13 April 2008

frog and turtle

dining date: 04.13.08
the frog and turtle on bridge street in westbrook
web: frog and turtle
pricing category:
could possibly be a significant portion of your weekly dining out allowance, but worthwhile
guest critic:
sister pamplemous(s)e and veggin' like your mother's fruitbowl
overall grade: A-

the lowdown:
- even though we like the name of this "gastro pub," we all tend to call it "the new uffa!" or "the old chickie's"...that should tell you where it's located and who owns it.
- they did a good job with the complete remodeling of this former diner / music venue -- it looks totally different than chickie's did. however, the decor is a little too mismatched for our taste (read: ruffly flowered curtains, big green drapes, sleek leather couch, and neon miller high life sign all in one establishment).
- great waiting area that feels like a comfy living room in the thick of the restaurant. you're not stuck standing by the door while you wait (which is very nice) and the servers were extremely attentive with coffee and wait time updates while we lounged.
- great music played the whole time we were there, which definitely contributed to the fun, laid-back environment. it was a very enjoyable place to spend two point five hours of our sunday.
- plenty of free parking out back, and since they will openly tell you that they don't have a defribulator on premise, you might want to work off your breakfast and exercise your heart by taking a lovely stroll on the river walking path across the street.
- when you go to the bathroom at the f & t, be sure to look for the "framed full monty." you'll know what we're talking about when you see it -- trust us, it's worth it.
- because this was such a monumental event, we are breaking convention right now, and would like to share one epic aspect of our meal in the low-down:
midway through our meal, much to our dismay, the usual overheard our server tell the table next to us that they were out of homemade doughnuts. he also listed off the variations they usually offer, and included a bacon-wrapped doughnut on the list. when we asked him if they actually offer that option, he said no but always hopes that someone will take him seriously and order one when he offers it in jest. we told him earnestly that we would have. his eyes widened and sparkled with jubilation as he exclaimed "fuck!" and ran off. he then returned to the table excitedly and told us that the pastry chef "found" one last doughnut and would wrap it in bacon if we were actually serious. straight-faced, we told him to bring it on. while we were waiting for our chocolate-filled, bacon-wrapped doughnut, we had two different servers come over to confirm the rumors that they'd just heard about some table actually ordering that joke. look right to view our amazing dessert in all it's glory. chocolate, bacon. sweet, salty. being pioneers in our own right. priceless.
the food
the benny girl
- traditional eggs benedict, homies, greens, one piece of bacon, a half a piece of bacon, mimosa, tea, and one quarter of a bacon-wrapped, chocolate-filled, chocolate-covered doughnut
- grade: A
"today marks the second episode in our "field trip series." in case you hadn't noticed, last week we ventured to south portland and today we made the trek all the way out to westbrook. having grown up in portland, i make it a point to never go to this smelly, neighboring mill town if i can help it. oh wait. the mill's been closed for years, it doesn't really smell there anymore, and they're doing a lot to spruce up the town. well, whatever. old reputations die hard, and i still effin' hate westbrook. i hope the f & t realizes the personal sacrifice i made for the sake of reviewing their establishment. when we arrived, there was a bit of a wait for a table of 5 (understandably). as suggested by the very friendly host, we took a seat on the comfy couches and enjoyed the pleasures of people-watching, sipping coffee, and reading gourmet magazines. i was definitely impressed with the attentive and friendly service while we waited. after about 20 minutes, we were seated at a table in the back of the restaurant. moments later, our server arrived and thus began a series of head-scratching/jaw-dropping, semi-hilarious, review-worthy interactions with our waiter. it began with his answer to a question we didn't ask him, interrupted by his hiccups. when i then ordered a tea with honey and milk, he looked at me and said "yeah, don't really know about the honey. can't make any promises" in a rather put out way. not so impressed with that response -- not gonna lie. he then proceeded to bring all of our many beverages to the table one at a time. can't say that was the most efficient system that he could've chosen, but hey -- to each his own. one of his many trips to our table resulted in a cup of tea in front of me, and a comment of "i have someone working on the honey situation." since i wasn't aware that i had given him the mission impossible, i was definitely intrigued by that statement. about 10 minutes later, he brought a container of honey to the table. when i went to pour it, i realized that the seal inside had not yet been broken and when he saw me cut open the seal with wild toast's knife, our server said "is it not open yet? oh that's bullshit. that's total bullshit on my part." my shock at his cavalier attitude about swearing at his patrons was mixed with gratitude at his ability to accept ownership for the poor presentation of honey (something that he obviously knows to be important to me). after he left the table, we all discussed the possibility that they could have actually gone out to buy my honey on the spot...considering how long it took him to bring it to me. of course, this speculation was never actually confirmed, but we all like to think that it did happen and we commend them for the extra special customer service. and speaking of customer service...the other employees at the f & t were fabulous -- very attentive and brought refills, friendly conversation, and smiles repeatedly to our table. okay. i realize that i've spent quite a bit of time talking about our server, but let me pause to clarify for a second. i do think that his intentions were good -- he was attempting to be casual, fun, and sassy with us. and while he pulled it off slightly a couple of times, most of the time his attempts fell flat and left us feeling a little aghast and rather awkward. as someone who used to wait tables, i just think it's best to feel out your table before you throw out the sarcasm and faux-irritation. and, most importantly, the only time you should EVER say "bullshit" twice, "fuck" twice, and talk incessantly about consuming alcohol when you're serving strangers, is if the people you're waiting on are the punks who mugged you last week and you recognize their scummy faces as being your assailants who left you bloody and broke. or if you have tourettes. but you know, even though he was definitely lacking that jenesaisquoi that you look for in a server, he actually carved out a little soft spot in my heart. i kinda liked him by the end of the meal. maybe it was because he looked like a kid on christmas when we ordered the bacon doughnut, or maybe it was just nice to have a little ballsy sauciness from a server in a world where people tend to kiss your ass to get the 20%. there was definitely no ass-kissing, and he still definitely got 20%+ for his brazen, what-you-see-is-what-you-get persona. i think i can speak for the others when i say that he most certainly gets the TBC dundee for most interesting service. define that how you will. oh yeah, the food. the benedict was very good. it was served with ham, instead of the loathsome canadian bacon, which i appreciated and embraced. the stacking of the benedict was perfect and tidy. perfectly grilled english muffins underneath a tight little poached egg and a perfectly-sized dollop of hollandaise. the flavor was great and it was not at all the "sloppy mess on a plate" that makes me categorize a benny as a total flop. the homies were less like homefries and more like smashed potatoes and since i didn't have any strong feelings about them either way, i'll let my fellow TBC compadres comment more about them. i thought they were pretty tasty though. and i really like that the f & t serve their egg dishes with greens -- a very nice and healthy touch. the greens nutritionally cancelled out the grease of bacon doughnut, which is helpful. the mimosa was good and very fairly priced, and the other alcoholic beverages that i sampled at the table were all good (except for the garnish-barren red mess that sat in front of wild toast). and then there was the doughnut. grease, dough, pools of melted chocolate, bacon, and a spear holding it all together. enough said. this was a very enjoyable and epic dining experience. i would definitely go back...perhaps more frequently if it wasn't in that crappy town next door, but i would venture out there again. and just for the record, saying that i would go to westbrook for a repeat performance is about the highest praise that a restaurant can get from me. consider yourself complimented f & t."

the usual
- vegetarian florentine with spinach, tomato, and hollandaise instead of cheddar, "homefries," coffee, bocce ball, chocolate covered, bacon-wrapped doughnut
- grade: A

"oh the dream of a new uffa!, the hope for a new era filled with the jaunty tastiness that has been lacking since they closed, the longing for that delicious something that portland has been missing. i guess that's because it now resides in westbrook, of all places. don't get me wrong, the frog and turtle is not uffa! reborn. instead, it's like uffa!'s kid brother that just turned 19 and got a fake id--a little more laid-back and sprawly, but with uffa!'s genes for taste sensation. although the f&t takes reservations, we neglected to make one, which is just how we roll. the wait however, was fine with me. the wonderful host showed us to the comfy couches where we were able to order beverages while we waited. by the time our table was ready, i was so cozy i'd almost forgotten there was more to the experience than relaxing on couches sipping coffee. once we arrived at our table, i was a little unsure that i could fit into my chair due to it's tight proximity to the neighboring man. after some table scootching, i squeezed in and got pumped for some tasty breakfast. as i browsed the menu, i waited on a refill for my empty mug with mediocre but decent coffee. minutes stretched into more minutes. our server arrived and promised to return with more brew. wild toast's bloody came, the minutes passed. our server arrived again coffee-less, and remembered he forgot benny girl's honey. minutes passed. no coffee. we finally managed to snag the busy host who obliged our antzy table with what we needed. phew. somewhere in there i also managed to order the 'bocce ball,' a delicious combo of amaretto, oj and soda water served in a traditional bocce ball shaped glass. and here, i suppose i should discuss the oddness of our server, maybe. maybe not. i'm sure everyone else will. i will just note that maybe he should tone down the swearing and drinking references. and that although i enjoy sassy-ness in all facets of my life, you must have some sort of normal rapport with your customers before you start goading them and swearing. so there's that. our server did win some major points in regard to the bacon doughnut experience. on to the food. after another customer-induced coffee refill, the food arrived, and oh did it look spectacular. my florentine looked beautiful. i had asked for hollandaise instead of cheddar, and i can't imagine why they wouldn't normally serve it that way when hollandaise is clearly the superior choice. in the midst of ordering and dealing with this cheddar/hollandaise debacle, i had forgotten to ask for my eggs to be poached hard, and let me tell you readers, i powered through, and even enjoyed my normally poached eggs. sometimes i just blow my own mind. next to my perfect florentine sat some tasty greens and a small smattering of 'homefries.' yes, i used quotes right there. do not go to the frog and turtle in search of homies. the 'homefries' are actually smushy, well-seasoned potatoes. and they are very tasty, they just aren't homefries. overall, the f&t will woo you with deliciousness and good times. it'll make you wonder why they aren't located in downtown portland, or why you don't live in westbrook. maybe. oh, and the bacon-wrapped doughnut. well. that was an experience this vegetarian will not soon forget."
wild toast
- cajun bam-bam (two poached eggs on top of sausage and grilled english muffin with salsa and sour cream), homefries, greens, water, coffee, and a whiffle ball...syke, it was a bloody mary
- grade: A-
"westbrook, with its smoke stacks and commuters, isn't exactly shouting out to be a hot destination spot, but for the excuse of eating a tasty brunch, it's worth it. we arrived and were offered over-stuffed cowches for our wait, and were offered, which i accepted and started things off with a good cup of joe. 20 minutes later, we were seated and started on what would turn out to be a very memorable experience. our kind, hiccupping, not-exactly-attentive, perhaps inexperienced, swearing-like-a-sailor, but friendly server, came up and was all over the place with his anecdotes of wine-tasting and bacon-wrapped doughnuts, and his continual banter. having heard that "the man behind the bar" was voted the best bloody crafter in town, i had to try his notorious b to the mary. witnessing a few bloodies prepared during our comfy stay on the couches, i was pretty bummed when my b.m. showed up sans lemon, lime, and cucumber wedge. was it because they had inconveniently run out of that marvelous trifecta of wedgenaciousness? all at the same time?! well, this line of questioning was extinguished when one of my fellow reviewers ordered one that not only had all the fixins, but also looked darker, richer, more manly, and generally tastier. upon comparative sips, i concluded that my bloody mary was not so merry and was prepared by an inexperienced tomato-grower from the land of lacking, and not by the handsome, prize-winning, chopped, puppet master behind the bar. so, i know that they have a good bloody mary because i tried one, but mine was not up to par. so that inconsistency behind me, i thought i'd drink some coffee. but wait! my mug was empty, and in fact, we had to request refills every time, which obviously we don't want to be forced into doing. moving on, my meal arrived, and overall, it was excellent. i had the cajun bam-bam, which while not reminiscent of scrimp or even of much spiciness, was totally awesome poached eggs over sausage and a grilled english muffin. it really was delicious. my "homefries" were the least exciting factor, as they were mushy bits of potato that i sort of ate around. i did split a side of bacon with the benny girl, which i thought was quite tasty. and then we found out from our hiccupping pirate-prince of a waiter that we could get a doughnut, and upon accepting the offer of a bacon-wrapped, chocolate-dipped, artery-binding doughnut, our server was pleased as punch. so, overall, i would certainly consider going again, however, i hope ol' long-john silver buckles down and can be a little more attentive, and i would hope to get the real deal on the bloody mary next time."

veggin' like your mother's fruitbowl
- water, coffee, bloody mary, omelette with caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach and brie, homefries, toast (with jam, once requested) and one bite of bacon-free chocolate-sauced homemade doughnut
- food grade: A- / service grade: B+

"well, my arrival at the f&t was jump-started with an impromptu phone call to my part-time job letting them know that i have been virus-stricken for four days now and therefore work just wasn't going to happen today… i really just wanted a bloody mary. the period between waiting for a table on the comfy leather couch and ordering our food is a rather blurred memory now; nevertheless, a few blips on the radar include our water bringing the drink order one drink at a time, his declaration of the unopened honey jar as 'bullshit on my part,' and the frigid ice-chest temperature at our back wall table. the music, however, notably improved the atmosphere. so, i was served my small, but welcomed mug of coffee – the brew was good, but not extraordinary. my biggest comment regarding the coffee is that we had to request refills every time, no joke. my bloody mary arrived some time later, thankfully with its proper garnishes that my compadre's drink was missing. i feel obliged to confess that this was my first bloody mary experience so i have no basis for comparison. having tasted wild toast's drink, i found mine remarkably better – thick, tangy, heady with horseradish and most importantly, properly garnished. this drink even stirred in me the inspiration to concoct my own spiked beverage… i had visions of pineapple-coconut juice with cacha├ža, garnished with a leg of aloe. shaken, not stirred. our plates arrived in good time and mine was more than adequately filled. knowing the importance of vitamins and fiber, i first dove into my 'greens' accompaniment. please note that the side of greens was a contributing factor to my choice of ordering the omelette, so maybe you will better understand my slight disappointment. i managed to eat them all, but suffered the thirst of ten thousand shipwrecked pirates; so i say no thanks to salty salad. next… to the potatoes, which were, come to find out, in no way the 'homefries' that the menu promised. they offered a pleasing portion of pepperiness but were simply way too mashy. fortunately, the omelette was first class. it was professionally folded and claimed at least half the surface of the plate. i have to say i was impressed by the allowance of four ingredients – and the inclusion of caramelized onions (one of my all-time favourite ingredients) on the list of options. major points there. also, the omelette was generously stuffed, and i could tell that the baby spinach leaves had been delicately wilted with care. merci, monsieur chef d'omelette. wrapping up my first review as a guest critic –thank you TBC- a few words to our waiter. newsflash! buddy-boy, profanity is not acceptable at the table, no matter how hip your customers. i guess you gave it your best shot- maybe you were a little off today, maybe you're just green; you do have a certain blundering charm, i'll try not to be too mean. to the f&t: i think it really says something about a food establishment when one has to wave one's mug or twirl one's glass to catch the eye of, not one's own waiter, but of the host and other distant waiters in order to gain the usual 'goes without saying' regularly-timed rounds of refills. i have to ask, how established are y'all? and please, if you don't preview the politeness-proficiency of your waiters, either routinely wash their mouths out with soap or send them off to finishing school. just so i don't feel like i'm a horribly negative, judgmental oppressor, i prostrate before you and pledge that i shall return – it was well worth playing hooky, popping my bloody mary cherry and slapping down my twenty bucks."

sister pamplemouse
- egg scramble with tomato, scallion and brie on croissant, coffee, oj, pamplemouse
- food grade: A / service grade: B

"while not exactly a buddhist nun (but rather sister to the toast; and definitely not any other kind of nun), i became convinced that i want to serve a pamplemouse (enter correct spelling here) to my ladies-in-waiting while getting primped and gussed for my upcoming wedding. what is a pamplemouse, you ask? grapefruit juice and champagne - served in fluted glass and looking lovely in pink. it was that good. and though that was not the caliber of elegance the meal began with or continued with throughout, there were shreds and shards of elegance poking through the brunch experience. one such shard being the melted brie pocketed among scrambled eggs and tomatoes and scallions heaped enticingly upon a bed of toasted croissant. delicious. not as delectable, however, were the not-quite-homefries, which would have been grand had they but held a consistency closer to their namesake instead of soft nearly mashed tatties. though the seasoning was quite a bit more lovely than the overly salted salad greens, which added a nice appeal to the arrangement of the plate's goods, but lacked the carry through in flavor. the final touch of elegance upon the plate was the small cluster of red grapes that were joyously devoured by this sister to the toast. the egg scramble was delicious from start to finish. contrasting quite sharply to the simple elegance of the scramble, grapes and pamplemouse (insert correct spelling here...that's how they spelled it on the menu), was the service. upon walking in we were greeted cordially and directed to sit in the center of the establishment on deep, comfortable leather sofas while waiting for a table to open. surrounded by an eclectic mix of wooden and wood-stained decor, two beautiful bunches of seeming wildflowers (albeit looking hastily thrust into glass vases and not meticulously arranged - as noted by one intimately familiar with the long drawn out process of the practice of ikebana), we were quickly asked by a friendly waiter (there were no female wait-staff) if we would like anything to drink. three out of five of us ordered coffee, and we all appreciated the service. after about 15-20 minutes sitting there, we were offered a table, but by then i had almost forgotten we were there to eat, only because i was so comfortable that it seemed i was just at a coffeehouse. by that time we had decided that the decor was inconsistent but a much nicer place than what it had been before. having no context for that, being the buddhist visitor to the toast that i was, i simply noted that it felt nice, clean, attractive and inviting within. just to note, i thought the curtains were lovely, if out of place. we were brought to a table near a wall of windows which, at first proved to provide a measure of chill, and we remained bundled up. a series of comic errors then proceeded to erupt, but i kept my calm and watched the unfolding. i ordered a small orange juice, which came but in too large a glass and not being pulpy as i like, it did not live up to my ego filled desire for a freshly squeezed experience. but i drank it all anyway. we then wound up waiting for a very long time for coffee refills, and our friend's order of tea and honey became badly botched when the waiter tried to be too casual from the start (we whispered probably too loudly that he seemed to be drunk or hungover). honey was not to be found and when the "honey situation" was finally dealt with, not only did it appear, much to the frog and turtle's credit, and most likely bought on the sly at that moment, but, much to the shame of that particular waiter, it hadn't been opened and senior toast had to provide a blade to remove the seal, at which point the waiter began to swear. his cussing did not cease an there were a couple of leaks into debasement that tarnished our ears. hence the elegance being occasional shards poking through an otherwise ridiculous, but enjoyable situation. the issue with the waiter was likely that he would simply benefit from training. his manner bespoke a lack of confidence and lack of dignity. this sister pamplemouse believes he would greatly benefit from training his mind with sitting meditation and his actions would therefore be of better benefit to the public consuming the food he serves. we had to ask for coffee every time we needed a refill because no one came around asking us if we'd like more. senior toast was very disappointed about a shoddy bloody mary, especially when compared to the other one served at the table, which came as advertised by the best bloody mary maker in portland - with peppered cucumber and citrus garnish. but he kept his council when the hunky side burned bartender came to congratulate us on our brave breakfast ending order of the most bizarre desert i have ever eaten - a bacon wrapped homemade donut drenched in rich chocolate fudge syrup. two other waiters in fact approached us at that time and applauded. but i get ahead of myself. we enjoyed the meal leisurely, noting the good choice of music, the tasty albeit belatedly served coffee, and the deliciousness of our drinks from the bar and the food on our plates. there were occasionally awkward visits from our waiter, naughty words and all, but the crown of hilarity was the waiter's joking offer of a bacon-wrapped donut. which, as you by now have surmised, we said we'd like to order. as a joke offer, our donut was pulled from the left-over batter (only enough for one), but for the donut itself, i will say that it and the chocolate sauce were stellar. of the bacon wrapped round it, i will say tis a once-in-a-lifetime experience, health-wise probably not encouraged more than that. rich beyond rich. but if you go to eat at the frog and turtle, the original, mind you, do not miss the pamplemouse and brie, and of course, do be sure to ask for a chocolate drenched, bacon-wrapped donut. thank you very much, dear The Breakfast Club, for inviting this sister pamplemouse to be a guest in your review, and for making room for me at your table!"

1 comment:

BoyOhBoy said...

Wow that was long. I feel like I just read "Remembrance of Things Past". Sounds like a very exciting b-fast though.