve only recently learned the meaning of “savory” which in my mind essentially is a non-sweet meal (chicken pot pie was my eye opener).  Immediately, my eye went to the Huevos Rancheros.  Katie had them at Abilene and I had been jealous ever since.

The Huevos Rancheros were delicious!!!

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Again, I am a Huevos Rancheros rookie, but the grilled tortilla (flour or corn is available…I went with the flour), salsa picante, eggs to order (I went with over-easy…done to perfection!) provided a medley of flavor that would convert any non-believer.  Additionally, the home-fries were perfectly spiced and fried that ketchup was not even needed for me to devour them.

We finished a great meal in a packed room with many satisfied patrons.  The waitstaff worked hard to make us feel like valued customers and we left as satisfied customers.  The last 2.25 miles of our run were weighed down by full bellies, but the good eats and libations at THE SINFUL KITCHEN made the struggle worth it!

So even if you have to purchase an indulgence…

Make your way to THE SINFUL KITCHEN!

See you on the road!

Sinful Breakfast Run

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Not my best photo – but keepin’ it real

We’ve been meaning to try out Sinful Kitchen for quite a while.  Our older son had been there and was impressed by the lamb bacon and raved about whatever else he had (wish I could remember).  We decided to follow up our neighborhood breakfast run to Abilene with another restaurant on our side of town (albeit on opposite side of the ‘hood from Abilene).

Mike wanted to do ten miles, so we mapped out a rough route through Westbrook for something different.  Being near the ocean, we have a lot of pretty gorgeous running routes.  This was not the most scenic in comparison, but it was pleasant running through parts of the historic Stroudwater neighborhood and seeing some big open fields and cows not far from the city limits.  Coming back along Brighton Ave (Route 25) was not so pretty, but the McDonald’s and its bathroom came in quite handy.

I like to complete about 80% of our run before breakfast so running home afterwards doesn’t seem so hard.  We ended up a little short when we were almost back at Sinful Kitchen, so we ran down and back some of the side streets and ended up with almost eight miles before Sinful Kitchen snuck up on us.

If you want a quaint old brick building with hip decor in the heart of Portland to show off to your out of town friends, this is NOT the place to go.  If you just want a great meal, then definitely read on . . .

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Sinful Kitchen and its environs – cool sign

It’s in a perfectly fine section of Portland but on a busy street with very little curb appeal.  It’s on the way to places, not usually a destination.  Some restaurants seem to survive based more on their location (Dimillo’s comes to mind) than the quality or creativity of their food.  I like to assume that if a restaurant is doing well in a less desirable location, the food is probably pretty good.

We usually try (but actually rarely manage) to get to our breakfast destination right when it opens to avoid crowds and still have the bulk of the day left when we get home.  This time we were close, arriving at about 8:20.  We were only the second customers, so we had our choice of seats in the cozy, first floor of a house.  The place actually filled up quite quickly after that which I take as a good sign that we’re not the only ones who think the food is good and that the place will last.  By the time we left, there were people outside waiting for a table.
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I love my breakfast mimosas, but it’s nice to have some variety every once in awhile, so I was excited to see that they had a relatively extensive drink menu – at least 8 different drinks plus some grown-up coffee options.  I didn’t stray too far from my classic mimosa and ordered the “Chambord Kir Royale” (I like my bubbles).  I’m sure it was no fault of the bartender’s, but I didn’t love it.  Mike thought it tasted like a Shirley Temple mimosa which seems like that would be good.  I like Shirley Temples, but to me it tasted kind of cough-medicine-y.  On the other hand, Mike’s Bloody Mary (I think it was called a Sinful Mary or something like that) was beautiful and delicious, but I’ll let him review that. Untitled

Food-wise, the menu had a lot of interesting options, so it was a real struggle to decide.  I kind of wanted to get the Monte Cristo – I’ve never had one – but I was worried that would be way too rich for a breakfast run.  I wasn’t really in the mood for something sweet (but check out the waffles oozing with chocolate syrup on their website photo – I’m getting those next time), so I decided on my old standby, Eggs Benedict.  I don’t always do this, but I kind of like to have the same thing each time I try a new restaurant, so I can make a more equal comparison.  They had all kinds of interesting different Benedicts.  I was very tempted by the one that came with crabmeat and avocado, but decided to go with the classic.

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When it came out, I was excited to see that it came with bacon instead of the usual ham or Canadian bacon.  I like those just fine, but classic bacon is best!  It has to be well-done and crispy, and this was cooked to perfection.  (I don’t think it was lamb, though.)  I also liked that the English Muffin had a nice, crispy, buttery crunch.  The Hollandaise was more subtle than some I’ve had – it was flavorful but not overwhelming with a nice clean finish not that citrus-y bite at the end that I’ve experienced in other places.

I really fell for the potatoes though.  I’m a sucker for sides.  They were cut into nice little bite-sized pieces.  (I should not have to cut my home fries up with a knife and fork!) Some were crispy and some were tender.  They had a nice savory spice to them.  Mike commented that, flavor-wise, they were more like what Bayou Kitchen’s used to be.

All in all it was a good breakfast.  It’s nice to see another neighborhood place doing well.

How to do a Breakfast Run

Thinking about jumping on the Breakast Run bandwagon?  Wondering how to make it happen?  Not a morning runner?  You can apply the same process to a Happy Hour Run or a Dinner Run.  (Brunch run?  Lunch run?)

You’ll figure out what works best for you, but if you’re curious, here’s our process:

  1. Plan Breakfast – start discussing it throughout the week.  It’s nice to start thinking about the weekend when you’re facing Monday.  Look at upcoming events like Slab’s first day of serving breakfast and consider that.  The night before, finalize your plan, decide that 10:00 is too late for a breakfast run, and decide to go to Hot Suppa.  Yelp is a great resource for planning your breakfast run, since you can filter by when the restaurant is open if you’re shooting for a certain time.  If you’re local to Portland, Portland Food Map has a nice list of breakfast/brunch places here.
  2. Plan the Run – Once you have a place picked out, plan your route.  Figure out how many miles you plan to go and try to find a route where you’ll run most of your miles before breakfast.  For example, we (well, Mike) needed to run 10 miles today, and Hot Suppa is about 2 miles from our house.  We planned to run from our house, up State Street, over the Million Dollar Bridge and on to the Eastern Trail for 5 miles then turn around and end up back at Hot Suppa arriving there by about mile 8.  That way, we’d only have about 2 miles left to go when we were full of breakfast and breakfast beverages.
  3. Wake up with the sun – Figure out what time your chosen restaurant opens, and try to be the first one there.  Hot Suppa opens at 7:30, so we planned to hit the road by 6:15.  That way you don’t have to worry about reservations, lines, etc.
  4. Waffle – wake up at 6:00, decide you don’t really want to get out of bed, check Facebook, delete your junk email, read the blogs in your reader, check the weather, start thinking about what you’re going to wear, wake up the spouse who said, emphatically, that we’re waking up with the sun.  Tell him that it’s time to get up and that you’re getting up and wait for the cuddle that will make sure you don’t actually get up.  Wait for spouse to tell you that he actually doesn’t want to go to Hot Suppa and wants something lighter.  Consider Ohno and Dutch’s.  Surf Yelp for awhile figuring out what would be open at this hour.  Decide on Sinful Kitchen which is decidedly NOT lighter than Hot Suppa and plan a new route.
  5. Get dressed – check the weather again.  The best running advice I’ve ever gotten is to plan for 20 degrees warmer that the actual temperature considering that you’ll warm up when you run.  It was 39 when we started out this morning, so I tried to plan for about 60.  Went with running tights, wool base layer, and short sleeve race T over that – just so I wouldn’t be in all black.  (This probably goes without saying, but also brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, do something about your hair, etc.)
  6. Pack – I’d love to be able to do a breakfast run without carrying anything, but no matter the weather, I get really cold as soon as I stop running.  I bring my hydration backpack – I have this one:5035nlbd_moxy_bluedanube_back_form_nwI just remove the water holder.  In the summer, we both just pack an extra t-shirt.  I get cold even then, plus it’s just gross to go into a restaurant in a shirt drenched with sweat.  In the summer, we just do a quick change outside the restaurant.  I’m always wearing a sports bra, so it’s not like stripping down completely.  In the winter (which is really the only other season in Maine), I usually order my drink then sneak off to the bathroom to change.  I usually pack an extra long-sleeved race shirt and one of my wool-blend sweatshirts.  Mike is more stoic and insists that his fancy wool shirt prevents him from getting cold.  Then of course, we bring at least one phone to take pictures and check in on Facebook (priorities, right?) and a credit card and ids (not that, being in our forties, we’ve been carded yet).
  7. Run – in a way, this is kind of the easy part.  Think about what you’re going to get for breakfast.  Get hungry.  It’s best to make your Breakfast Run an easy run with no pace goal, but if you are shooting for a certain pace, try to “bank” some time in this part of the run.  You probably won’t be setting any records after breakfast.
  8. Eat – yum – this is the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Maybe walk for a minute or two before you walk into the restaurant, so you’re not breathing too heavily. Ooops – wait, don’t forget to stop your watch.  Pause it, don’t stop it, you have more running to do.  Steel yourself for some puzzled looks but assume that the restaurant appreciates your business way more than they care about your weird clothing and sweaty, heavy-breathing self.  Catch your breath, order a drink (I don’t recommend coffee, I’ve felt really strange running after a cup, heart-racing, etc, but I know a lot of runners drink coffee, and it does seem like a great way to warm up, so figure that one our for yourself), visit the bathroom to change clothes, pick out your breakfast, check-in on Facebook to make sure all your friends feel guilty that they’re still in bed, enjoy your breakfast but decide that what your partner got looks much better and have a few bites of that, too.  Refuse the box that the waitress offers for the leftovers, since it would be awkward to run with it.
  9. Get yourself home – this is the hard part.  Get packed up, don’t forget your watch that you left on the table.  Maybe take a picture outside the restaurant, then start hobbling running home.  It will probably hurt at first, but remember that you’ll warm up again quickly and home (and the bathroom) is not that far away.
  10. Prep for step 11 – run out and get the kids donuts or some kind of fancy kid breakfast (bagels work, Lucky Charms work, even the gross supermarket powdered mini donuts work) to limit nagging.
  11. Relax – have another mimosa, take a shower, settle in on the couch to watch football, fall asleep, wake up and feel guilty that you didn’t accomplish all you wanted to over the weekend and start step 1 all over again.  Hey, at least your got your running in!

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Happy running.  Thanks for reading.

p.s. don’t forget to take your wet, sweaty old clothes out of your backpack.  Trust me, you won’t want to wait until you need your pack again next weekend to smell them.

Boynton McKay Review

This past weekend we had one of our best runs ever in Camden and Rockport.  In case you don’t follow every. single. post.  I blogged about it here.  It was amazing how quickly the miles ticked away as we were reminiscing about our childhoods there.  I listed a lot of those in my last post, so I won’t bore you with that.

(Well, wait, I can’t help myself – here are a few more that I remembered remembering after that last post; the fabric store where my mom worked (who knew I would end up loving fabric so much), The Sail Loft where my mom also worked and brought home butter mints in her pocket which I stole (maybe they were meant for me), the soccer fields where I first played which were close to the parking lot where I begged very suavely asked Mike for my first ride in his car, the room where we first learned to type, my first elementary school (K-2) where I felt like a loser for not being able to figure out right and left or how to tie my shoes, my second elementary school where I also played soccer later and where Mike played Babe Ruth baseball and where I remember watching my younger sister play field hockey and which seems to be, other than the fields, completely obliterated from this Earth.  Holy run-on sentence.  Mrs. Crockett would be appalled.)

So, back to Boynton McKay.  I remember (vaguely) going there with my Mom.  I can picture stuff along the side walls and a giant fixture in the middle that mostly had greeting cards on either side.  I think you could get root beer floats, too which we may have done a time or two.  I can’t really picture it accurately though, and can’t seem to (quickly) find any old images of the interior.  Like I said in my last post, it was featured in Olive Kitteridge, so watch that if you want to picture it.  What I do remember is walking into town with my mom and sister.  We had one of those cool (probably not at all safe) strollers where my sister (younger) could ride in the stroller part, and I could stand on the back.  It was yellow-ish with brown flowers.  About at 70’s as you could get.  My Adelle-Davis-worshipper-of-a-mom made us eat mostly health food which by today’s standards is Guantanamo-Bay-Style torture (gluten-free’s got nothing on this).  Think bread that no amount of water (or Kombucha) will moisten and peanut butter that’s barely more than peanuts littered across a 100% whole wheat landscape.  Why, oh why, would anyone never trade me their fluffernutter sandwich?  We must  have worn her down though because on that walk from our rented house Sea Street to downtown (what a great location near the ocean and my best friend Kari), we, every once in awhile got to stop at Nash’s which was across the street from Boynton McKay.  Every time, without fail, I got a hostess cupcake – well they came two to a package – pretty much the same as today.  I don’t know if you can even still get them, I’ve outgrown my desire for them, but I got the orange-ish ones that I think were vanilla because I was somehow convinced I was allergic to chocolate.  (I’m over that now, too.)

Holy Cow, do I ever digress???

So today, Boynton McKay is much hipper, like Brooklyn-hip (or is that so far in, it’s out?).  After having read a few reviews, I was worried that if we didn’t get there at precisely the opening hour of 7:00 a.m., we’d never get a seat.  After our running tour through Camden and Rockport, I think we ended up there around nine.  Business was booming, but there were at least two open tables, one of which we competitively snagged (okay probably just me, Mike is much more laid back).

I really enjoyed the private feeling of the tall booths.  I got the same feeling at Artemisia.  It is just somehow more relaxing to my introverted self.Untitled

Honestly, I was not crazy about the go-to-the-counter ordering system.  I really prefer to have someone come and wait on me.  It sounds snobby, and maybe it is, but I like to have a lot of time to peruse the menu, and going up to the counter makes me feel too much pressure to decide quickly.  And honestly, after a long run, I feel like I deserve to be waited on.

That said, the Boynton McKay staff was very patient with us when we waffled about our choices (again with the breakfast puns) and asked lots of questions.  (Yes, you can order breakfast OR lunch any time of day – which frankly just made the decisions harder.)  We were a bit puzzled by the sword-bearing, mustachioed woman behind the counter (but we are accepting of hipster-dom) until we remembered it was Halloween.

I was really tempted by the lunch-time quesadilla with black beans and avocado but decided to be disciplined and stick with the breakfast options.  I didn’t wander far afield and ordered the Huevos Rancheros.  I’ve been kind of on a Mexican breakfast kick.

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It was really delicious.  My best bite was one where the cheese had burned onto the dish to the point where I thought there was a crispy corn tortilla underneath.  Every other bite was delicious as well.  There was a yummy, warm, giant flour tortilla (which I much prefer to the healthier corn variation – I mean we’d just run ten miles – who cares?!).  We debated whether it was homemade or not.  It was at least warmed and grilled there, and delicious.  The combination of that and the hot beans, eggs, and cheese, and the cool tomato salsa was orgasmic.  My only complaint was that there wasn’t more salsa.  In hindsight, I suppose I could have asked for more.

Also, in hindsight, I wished I’d ordered a side of home fries.  That’s my favorite thing about breakfast, and I order them almost everywhere I go.  I must have been overwhelmed beyond my senses by being “back home”.  That’s what happens when I don’t have enough time to pour over the menu.  I did have a seat with a nice view of the menu and thought that next time I would order the home fries with chorizo and other nacho-esque toppings.
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There was a lot going on that day, and everyone else seemed to belong but us.  I think that mostly a result of us having previously been part of that community and now not having any clue about it.  They were giving away cute little ghost like meringues to anyone in costume. Honestly, Mike really should have qualified in his Sprockets outfit.
UntitledI was honestly surprised how uninhibited Mike was in the restaurant, but you should have seen him at home.  Oh wait, you can . . .
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There was a nice help-yourself coffee area (for us normal coffee drinkers anyway, it doesn’t apply to fancy-schmancy cappuchino drinkers) which also had water, Kombucha, etc.  The water had a green tinge and was advertised as local Absinthe.  I thought Absinthe was a previously-illegal-to-the-US-beverage for it’s murderous properties, so I was surprised that they were giving it away for free.  Finally, Mike was convinced to try some.  It pretty much tasted like water.  At that point, we finally realized, it was a Halloween joke.  Duuh.  Very funny, Boynton McKay.

Mike had the French Toast which I had to sample, of course.  It was delicious, but I’ll let him do his own blog post.

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All in all, we will definitely be back to Boynton McKay.  We enjoyed it thoroughly.  The only improvements I would make are; real adult beverages (absinthe aside), more salsa on the Heuvos, and wait service while ordering.  The last I could certainly live without, since, maybe that’s part of the appeal of the place, and like I said, the people were wonderful and didn’t rush us at all.

Definitely go to Camden if you have the chance.  I think leaf season has pretty much passed, but at least the leaves are still on the trees (even though mostly brown), so you might be able to eek out this weekend or the next.  Beyond that, you’ll have to appreciate winter or wait until July.  The Camden Snow Bowl is fun if you’re a skier.

Thanks for reading.  And eating.  Happy running.  And thanks to my brother, Simon, for the recommendation.

Review of Abilene

UntitledLast weekend, we had sort of an unorthodox breakfast run.  We didn’t get up quite as early as we should have and had to get our oldest daughter to dance practice by nine.  We had plenty of time to get in a 6-miler but not to also eat breakfast.  So we decided to run, take her to dance, then eat.  That worked out nicely because we decided to invite our two youngest to come along.  Sometimes I do feel guilty for ditching them in the early morning hours (even though they are often not even awake when we get home).
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We had planned to go to our much-loved, neighborhood Bayou Kitchen.  We call it “BK” for short (sooo not to be confused with Burger King).  It’s fairly close to our house, so we walked (not ran) there with our two youngest in tow (not that young – 14 and 8).  We got stuck waiting for a (60+ car) train which was actually kind of entertaining.  As it gets colder, it won’t be.  We definitely KNOW better than to get to BK later than 9 on a weekend, but the dance thing put it out of our control (will she ever get her license????).  We got to BK and the hostess thought it would be about a 30 minute wait.  Waiting for the train was okay, but it was a bit chilly to hang out for 30 minutes in the cold, so we decided to check out Abilene next door.  (Full disclosure, you can kill lots of time checking out Artist & Craftsman across the street.  It’s very cool and interesting, but we were HUNGRY). I didn’t know much about it other than skimming a review on Portland Food Map and hearing from our oldest son (19, who had probably gone for the same reason of not wanting to wait for a table at BK) that it was kind of weird.

There was a decent crowd there, but nothing like BK, and we got a table right away.  There seemed to be only one hostess/waitress, but she managed to keep up just fine.  The biggest advantage of Abilene so far over BK was that they had adult beverages.  We’re sort of starting to setting in with breakfast drinks with Mike ordering a Bloody Mary and me ordering a Mimosa.  (Are there other breakfast drinks?  If so, please share!)
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I loved my mimosa, but I was kind of overloaded on sweet, and I really enjoyed my sip of Mike’s Bloody Mary, so I ordered on of those next.  Aren’t the embellishments cool?
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Mike is a die hard BK fan.  He struggles between a breakfast-y thing and their amazing Chicken Piquant each time and mostly ends up with Chicken Piquant with a side of Moxie and grits.  I waffle (hah, hah, just noticed the breakfast pun) between their breakfast sandwich and their nacho-style home fries with bacon, cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  I used to LOVE their home fries which had a nice taste of cajun seasoning and some crispy fried-ness on the edges.  Now they’re kind of just regular homies, so I’m not always quite so ready to hit up BK (between that and the lack of mimosas).

I was impressed with the less traditional menu from Abilene.  (Can’t seem to find the menu online.)  I ordered something sort of like Huevos Rancheros.  Apparently, I’ve been on a Tex-Mex breakfast kick.  My dish had scrambled eggs with chorizo sausage which had a great, savory flavor, although, my favorite local chorizo so far is from Hella Taco. There were some lovely flour tortillas and black beans to make into a sort of breakfast burrito.  It all had a wonderful savory flavor and nice “umami” that for me, always seems to follow anything with cilantro.  I think some cheese or crema or sour cream would have been a nice addition, but I really did enjoy my meal.  The home fries weren’t really spiced in any kind of way, but they were nice and crispy.  Sometimes texture beats flavor.  I enjoyed them, and the kids did as well, kind of like breakfast french fries.
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(Sorry, I don’t claim to be a great food photographer, but I’m not sure anyone can make black beans look appetizing.  It was good, I promise.)

Frank had the French Toast which looked really good.  The carmelized bananas weren’t quite as impressive as I expected, but I’m not a big banana fan anyway.  I’ve actually forgotten what Addie had, but she seemed to enjoy it.  She had a side of bacon which was well-cooked and crispy which, for me, is very important in bacon.Untitled

I loved that the place was very grown up, kind of hip, with an intriguing menu but still welcomed kids.  After the Marcy’s debacle, I think we’re all a bit sensitive.  At Abilene, they had an entire shelf of crayons, stickers, paper, and other stuff with which kids could entertain themselves.  In spite of there seeming to be only one bartender (who the waitress mentioned was also working in the kitchen) and one waitress, we did get served fairly quickly.

All in all, I’m very excited to have this addition to the neighborhood.  Excited to try them for another meal or happy hour.

Breakfast Run: Abilene

Decided to stick closer to home after a morning 6 Miler.  I didn’t feel like I’d be up to a couple miles with a belly full of breakfast this morning and I also had a craving for one of my favorite dishes at Bayou Kitchen (right next door to Abilene).  Turned out that Bayou had 30 minute wait, so we decided to try the new place on the block.

I love having good eats being a short walk from our house.  We can enjoy the walk there and back on beautiful days or not have to worry about driving after enjoying some adult libations.  Country living does have an appeal, but certainly city convenience has its advantages.

I’m still trying to figure out why this place is called Abilene.  The food and setting didn’t make me think of Texas at all.  It’s a unique name and maybe it has significance to the owners.  The menu had about a dozen tasty sounding brunch options for this Saturday morning.  Reminded me a bit of Union from last week, but not quite as upscale.

The breakfast sandwich sounded very appetizing, but I am a sucker for Biscuits and Sausage Gravy.  I remember my first sausage gray experience.  It was in Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia.  In the chow line gobs of this strange white slime with brown chunks was being slopped onto our trays.  I was horrified!  I didn’t actually dare to eat this staple of Army cooking for at least a month until one day I was so hungry from training that I would have eaten my boots.  Turned out that Sausage Gravy was amazing.  During my time in the South (Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas) I hit every Shoney’s, Denny’s, Waffle House, Huddle House and local road house and was sure to order their biscuits and gravy (along with Grits, which I prefer with butter and syrup).  Talk about a serious comfort food!  Our move back to the northeast mostly put an end to my Sausage Gravy days, but it seems to be making an appearance on some local menus in recent months.  So far there have been some unique recipes, but I still think you have to go south of the Mason-Dixon line for authentic biscuits and gravy.  Here was Abilene’s:

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OK, that’s scary looking not the most appetizing image, but the gravy did have good flavor and consistency (not too salty or greasy) and the biscuit was good. One disappointment was that for $9.00, a couple of eggs would have been a nice addition.  I enjoyed my meal, but did not feel totally satisfied.  I did try a few bites of my son’s French toast and that was fantastic!

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Also, I had a Bloody Mary to start the meal and it was great.  Last week’s smoky version at Union was a bit of a turn-off, but Abilene’s version had a nice bit of heat and a healthy dose of vodka.  There were also plentiful olives and pickled peppers that added to the flavor.

Abilene is a nice compliment to Bayou Kitchen next door.  Bayou is still a better choice, but I’m ready to give Abilene another shot as part of a Breakfast or Happy Hour Run.

Breakfast Run to Union

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Sheesh.  Mike has been beating me in both blogging and running lately.  And it really doesn’t bother me at all.  We’re not competitive at all.  Umm, so. not. true.

Anyway, even though it’s been another Breakfast Run and a Happy Hour Run since our breakfast run to Union last weekend, I still want to record my thoughts on our lovely breakfast there.

I wanted to make sure we got at least eight miles in, so we took the long way to Union and got in about 5.5 miles before we arrived.  We met a running acquaintance of mine along the way.  Super nice guy who I’ve only ever met running.  Pretty sure he told me his name is Rex, but who’s named Rex anyway?  Maybe I have that wrong.

A few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, we had a delicious breakfast at The Corner Room which is right around the corner (pardon the pun) from Union Restaurant in the pretty-new Portland Press Hotel.  I had read about it, so we decided to walk through before we started running back home.  The decor was super cool especially one hallway where an entire large wall was decorated with old typewriters.  It was fun to look at those and reminisce about our days in typing class with Mrs. Sturdee.  I think we were the last class in our school to use manual typewriters.  Honestly, that was the most useful class I took in high school, but I digress.

After we walked into the hotel lobby, we decided to pop into the restaurant to scope it out for a later visit.  We’d already been thinking about trying to stop by for drinks after reading about it on Portland Food Map.  The host was super friendly, and even though we mentioned we’d already eaten, he invited us to look around and chatted with us about being “local”.  Last weekend, when we were looking for an early Breakfast Run, I went to my trusty Yelp app to see what would be open early.  With the early hour, and the places we’ve already tried, we were down to the bakeries and the hotel restaurants.  We didn’t hesitate when Yelp reminded us about Union.  (Granted, most of the reviews were about dinner, not breakfast.)

We had a pleasant, cheerful run on the way there.  It was chilly, 30-ish (which sadly will be excitingly warm in a few months).  We must have been in a really cheesy good mood because we actually broke into song a few times.  There’s race pace, conversational pace, and the little-known-singing pace.  (If you must know, both times we were crossing railroad tracks – Folsom Prison and City of New Orleans.)  Notably, it was our first day in tights (vs. shorts).
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The same friendly host welcomed us back.  The restaurant was pretty full, but we were able to get a table right away.  The decor is modern and very bright and airy which I liked.  Even though I brought dry clothes to change into (the host walked me all the way across the lobby to show me where the restroom was), I was still a bit chilly, but there was a cozy fireplace going in the lobby that we enjoyed for a few minutes before hitting the road again.

We ordered our favorite breakfast drinks, a mimosa for me and a Bloody Mary for Mike.  The mimosa was delicious with fresh-squeezed O.J., but it was fairly small.  Size-wise, I have yet to find a match for the Manmosa from Brian Boru.  Mike wasn’t crazy about the smoky flavor of the Bloody Mary.

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The menu didn’t have a ton of options (maybe 5 or so real breakfast options – I don’t count oatmeal or yogurt and granola), but I suppose that makes it easier to decide.  We were both intrigued by the European style, charcuterie-like Simple Beginnings breakfast which Mike ended up ordering.  I didn’t want to get the same thing, so I went with the French Toast, and I love me some breakfast potatoes, so I ordered a side of those as well.
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My French Toast (a.k.a Pain Perdu) was really good.  The bread was thick and light and airy and the butter plentiful.  There were some pretty berry garnishes and local maple syrup.
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I have to say though, that Mike’s breakfast was much more interesting.  I scattered some pieces of the cheddar from his plate on my breakfast potatoes and let it melt a bit (kind of like Raclette) and dipped it in the fennel mustard, and it was quite delicious.  (Pretty much hate fennel, but this was good.)  It’s mostly just on Easter that I have a nice thick slice of ham, but the ham (a.k.a Salumi) on his plate was also delicious and the fig jam reminded me of having a nice quince paste with a charcuterie plate.
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My only complaint about his meal was that the croissant that came with it was miniscule.  I like to have a bite of carb with each bite of protein, so I fully supported his idea to order a side of toast.

It was quite slow to come, so that was too bad, and when only one slice of toast arrived, I thought it a bit stingy, but it was delicious, and if I had to guess, I think it might have been a slice of pain de mie from one of our favorite local bakeries, Standard Baking Company.

Overall, it was a really nice experience.  As Mike said, service was a bit slow, but the wait staff was so friendly and apologetic, it was really fine.  At the end of our meal we were served an effervescent ginger carrot drink which was a really nice touch, kind of like a digestif.
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Most of the breakfast diners seemed to be staying at the hotel, so I’m not sure it’s become a standard Portland breakfast place –  yet.  We were a bit jealous of the hotel-stayers and vowed to book a night in the off-season.

Weighed down by drinks and breakfast, we got off to a somewhat slow start heading home, but after the slight uphill of Congress Street, we had a nice long downhill on State Street and made the last 2.5 miles home no problem even though the pace was quite a bit slower and there was no singing.

Thanks for reading.  Happy running.  And eating.

Breakfast at Union Restaurant

A chilly yet beautiful Sunday morning run brought us to Union Restaurant located in the Press Hotel site.  Last month we popped in to scout a future Breakfast Run destination.  I was convinced to put Union on our list due to the welcoming invitation from the host.  I don’t remember his name, but he is definitely a veteran of the hospitality industry and he makes a great first impression.  Fortunately, the same host was working yesterday and he quickly delivered us to one of the few open tables with his same friendly manner.

I really like the decor and atmosphere.  It has a a very modern feel to it.  I felt more like we were dining in downtown Montreal rather than Portland.  The hotel lobby outside the restaurant is really cool too with some cool features left over from when the building housed the Portland Press Herald.

I decided to skip coffee this time around (blamed it for not feeling my best on recent run homes from breakfast), but they use Coffee By Design.  No big thing for me as any DD type roast works for my occasional coffee indulging, but I like that Union makes use of many local vendors and locally produced ingredients.  Katie had a fresh squeezed mimosa and I went with a Bloody Mary.  The Bloody Mary was good, but I found the smoky spice a little too overpowering.

The menu is simple yet sophisticated.  There were limited offerings, but I quickly found the “Simple Beginnings” which has been my perfect run breakfast.  We’ll have to wait for Katie’s technical expertise for images, but our plates came out as works of art.  Surrounding the hard-boiled farm raised egg was a medley of color that included cheddar cheese, salumi (not a typo; actually just a fancy word for ham), assorted berries, fig jam, and fennel mustard.  A small (freshly baked, but not in the same league as Portland Patisserie or Standard Baking) croissant was included, but I felt the need for more bread. The thick piece of buttered toast was a nice treat.  I loved the combination of flavors with the jam, ham and fennel mustard creating a unique flavor experience.  The egg was tasty too with a healthy yolk definitely of the farm raised variety rather than some huge egg factory.  Had we driven over and if I had limited my celebratory libations from last night (Let’s Go Mets!!) I would have definitely cleaned my plate looking for more.

Price was on the high side for breakfast, but well worth it.  Service was a little slow, but I did feel like a valued customer the entire time.  We will definitely make a return trek here for a special occasion!