Blue Spoon – For More Than Once in a Blue Moon

 

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Blue Spoon sits on top of Munjoy Hill, quietly opening it’s doors to patrons six days every week. When we had a reservation for two at another restaurant and some good friends told us they were coming to Portland, we needed to find a way to accommodate them and were lucky that the Spoon had seating for four available the next evening. We were meeting them there and they were already seated when we arrived at the tiny, little eatery with just the right atmosphere.

A waiter with a notably excellent attitude stopped by to give us a quick study on what was available for drafts that night. There were four – all local – with two of them coming from Westbrook’s Mast Landing. I noted those in my head as the waiter walked away after telling us he would provide the other specials once we decided on drinks. We all discussed which beverages looked like they would quench our thirst with everyone seeming to be leaning toward cocktails except for myself. I was certain I needed a Mast Landing IPA.

We placed our drink orders with the ladies each taking a Little Ricky – vodka, St. Germaine, lime, blueberry infused lillet, and soda. I went with the beer and my buddy ordered an “I like long island ice teas and grateful deads; have the bartender make me something cool based off of that.” Our waiter seemed happy to accommodate that request and went to put in the drink orders. He returned shortly thereafter with my beer and unloaded the food specials, letting us know of the daily dips and spreads in addition to the daily braised ragù.

When the rest of the drinks made their way over to us, we were ready to put in the appetizers. We went with the Dips – trio of daily spreads and dips with grilled flatbread. We also decided in the Heirloom Tomato Tartine – ricotta, boquerones, and garlic toast. At the last second, we realized that might not be enough app for everyone, so I threw in A Plate for Christine which the menu described as a “charcuterie and cheese board”. That, we figured, would surely be enough to start.

With all the drinks in front of us, we sipped away. Mine was an easy drinking IPA, not overly hoppy and perfect for a relaxed evening. The ladies were very pleased with their little rickys and my counterpart was drinking a Postcard, which he really liked even though it contained some grapefruit, of which he is normally not a fan. With some time to chat, the ladies focused on important world events like Bravo TV shows. He and I plugged our ears and sang “lalalalalala” while hoping our food would come out as quickly as possible to put a stop to the discussion of shows which are certainly indicative of the end of all humanity.

Our dips came to the table first and we placed our main course orders at that time. Once the orders were in, we turned our attention to the food which included beet, olive, and pesto spreads. I tried the beet and pesto, siding with the beet and avoiding the olive altogether since I’m not a lover of the green ones. I had a couple flatbread chips with the chunky beet topper until the tartine and charcuterie came out to the table looking great.

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The tartine – an open-faced toast – was topped with ricotta spread and various tomatoes. Then the boquerones were splayed out on top. I went with a slice of that. The garlic and ricotta enhanced the fresh tomato. It was tasty, and definitely tomato-centered with the other flavors speckled lightly to enhance the produce. My first bite didn’t include any of the boquerones, but my second bite did. It was my first experience with them and I took one into my face with slight trepidation. Oh my! The white anchovies were nothing like the horrific, brown, salt cured slices I was used to. These were more like pickled herring and added a little something fish to the tomato dish.

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Once I completed a full sampling of the tartine, I skipped over to the board. With a spread of flatbread, salami, mozzarella, pork pâté, whole grain mustard, dill beans, and candied nuts, I liked my choices. Meat, cheese, and mustard always seem to hit the right spot and the salami and pâté rotated nicely on the flatbread as a base layer. The dill beans were a good distraction from the hearty meat and cheese and the nuts added a sweet dessert to the tray. I like anything that presents options, especially within the same plate, and this definitely filled that space. I noted that the mustard was particularly good and stood up to some excellent mustards I’ve had of late.

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We finished just about all of the starters and my buddy received his order of Arugula and Mushroom Salad – bacon, parmesan, sherry vinaigrette – which was his post-app/pre-main course. Once he was done with that, we received our mains and the other three ordered a second round of drinks. The men ordered Chicken Under a Brick – parmesan, summer squash and Maplewood smoked bacon gratin, balsamic jus – and the ladies the small Risotto – zucchini, pancetta, mint, ricotta salata. My wife ordered here vegetarian style to avoid the pork.

I dug into my chicken – which came without the brick – and it was tender with the mostly traditional jus working as a flavor assist. It was excellent chicken. Several bites into the stuff, I went toward the gratin, taking an aggressive stab at it and downing a sizeable bite. The squash was the core of the side and it was camping within a cheesy, crumby concoction with a hint of pork. The gratin went well with the jus too. I dug into the meal like I was eating to save my life. It was a tasty meal and the two large pieces of chicken were plenty even for my extraordinary appetite.

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The ladies loved their risotto, which was topped with tons of cheese. I tried a bite of my wife’s and was a little surprised that the mint stood out so much. It was an odd pairing with the risotto, but there is something about fresh mint that mixes well with so many foods even if the initial potent minty flavor is a tad shocking. I’m not sure it would have been my first choice in a risotto, but I would have been game to try more to make a concrete decision one way or the other had it been mine to eat. Either way, the melding definitely had merit and, while I wasn’t sold on or off of it based on my small sample, I’m positive its fresh, freeing flavor was something lots of people would find appealing. The ladies seemed to like it aplenty.

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Outside of my empty plate, everyone had about half their food left to take home. My wife and I were done, but our counterparts ordered a chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and cookie dessert along with coffees. The “yums” and “oommms” seemed to indicate sweet satisfaction from the treat. Despite the generous offer to try it, I couldn’t fit another morsel into me. I was finished so that I could avoid the sickness associated with unrelenting stuffing of the face.

So there it was. Our meals were done and I was ready to reflect on what was only my third trip to Blue Spoon. The tab came to somewhere around $270 after tip. That might seem a little pricey, but we ate a lot. Three starters, a salad, four main courses – two of them small, but still a lot of food, and seven drinks made for full bellies and happy people. The service was also top notch and the waiters sense of humor and tableside manor literally made the meal more enjoyable. The neighborhood restaurant did it again. I’m not sure why Blue Spoon continues to be a “back of the mind” place for me, but I think I’m moving them to the front.

In a section of Portland where the class eateries are plentiful, Blue Spoon holds its own and then some. Forget that it’s miniature, which actually makes it all the more endearing, but the food is of the highest quality with lots of local farm ingredients. Vegetables and fruits made a strong play in virtually all the dishes and their freshness was obvious. I believe I’ve said it before, but my real dream is to spend an evening at the Lilliputian bar. With four or five seats on a good day, I expect that view of the room would provide more than ample service and a perfect opportunity to sample some excellent libations. Put this one on your short list. Munjoy Hill’s long standing food purveyor is awaiting your visit and ready to show you what they have to offer.

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.