Sunday, February 18

Shout. Whistle. And hoot.

Portland is the San Francisco of the East, they say. The Port City is second only to Sucka Free in per capita restaurants. But what local guides can you trust? Food criticism is hard to find. As Dan Okrent, the former Times ombudsman and not a food critic (he prefers baseball), once asked about the Times’ Style sections:
Why are the restaurants almost always delightful, the hotels hospitable, the views glorious, the experience rewarding? This is a weird form of crypto-journalism; if the theater critics were so uncritical, they’d be hooted off the stage. (22 May)
Pick up a local rag. Shout. Whistle. And hoot.

Your best bet for a comprehensive listing of restaurants up to the letter "T" is the Downtown Directory, with contacts and a brief summary provided by the restaurant (i.e., “the best Chinese restaurant”). The Press Herald also lists its reviews online, some of which are readable.

The weekly Portland Phoenix has two reviewers: Brian Duff , an academic who watches TV and reviews, on occasion, frozen food. But more than mastication, Duff prefers discussing birth (the topic of his thesis), Aristotle, Aristophanes and Frederick Jackson Turner’s myth of the American frontier, making for bland reviews lacking in substantive description of taste, flavor or service. Meanwhile, his cohort Jessica Porter occasionally serves up cuts from the counter-cuisine (think Dar Williams' Tofu Tollbooth). Porter’s authored a book on macrobiotics and tackles juice joints, crunchy granola hangouts and, on the best of weeks, the Food Network-ing horrors of mainstream monoculture.

Speaking of which, Press Herald culumnist Meredith Goad commutes to work and does not appear to get out much. (She once broke a story about Kate’s Homemade Butter). And she loves everything from "Soup 2 Nuts." Same goes for Anne Mahle, who tends to love soup for its ability to conjure up Mama in the kitchen and salad for its effect on an ability to slip on a pair of L.L. Bean elastic-waist pantaloons. Not my cup of tea.

Amy Sutherland occasionally writes for Down East, though that’s usually Michael Sanders’ spot, while Diane Hudson usually fluffs restaurants up for Portland Magazine. Forecaster Kate Bucklin rounds up restaurant gossip (some of it’s even true) in a sometimes-monthly, hard-to-find “Dining Dish.” The Bollard's Chris Busby likes to drink – if his bar reviews are any indication. A wacky bunch bats around restaurant reviews for him. Portland Breakfast Club reviews on MySpace; she likes toasted rye but is not a wry as The Bollard’s "Breakfast Serial."

Also online: Food in Portland, last posted in 2005. And Eat Me went the way of Café Troika and Bandol; that is, tout finis. And the Press Herald’s John Golden seems to be a summer person, as his blog "Food for Thought" has not been updated since the onset of winter. But Chowhound and eGullet hosts "New England" bulletins that are well worth a rummage. The Boston Globe runs features for those from away who, like the paper, head south for the winter. Ditto the Times.

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Blogger Tiny Iota said...

Not sure how to contact you people!


Heading to Portland, want to eat only the best. What do I do?

Anonymous Heather said...


I love reading your blog from time to time. I work at a local TV station in Portland and we are doing a May sweeps feature on the strange and bizarre involving Maine foods. Would you have any suggestions? We're not just looking for Portland.. but other areas...
Think Andrew Zimmern-esque without getting too graphic! It is the morning after all!

Blogger babe said...

contact me for a proof that Trader Joe's is indeed coming. Or g tell me how to post an image .


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