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On The Waterfront At Porthole, Praise For Spread, Peabody's At The Asticou, And More

[Spoon & Shutter]

Porthole on Custom House Wharf may look like part of a set for a Portland version of "On the Waterfront," but it's a very real restaurant. Most of the year, it's open only for breakfast and lunch, but in the summer, it adds dinner, landing it on a list of eateries The Portland Press Herald's Nancy Heiser says she plans to visit over the next several weeks. Heiser captures Porthole's "gritty waterfront character" in this week's review, acknowledging that "it's not for everyone," and encouraging diners to "visit with an "open mind. She gives it 3 1/2 stars.

Porthole offers a different approach to waterfront dining. Food-wise, this spot finds middle ground, serving many dishes that are different from the long list of fried seafood platters you find at many casual eateries (although you can get a few of those, too) or the elaborate entrees of upscale restaurants whose picture windows allow only sheltered views of the ocean.

John Golden of DownEast adds his voice to the chorus of praise for Spread, calling it "a contender for some serious dining," as well as a "scene stealer for the cocktail crowd who prowl for carefully crafted drinks." His rapture over his menu choices, including smoked trout pate, scallop crudo and "perfectly cooked" duck breast, results in this curious but favorable assessment: "Spread makes its mark by draping the flavors of fusion fare over a home-grown culinary vernacular."

For cheap eats, PPH visits neighborhood stalwart Congress Bar & Grill to enjoy its "substantial, meaty food with robust sides." These reviews are written in the first person, but are bylined as "From staff reports" - the anonymous "I" liked the "very good" haddock chowder and the burger: "The cheese was melted evenly, and the burger was cooked at precisely medium, as I desired. It was fabulous."

THE BLOGS: George Smith, writing for Morning Sentinel, heads out to Peaks Island to stay at the Inn on Peaks Island, admitting up front that the trip is at the invitation of owner Fred Forsley, who also owns Shipyard Brewery and is a sponsor of Smith's website, George Smith Maine. It's no surprise that the food at the Inn's restaurant, which "rises well above pub fare," finds favor with Smith and his wife, Linda.

Joe Ricchio of Eat Maine also visits an inn - The Asticou - in Northeast Harbor. Its restaurant, Peabody's has a new chef, Stephen Barck, who Ricchio says has "made an effort to update the menu and create a more refined dining experience." He swoons over foie gras with apple bread pudding, remarking that he would eat the dish again for dessert or even breakfast. The rest of his meal gets equal high marks:

Both my dining companion and I are completely floored by the garlic-roasted Colorado Lamb Rack, which is cooked to absolute melt-in-your-mouth perfection and is awash in a rich port wine lamb jus. It is served with a luscious, lightly truffled risotto of maitake, king trumpet, and beach mushrooms, with a side of broccoli rabe to impart bitterness and crunch.
The From Away bloggers also go on the road to Tenants Harbor, where they find fine Maine seafood with a view at Cod End:
There’s lot to like about Cod End. Getting there on the winding woodsy roads leading back from a visit to Port Clyde is the prologue to its charms. ... But I haven’t had seafood fresher or sweeter than the stuff I ate here. In fact, I think I enjoyed the plump, light sienna colored mussels and the very clean clams that undulate obscenely from their springy black necks as you let them linger in liquid butter the most.

· Very Good Food In A Gritty, Waterfront Setting [PPH]
· Circle Back To 100 Commercial [GD]
· Congress Bar & Grill, Portland [PPH]
· Take An Island Break On Peaks [Morning Sentinel]
· The Asticou Inn In Northeast Harbor [EM]
· Cod End Seafood & Marina [FA]

Porthole

20 Custom House Wharf, Portland, ME