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As we are about to wrap up 2005, I offer you what I consider to be a few of this year’s best and most interesting food finds in Portland:
Lamb Maladair from Haggarty’s: Doing strictly delivery and take-out, Haggarty’s, on outer Forest Avenue, is a real gem. They have carved out a niche in the Portland food scene by offering what they label "Brit-Indie" food. The menu is modeled after the Indian food available in London — a refreshing divergence from the seemingly identical Indian menus available to us here in the Portland area. Though every dish I have ordered from Haggarty’s has been packed with flavor and large enough to split between two people, the Lamb Maladair sends me reeling with delight. It consists of large chunks of lamb meat stewed until tender with pureed spinach, spices which I won’t attempt to identify, and finished with a tiny amount of cream for richness. It comes with a large serving of rice and a sweet and spicy chili sauce. Also try the appetizer sampler and the traditional Indian bread naan, to sop up the extra sauce. It doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to delivery around here.
Number 15 at Lucky’s: Be sure to visit this inconspicuous little family-run Vietnamese restaurant (also known as Huong’s) on Cumberland Avenue near the Portland Public Market. The ambience is not the main attraction here (though a few minor renovations took place several months ago) but when the bill comes it is quite clear that they are not charging any extra for décor. If your pronunciation of Vietnamese rivals mine, which is truly embarrassing, I suggest ordering by number (that’s why they’re there). Number 15 is a large bowl of thin rice noodles topped with roasted pork, sliced egg roll, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts, and julienned carrots and cucumbers. It is served with a small dish of homemade fish sauce and a large array of accompaniments is on the table. Tweak the flavor to suit your own taste buds by adding various chili pastes, vinegar, or hoisin sauce. If you want to warm up during a cold winter lunch break in Portland, try their famous Pho, a huge bowl of beef broth with rice noodles, shaved beef, (tendon, tripe, brisket, and meatballs for the more adventuresome), accompanied by spicy basil, Vietnamese cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, and hot chilis.
Deep-fried pork belly at La Bodega Latina: This dish is not for the faint of heart and though it might meet the Atkins requirements, I wouldn’t exactly consider it a "diet food." This crispy delicacy is sold by weight in the small restaurant part of this Latin market on Congress Street across from Maine Medical Center. The salty, crunchy exterior and the melt-in-your-mouth meat inside will leave your health concerns by the wayside as you wash it down with one of the tropical fruit drinks from the adjoining market. Other offerings worth mention are the guisado (a rich chicken stew), savory pinto beans and rice, and the fried plantains.
Smoked beef jerky from Matthew Heintz: Smoked over smoldering fruitwood embers in a small self-constructed smokehouse deep in the woods of Thorndike, these delectable strips of salty, chewy beef are the best I’ve ever had. For almost 30 years now, Matthew has been perfecting the art of jerky making. Due to the preserving effects of the salt in the marinade and the dehydrating effect of the smoke itself, he does not add any of the chemical preservatives so often prevalent in commercial products. Contact him at 207.568.4044 for regular jerky or his fiery cayenne-laden variety.
Wilson Rothschild can be reached at email@example.com
Issue Date: December 23 - 29, 2005
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