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Monday, January 23, 2017

BaoBao Dumpling House- Portland, Maine

We arrived in Portland, Maine just in time for lunch.  I knew Portland was famous for it's food scene and the  biggest issue would be how to fit as much food as possible in 48 hours (first world problems).  With high expectations and building excitement, it is quite easy to look at the long list of 4 to 5 star rated restaurants and be a little overwhelmed by the options.  

The thing about Portland is there is more than a little bit of everything.  In the mood for Asian?  Pick from one of these five restaurants with rave reviews.  Seafood?  I don't even know where to begin with the choices.  I decided to consult "The Bible" (Fodor's New England travel guide if you are new to the blog) with this tough decision.  The book had yet to disappoint me so far, with an awesome stop at Congdon's donuts and a nice little walk at Rachel Carsons preserve to start the day.  

While perusing through the food section, two restaurants really jumped out at me: BaoBao for their dumplings, and Duck Fat for their fries.  The idea was set and I was not leaving Portland without dumplings or french fries.   And so, our first real stop (if you don't count the donuts) became BaoBao. 

General Info

BaoBao Dumpling House
Rating:  4.5 Stars 
Address: 133 Spring Street, Portland, ME 
Contact: 207.772.8400
Open:  Wednesday through Sunday, Closed Monday and Tuesday

Reservations:  Parties of 8 or more

Vegetarian Friendly:  Yes

Gluten Free Friendly:  Dumplings no, but some options 

Parking:  On the street (metered)

Special Events
1/2 Price Dumplings: 2:00-4:00 (Wed-Fri)
Happy Hour: 4:00 - 6:00 (Wed-Fri)
Monthly Tap Takeover (currently featuring Oxbow Brewing)
Pop Up Events 

Why The Name?
"BaoBao 包宝 in Chinese translates to “wrapped treasure”, or in our case, dumplings (jiaozi 饺子), served in a historic townhouse in Portland’s West End.  We offer Asian inspired comfort food, designed to satisfy both the midnight foodie, or discerning dinner diner.  Our core menu is supplemented with ever-changing daily specials and a wide variety of teas, beers, wines and specialty cocktails".

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Urban Farm Fermentory

It's another chilly New England winter day and we are still talking about the foodie little city of Portland, Maine.  I promise to provide you all with a nice little "Winter Weekend in Portland Guide" soon, but before I wrote that guide up, I wanted to feature a few places that I really loved in the city.  Earlier in the week we talked about Allagash Brewing and today we are talking about another brewery (kinda!) -- a visit to the Urban Farm Fermentory.  Weird name, not so exciting storefront, but what is inside is so many sorts of awesome. 

A good friend kept insisting we visit UFF.  "Do not leave Portland until you have been to this place" was the urgency I was getting .  We kind of kept just nodding our heads and weren't really sold on the place by just the name and not many details.  I was a little confused by the name as in a "what the hell will a fermentory have that I want to drink" kind of way?  All I could really think of was fermented foods and I wasn't exactly sure what UFF had to offer.   I didn't really think this one through and I wasn't expecting to see such a cool spot with so many amazing options on tap.  From different types of beer and mead to ciders and kombuchas, there was something for every palate inside UFF.  And no, nothing tasted or looked like kimchi.  

The building is tucked away in a quiet corner of the city in an industrial park (we may or may not have sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for it to open, early bird gets the... kombucha?).  The outside is really unassuming which confused me even more, but the inside was trendy, bright and an awesome space for a brewery, er, fermentory. Walk in past the cornhole setup and head to the bar and be prepared to be surprised with the fun and funky flavors of UFF.   

"Urban Farm Fermentory® is an experimental urban farm, fermentation factory, and community engagement hub located in Portland, Maine. It is here that we craft authentic kombucha, jun, cider, gruit, and mead using local and foraged ingredients, when available. To sample our full selection of fresh, and seasonal concoctions on draft, visit our tasting room to experience the culture!"

Monday, January 16, 2017

Allagash Brewing Company

When heading north to Maine in the winter, I knew our options of outdoor activities were a little limited.  With temperatures hovering in the high 20s, this trip was going to be mostly about eating and drinking our way around Portland.  When the temperatures are below freezing and you want to take off on a foodie/boozie adventure in New England, Portland Maine is the perfect place to go.  

The weekend was a mix of good food and great local beer.  Looking at a map of breweries, the list of local brews in Maine can almost be overwhelming (so much beer, so little time I am afraid).  While the microbreweries are popping up at an alarming rate, there are the big names like Shipyard and Allagash who are well known and have been around for a while.  To start our tour in Portland, we decided to stop into Allagash to see the space and of course, sample some Maine brewed beer. 

Entrance to Allagash Brewing Company

A great and very busy brewery in an awesome space.  On a "campus" or I guess you could call it an industrial area with several other breweries and distilleries.  Free tours, FREE TASTINGS and a really cool tasting room and patio (covered and with heaters in the winter).  I loved that the patio was dog-friendly and I can see how this would be an amazing spot in the summer, making your way through the various breweries, distillery and food trucks.  While here in January, we tasted four beers, all delicious with my favorite being their classic (and first beer!) Allagash White.  Little Brett was a close second and the porter was a delicious winter treat.  White makes it pretty far across the U.S. and it is pretty common to see it bottled at various restaurants in New England. 

While most breweries are just trying to sell beer (and it seems to be all about IPAs these days), Allagash is working on expanding on and perfecting Belgian Ales.  If you like Belgian beers and want to taste and tour the operation, this is a great stop in Maine.  While the tours were booked up, we were told we absolutely have to come back to see the operation.  Tours are free but book up quickly (reserve in advance online).  While the tastings are free, you cannot order a pint at the bar, beer is only sold to go.  They have some various merchandise and snacks available for sale as well.  If you love the local beer scene after your tasting at Allagash, you can turn this into a full out Maine Brew Tour.  Head across the street to try out Foundation Brewing Co, Austin Street Brewing, Bissel Brothers Brewing, New England Distilling and Geary's Brewing. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Cliff Walk -- Newport, Rhode Island

One of the best parts about blogging is that it makes you a better writer in the long term.  The more I blog the more I find my "voice" and discover what a good blog post looks like.  Between my style of writing, the pictures I take and the way I present the information, it all gets better.  When I visit some of my favorite places a year or so later, I can update old posts to give you, dear reader, a better blog post. Today, we are revamping my post on Cliff Walk with some real Nikon photos, a better flow and information.  So let's chat (again) about a world famous walk and Rhode Island's most popular visitor attraction, Cliff Walk.

Cliff Walk in the winter 
What's a Rhode Island post without a little intro to our countries smallest state?  It's no secret I am one of Rhode Island's biggest fans.  Ocean, architecture, history, charm, scuba diving, shops and some amazing seafood, what more could you want (I bet you Utah folk just said mountains).  Newport is just one of those iconic New England towns and when you catch it on a beautiful clear summer day, sitting on the dock eating oysters at your favorite restaurant while the band plays and the cocktails are poured, those long hard winter New England months seem all worth it and so far away.  When you catch Newport on one of those days, its hard to describe how lovely it is.  

What is it:
If you find yourself as a tourist in Newport, there is a lot to do.  Among one of my favorite things (and the one thing I insist every visitor do) is take a walk on Cliff Walk.  It is a world famous walk along the eastern shore of Newport, Rhode Island.  This walk combines the rugged Atlantic coast/Rhode Island shoreline with the mansions of Newport's gilded age.  The 3.5 mile long walk starts off as an easy paved trail in the southern portion (about 2/3 of the trial), past famous mansions like The Breakers, before turning into rugged and rocky shoreline and dirt paths through tunnels and by the lawns of private properties. A walk, a hike, a little bit of both with breathtaking scenery from the waves of the Atlantic to the manicured lawns and gardens. This is the only National Recreational Trail within a National Historic District in the United States.

Couple walking down a paved section of the trail
Cliff walk is an amazing way to see another perspective of the Newport Mansions.  On one side, you will pass famous sites like The Breakers, Forty Steps, Rough Point, and Mrs Vanderbilt's Tea House (more on all this later).  On the other side, you get sweeping views of the Atlantic and Rhode Island's coastline. During my latest trip in December, wWe walked about 80 percent of the trail- about from the Breakers over to the end, walking the road back to the Breakers.  From the more developed areas to the rockier quieter section, we loved it all.  

Short detour on a more ruged section of Cliff Walk
The trail leaves the nice paved path and crosses over this rocky beach

Monday, January 9, 2017

52 Hike Challenge: 2016 recap

If you are big on the hiking hashtags on instagram, you have probably seen the #52hikechallenge pop up here and there.  I saw it constantly on friends feeds like my dear friend Amanda and when 2016 started I decided to take a part in the 52 Hike Challenge myself.  

What exactly is it?  
It is a commitment and a way to create a "be more active" challenge for yourself.  You make a commitment to yourself to (on average) hike once a week.  Hence, the 52 hikes in one year.  It doesn't have to be one hike per week (unless you want to define it that way!).  You can define the terms based on your individual goals.  For you a hike can have to be a new trail, at least 3 miles, or whatever rules you want to set.  There are great resources on the website you can use and fancy ways to play along, but I just decided 52 hikes, set some guidelines, and write them down in my planner.

52 Hike Challenge

My Rules
I decided my hikes at to be at minimum one mile, and the trails had to be partially dirt (could be paved parts for access ways, etc).  My goal wasn't to go on 52 long strenuous hikes, or to hike once a week, but to encourage me to get out and walk more in new places. 

I wanted a little extra "oomph" to see new trails, see new views to new lookouts, get away to new parks.    At the end of 2016 I had completed 52 "Hikes" (what I defined as a hike for this challenge) in 3 countries (USA, Puerto Rico, Madeira Portugal), in 11 states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Utah, Ohio, South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, and Arizona) for a total of about 409 miles.  I wasn't after peaks or crazy mileage.  Some of my hikes were in crazy exotic places, while some were a quick mile on the trails by my house.  All I wanted was motivation to get out more, and add in more variety.  Looking over my list, the variety of my hikes in so many states (and even a few different countries!) is an achievement for me.