Caiola’s.

Yesterday afternoon, Paul said to me, “Do you want to go over to town and go out to dinner?  We could take the 5 o’clock boat.”

I looked at my watch (4:15), and the state of the kitchen (mostly clean), and said, “Yeah.  Let’s do it.”

So we combed our hair, put on some nicer clothes, closed up the house, and drove down to catch the 5 o’clock boat, which on a Friday evening outbound from the island is rather quiet.  We called up Caiola’s, which our wedding caterer had recommended to us as one of Portland’s restaurant gems, and which we’d been meaning to eat at for months. We were able to get an early reservation, and so we headed up the hill as soon as we landed at the ferry terminal.

Yesterday was our first real day of fall weather here, and it was clear as a bell, crisp, cool, breezy, and sunny. At Caiola’s, we stepped into a warm and dimmish space, welcoming, with a small bar. The hostess led us through the kitchen to the back dining room, where we sat overlooking the patio, ringed in orange-pink light. Paul had a beer, and I ordered a sidecar, and we enjoyed slices of excellent baguette spread with chive butter.

To start, we split a little gem salad with apples, some kind of cherry sauce on the side, and blue cheese and bacon — essentially a very fancy wedge, made with little gem lettuce instead of iceberg. Delicious! This hit the spot especially, because I had just decided that wedge salads were in our future at home, since the island market had run out of romaine the other day and I had bought iceberg for the first time in many, many years.

For the main course, Paul ordered the hanger steak, served with potato wedges and a spinach-based side of vegetables. I had the mutton-stuffed eggplant with parmesan risotto and arugula on the side. The risotto was a little salty, and the arugula a bit less potent than I expected, but the eggplant dish itself was just what I had hoped: a hearty, comforting, savory mix of mutton, tomato, eggplant, spices, all roasted to perfection. It was somewhat reminiscent of moussaka, without the bechamel/custard topping, and with the eggplant intact. Red wine rounded out my meal; Paul enjoyed a second imperial porter.

Nothing in the dessert menu spoke to us strongly, so we settled our bill (pretty reasonable for two drinks apiece, an app, and entrees, not to mention the overall excellent quality of the food and the great atmosphere and conversation we shared) and headed down the hill to the Old Port, where we grabbed tea and dessert in a cafe on the way to the boat.

All in all, a magical fall evening, full of good food and good company.

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