Portland, Maine
A surprising new foodie mecca

From the March 26, 2001 Issue of New York

Coastal Maine is suddenly the destination foodies are talking about, at least since award-winning chef Melissa Kelly (formerly of the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Inn) and New York chef-impresario Matthew Kenney opened new restaurants in and around Portland. They have discovered what Rod Mitchell of Browne Trading Co., fish purveyor to the stars, and fish smoker Des Fitzgerald of Ducktrap River Farm Fish have known for years -- that Maine is not just about great lobsters. "I have the ocean at my front door," says Kelly, "and local produce at its peak from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, the biggest organic association in the country." Kelly and her fiance, pastry chef Price Kushner, opened Primo last April in a Victorian clapboard house on four acres overlooking Penobscot Bay, with vegetable gardens and a greenhouse. Her American menu follows Kelly's philosophy of simplicity, seasonality, and freshness, with a wood-burning oven and hearty pasta dishes reflecting her Italian heritage. An hour away, in the heart of Portland, Matthew Kenney (a Maine native) has opened Commissary in the Portland Public Market, plus Sugar, a pastry shop next door. Also, this summer Kenney is reopening the old Nickerson Tavern in Searsport, where he plans to offer sophisticated country dining, using produce from his eleven acres. Between meals, you'll need to sleep occasionally, and Kelly recommends the Berry Manor Inn, not far from Primo, for its cozy Victorian charm.

Primo, 207-596-0770 (open for dinner Thursday through Monday); Berry Manor Inn, 800-774-5692 (rooms start at $105 during the summer); Commissary, 207-228-2057.