North43Bistro, South Portland, Maine — and a Trip to Peaks Island

Nancy and I got together with Bill and Patty Zimmerman and it was a treat. Among other things, we had a delicious dinner at North43Bistro. But first, a little background.

Bill and I were erstwhile college fraternity brothers (it was a fluid time) and, wondrous to say, Bill is now a pillar of the community on Peaks Island. He serves on and chairs boards, and he and Patty are devoted to supporting not only Peaks Island, but the broader community, natural and man-made. They are sponsoring a second Rwandan refugee family that they have housed on Peaks Island.

Peaks Island is a few miles off the coast of Portland. It remains part of the City of Portland despite repeated efforts to secede (from 1883 to 2011) and create its own polity. Peaks Island is a lovely place with a lot of history. Bill and Patty picked us up at a marina and successfully got us to the island in a dense fog by radar and magic. Bill gave Nancy and me a fun golf cart tour of the island. Like other Maine Islands situated to thwart German submarines, Peaks Island is notable for its many fortifications from World War II, and locals have adapted some of the bunkers as wine cellars and foundations for their homes. Peaks Island also is home to the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum, and the Umbrella Cover Museum, which boasts the world’s largest collection of umbrella covers. The island has lots of interesting and beautiful houses, parks, and views. It’s a delightful place, well worth a visit.

After the tour, it was back to Bill and Patty’s house for snacks with a charming neighbor (I’m horrible at names) that featured oysters from Wolfe Neck Oysters. (Bill and Patty are interested as consumers and supporters of the many benefits of small scale oyster farming and other local aquaculture. For more on that, see the films here.) The oysters were quite good, better, indeed, than the very good Spinney Creek Oysters I’d had at the Saltwater Grille. They have a delicious flavor of the sea, the brine, and a note of … butter?

We motored back to the marina and walked over to North43 Bistro. It’s a modern space softened with some wood, and brightened by floor-to-ceiling windows for lots of light and marina views. North43Bistro also is remarkable among waterside restaurants for the complete absence of nautical decorations — and it’s noteworthy among restaurants generally for pleasant and knowledgeable servers. We sat outside and ordered.

Bill and I both went with the sautéed haddock.

It came with a sauce gribiche, which I know from experience to include oil, capers, lemon, and finely chopped hard boiled egg. It was served over pearl couscous with asparagus, and with a couple of roasted carrots on the side. It was all quite good. Haddock is a good cold water fish, much as grouper and snapper are good warm water fish, and I’m a great believer in eating locally. This haddock was fresh and well prepared, and the sauce was very tasty. I’d order it again in a heartbeat, if it weren’t for what Patty ordered.

Patty ordered a pan seared duck breast and a confit leg.

What a great order! Just look at that duck breast! Oh! And confit duck. Sigh. It came over “Forbidden Rice” and broccolini. The forbidden rice looks a lot like black beans, but who knows, or cares. I would have ordered it except that I had, well, gained another pound or two, and while you many not think that a pound or two is a big deal for a man of my … breadth, after a while they add up. And up. Patty enjoyed the duck and I stared at it wistfully.

Nancy ordered a green salad with salmon.

Nancy loves salmon almost as much as she loves Maine blueberries, and this was a no-brainer for her. The salmon was cooked as ordered — cooked through — without drying out. Simple but great.

This was a very good meal, and I recommend North43Bistro to all. To tell the truth though, the best part of the meal, like the best part of so many meals, was the company, the chance to catch up with Bill and an opportunity to get to know Patty. They are good people engaged on commendable enterprises. It’s a great place to go with friends, old and new, for a great experience, so head on over.

***

And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box. Or bookmark us and check in from time to time. If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome. And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

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