What a Bangor meal taught me about eating

What a Bangor meal taught me about eating

A few months back, a friend and I were dining at The Butcher, The Baker in Downtown Bangor, the small restaurant in the former home of The Fiddlehead. She had just taken her first bite of the Wild Mushroom Tart. It was puffed and golden, the creamy mix of chevre and gruyere visible but not overwhelming the richly browned earthy local mushrooms, spring onions and thyme on the surface. It was a delicate tart layered with flavors that complement each other in every bite.

As she bit in, she paused. She dwelled in that moment, releasing a soft moan and chewing very slowly.

“Good food is meant to be savored,” she said after a minute.

It was a message well-received that I’ve been mulling ever since.

It’s the American way to eat fast — lunches at our desks and dinners eaten in cars or around the television. Heck, some evenings when my kids are both out, I eat dinner standing up at the kitchen island. But it’s a bad habit and one that makes it harder to really enjoy what we’re eating. Americans spend an average of just 65 minutes per day eating meals, a decrease of 5 percent over the previous decade, according to the Economic Research Service’s Adult Eating & Health Module report in 2018.

Meanwhile, evidence suggests it’s better for our bodies to eat slower, allowing both the brain and the gut to feel fuller faster. According to a story published by Harvard Health Publishing, it can take 20 minutes for the feeling of fullness to make its way from the gut to the brain — a message that won’t be properly received if you eat too fast.

During that dinner in Downtown Bangor, I found myself slowing down too, letting myself experience the flavors and textures of the Chicken and Waffles appetizer — the pleasantly gritty cornbread waffles topped with warm, juicy, crunchy buttermilk fried chicken and flavored with sweet molasses butter, tangy apple-fennel slaw, rich applewood bacon and divine chipotle maple.

Our meal at The Butcher, The Baker was so good that I returned several weeks later with other friends, eager to taste more. It didn’t disappoint.

But my new devotion to taking more time to savor my food isn’t limited to that one restaurant or one meal. I’ve found myself slowing down wherever I am — letting flavors and textures linger as I chew and taste and experience food anew.

Good food really is meant to be savored. And The Butcher, The Baker is hardly the only spot in Maine to do so.

Ports of Italy in Rockport delivered a similarly transcendent experience when my kids and I dined there over the summer. Though I’d seen pictures of dishes and heard all about an amazing dinner my daughter had there, it cann’t prepare me for the reality of the fresh, well-seasoned food.

The Burrata E Prosciutto appetizer, nestled on a bed of arugula topped with whisper-thin slices of prosciutto, creamy burrata cheese, sweet Peruvian red peppers and a drizzle of rich, sweet, tangy balsamic glaze, exceeded any expectations I had. Meanwhile the Spaghetti Alle Vongole — spaghetti with white clam sauce — hit all the right notes of brine, garlic and fragrance from the wine.

But good food doesn’t have to mean a multi-course extravaganza or a huge expense. It can be found in so several places in Maine and at so several price points.

The divine Vermicelli Noodle Salad with Grilled Sliced Beef at Pho Hoa Grill on Ohio Street in Bangor is worth slowing down for to savor the perfectly marinated and cooked meat, served warm with cool cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts, chopped lettuce, onion and scallions and topped with mint, crispy fried onions and crunch ground peanuts.

Likewise, the He Seoul Bowl at Brickyard Hollow (I sampled it in Freeport, but there are several locations in Maine including a newly opened one in Augusta), has a pleasurable combination of flavors and textures: Korean BBQ pork belly piled on brown rice with roasted red peppers, Brussels sprouts, chives and a sweet chili Thai sauce.

Good food isn’t limited to restaurants either. The meals you take the time to craft at home are worthy too. And slowing down is a way to enjoy the food more. So that’s what I am doing — resisting the urge to eat mindlessly and taking it one slow bite at a time to really enjoy what I’m eating.

The Butcher, The Baker, 84 Hammond St. in Bangor — thebutcherthebakerbangor.com

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