As the temps drop my focus shifts to comfort food. The stewed and brothy. The ample and starchy. The earthy and rich. I scan menus for things I’d never consider in warmer weather. Cheesy noodles. Heavy sauces.
I know, I know – I’m hardly alone in this. And, of course, restaurants embrace the season and showcase their heartier options. Never-the-less I humbly offer a little list of my four latest “fall into winter” favorites – two from here in Portland and two along coastal Maine.
And nary a one has meat!
50 Local – Kennebunk
I’ve rarely tasted a better mushroom dish. Apparently, foraging fungi is a favorite pastime of chef David Ross and his 3-year-old son. It shows. Pungent earthy flavor and overtones of roasted garlic infuse every mouthful. Homemade tagliatelle pasta fresh and springy. Pecorino cheese adds a bonding creaminess. While the mushrooms surely vary according to discovery, an online video of Ross shows him preparing the dish with black trumpets, hedgehog mushrooms, lobster mushrooms and chanterelles. Whatever the mixture, it’s truly marvelous. Dip in the restaurant’s thick and spongy focaccia bread and sip on a signature cocktail. It’s a cold weather meal to savor.
And, about that cocktail? If you’re like me and enjoy caramely liquors in the autumn and winter, don’t miss The Remedy – bourbon, cayenne simple syrup, lemon, and a gingered rim (see pic).
Ribollita – Portland
Okay, yes, this is their signature dish – available year round – but I only crave the hearty potage as late October arrives. Tuscany’s famous vegetable and bread soup is simmered to perfection at this Portland institution and warms me to my toes. As with everything that has peasant origins, the “from the earth” ingredients and basic presentation make Ribollita the ultimate comfort food. Pair it with the restaurant’s sizable Hearts of Romaine salad and a glass of Italian wine and you’ve got an affordable meal for around $20.
Squash & Pesto Lasagna
Chase’s Daily – Belfast
We journeyed to the Midcoast for last Saturday’s Marshal Wharf Beer and Mussel Fest (totally worth the hangover) and – despite a swath of reserved tables – lucked into seats at Chase’s counter the night before. An acclaimed vegetarian breakfast and lunch destination, Chase’s only serves dinner on Friday’s. I’m hearby advising you to make reservations, stay the night and avail yourself of this lasagna. I’ve never, EVER raved about lasagna before. In fact, I didn’t even order it this time. I ate over half of Adam’s and have dreamed about the dish ever since. Layers of thin and crisped wide noodles housed “fresh from the farm” golden squash, spinach, cheese and a light pesto. Seemingly so simple, but stunning. A side of crispy kale also was spot on. On second thought, skip the reservation and sit at the counter. Soak in Chase’s “boho” vibe and enjoy the view of the kitchen.
Schulte & Herr – Portland
I’ve loved every morsel I’ve eaten at this new German gem, but the Spaetzle takes the prize for “things I really want when it’s cold and rainy.” The pile of swirly egg noodles topped with chives may not look like much (see pic), but it’s a filling feast that will pleasantly expand your stomach and make you crave a nap. Carmelized onions and ementhal cheese (a type of Swiss) shift Schulte & Herr’s version to the sweet side, so I advise balancing with the crisp cucumber salad doused with dill.
Blogger’s Note: Check out Kate’s list of Fall & Winter drinks at The Blueberry Files.