Fore Street, Portland

In an era of Portland food culture that has seen an endless sea of praise—both locally and nationally—many restaurants have come and gone. There is one, regularly cited among the elite, which has weathered the storm and continued to attract patrons regardless of what the current trends may be. I am, of course, referring to Fore Street.

I have been dining here periodically over the span of many years, and though the establishment itself continues to evolve, part of the draw for me is the consistency. Rarely does one encounter a front of house staffer whose tenure does not exceed ten years, and the ambience has remained warm and inviting, with wood and copper fixtures flanked by a large brick and soapstone hearth. All of these elements contribute to Fore Street’s “destination” status.

Fore Street is the perfect place to spend a crisp Sunday night in October. Though a seat in the dining room offers open views of the bustling kitchen, my date and I are happy to take our perch at the bar. We begin with a snack of seared veal sweetbreads with sautéed dandelion greens, poached pears, and spiced white wine vinaigrette as we investigate the menu, which changes nightly. The assortment of flavors and textures is quite nice, and though I am not normally a huge fan of pear I must admit that the sweet, refreshing crunch it brings in contrast to the delectable sweetbreads is irreproachable.

The wine program is varied and extensive, with many selections that have benefited from extended cellaring. We decide on the 2009 Bell Claret from Napa Valley, a blend of mostly traditional Bordeaux grapes that is quintessentially Californian in style, with big, up-front flavors of blackberry and cherry. This is exactly what I’m in the mood for: a wine that can be enjoyed regardless of whether or not it pairs perfectly with the food.

Our next course is the chilled seafood tasting platter, which consists of Maine lobster with tomato and basil relish, sliced yellowfin tuna with pickled turnips, Atlantic scallop ceviche marinated in smoky mezcal and citrus, and molasses-cured king salmon with a ginger cabbage slaw. A glass of Domaine Carneros Brut N.V. stands in nicely for the Claret here, as to not interfere with some of the more delicate flavors on the plate.

One of the elements that I enjoy most about Fore Street—in addition to the chewy, soft bread from Standard Baking Company slathered in butter—is the fact that warm foie gras is perpetually found amongst the menu offerings, with an ever-changing array of accouterments. On this particular evening the foie gras is served grilled with sweet cherries, pesto, and bitter arugula, with toast points provided as a conduit for the decadent, fatty duck liver.

There is something decidedly different about lamb that is raised on an island—it takes on a flavor reminiscent of its unique diet, including an ample amount of seaweed. Our lamb entree involves three separate preparations of said beast, starting with turnspit-roasted leg over apple and turnip, followed by a wonderfully tender smoked shoulder and scallion biscuit, and concluding with grilled liver topped with horseradish cream. Each component of the dish is fantastic alongside the wine, as is my side of sautéed wild matsutake mushrooms with butter and earthy black trumpet salt. The mushrooms take on the flavor of the rind from Brie cheese, making them quite pleasing when eaten with the lamb.

Though all I want is a heaping shot of Fernet Branca to steady both my nerves and my insides, my companion insists on dessert. I begrudgingly allow myself to sample the insanely rich dark chocolate torte with cookie crust, hot fudge, and almond toffee ice cream, but am unsuccessful in putting the spoon down once I have begun.

In the end I get my shot of Fernet, and all is right with the world. After over 15 years of operation, it is refreshing to see that Fore Street still maintains the standards of excellence that earned them their sterling reputation to begin with. The end is, thankfully, nowhere in sight.


288 Fore St. | Portland | 207.775.2717 |

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