Nestled amid the cobblestone streets and independent shops of the Old Port District, 15 Exchange Grille sizzles with an ever-transforming menu of Mediterranean-inspired comfort fare. Each week, chefs whip up sandwiches, pastas, and Mediterranean comfort specialties from the freshest ingredients and market-catch seafood available. Bartenders pair the Levantine comfort food with beer and cocktails from the full bar. Tabletops checker the dining room, backdropped by exposed-brick walls and the enormous portrait of French actress Bridget Bardot staring down from her frame, goading diners into staring contests.
Located in the historic Old Port District, Arabica Coffee percolates the palates of thirsty patrons as they reenergize amid pleasantly low-key confines. The menu is stocked with soothing bean blends and reads like a global tasting excursion, boasting freshly brewed coffees of the day ($1.40–$1.87) such as an organic Peruvian blend, a French Roast, and a decaffeinated java imported from Ethiopia. Specialty coffee drinks take international flavors one intergalactic step further with a caffé milky way ($3.50–$5.25)–a rich combination of chocolate, caramel, steamed milk, and espresso that evokes the flavors of dark matter. Other items include the earthy caffé maple soy ($3.75–$5.75), made with espresso, soymilk, and maple syrup. The menu is subject to change and features new energizing concoctions daily, but there's always a selection of regular and gourmet coffee drinks, brew-at-home coffee sold by the pound, and juice drinks. Additionally, Arabica's signature toast serves as a tasty treat that’s also useable as a Post-it note for informing roommates that the basement is flooding.
Owner and chief truffologist Dean Bingham worked for many years as an architect and brings his design talents to bear on the menu of handmade truffle delights using a cantilevered balance of imported chocolate and structurally sound local ingredients. Start with the basic truffle, a 56% cocoa semisweet center with a hint of Mexican vanilla, all enrobed in a 70% cocoa covering, all of which will 100% fit in your mouth. Try flavor combinations such as Maine blueberries with Cold River vodka, Italian roast coffee with cayenne pepper, or lemon and apricot with Sunset Acre Farms goat cheese. Despite increasing pressures from the powerful nut-dairy-gluten lobby, all of the truffles at Dean's Sweets are nut-free, and dairy-free and gluten-free choices are available.
Some might say that The Gelato Fiasco is the most delicious type of fiasco there is. Joshua Davis and Bruno Tropeano would certainly agree. They began their mission to perfect Italy's favorite frozen treat in 2007. Nearly six years, two locations, and more than 1,000 flavors later, their signature gelato frequently earns plaudits from gourmands at MSNBC, Fortune, CNN/Money, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Their new Old Port store also earned praise from taste testers on the ground, winning awards such as Best Ice Cream in Maine in Down East magazine's 2013 Reader's Choice Awards and Food Network Magazine's "50 States, 50 Ice cream Treats" accolade.
Each day, the team's trained ice cream makers whip up more than 30 flavors of gelato and sorbetto, ranging from mango and brownie batter to Maine wild blueberry crisp, espresso chip, and dark chocolate caramel sea salt. The Gelato Fiasco’s artisanal methods produce treats using only milk from Maine farms, natural cane sugar, and heaping scoops of fresh fruits, roasted nuts, and high-quality candies and confections. They also craft dairy-free sorbettos in flavors including balsamic-strawberry and chocolate noir. Gelato and sorbetto alike arrives in dishes, housemade waffle cones, or full pints to go; customers are also encouraged to mix flavors to create customized treats. Seasonal favorites are offered such as Pumpkin Pie Gelato and Fall in Bourbon County Gelato, created with Wild Turkey bourbon mixed with cinnamon-glazed peanuts and pecans. They also provide warm beverages during the fall season including God of Thunder, an exclusive house roast.
After a decade-long career working in the fashion industry in Boston and New York, the owner of East End Cupcakes decided to return to her roots. A Maine native, she grew up baking with her grandmother and has many fond memories of creating tasty treats to share with family and friends. So with these memories as her inspiration, she returned home to open up her own cupcake shop and offer customers the nostalgic sweets of their childhoods.
Inside the shop, multi-tiered platters display cupcakes in dozens of flavors, such as banana nutella, chocolate with salted-caramel frosting, and vanilla, baked with local eggs, butter, and milk. Customers can also taste less common treat flavors including bacon or pear cupcakes and avocado frosting. Most cupcakes are crowned with a squeeze of italian buttercream—a type of frosting with a lighter, less sweet flavor than american buttercream—but the staff will also top the cakes with cream-cheese frosting, whipped cream, or a tiny edible bowler hat.
Gelato connoisseurs Mariagrazia Zanardi and Donato Giovine moved from their native Milan to settle in Portland, attracted by the area's friendly neighborhoods, beautiful scenery, and wide-open market for freshly made Italian desserts. In the parlor of their dessert shop, a sunny-yellow and soothing-violet color scheme surrounds an appetizing display of cannoli, cakes, and frozen delicacies, while the couple works hard in the kitchen to create smooth, dense batches of gelato with time-honored recipes and methods. Each satiny spoonful of their gelato blends New England flavor with exotic European influences, with imported Italian hazelnuts and pistachios mixing with locally sourced whole milks and creams. The team welcomes guests to gather in the shop and enjoy cups and sandwiches of the icy treat, and they pour fresh espresso and cappuccino to complement the experience. Gorgeous Gelato even maintains a handcrafted ice-cream cart, its friendly old-school charm making it ideal for catering office functions, weddings, birthday parties, or the opening of another gelato shop.