Portland Maine

The Changing Face of Old Port Portland Maine

Downtown Portland Maine is a lovely place to visit with its renovated, 19th-century brick buildings that now house restaurants, bars and upscale shops. Since our last visit, the town appear to have been a fair amount of development. This area now has a number of new shops (including Simon Pierce crystal and Cabot Cheese shops).

Commercial Street, which runs next to the harbor. has also seen a lot of new development. While some of the old (but mostly renovated), wooden warehouses are still there, large modern apartment and condo complexes and some of the city’s largest and most popular new seafood restaurants are now evident in the area. Scales and the Portland Lobster Company now provide formidable competition to the 40-year old deMillo’s Restaurant.

The extremely popular Portland Lobster Company, whose business extends well beyond dinner hours (at least on weekends) courtesy of a bands that play 60s-80s music that deservedly draws large crowds of 40-60-year-olds, including us. A number of these and other bars throughout the Old Port district—and especially along Exchange and Warf Street Alley, also offer live entertainment on Saturday nights, Sunday afternoons, and probably Friday evenings.

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The Portland Art Scene

Portland’s downtown arts district is anchored by the Portland Art Museum. The museum had two temporary exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection. The temporary shows included one on the work of the pioneering, early 20th-century artistic photographer and teacher Clarence White and another on American artists who embarked for Europe in the late 19th to early 20th-century. The artists included John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, James MacNeill Whistler and Mary Cassat. The works includes some very non-traditional paintings from some of them, particularly Sargent’s landscapes.

John Singer Sargent - VeniceJohn Singer Sargent Streat in Val d'Aosta PurtudWinslow Homer Weatherbeaten

The museum’s permanent collections included a gallery of Maine from artists including Homer, Rockwell Kent and G. Wesley Bellows and one of Hudson Valley School painters such as Homer, Bierstadt, Gilbert Stewart and Fitz Hugh Lane. Accompanying these were galleries dedicated to Impressionists, the interaction of North American and European Abstractionists, Modernists and Contemporary artists.

Bellows Matinicus

Some of the city’s more interesting art galleries and organizations include:  · Portland Art Gallery whose range of works include an interesting wood and a number of interesting rock sculptures;

  • Bob Crew with its exhibition of Tim Bavington’s Rock n’ Roll Abstract Art exhibition;

Bob Crew Library guitarTim Bavington Roch and Roll Absgtraction

  • The Institute of Contemporary Art’s 2018 Alumni Triennial;

ICA Alumni 01ICA Alumni 03

  • Salt Cellar, with its large salt crystal lamps, whose bulbs were inserted in the hollowed out crystals. But a warning, these lamps may “weep” in humidity and even melt in water.

Portland Salt Cellar

Not quite an art museum or gallery, and much more poignant was the Portland Media Center’s temporary exhibit:

My Lai Memorial Exhibit. Put on by the Chicago Veterans for Peace, it consists of several series of panels that describe the conditions, stereotypes and engrained perceptions among many soldiers, including those in Lieutenant William Calley’s platoon. It then discusses a number of particularly disturbing incidents that were part of the massacre that killed 504 Vietnamese in four hours. Also those who suffered the aftereffects, such as those of Agent Orange and unexploded Ordinance and the peripheral victims in Cambodia and Laos. It gives an examples of a few of the soldiers who tried to mitigate and save some villagers from the massacre and then draws a few lessons they see for other involvements. Such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

My Lai Exhibit

Portland’s Eastern Esplanade

This greenway, between a road and the city’s harbor is the only part of the Portland outside the city center on which we focused. While it entailed a several-mile walk (it can also be reached and seen by car) we were rewarded by lovely natural and manmade sites. The natural attractions included the esplanade, the harbor with its pleasure craft anchorage and the rolling hills on the other side of the harbor.

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The manmade landscape included the park’s many sporting fields and courts, its playground, an historic narrow-gauge railway museum and, across the road from the esplanade, a line of huge, beautifully-restored, Victorian-era ship owner and sea captain’s homes.

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Portland Restaurants: The New and the Tried and True

Our time in Portland provided a chance for two dinners and one lunches. Two of these restaurants, Fore Street and Eventide, were repeats. Our second dinner, at Scales, gave us a chance to explore a new (at least for us) restaurant.

Fore Street

This more refined sister restaurant of Scales (and also of Street and Company) is our long-time city favorite. We shared one appetizer and one entrée. These were a nice wood-grilled Longfin squid with heirloom tomatoes, butter lettuce, roasted corn and charred vinaigrette, followed by very good oven-roasted Atlantic black sea bass with herbed celery, mushrooms, sherry wild mushroom butter and roasted cabbage. Our dessert consisted of a cheese pate for which we chose three Vermont cheeses: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Jaspar Hill’s soft, washed rind Willoughby and Jaspar Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue. Wine began with a bottle of 2015 Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Louise Vineyard pinot, followed by a couple glasses of Cote de Rhone.

Eventide Oyster Company

This immensely popular, casual restaurant and oyster bar was packed for Sunday brunch. We had a fried hake sandwich with tartar sauce and a wonderfully rich Sunday brunch special, the restaurant’s signature brown butter lobster on a steamed bun and topped with two runny-yolk poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. They were accompanied by iced teas.

Scales Restaurant

You can never go wrong with lobster and we got our lobster fix with their roasted lobster. We also ordered the halibut, which reminded us that we do not enjoy east coast halibut as much as west coast halibut (yes, there is a difference). While our meals were OK, we ranked our meals as #3 of 3.

Some diners that we met also recommended Drifter’s Wife, which a scan of the menu suggest may have been a very worthy alternative to Scales.

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