MRW: Spirit Quest 2019
As I’m writing this, Maine Restaurant Week 2019 has been pretty amazing. I’ve eaten so much amazing food and tried so many new things I couldn’t even tell you. Like sweet vermouth…it’s pretty much the only liquor I want to drink straight now.
Anyway, if you were lucky enough, you scored tickets to the sold out Spirit Quest. And if not…well, here’s some of my favorite pairings! You know you want to keep reading!
What I love most about events like Spirit Quest is how creative it is. No two bites or sips at any of the participating establishments were the same.
In case you missed it, the winner for Judge’s Choice was Union Inkwell Bar with a lamb meatball and a gin cocktail called the Greek Affair.
People’s Choice winner was The Grill Room, with their pork belly bite and a Thai’d Up cocktail. Honorable mention went to the Old Port Sea Grill, which was my personal favorite.
Here are the restaurants who participated in this year’s Spirit Quest:
The Armory at Regency Hotel; BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood at Portland Harbor Hotel; Congress Squared at Westin Portland Harborview Hotel; David’s Restaurant; DiMillo’s; Five Fifty-Five; The Grill Room & Bar; Independent Ice Company; Liquid Riot Bottling Co.; Old Port Sea Grill; Petite Jacqueline; Slab; Timber Steakhouse and Rotisserie and Union/Inkwell at The Press Hotel.
So, if I had to pick, these were my favorites:
Old Port Sea Grill
I love when chefs and bartenders get to think outside the box. It gives us a little more insight into what they like as well!
Yes, something about Executive Chef Alex Cove’s Salmon Pastrami on brown bread just stuck with me throughout the event. Gotta say, there were some amazing bites and delicious sips, but some of them didn’t feel paired.
That was anything but the case at Old Port Sea Grill! You wouldn’t think that a salmon pastrami with goat cheese and beets could go with a Positano Punch, but it does.
Though the punch had Plantation Rum in it, the flavor never overpowered the delicate salmon flavor. For me, that’s what makes a winning bite and sip combination!
I voted for the Old Port Sea Grill as my favorite at the end of Spirit Quest. If you’d tried that soft brown bread, I’m pretty sure you’d be agreeing with me that it was the clear winner for the Spirit Quest!
Anyone that knows me has figured out that I have an insane sweet tooth. Like I’d live on all sweet things if I could get away with it and not weigh a thousand pounds #sorrynotsorry at all.
So Slab’s chocolate chip tamarind cookie with a chartreuse cardamom ricotta knocked my socks off. I liked the sip, which was an Italian wine spritz, but once I started on the cookie and soft, sweet ricotta, it was all I was focusing on.
I almost felt like I was eating an ice cream sandwich that wasn’t cold, if that makes any sense.
DiMillo’s on the Water
Not going to lie, I was shocked that DiMillo’s didn’t serve up anything seafood related. Mind you, it was a pleasantly surprised kind of shocked, because “The Dude A-Bites” was a great play on words and it was like my dessert dreams had come to life.
The sip was basically a more sophisticated take on a White Russian, a la The Big Lebowski. But again, this was another situation where the bite stole the show.
A chocolate ganache custard that was a touch spicy and incredibly nuanced was the bomb! Basically, imagine a custard version of the classic Mexican Hot Chocolate.
Please, please, please, if anyone at DiMillo’s is reading this, put this chocolate decadence on the menu. I bet it sells out! Probably because I’ll order all of it..
Independent Ice Company
I think if I had to pick a second, after Old Port Sea Grill, it would be Independent Ice Company. Their house made chocolates infused with Stroudwater Distillery Bourbon & Rye were pure perfection, especially paired with their Pike Pole Bourbon Sangria.
Here’s the really exciting thing: the sangria is on their normal menu and you can get their chocolates if you order their chocolate flights! The chocolates not only melt in your mouth but the filling does too.
The chocolate I tried was raspberry. I took one bite, intending to make it a two bite chocolate. But there was so much raspberry filling, I had to pop the whole thing in my mouth at once. It was tart, and set off by the subtle sweetness of the chocolate and smoothness of the bourbon. Yes!
Finally, nobody should be surprised that Timber knocked Spirit Quest out of the park. They’ve been doing some amazing things since opening, and show no signs of stopping. The bite made me wish it was a full meal, especially since it was pork tenderloin with a bourbon cherry compote on a crostini.
There may have even been some duckfat infused chocolate drizzled across as well. Which, let’s be honest here, can all of my chocolate from now on be infused with duckfat? I’ll die happy, that’s for sure!
The sip was a cucumber gin martini, which was light and refreshing. Well needed when you’re having a foodgasm over a tiny pork tenderloin bite you just finished!
If it’s not obvious, I loved the Spirit Quest, even if the weather was not ideal! As always, I can’t wait to see what else they come up with for Maine Restaurant Week next year.
Personally, I think Spirit Quest should be on the ballot again. Let me know in the comments or on social media what your thoughts on my favorite Spirit Quest sips and bites are!