Stephen Dreams of Sushi

Rain Drops & Miyake

The first time we went to Miyake was when it was a bring-your-own-beer neighborhood restaurant that sat about 15 people shoulder to shoulder. To say it was small would be generous, and it was always full. It was not your typical California roll, tuna with cream cheese sushi experience. The quality, presentation and creativity were above all other sushi restaurants we’d tried.

We recently visited the new, larger Miyake on Fore St. The interior has a calming presence – dark wood, backlit white fabric wall, and a cool maze-like cut-out dropped ceiling.

Nicole wore our new rain chain necklace and bracelet. The hundreds of small dangling silver drops give these pieces a suppleness which is unusual and playful.

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I decided to go for the full Miyake experience, the “Chef’s Choice”, which is like showing up at someone’s house for dinner and having whatever is being served that night.

Nicole went from the menu and selected 4 dishes.

As a surprise starter we were both served a cabbage Maine seaweed salad. Nicole put it best, “often you have a seaweed salad and come away saying it was good for a seaweed salad. This seaweed salad was delicious.” It was pickled with a mild flavor.

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Nicole’s first dish was tuna three ways which made her feel like a tv food show judge. One of the preparations was Zuke, which was marinated in a soy sauce and turned out to be her favorite of the night.

I received an assortment of sashimi (raw fish). The fish was fresh, the presentation dramatic with the colors popping against the black plate. I had raw lobster for the first time and it tasted remarkably like cooked lobster.

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Next out for the chefs choice was Sea Urchin – not something I would typically order, but definitely fun to try. It reminded me of an oyster, but not as strong a sea flavor.

Nicole’s crab cake came with a little salad that included radishes and goat cheese. The salad was a nice a surprise that she hadn’t noticed as part of the dish when she ordered.

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To the left, the empty bowl of Chawanmushi, a hot egg custard served in a teacup. It had the consistency of flan but was savory. At the bottom was a gingko nut – very tasty. To the right were small clams served in a tea kettle with a wonderful earthy broth. After finishing the clams we drank the broth with the tea cup provided.

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The first thing Nicole noticed about her swordfish was that they used the same sauce that sushi restaurants would typically use on eel. The sauce made the dish really good, it was very flaky and tender.

I was a little too excited for my next course, skate cheek and forgot to take a picture. The skate cheek was shaped like a scallop, but flaky like fish.

IMG_1007The finale for both of us were pieces of nigri (raw fish with rice). Often when having sushi I like to add more wasabi, ginger, and dip into soy sauce. During this meal I skipped the wasabi and ginger and used the soy sauce sparingly to really get the full flavor of the fish. All pieces were fresh and delicious.

pic4We haven’t been to many sushi restaurants outside of Maine, so we don’t have a lot to compare to, but Miyake is the best we’ve had. Maybe someday we’ll get to try sushi in New York City or visit Jiro in Japan.

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x3161_zoomRain Chain Necklace & Bracelet

Road Trip South

Wind & Waves Jewelry at MC Perkins Cove

Nicole and I were picking up a new dining table in Kennebunk on a recent Sunday from Americana Workshop, the first piece of furniture we’ve purchased together. We had the time, so we thought we’d go a few more miles south to Ogunquit and have brunch at MC Perkins.

Ogunquit is a nice town to visit, as long as it’s not July or August when traffic crawls and parking becomes scarce. A couple times a year we like walking the shore path that travels along the rocky coast from the center of town to Perkins cove.

On this cold and windy march afternoon parking was easy as was getting a table. Nestled in a little cove with views north toward Kennebunk, MC Perkins may have one of the best locations for a restaurant in the State.

Just inside the door you find a long polished wood bar that leads to the dining area where they take full advantage of their site with large picture windows. All the tables in the place have a full view of the cove.

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The interior is very nice. Nicole thought it felt manly with the browns and the beiges, and while it’s a little fancy, it’s actually very comfortable. Even though the downstairs was fairly open they seated us upstairs. We had the second floor all to ourselves, and with our own private waiter for most of the meal. I thought he sounded and looked a bit like a younger Christoph Waltz of Big Eyes, Django Unchained, and Water for Elephants. Before leaving we learned he was from Russia, but had spent many summers in Maine. I guess I’m not the best at deciphering accents (Russian vs Austrian).

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Neither of us are Bloody Mary enthusiasts, but for those who are, they had five or six versions on a special brunch cocktail menu.

We both chose savory dishes and decided to share a desert appetizer of blueberry doughnuts with a side glaze. The first bite was a welcomed surprise, it’s not often you get to have warm freshly made doughnuts and if they routinely came this way we both said we’d be in trouble.

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By itself the doughnut was very good, not too sweet with a homemade flavor. When the lemon thyme glaze was added, it was great. We started by pouring the glaze over the doughnuts, but quickly moved to dipping them instead.

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Nicole picked the BLT. It was a large sandwich with avocado and an herb mayo. The bacon was done just right, and the avocado was a nice addition.

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Her sandwich also came with homemade chips. They were a good basic chip. I thought they looked beautiful and took a picture of the light coming through one. They were golden orange and looked like an infrared image of the sun.

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I went with the fried egg with ham. The ham came cubed and was delicious. Spread on the sides of the plate tasted like an adobo sauce that worked really well the rest of the dish. They made something really simple delicious. Nicole said they were the best eggs she’s ever had! Next time she said she’s ordering the eggs.

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While Nicole wasn’t the biggest fan of the seared toast it was a highlight for me. It tasted like it was made over a campfire – a hint of smoky deliciousness.

The experience at MC Perkins was terrific – nice views and excellent food. Sometimes the two don’t go together, but they pull it off nicely.

Leaving the restaurant was like leaving an oasis of calm. A flag outside the restaurant was stiff in the wind and it was biting cold. Nicole went right to the car. I spent a few minutes and took pictures of the boats in the narrow channel beside the cove. Great light on the water!

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Nicole was wearing a new collection, the Wind and Waves necklace, bracelet and earrings – very apt for the day’s weather.

At an international jewelry show this February we discovered the bracelet first. We loved it. The artist suggested the necklace and earrings to match. We were hesitant until she put the necklace on. The transformation was stunning.

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A Delicious Detour

French Daisies at Petite Jaqueline

Crepes had been on my mind all week. A sweet crepe. A delicious crepe filled with warm Nutella and ripe slices of banana. If James Lipton of the Actors Studio were to ever ask me, “What would you like to hear God say at the pearly gates?”, it’s possible my reply would include Nutella and banana.

With this crepe desire in mind, I brought home our French Daisy necklace, bracelet, and earrings for Nicole to wear in anticipation of weekend brunch at the Merry Table on Wharf St.

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Heading into town Nicole found the restaurant on Yelp. “They’re closed” she said. I was incredulous. I was sure I saw on their website that they were open. “Not closed for the day, closed for good.” she said. While I was struggling to comprehend the unfolding situation, Nicole came through with an excellent alternative.

Petite Jaqueline was a quiet place at 1pm on a Sunday. Maybe it was the weather, or because it was past noon, but we got the feeling that it was not the most popular place in the city for Sunday brunch. This is definitely a shame, because after having the food we would both wait in line for a table!

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The interior of Petite Jaqueline mixes provincial French with urban cool – light vanilla yellow beadboard and white trim suggest a welcoming bistro in Provence while the high ceilings and tall glass windows overlooking Longfellow Square are all city.

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Nicole ordered a decaf coffee. It came with a mini carafe of milk and a bowl of sugar cubes. I almost ordered a coffee myself just to use the sugar cubes.

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The menu had a good mix of sweet and savory items. Nicole went for the burger and fries. The Croque Madame stood out mostly because I remember learning of it in 5th grade French. I decided to give it a try. It was actually Croque Monsieur that I recall from French class. Both, I found out, are ham and cheese sandwiches; the difference is the Madame has a fried egg on top.

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The Madame arrived looking bland and uninspiring – covered in a white cheese sauce. Looks were deceiving because the first bite revealed an intensely satisfying sandwich. Smoky brined ham. Melted gruyere cheese. Two slices of buttered white bread toasted to the perfect point of crunch.  A mornay sauce with a subtle nuttiness and fried egg to top it off. All components balanced in delicious harmony. It was great.

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Nicole’s burger came topped with caramelized onions, cheese, and aioli. It was delicious. It tasted like French onion soup and a really good burger put together! She liked the size of the burger too- it was not too huge, but just enough to fill her up.  We both agreed that it’s in the top three burgers in Portland!

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The fries here are also really good. You could tell they were made fresh, and they give you a lot, which is great for sharing.

As we were driving home Nicole was already planning a return visit another Sunday, maybe the salmon eggs benedict and some pastries? Oui s’il vous plaît!

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French Daisy Pendant – X2542

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Fly Me to the Moon

Apollo 8 Necklace & Earrings at
Maine Restaurant Week’s Signature Event

If you mix food, drinks, nice cars, electronic music, and colored stage lights all under the roof of a car repair bay, you get Maine Restaurant Weeks Signature Event and it’s a blast. I know that a car repair shop sounds like an odd place to hold a foodie event, but it turns out to be great venue.
For several years now the signature event has been held at the Prime Mercedes dealership in Scarborough. Both times we’ve gone we come away amazed at how clean the repair shop is – no oil spots! The place looks and smells brand new. We’re not sure how they keep it spotless. It’s one of life’s great mysteries.

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A couple years ago we had the opportunity to go when it was cocktails paired with deserts. This year it was cocktails paired with a savory bite. Being able to try different foods and drinks from varying establishments at the same time is a real treat.

Going to an event like this Nicole and I felt like TV cooking show judges – in our imaginations we were Padma Lakshmi and Anthony Bourdain. It seems like a fun job and it certainly is to try the variety of chef inspirations over an hour and a half. It is, however, much more challenging than it appears from the couch. The first few tables went smoothly, but as the food and drink kept coming it became difficult to keep all the differences straight. To compare three or four items is easy, but 11 small plates and 11 drinks make for a challenge.

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We didn’t take notes so Nicole and I can provide the highlights – David’s Opus Ten had our favorite drink, a sweet chocolate flavored cocktail with a surprisingly spicy aftertaste. Their small bite was also excellent, a beignet pastry topped with pulled pork. We both loved the savory and sweet combination.

The showmanship award goes to Marche of Lewiston. The two young bearded bartenders had the ladies entertained as they shook and poured their ruby red citrus cocktail. They also added a bit of pyrotechnic flair, spraying a spiced alcohol mixture into a flame which gave the small drink cups a sprinkling of added flavor.

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Natalie’s had my favorite dish, smoked chicken in a pastry dough. It required a second and third sampling. I see a trip to Camden in our future.

Before leaving we spent a few minutes dreaming in the showroom. Nicole was ready to take home a GLA 250 Mercedes. I had to pull her back to reality, our Camry awaited in the parking lot.

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In the short time since Fine Jewelry Foodie began the Apollo 8 necklace and earrings were Nicole’s favorite pieces to wear and from my viewpoint they looked incredible on her. The combination of rose gold, white topaz, black rhodium and diamonds make for a striking presence and their undulating lunar-like surface adds to their appeal. Fun pieces for a fun evening.

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Silver Beads at the Stakehouse

Cancun Silver Beads at
Timber Steakhouse & Rotisserie

Soon after Timber opened I remember walking down Exchange Street one evening and being stopped mid-stride by the warm glow of the interior and beautifully lit bar. I love good lighting. Ever since, it has been on our list of must visits. Restaurant week proved to be a great opportunity to get through the door and I’m glad we did.

They have a two-door entrance with a heated vestibule which is priceless on cold Maine nights so you don’t get that freezing draft during your meal from other diners coming and going. The interior of this restaurant is an experience in itself. The lighting is a soft orange and makes you feel like you’re in a cozy living room. The bar is long with plenty of seating, and behind the bar, the wall looks like a wood pile (sliced cross sections of tree trunks) that adds to that warm feel. Timber is on the fancy side for Portland, but comfortable enough so you can relax and have a good time.

Timber likes its bourbons and whiskeys. The waiter recommended the Smashed Whiskey as a favorite and so I had to try. It went down easy – mint, a bit of citrus and lightly sweetened. No-one would call Nicole a whiskey fan, and she thought it was ok. That’s a resounding compliment.

The restaurant week menu had two salads, two entrees and one desert. We both had the wedge salad, which was crisp and creamy. It was our first time having bacon lardons (still not sure what they are), but they tasted good and really made the salad special.

For the main course Nicole had sliced hanger steak with French fries. The fries were awesome and whether it was the 100% grass fed Maine beef, or the chef’s skill, she said it was the best hanger steak she’s ever had. The only downside – they give you a choice of butters and she didn’t care for the stilton chive butter.

I picked the rotisserie chicken which came with a side of green beans. My first bites were the beans and they were otherworldly bringing me to my happy place – a nice crunch with a mild bacon flavor. The flavor was hard to pick-up after eating some chicken so it was good that I started with them. Chicken was spot on as well and you get to pick two dipping sauces.

The finale kept the good times rolling – chocolate mousse, bourbon soaked strawberries, and a gingerbread cookie that had all the right chewiness with a lite sugar dusting. The cookie was so good Nicole now wants to bake some at home. I’m a fan of that.

The check came with Andes chocolate mint candies, which remind us of going out to dinner as kids – loved it! Service was excellent. Food terrific. Whiskey generous. We’ll be back.

 

This evening’s jewelry was the Cancun necklace and bracelet. Simple, elegant, classic with a nice weight – you know you’re wearing something. Generous size 10mm sterling silver beads. Length of necklace 18”. Great for dress or casual. Beads really popped against black.

Silver Bead Necklace - EX2981

Silver Bead Necklace – EX2981

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Snowflakes in the Air

Snowflake Jewelry at Vignola

After receiving over 7 feet of snow this winter, the addition of a few more inches wasn’t about to keep us from going out to dinner on a Saturday night. Expecting this storm, I had planned ahead and brought pieces from our New England Snowflake Jewelry Collection home for Nicole to wear.

I went out to warmup the car and already there was an inch of snow on the windshield. I blew on it. It was so light, the flakes scattered, sparkling under the outside house light.

Nicole came out and she had on a black wool coat. I took a few pictures of the snowflakes on her sleeve. With the snowflake bracelet off to the side I was able to capture a few well-formed flakes.

Vignola has great lighting. Wine bottle chandeliers and industrial filament bulbs give the restaurant a comfortable modern romantic feeling. There’s nothing like a warm incandescent bulb to create an inviting space and with the snow falling outside it felt even better.

To start, we had French onion soup. It was respectable, but the bar for French Onion Soup has been set very high for us. Last winter we spent 3 days in Quebec City. While there we had the best French Onion Soup of our lives at Café St. Malo – a small restaurant between the Old Port and Lower Town. It had a rich deep soul satisfying flavor that left us marked for life.

When we returned home I told my Dad about this soup. He said he too had the best onion soup of his life while in Quebec 35 years ago, though he doesn’t remember where. He hasn’t found an equal since. Nicole and I are now on a quest to find an onion soup here in Maine that can compare. We’re definitely open to suggestions!

For an entrée, I had the Zuppa di Pesce- a mix of seafood in a spicy tomato sauce. It wasn’t overly spicy. A decent choice for a cold evening. Nicole’s Beef Braciole was good. It had a nice flavor but the carrots were bit undercooked. Next time we’ll stop in for a drink and appetizers.

After dinner we took a quick walk down Wharf Street and I took my favorite picture of the evening – Nicole smiling, snow coming down, the glow of Fore Street in the background and the Maine Snowflake pin on her coat.

The evening’s jewelry was the New England Snowflake Collection. Large Maine snowflake necklace, dangle earrings, and pin as well as the 6 snowflake bracelet. Each snowflake on the bracelet represents a different New England state. The snowflakes on the bracelet were created from actual flakes.

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