Category: Restaurants

Fuji Restaurant, Old Port: A Taste of Japan

Food is a central tenet of Off the Maine Road. It’s what brings Mainers together. Some treats are uniquely Maine, while other delicacies come to the Pine Tree State from all around the world. Today, we’re going to travel to Tokyo…well not really. We’re going to the Old Port, on Exchange Street, to Fuji Restaurant. As cliché as the name sounds, this is no ordinary eating establishment. The restaurant divides itself into 3 parts (longtime readers know that I like lists):

  • Standard “western” booth seating
  • Tatami mats
  • Hibachi (which is downstairs)

Of course, the take-out option is always available.

Fuji Restaurant's Hibachi grill.

Fuji Restaurant’s Hibachi grill.

During the few visits I made to Fuji, I had the opportunity to sample each seating option, and try many of the dishes. After a long day walking around the Old Port, it was a welcome treat to sit around the hibachi table and watch a culinary experience unfold right before my eyes. Hibachi portions are generous, and include an appetizer, soup, salad, rice, vegetables, and your choice of poultry, meat, fish or seafood. While not part of the traditional Japanese cuisine, fresh Maine lobster is also available. Sushi is fresh, and quite tasty. Of course, I wanted to sample everything on the menu, but due to time constraints (and budget), was unable to. That being said, I encourage you as readers to head out and enjoy Fuji’s take on Japanese cuisine! Feel free to comment below any new discoveries you made at the restaurant!


That wraps up today’s edition of Off the Maine Road. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook for daily updates, Maine-worthy articles, photos and more!

The Ice Cream Dugout: Home Run!

I like to think of Off the Maine Road as a journey. It’s a journey through the best of what the Pine Tree State has to offer. For this post, we’re in North Windham Maine, a short distance away from our last post had to offer. This post will be short and sweet (literally!).

The Ice Cream Dugout is the best around. We must understand what the Dugout tries to combine: baseball and ice cream. The ice cream is inspired by the Portland Sea Dogs, an MiLB team not too far away. Hence, the sizes of ice cream are appropriately named bunt, single, double and triple (and RBI, which stands for Really Big Ice Cream). The 48 flavors (ranging from Almond Joy to Whoopie Pie) are supplied by the delicious Shain’s of Maine Ice Cream Company. One of my favorite Maine treats is the infamous Sea Dog Biscuit, which will be mentioned in further detail in a future post. I highly recommend it, as it is one of the only places outside of Hadlock Field (the Sea Dogs’ home field) where you are able to get one.

Hadlock Field, the home of the Portland Sea Dogs and the Sea Dog Biscuit.

Hadlock Field, the home of the Portland Sea Dogs and the Sea Dog Biscuit.

Combined with the friendly Maine service, the Ice Cream Dugout is worth the stop for a cold treat on a hot summer’s day!

Maine, One Coffee Roaster at a Time: New York Times Feature

From time to time, I will post Maine references from other websites and news sources. Today’s edition of the New York Times featured this fantastic piece about coffee shops in Maine. They’re all great, so next time you’re in anywhere from Rockland to Bar Harbor, start your morning off right!

Click on the link to view the article:

http://nyti.ms/1DjRnlT

(Tip of the hat to Ira F.)

 

An Ode to Gelato Fiasco

I wanted to start this post with a piece of contemporary literature I wrote, written in a historical form.

Holy (sort of)* Sonnet 1: An Ode to Gelato Fiasco

By Benjy R.

In the heart of the Old Port it is located,

The red spoon stands tall.

For in this building Italy is created,

Its recipes never escaping the walls.

People flock from near and far,

To have a taste of this rich cream.

Mainers park their cars,

And purchase some frozen treats, excited they seem.

From cookies to chocolate and other toppings,

The gelato has been made fresh each day.

For some of the flavors may seem kind of shocking,

But the customers devour them, and go off on their merry way.

This Old Port haunt can be quite a fiasco.

Of course you can also eat al fresco.

*Although it (mostly) follows the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet, it lacks iambic pentameter.

The Gelato Fiasco has long been one of my favorite places in Maine. But before we start, let’s get our gelato facts straight. According to Instant Portland’s article The Gelato Wars, “Gelato is not simply “Italian Ice Cream”. It is a frozen treat which shares common ingredients with ice cream, but which typically has a much lower percentage of butterfat and a higher percentage of sugar than American ice cream. It is denser, smoother, and often more flavorful than its more familiar counterpart.” Well said.

Gelato Fiasco (known to Mainers as simply Fiasco) has 2 locations: their flagship store on Maine Street (clever, right?) in Brunswick, and one on Fore Street in the Old Port. I have regrettably only been to the one in the Old Port, but I am planning to make a spiritual pilgrimage to this holy site. When entering the store, you are greeted by Maine goodness. Let me explain. Fiasco’s gelato is not “health food”. However, founders Josh and Bruno (known as Gelatieri) had a vision to bring Italy’s creation and combining it with fresh Maine ingredients. They explain: “We source 100% of our whole milk and cream from Maine dairy farms.” Of course, they use fresh Maine “wild blueberries from down the coast”. Now let’s look at one of my favorite flavors (out of over 1500 ever made) from this local haunt. Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato. Let’s break it down into its components: Milk from Maine dairy farms, homemade oat streusel (as usual, made fresh daily) and fresh blueberries from Down East. What more Maine goodness could you possibly want?

Gelato Fiasco’s Old Port location.

 

Fiasco’s staff are also very “nice” (and they’re working crazy store hours of 11am-11pm). In order to illustrate this, let’s look at example 2: The Waffle Cone. Now when people go to Gelato Fiasco, I highly recommend that they order their treat in a waffle cone; it’s totally worth the extra $1 or $2. I strolled into the store this past summer, and was disappointed to learn that no waffle cones were left. (You see, they make their waffle cones fresh in some complex piece of machinery, with waffle batter.) They said to come back in 20 minutes, and sure enough, the waffle cones were ready. I had already had my gelato, but I gladly accepted the waffle cone for consumption on its own. That’s how good they are.

Gelato Fiasco’s Waffle Cone.

As you have read in the “About” section of this blog, I live in New York. When I left Maine this past summer, I was worried that indulging in such a treat would be a challenge, and would leave me constantly craving Fiasco. Problem solved, thanks to Fiasco’s hand-packed pints sold in a grocery store near me. That’s right. Hand packed in Brunswick, Maine, and brought right to my kitchen. Since this life-changing discovery, I have been able to keep the Maine spirit alive by having Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato and Strawberry Balsamic Sorbetto (another one of my recommended flavors) in my home. Well done, Fiasco. (You can also order pints through their new delivery service, where dry ice is used to keep the gelato and sorbetto frozen.)

IMG_5788

Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato, pint-sized.

 

A few days ago, I sent a message to a few Mainer friends, saying that I acquired new gelato from the grocery store. One of them (who actually lives over an hour away from the nearest Fiasco) responded back saying, “I was just at Gelato Fiasco actually!!” And we conversed about their latest creations, which is basically what all of our conversations boil down to. See? Gelato Fiasco induces unity between Mainers and Non-Mainers.

You’re probably tired at the end of reading these 709 words that this post has turned out to be. You’ll hear more about Fiasco in future posts. But now I wanted to leave you with a quote by its founders Josh and Bruno.

“Food and service should not be a static experience. We explore tastes, people, and culture with a spirit of discovery and within the parameters of the pursuit of excellence.”

Well said, Fiasco. Well said.


To learn more about The Gelato Fiasco, visit their website at http://www.gelatofiasco.com, or watch this YouTube video below.

All photos in this post (as with most of them on this blog) are taken by me.

Maine’s soup is souperb

In a meal one usually starts with the soup, so I decided to start this series of posts with the soup as well. Kamasouptra. In a quest to make Maine the “soup capital of the world”, this small business has developed quite the varied collection of steamy, hot soups. Their locations are spread out between the Maine Mall in South Portland, The Old Port, and the Freeport Public Market. I’ve had the good fortune to visit all three locations, and experience my personal favorite: the Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Soup. No, I didn’t make a typo; it’s actually called the soup soup, for who knows why. But the thing that stands out most to me about this soup establishment is the giant roll of whole wheat bread that comes with each cup of soup. It’s actually sometimes bigger than the cup!

So next time you’re in Portland or Freeport, give Kamasouptra a try in your quest of bowling for soup. I think it will come to you as a strike, and may be right up your alley!

(Yes, I know, too many soup puns.)

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