Monday, August 30, 2010

Duck Fat - Portland, Maine

We had a couple nice dinners in Portland at Fore Street and Street and Company, but there are of course more meals in the day. When not scarfing down lobster rolls, we had one particularly notable lunch at Duck Fat. Duck Fat is a spin-off from Hugo's, whose chef Rob Evans was the 2009 winner of the James Beard Best Chef Northeast award. While Hugo's appears to play with many contemporary motifs (the menu intrigued but its schedule did not coincide with ours), Duck Fat has a much narrower focus: Belgian style fries, fried in duck fat, with panini and a few other things to eat along with those fries. It is outrageously successful at what it sets out to do.

The restaurant is folded into a tiny space just a couple blocks off the main drag of the Old Port area, with most of the seating at stools facing the wall, a smattering of two-tops, and a couple long tables. I'm not quite sure if these were intended to be communal tables, but that's what they became when we were there. Needless to say, the thing to get is the fries, served up in a cone of paper and with a choice of a half-dozen different dipping sauces. I went with the curry mayo, while Frod Jr., the second in command fry maven, chose a truffle ketchup.

They are indeed classic Belgian style frites, right at a happy medium between shoestring-thin and steak-fry-floppy, undoubtedly twice-fried, perfectly crispy outside and toasty, barely fluffy and potato-y within. We had an extensive debate at the table over whether they were indeed the best fries we've ever tasted. They might well get my vote, though Mrs. F is still partial to the fries at Bourbon Steak. It was a robust debate. You also have the option of having those fries in a poutine (the Canadian border is pretty close, after all) with curds from the nearby Silvery Moon Creamery and duck gravy, but that seemed a wee bit excessive (though not to the petite collegian sharing our table with us).

Panini make up most of the rest of the menu, made with bread that comes from Standard Baking Company (another member of the Fore Street clan). I had a delicious special of the day made with pork belly, pickled radishes and carrots, some spicy mustard; it could have taught a Cuban sandwich a thing or two. The couple regular menu items we tried were equally good - roast turkey with gruyere and a spicy cherry pepper relish, a tuna melt with provolone and some preserved lemon. The beer list was solid, and I chose a locally brewed Allagash White witbier to wash things down.

If you're feeling especially peckish, you can also round out your meal with one of several milkshakes, and/or some duck fat fried beignets, though perhaps that's better saved for a second visit.

Duck Fat
43 Middle Street
Portland, Maine

Duck Fat on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. This place gets stopped at every time we visit Portland.

    The fries are definitely among best ever. The poutine is good there too but the fries and dipping sauces by themselves are the best move. Can't get less than 3 sauces ever. Washing it down w/ Allagash white is great too.

    If you ever do make it to dessert, the shakes, doughnuts, and sweet sandwiches (i go with the mascarpone and local blueberry) are all great too.