Executive Chef, Josh Berry, believes in local and seasonal ingredients, which I wholeheartedly support. He also believes in delicious aromas because the minute you walk into UNION you smell amazing things coming from the open concept kitchen.
There is one major thing that stands out to me when there is an open concept kitchen in a restaurant (same goes for when there’s a chef’s table) – that the chef wants their restaurant and their food to be an experience for the patron. I really felt that at UNION.
I think they also want you to hang out there because the kitchen wraps around to the UNION bar. There’s even a great lounge area to grab a casual drink and app before or after your meal.
The overall decor vibe at UNION is sleek and modern, but it’s also really comfortable. Like if you’re at a friend’s house for dinner.
Now on to the good stuff – the food.
For dinner, I ordered a la carte but ended up with a nice little five-course meal.
I started off with autumn pumpkin puree soup with burnt sunflower butter, coconut and cracked coriander. I was actually hoping there would be a squash soup on the menu. It didn’t disappoint. It was so tasty… just what I needed on such a cold night.
Next up, crispy brussels sprouts and cast iron spoon bread. If brussels sprouts are on a menu, chances are I’ll order them. I especially love when they are this crispy, served with lemon and aioli (walnut, in this case). YUM.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what I was ordering with the spoon bread. But it came with pork rillette so I was sold. It was delicious. The combination of flavors made this casual dish extra special. And yes, I ate it with a spoon.
For the next course, Chef Berry sent over a Fois Gras risotto. It was divine! Rich, but not overwhelming. It was beautifully prepared and I did everything in my power to not lick the plate.
That picture reminds me – I haven’t even mentioned the wine!
I’m a red wine kinda girl so when the Sommelier at UNION suggested a Barolo, I was 100% in. It paired nicely with each dish. (If you’re interested in tasting notes, my sister, who is legit wine-certified, had the following to say about our 2011 Terre di Bo Borolo – “it’s dry with high tannins and full-bodied. There are notes of cherry, strawberry, plum, prune, tobacco, and vanilla. It’s savory and well balanced.) (Also, if you like wine, follow her on Instagram @lindseybmurray. She likes to post wine reviews.)
Next up – the main attraction, er, courses.
I ordered seared scallops with local clams, braised leek and orecchiette pasta served in a ham-based broth. Very different composition but it’s incredible. The scallops were so fresh. As were the clams. The leeks added a great bit of flavor and the ham broth was warm and full of flavor. This is one of those dishes that fill you up while remaining delicate and light.
We also ordered local braised rabbit with fazzoletti pasta, reserved tomatoes, orange, olives, and whipped mozzarella. This dish is special. Each ingredient complimented one another and stood out at the same time. I especially loved the dried olives. Excellent touch.
As if that wasn’t enough, we got a dessert. I barely had room but when I read the menu and saw chocolate and espresso Bavarian orange fritter with hazelnut Mexican hot chocolate sauce and orange powder, I knew I needed it in my life. Immediately. I was right. It’s decadent and chocolatey and wonderful. So worth the extra tight pants. Moral of this story – go with your gut. (Get it, gut? I was full. Moving on…)
Fast forward 12 hours later… BRUNCH TIME!
We started off slow. A nice little English Breakfast tea. UNION gets bonus points for giving me a pot.
Like I mentioned in my last post, I’m a big breakfast fan. I usually go with some sort of egg dish, and this one blew my mind. Red Flannel hash with poached eggs. It’s served with corned beef, potatoes, and roasted beets in cast iron skillet. This is the kind of breakfast you want when there’s snow on the ground. (I did and there was.)
We also tried the classic egg bennie with the hollandaise on the side. This was tried and true. It’s such a simple dish with tons of flavor. It’s always a go-to for me. Until something like the red flannel hash starts winking at you.
All in all, I had an excellent brunch AND an excellent dinner at UNION Restaurant. It’s obvious that the local ingredients are prepared with love and passion. I totally recommend checking out UNION next time you’re in Portland. And don’t hesitate to say thanks to Chef Berry and his team when you’re heading out – you might even get a fist bump. 🙂
A million thank yous to the UNION Restaurant and The Press Hotel in Portland, Maine for generously hosting me! If you’re interested in dining at UNION, visit their website at www.unionportland.com to learn more. All opinions and images are my own.