Woodford Food and Beverage – Off the Peninsula, On Their Game

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I reviewed Woodford Food and Beverage about four months ago which was about three months after they opened. My first experience there was excellent, but I wanted to give them a follow-up visit to see if they were still throwing the same game in the busy upscale diner. My wife and I were meeting a friend before our reservations to grab some pre-dinner drinks and arrived to a packed restaurant. Every seat in the house was taken, including those outside. Our friend was already there at the last, lonely seat at the end of the bar and waived us over.

My wife sidled up next to our counterpart and wasted no time in ordering a Dark and Shrubby – Spiced Black Strap Rum, ginger-rhubarb shrub – due to fond memories of the one she had consumed on our last visit there. Our friend already had a Not-A-Colada – Tito’s Vodka, coconut creme, lime, pineapple, and nutmeg – hold the coconut creme. Sans coconut, the drink looked Margarita-esque and she gave it high praise. Unfortunately, I was driving, so I was staying away from the drinks that night. As we chatted, I instead drowned myself in the atmosphere of the beautiful bar and lively, somewhat loud crowd.

We had been sipping and chatting for close to a half hour before our table was ready. It was still prior to our reservation time, so we were pleased to be able to sit when we did. Water and menus soon accompanied us and the race was on to figure out what to eat. At some point during the early seconds of our menu gazing, we were visited by the waiter who remembered my wife and me from our last visit there – pretty impressive considering we had only been there once four months prior. He handed over some pickles consisting of yellow beans, tomatoes, and carrots. Then before leaving, he dropped the specials on us which included a slight alteration of the Plat De Jour and the Fish of the Day. They both sounded awesome, but not exactly what I was looking for that evening. As the waiter walked away, I dug into the pickles to clear my mind and their tasty, mild spice also helped clear my sinuses.

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To start our food-fest, Mrs. Portlandeater suggested that we go with Caramelized Onion Dip – sherry, ricotta, goat cheese, marscapone, house made rosemary seasoned potato chips and then added that I should get the Classic Deviled Eggs with pickled mustard seed, paprika, and smoked bacon that I loved so much last time. I conceded and our friend was on board so I put in those orders. In doing so, I had broken one of the golden rules of food reviewing – “thou shall not review the same foods within a short period of time”. Fortunately, I nailed the “happy wife, happy life” rule of marriage which is probably more important.

After a reasonable wait, we were the recipients of the dip and eggs. We placed our main course orders, with the ladies adding a second drink each, and got to work. I took a quick chip trip to dip-town. The oval potato slice was crisp as the day is long and the dip was an equal partner in deliciousness. The long, stringy onions were encompassed in the cheesy mass which played up the sweetness of the marscapone. It was exactly as I remembered it and that was a good thing.

The next move was toward an egg. Those bad boys were sliced down the middle crosswise, then the reconfigured yolk was piped in, and they were topped with a bit of bacon and chive. The bottom of the plate was caked in paprika. One bite brought back an ocean of magnificent memories from the last time I had them. The pickled mustard seed took the yolk filling to a whole new level as both the vinegar and mustard give a serious scream to the sensational spawn. Even though the bacon was a plus, it was somewhat unnecessary because the rest of the egg was otherworldly on its own.

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As the cast of characters at our table finished the goodies, we had our plates taken away lickety-split. Soon we were looking at new foods in front of us. My wife had ordered the Hake FOTD special which came with a sizable piece of well-crusted fish over some asparagus with new potatoes and a whole grain mustard sauce. Our friend received the plate of the day – Tuna Niçoise – lemon-anchovy vinaigrette, new potato, spring beans, bibb lettuce, fennel, and egg. It came with North Carolina albacore tuna and had some local tomatoes added. My dish was a menu standard, Roast Half Chicken – herb butter, spice rub, roasted tomato, spiced greens, honey-harissa-yogurt sauce, natural jus.

Giving the meals at the table a full scan, I was impressed with all of them. They had solid portions and looked pleasing to the eye. The tuna niçoise was especially beautifully plated with four slices of tuna, plenty of fresh greens, and lots of flavorful accompaniments. I turned the focus to my meal and the two large hunks of chicken in front of me, taking some chicken onto my fork, sure to get some of the skin. It was clearly seasoned by a deft hand. The balance of spice and saltiness was perfect – not too heavy on either. Another bite, dragged through the sauce, opened a door of buttery chicken goodness as the sauce practically melted into the bird, offering a moderate addition that provided plenty of flavor without excessive heaviness.

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Once I inhaled a few bites of the chicken, it was time to see what else was there. I moved my poultry around to see what I found in the other corners of my plate. The tomatoes in the sauce proved to be tasty and though I’m not a fan of cooked, leafy greens, I took one bite of those. It wasn’t bad. I’m sure any normal person would have loved their spicy, sauce-laden notes, but I’m flawed and moved those away while I went back to the basics. I dug at the chicken like a Neanderthal for quite a while until all that was left were bones, aside from some of the sauce on my face and clothes.

With most of my food down the hatch, I stared at the remaining greens and pushed my plate aside. My wife offered me the last part of her hake which I accepted without hesitation. The crusty, outer shell of the fish was cooked perfectly, but the shining point of execution was the mustard sauce. Heavy on the mustard it added a powerful punch to the swimmer while still allowing the natural flavors to come through or, if one wanted to add lots of it to their bite, could have pleasantly overpowered it too. The sauce was wonderous and it was also a perfect pairing with the tiny potatoes.

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Eventually, all the food was done and we decided against dessert. I had chicken coming out my ears – figuratively speaking, and was nearly unable to escape the table with my enormous belly. Our meal for three came to about 130 bucks after tip. It was a fair price that included two drinks, two apps, and three main courses. Woodford does it right. After two visits, I can say with confidence that they are completely and thoroughly on the mark, hitting ’em with the hein, and leaving nothing to chance. The service is among the top in all of Portland, the meals are outstanding, and it’s all clearly no secret whatsoever to the locals who are packing the place. Take a trip down to 660 Forest Ave. to see what they are cooking up, but consider making a reservation first to be sure you can actually get in.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start Peterpeterportlandeater.com where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.