I spent the past weekend in Portland, Maine, which quickly earned my respect as one of the best food towns around—especially if you weigh the number of terrific restaurants there against the actual population, which is about 230,000 (greater metro area). A couple of chefs there have won F&W Best New Chef awards—Steve Corry at Five Fifty-Five, Rob Evans at Hugo's (where I had a terrific meal, and whose duck fat-fried French Fries at the appropriately named Duckfat are worth a pilgrimage unto themselves). There's also Sam Hayward of Fore Street, kind of the godfather of New England locally sourced cuisine—I stopped in for a bowl of wood-roasted thumb-sized mussels that were just sublime. And there's Browne Trading, which has the unique status of being both a terrific fish purveyor (Le Bernardin uses fish from Brown, as do a host of other top restaurants) as well as the best wine store in town.
On top of all that, there's Rabelais Books, where I spent a very cheerful half hour or so chatting with owner Don Lindgren, and on another day an equally cheerful few minutes chatting with co-owner Samantha Hoyt Lindgren (they're married). Don knows the used & rare food/wine book world inside out and Samantha knows the Portland food scene equally well, though for all I know they're both equally knowledgeable about both subjects. Along with that, they're charming, smart and funny, and the shop's pleasantly spacious and is great fun to poke around in. First edition of Evelyn Waugh's Wine in Peace and War? Sure. First American edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book? Righto (for $350, a bargain in relative terms). Plus it's got every new release wine or food book you might want, too. Check out the website, but make doubly sure to stop in if you ever get to Portland.
And it's only about 200 feet from a large order of those duck fat french fries...