Portland, Maine - Part I: Booze, But No Moose To Go With It

We were still all groggy when we woke up in the morning, after a long drive and a late arrival from the DC area the night before, in Portland. Our spirits were not lifted as our outdated navigation system was leading us astray in pursuit of coffee and bagels at Scratch Baking Co., in South Portland.

As we finally descend on our destination, we spy a whimsical storybook store front in the middle of a modest residential neighborhood. There is a calm rhythm to it, as opposed to a touristy rush, as local patrons walk or bike to it and order their usual. Truly a gem.

It was closer to lunch time, so my guys ordered roast beef with basil mayo and dressed greens with balsamic vinaigrette on country white bread sandwich lunches. Jonathan had it with the roasted tomatoes, S, tomato-less. Jonathan and S sat to eat on the bench outside while I ran in. 

I usually do not act like a discombobulated tourist, but that late morning, I was. It would have been embarrassing if not for the fact that I made a concerted effort, a pact of sort with myself, to not get embarrassed much. Just shrug it off. 
See. Bagels! :)
Scratch Baking Co. is a pleasant space, on the smaller side, sectioned into different parts, the barista, sandwich counter and the cashier. There is also a self service bread section. There was a lot happening and in the midst of it all I was trying to internalize the slow motion, effortless movement of an array of locals coming in and out. I came in for a bagel and I walked out with only a cappuccino. Only after I saw the photos, I realized they were not out of bagels as I had thought, I just didn't see them in all my confusion. The storm that was all in my head was a stark contrast to Scratch Baking Co.'s peacefulness. My brain short-circuited as if I were a kid on overload in Disneyland.

The tall, naturally elegant lady from the neighborhood, laughed and said she wished she could record my stunted reaction when I didn't understand the cashier. The serene lady laughed at my blank, wide eyed stare as the cashier with a heavy New England accent asked me "single or double?", as in shots in my cappuccino. She had to repeat the question. I might be mistaken, but seems like Maine has the denser New England accent. I rarely encountered it, as many here are transplants, but what a glorious authentic way to begin our journey in Portland.

Speaking of cappuccinos, when in Maine order a double shot and your cap will be a perfect cup. My guys loved Scratch Baking Co. so much that a couple of days later, they wished to come back for their roast beef sandwiches. Unfortunately, we were short on time, as we were heading out of town.
As I planned our vacation to Maine, my agenda was to sight moose and North Atlantic puffins as if I was going on an expedition to somewhere remote like The North Pole or Alaska. In reality, as we were pulling away from Scratch Baking Co. by the water, Jonathan and S sighted booze not moose, a huge sign of Shipyard!
I had read about the breweries in Maine, but it didn't quite sink in until we arrived, how thriving and embedded the craft beer industry is in the fiber of commerce and tourism in Portland. Jonathan who rarely drinks alcohol was the beer tasting guinea pig. I took Jonathan's role as the designated chauffeur driver. S, being a month and change shy of 21, was Wizzy's babysitter and an observer, taking it all in. It was a musical chairs, reversal of roles, type of a day. Not that on any given day I gulp beer while on social media, but still that is a funny image.
Photo taken by Jonathan Madnick
S had never seen his dad alcohol induced 'happy' and we are talking merely tastings here. S was in complete wonderment watching Jonathan burst out laughing, at every word uttered by him, as he tried to illustrate Shipyard's tour and tastings. Jonathan, tipsy, was sheer entertainment. S and I both are usually the ones, who act silly, without alcohol being necessary to jumpstart our mayhem, so this was really eye opening for S to see a different side of his dad, letting go, slightly intoxicated or not.
As much as I profess my love for beer, after visiting Shipyard and being very impressed with Allagash's efforts in reducing its carbon footprint, I was done inhaling fermented ethers for the day. While S couldn't join the Shipyard tour, he could join Allagash's. Allagash uses 92% renewable wind energy, has a fantastic composting program and recycles the 57 ton grain used per week for cattle feed. They also collaborate with breweries across the nation in an effort to exchange empty beer kegs in order to cut back on environmental and monetary transportation costs. I was so happy S had a chance to listen to their eco-friendly practices, as he studies Environmental Science and Natural Resources Conservation in college. 

A few "must" purchases later of Shipyard's seasonal summery melonhead, IPA, export, seadog apricot among others and Allagash's White and Black ale, we were ready for some food. 
I know Belgian style hand cut duck fat fries are all the rage, but I would happily forego the trend, and go again for the duck confit, napa cabbage slaw, cilantro and spicy mayo panini at Duckfat. If you are into duck fat fries, the assortment of flavored mayos are the stars.  Thai chili, lemon herb, garlic, horseradish, truffle and toasted curry mayos just to name a few. We also ordered a smoked chicken panini, I believe it was the daily special, and a mixed green salad. If it weren't for Wizard we would definitely enjoy dining in. Small, but a great space and a great looking charcuterie board.
Top: Eastern Promenade Park, A Boat Mooring Field. Bottom right: Eastern Promenade, Boat Launch. Bottom Left: Fort Allen Park, Sailboats through the fog 
Fort Allen Park, Coast Line
Under a thick dramatic foggy Portland skies, we picnicked with our Duckfat takeout at Fort Allen Park under the gazebo there. There is a wide stretch of grass where you can let your dogs off the leash to run around. A few spiral stone steps down towards the shoreline, you cross the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum's tracks, jogging and cycling trails and you are smack right by the water. The museum is dedicated to historic preservation of the tracks that used to connect freight and passengers in rural Maine areas.
Eastern Promenade Park, A Boat Mooring Field
Eastern Promenade Park, Public Boat Launch
A minute or two drive down from Allen Park, I had the opportunity to snap some incredible photographs at the Eastern Promenade and the Public Boat Launch. Jonathan and S, along with Wizard, walked to the very tip of the Boat Mooring Field dock and called me a scaredy cat, when I didn't. Wizard, heading back, decided to jump off the dock, he had his own agenda, fortunately, it was on shore and not right into the zero visibility waters. The moody mother nature was such a blessing in disguise, which completely surprised Jonathan earlier in the day, when I was super elated about it. Then he began to understanding about light. Throughout our trip he started making comments like "we are losing light" at the Golden Hours of the day, which was super nice and made me smile. It helped with the urgency of getting to certain places, as otherwise Jonathan's rhythm and time concept are more laid back, out of sync with fidgety mine.
Allen Park, Railroad Museum train tracks
Uncharacteristically, we capped off the drizzly day, in the evening, with a cappuccino and hot chocolate at Coffee by Design, a handcrafted micro roasted coffee. We usually drink coffee before noon time. Again, a double shot when in Maine. The froth was perfectly whipped and the coffee was the right temperature, hot. The manager was super friendly so we chatted a tad.

Having coffee that late might have been an omen. The powers above knew we needed that extra boost of caffeine for what's to come. Wizard was panting and in pain. We didn't head back from the emergency veterinary clinic back to the hotel till 2am. The next day, will it be another groggy morning?!

Read about it in the 1st installment in the Maine Series:
Portland, Maine, Part II: They Holy Mother of Donuts and Chasing Lighthouse

Scratch Baking Co.
416 Preble St.
South Portland, Maine

Shipyard Brewing Co.
86 Newbury St.
Portland, Maine

Allagash Brewing Company
50 Industrial Way
Portland, Maine

43 Middle Street
Portland, Maine

Coffee by Design
620 Congress St.
Portland, Maine

The photos here are snapped on both the iPhone and Nikon. I am not happy with the second photo, but I included it to illustrate a point.:) When traveling I try to experience and flow, so often I won't photograph every single dish or sandwich we consume. The barrel photo was snapped by Jonathan on his iPhone on the Allagash tour. I find it truly stunning. That light streaming in from the back, it's not every day that you can snap a pic like that. I am happy that he did.


  1. When I was growing up there was a huge pasture behind our house and beyond that was a huge wooded area that went for miles. Not unusual to see a moose in the back yard. I've also seen puffins at the shore near Boothbay.

    I'm going home in your posts. :)

    Just one word... "ayuh" It answers everything.

    1. ahahah Maureen last night the end of your comment gave me a good laugh. So lucky you saw puffins and moose while in Maine. I think we will definitely be back to your home state.

  2. Wow, we don't need any guide if we have to visit Maine, I will look back at your page. The picture are awesome and couple of them are quite haunting in a way.
    The Bread shop is perfect, I'd go crazy left in a carb shop, looks like you enjoyed. Really feels like I've visited Maine.
    Thanks for all the information

    1. ahahah, I know right?! Re; carb shop. C pref. post. Carbs. Carbs & more carbs! :)

  3. Beautiful landscapes and gorgeous food! A great place to visit.



  4. I love it when you visit my part of the world (starting with a surprise visit to Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Market in Worcester, MA). Thanks.


  5. i have never been to Maine! I want to go now!

  6. OK, talk about discombobulated. It took me a few minutes to realize you were in MAINE and not Oregon. :) I was thinking, "Jeez, I would be a wreck too if I just drove in cross country from D.C." I can't believe I have never found your blog. Adding it to my list of faves.

    1. ahahah so phew it's not only me. G-d will help us if we had o travel to Portland, Oregon with our dog.:)

  7. The foggy photos are wonderful! And I bet the hubby would eat absolutely everything at Duckfat! He would also love to tour Shipyard :)

  8. I'm living vicariously through your travels :)

  9. Loving reading your Maine posts Shulie! I've been through Portland, on my way to Union to visit my Aunt and Uncle, but I've never spent any time there. Last time I was in Union was almost 8 years ago. Must get back soon!

  10. I love Maine in the summer and you've captured it so beautifully! Now I'm inspired to hit the road for Portland...