Date night is a rare commodity in the Morrison household. We go out a fair portion, but it’s usually with a group. Or if we have a dinner thing at the house, it’s overwhelming to the point where babysitting is not really a break because I’m asleep by like 10 after cooking all day. During either of these situations, we don’t talk to one another a lot because we are entertaining our guests separately, or I yell at Josh for being in my way while cooking which of course, is the least sexy thing ever. I wanted a night where just the two of us could talk to one another, share wine, have a normal conversation. I wanted to feel like a girlfriend again, get dressed up, give a shit. I mean, there is only so many times I can wear stretchy pants before Josh starts raising the eyebrow. We chose to have kids early in life (not that early, this isn’t like the sinful sixteen and pregnant) which does come with some disadvantages (but way more advantages). Anyways, when the stars align and it’s just Josh and I alone, we like to pick a place that is going to be really fantastic. Something special. This weekend it was the Front Room in Portland. A magical mixture of amazing comfort, like you could wear shorts there, and delightful gems on a plate. To begin, let me preface by saying, I am a simple eater. I have a sophisticated palette but not a snobby palette. I like fresh, organic, local ingredients done well. I like traditional, balanced, easy to pronounce items that come from well raised animals. I am against anything with duck in it. I hate foie gras. I extra hate truffles. I love things like ricotta cheese and lemons. Just want to make sure you get where I’m at. It was for these reasons that the Front Room immediately appealed to me. The menu focused on taking traditional items and cooking them in a divine fashion.
When we walked into the Front Room, the atmosphere was comfortable yet classic. Wooden chairs, lovely tables, a hostess that smiled at us right away and a small bar that catered to a few people who seemed really happy there. The hostess gave us water right away and complimented me on my shoes. A real bonus considering it was the first time I was without flip-flops in like sixteen years. Anyways, beyond the menu, the waitress read us this huge line of specials, all of which sounded amazing. There were, I believe, four appetizer and four entrée specials. Their wine list was short but well-chosen, the most expensive bottle being $50, the Conundrum we ordered was $30. We chose to begin with some fried calamari which was light and served with some sort of dipping sauce. The flavors were difficult for me to discern but who cares, it was tasty. Then, we each had a salad. Mine was a warm goat cheese salad served with some beets over a large bed of arugula. YUM! Josh’s was an asparagus salad served with romesco sauce and a lightly fried egg. Not my style but he loved it. Then for an entrée I chose skirt steak served over garlic mashed potatoes with roasted asparagus. Josh chose pan-fried cod served over fava bean and snap pea risotto with some sort of white wine reduction. My entrée was soooooooooooooooooooooo fantastic. I have never had better mashed potatoes. And this is why I loved it, this is not a crazy dish, it’s a familiar dish, cooked better than I have ever had it in my entire life. For sides (because we had not eaten enough, my god) we ordered pan-fried gnocchi and skillet cornbread. Worth the extra calories. They were both stunningly delightful. With all of these items our check was $118 (before tip) which I thought was pretty damn wonderful. The waitress was friendly, attentive, kept our beverages full which made us very happy and content. And the kitchen is extremely open, so we got to experience it all live.
I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Everything was so great at this restaurant. Josh and I felt like we found a place we could call our neighborhood spot. A place we could bring the kids, go for just a sandwich if we wanted to or our go to romantic spot when it’s just the two of us. When you don’t get a lot of evenings alone, it’s important that it all lines up the right way which is what made this even better.
I’m telling all you local Maine folks who live near Portland, try this place out. You will fall in love with it, as I did. It’s spectacular food prepared really well. And I believe this is what the world needs more of, never mind this stuffy, fine dining crap. Let’s eat food that is grown close by, cooked with simple methods and made to make you feel good inside. If I owned a restaurant, I would want it to look just like this. Kudos Chef Lee Harding Smith. You have created my new favorite place.
The Front Room
73 Congress Street at the corner of Howard
Portland, Maine 04101