Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Portland and back

This last Sunday Susie and I wound up the Mini and drove two-and-a-half hours to Portland, Maine for a family get together: Dick and Dorothy had driven up from Douglas, Massachusetts and Joyce drove down from Orono, Maine, and we all met at Bintliff's American Cafe on Portland Street in, well Portland of course!

After more than 30 minutes standing outside -- in moderately annoying weather -- we were ushered inside one of the coziest places we've eaten in a long time. Once through the front door of this architectural relic from a long-gone era in Portland history, we threaded passed everyone else waiting and followed our host upstairs the five of us squeezed into a booth. Once seated, coats off and hung, drinks ordered we commenced a pleasant afternoon catching up on all the news.

Conversation continued over a delicious meal and we all agreed this was a great choice for spending a family get together (and take ten bucks out of petty cash Dick for this find!). Service was wonderful, the food very good, and the portions quite generous. The omelets and frittatas were flavorful with impressive list of ingredients to choose; a delightful dining experience and great value as well.

three-egg omelet

After brunch the five of us drove down to the wharf area, along Commercial Street in search of the Standard Baking Company. Susie had recently come across their cookbook and wanted to check out their wares. Parking was at a premium along the street but much to our surprise we found a couple of spaces right in front of the bakery, set as it was back a little off the street it had its own lot.

We had no sooner walked in than a flood of people followed right behind -- maybe they were watching to see if anyone else was going in. The shop was, in a word, pretty much a standard bakery, with lots of breads in the background and a reasonably broad selection of pastries in the case in front.

Having seen what we came for -- and of course we picked up a couple of things to try later -- we all said goodbye and headed our separate ways; Joyce back to the wilds of Downeast Maine and Dick and Dorothy to the quiet of southern Massachusetts. 

As for us, well Susie and I decided to stroll and get a lay of the land so to speak -- the weather was not terribly pleasant but we had never been to Portland before and this was our chance to see what all the fuss was about. So we did.

Even though the weather was far from cooperative there was a surprising number of other like-minded souls strolling about, and many of the shops, catering to a variety of tastes and concepts, were open for business. We even passed one cafe touting itself as "Mornings in Paris." Once inside, however, it looked more like a downsized Starbucks clone with baked goods that could hardly have passed the most generous of Parisian palates. 

Nevertheless, seeing all the imagination at work in such a short space and time I can now understand why Amtrak has regular service from to Portland Boston.

We found our way back to the car and headed for the Interstate north and a quick stop at L. L. Bean in Freeport. It was then time to turn ourselves south and home. 

Would we go back to Portland? I suppose so. One thing was certain: it was grand spending quality time with family in a different city for a change.

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