There haven't been enough frosty nights yet for really good foliage, sadly (though there were some good patches of color, especially north of Freepert,) but BarmyFotheringayPhipps and I had a one-day chow tour north of Boston on Saturday and enjoyed considerable success on that front.
We started out with breakfast at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, which has become such a favorite for us that we've been know to design detours through Portsmouth for just about any trip that takes us towards NH or southern VT. BFP went for an old favorite that he hasn't had in the last couple of visits, the Green Eggs and Ham. The Friendly Toast interpretation of that name is two poached eggs on slices of ham, on toasted anadama bread, topped with a homemade herbed mayonnaise seasoned primarily with dill. (All of their breads are made in-house, and are excellent.) I went for a basic eggs-toast-home fries combo, with their cayenne-cheddar bread, which was delicious. (I'd never tried it before, as I usually order a side of the excellent cinnamon raisin bread done as cinnamon toast.) On the side I got one of the West Coast pancakes (with house-made granola and chopped dried apricots sprinkled into regular pancake batter.) The single pancake turned out to be the size of a plate! Luckily it was thin and very light in texture in spite of the heavy add-ins - absolutely wonderful. The home fries had a bit of cayenne for heat and were very well-cooked (not as crusty as I like best, but good) and the coffee was strong but not too burnt.
After a lengthy shopping stop at LL Bean, we headed a little bit north of Freeport to Topsham ME in pursuit of a lead on a good German restaurant, and found an absolute gem. A Taste of Europe, AKA Old Munich, is a pretty little cafe with a Biergarten patio off to one side. The current menu is not as extensive as the ambitious one on their website, but still offers an interesting variety of wursts (bratwurst, weisswurst, Hungarian bratwurst ((smoked bratwurst with garlic and paprika)), and currywurst) as well as a solid array of other German specialties such as sauerbraten, roasted pork loin, and either veal or pork schnitzels.
I had a feeling we were in good hands when the friendly young waitress offered us a choice of bread, dinner rolls, or soft Bavarian pretzels. We went with the pretzels, which were served with a potent yellow mustard. BFP had the Hungarian bratwurst with red cabbage and a potato pancake, and I had sauerbraten with the red cabbage and spaetzle. I tend to avoid sauerbraten because it so often disappoints me, but this was a winner - well- marinated meat but not too pickled, in a cream-based sauce with raisins but not over-sweet. The spaetzle were light and delicate, the potato pancake crispy on the outside and well-cooked inside, and the red cabbage tasty (if not as good as my own!)
We deliberately skipped appetizers to leave room for coffee and dessert, and were not disappointed on this front either. I had a Dutch cherry torte, which sandwiched whipped cream and sour cherries between thin layers of puff pastry, and BFP had the Swiss roll, a roulade of chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream. Both were excellent, and we only regretted that we had to pass up the other delectable choices such as a very traditional-looking linzer torte, vanilla ice cream topped with rum-marinated fruits, or a light, mousse-like lemon cheesecake.
I'm a big fan of the Student Prince in Springfield, but I have to say that this was far better, some of the best German food I've had in the US in at least the past 20 years. I wish it weren't such a far trip for us, but you can bet that if we find ourselves planning a visit to LL Bean we'll find a way to work in a stop at A Taste of Europe as well.
We had planned to finish the day with a visit to the Topsfield Fair, but alas, it was not to be. We had hit the road just before 8am, and by 4:30 or so, after a rich and substantial lunch, BFP was feeling weary. Then we hit serious traffic between Wells and Ogunquit, we stopped in Portsmouth again to run an errand that took longer than we'd planned, and before we knew it the evening was well upon us. We tossed around ideas for dinner - for once a stop at the Clam Box didn't appeal, and we had nearly settled on trying out the reportedly excellent fried chicken at the Agawam Diner, when I was taken by an unexpected craving for old-fashioned Chinese-American food.
I should hang my head in shame - I know I should. But every once in a while I get a hankering for the Chinese food of my childhood, old-school egg rolls and sweet and sour pork and egg foo yong. So we started to keep an eye out for likely prospects. What about this place? The sign says "Specializing in Szechuan and Hunan" - I'm not sure I trust them on that front but I don't think they'll have what I'm looking for either. We pass a couple of tiny take-out places in strip malls but we need someplace where we can actually sit and eat. It's dark out, it's getting late, and suddenly it's raining hard. And then in another little strip mall, in Salisbury, I notice the Good Fortune restaurant, and while it wasn't spectacular, we enjoyed a pretty decent dinner.
BFP started with what turned out to be a startlingly yellow egg drop soup (I suspect a heavy hand with prepared chicken soup base, which is in no way proper, but oh well.) Then we shared an order of fat, fresh, cabbage-stuffed egg rolls, crisp and well-cooked, which we dosed with good duck sauce (hard to find nowadays) and seriously sinus-clearing Chinese mustard. The house special fried rice (ordered without shrimp - BFP is allergic) was outstanding, and the plain steamed rice was tasty as well. Sweet and sour pork was decent, though there was way too much batter on the rather small bits of pork. Ordering the orange flavored beef was possibly a bit of a mistake on our part, and it was definitely an odd rendition. We got about eight or ten large, thin slices of steak (each a good 3 inches square!) lightly battered and deep-fried before being cooked in a brown sauce with plenty of chile paste and a lot of dried orange peel, and the requisite side garnish of plain steamed broccoli. Not exactly what we'd expected, but actually pretty tasty. All in all a solid meal, and it satisfied the craving. Plus I got the perfect fortune in my fortune cookie:
"Today's a day to nourish yourself. Feed yourself well."