December 27, 2012

TRAVELIN' MAINE(RS): Cafe Miranda now a favorite spot for lunch, too

George and Linda Smith

Linda

click image to enlarge

Kennebec Pizza is THE PLACE

My first meal at Kennebec Pizza came during a brainstorming session on a problem that owner Steve Deptula had encountered. After beautifully renovating a building he’d purchased in Hallowell and preparing to open a pizza place, Steve was informed by the state liquor inspector that he couldn’t sell beer in his 30 seat restaurant because he only had one bathroom.

With help from Ed and Cate Pineau and others, Mark Walker convinced the Maine Legislature to change the law. I wrote my editorial page column about this, featuring an interview with the state’s top urologist, who reported that coffee goes through us faster than beer, but coffee shops don’t even have to provide one bathroom!

Steve, a resident of New York City with two pizza restaurants there, and a summer resident in Belgrade Lakes, found it hard to keep the restaurant going when he was not in Maine, so he sold it six months ago to Mark Walker’s daughter Mellissa and her partner, Austin.

Linda and I visited on a busy weeknight not long ago, and can report that the restaurant is back up to the high standards that Steve established. Mellissa says that guests from New York rave about the pizza and says it’s “just like my mother made.”

Shipyard’s Monkey Fist IPA is their always-on-draft microbrew selection, a very good choice and a personal favorite of mine.

Lin was adventurous — ordering a mushroom and spinach pizza — and noted that the thin crust was flexible and foldable, suitable for the “fold-and-eat technique.”  I stuck with my favorite, the amazing Quatro Formaggi — mozzarella, Gruyere, Gorgonzola and provolone cheeses. Definitely to-die-for.

Many customers were purchasing a couple of slices, but I came close to eating my entire 14-inch pizza until, almost ready to burst, I mumbled, “I think I’m going to stop eating now.” Linda replied, “Yes you are, or I was going to cut off your arm!”

Kennebec Pizza
ADDRESS: 144 Water Street, Hallowell
PHONE: 623-0500
HOURS: Tues. and Weds., noon-10 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., noon-2 a.m.; Sunday, noon-8 p.m.

Have you been looking for an excuse to go to Rockland? We are pretty partial to this town, and love any excuse to go there. When we learned that Café Miranda is now open for lunch, we headed right down!

We love Café Miranda for it’s eclectic menu, atmosphere and amazing food cooked in a wood-fired oven. If you are up for entertainment, sit at one of the four stools at the bar , where you can see how and what they cook. It’s like watching the Cooking Channel except it’s live — and a lot more fun. How they juggle producing all their menu items is beyond me.

Their lunch menu is shorter than their dinner menu, at least a little. Everything on that menu was tempting to me, and I expect that you may have a hard time deciding as well. Every sandwich, salad and soup that was prepared while we were there looked delicious.

Their incredible focaccia bread (baked in that wood-fired oven) turns a sandwich into a very special meal. You can also order some creative dips and spreads for this delicious bread. In short, you can’t go wrong with anything involving their focaccia.

That being said, I actually ordered one of the few items on the menu that wasn’t served with focaccia — the tacos. (I also knew that George would probably let me have a bite of his sandwich.)

The taco plate intrigued me because there were so many choices of unusual fillings: haddock, barbequed chicken, black beans, pulled beef or chorizo sausage. Your two tacos (corn or flour tortillas) are served with poblanos and caramelized onions, lime, cilantro, shredded greens, aioli and their own salsa. For someone like me who adores Mexican food, this was a piece of heaven.

My barbequed chicken tacos came on overlapped corn tortillas, making them less likely to split apart. The perfect chicken — not in a thick sauce, just barbequed quite simply — was the star of this dish. The embellishments put it over the top. It was quite a plate of food, but I ate every morsel. Just writing about it makes me crave it right now.

The option of ordering a dipping sauce for their perfectly crunchy fries makes them even more special. We loved the house-made ranch with ours.

Adam, the chef for lunch that day, confessed to us, “I was nervous when you two guys ordered the two messiest items on the menu.” If there was ever a place where you wouldn’t be judged for messiness, this is it.

In addition, the menu offers other imaginative small plates and entrées, along with burgers and pizzas. You will not leave here hungry, and most lunch choices are $9-$10.
Miranda’s for lunch anyone? Yes, you need to go!

George

It’s been two years since we wrote an entire column about Café Miranda, although we’ve eaten there several times since. We’re drawn to the astonishing menu offering Italian, Mexican, Thai and other cuisine, and by what chef/owner Kerry Altiero calls the “Miranda magic. It’s a spirit, and you can’t mess with it. It’s all about honesty, integrity and performance — HIP.”

Kerry offers a unique dining experience with unusual recipes and wood-fired dishes. Fresh off his Lobster Chef of the Year victory in Portland’s Harvest on the Harbor, Kerry was there to greet us and turn us over to server Katherine, and Adam, the chef at the wood-fired oven that day. We were in good hands.

Taking our favorite seats at the counter overlooking the kitchen, the first thing I saw Adam take out of the oven was an amazing sandwich. In an inquiry I would constantly repeat for the next hour, I asked, “What’s that, Adam?” It was a reuben, my very favorite sandwich. I had to have it!

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