The next morning, after our free hotel-provided breakfast (not worth writing on the Internet about), Anastasia and I set out for Portland, Maine. Neither of us had ever been there, but I was armed with enough food recommendations for a week, kindly provided by some equally food-obsessed Cook’s Illustrated colleagues. We found this Portland to be a quintessential New England seaside town with a dash of that other Portland thrown in for some hippie/indie flavor. After another beach stroll, our seafood yearnings not yet satiated, we stopped for lunch at the Eventide Oyster Co.
As you enter Eventide, the first thing that catches your eye is a large concrete trough built into the counter, filled with ice and a tempting display of every type of oyster that they have available. (The second thing is the fact that nearly every male employee is sporting some ironic hipster facial hair.) The oyster menu is divided into two categories: “Maine” and “From Away.” We ordered a half dozen Mainers ($15): two Winter Point Selects from West Bath, two Bagaduces from Penobscot, and two North Havens. With each oyster order, you can select two items from the “Accoutrements” list; we chose simple lemon wedges and kim chee ice (which sounded fascinating, but when we asked about it, turned out to be nothing more complicated than frozen and shaved kim chee juice). Our order arrived with horseradish ice instead, but we didn’t bother correcting the mistake. Nastia and I both agreed that while all three oysters were wonderful, the small Winter Points were the best: perfectly swallow-sized, briny, and slightly sweet. We each had a glass of cool, crisp Muscadet with our oysters — a perfect accompaniment. (Eventide’s cocktail menu was very tempting, but it was a bit too early in the day for that.)
The Eventide menu and business cards feature a lovely quote from poet Léon-Paul Fargue: “I love oysters. It’s like kissing the sea on the lips.” And that is the most perfect way to describe the oyster experience: It’s like frenching the ocean.
I also tried the Yellowfin Tuna Crudo ($9), served with ginger, scallions, and radishes, and a side of roasted cauliflower with pine nuts and currants ($4). Both were served in charming glazed dishes reminiscent of oyster half-shells. The tuna was cool, fresh, and tasty; but the cauliflower was a bit limp and disappointing. Had it been a bit crisper and more caramelized, it would have been perfect.
Anastasia also ordered the Lobster Roll in Brown Butter Vinaigrette ($13), which was the smallest lobster roll specimen I’ve ever seen in my life; really “Lobster Bun,” may have been a more accurate name for it — it couldn’t have been more than three inches long. She said that it was tasty, but I’m not sure if it could have been tasty enough to deserve the title (by weight) of “Most Expensive Lobster Roll Ever.”
My favorite touch, though, was the giant oyster shell sink in the restroom.