Complete control over ingredients allows a chef to make more informed decisions in the kitchen. Chef Jeff Landry works toward complete oversight of his dishes, incorporating locally sourced vegetables and dairy products at The Farmer’s Table and butchering meats himself. The Mediterranean-tinged cuisine also incorporates local and imported cheeses as well as pastas rolled by hand in the restaurant. Roasted sweet potatoes fill the air with their earthiness and mingle with grass-fed beef brisket that is slow braised with brown sugar and local beer.
The sounds of jingling silverware drift from two outdoor patios, hinting at mealtime revelry or a knight whose fork has fallen down into his armor.
In June of 2012, the Portland Press Herald lauded the recently opened Spread for bringing “urban couture to Portland” with a space where “every surface seems to twinkle.” A month later, the paper was still raving about the eatery, which it described as a “modern art gallery meets bar.” It’s easy to see why: chandeliers hang above lounge furniture and original artwork, while exposed brick and a backlit wine bottle display serve as the bar’s backdrop.
As upscale as the decor, the menu includes smoked local squash with creamy fondue, slow-cooked lamb shoulder, and seafood chowder with housemade bacon. To accompany meals, bartenders pour wine and mix classic or contemporary cocktails from a drink menu that the Portland Press Herald regards as “nothing short of spectacular.”
Falafel, kabobs, shawarma, and tabouli cover Olive Branch's menu like moss on a mostly buried Mons Meg. Preheat your appetite with superbly blended chickpeas; hummus ($5.29) blended with Mediterranean spices, fresh parsley, and onions is Olive Branch's specialty. Traditional gyros ($5.99) can be concocted with chicken ($8.74) or fresh vegetables ($7.99). Or throw a pita like a Frisbee into the depths of an open cistern and grab meat-and-vegetables goodness on a stick instead. The beef ($9.69), chicken ($8.99), and lamb ($10.99) kabobs are towering vegetable stacks seasoned with savory Mediterranean spices. Fork flaky baklava ($3.99 for four pieces) and sip strong Turkish coffee ($1.79) to treat taste buds to a combination more complimentary than dancing while juggling cats.
The chefs at The Dancing Elephant II prepare a large menu of traditional Indian cuisine complete with vegetarian options. Delectable chunks of chicken or lamb swim in spicy curries, mingling with potatoes, spinach, or cashews. Vegetarian specialties include green peas with potatoes or chickpeas and spinach. The restaurant also offers a full bar complete with beers and cocktails.
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.