Breaking the budget

Searching for another Twenty Spot, and a couple coins
By TODD RICHARD  |  July 6, 2006

Food can transport you. Right now, I’d like to be transported somewhere with some sunshine. You know the song about rainy days and Mondays, right? Well, what about a patio bar in some sexy European locale? The twenty-spot is not going to get a plane ticket, but it will hopefully get us out of this bad-weather funk.

One of the newest neighbors in the ever-growing Woodfords ‘hood is Portland Spice and Trading Company. Recently transported from the dissolving Portland Public Market, they have nestled into a former bike shop on Vannah Avenue, between Back Cove and Forest Avenue.

The Portland Spice Company, for the uninitiated, has always been so much more than just spices. There’s a reason that "spice" is in the name, but it also has been a consistent source of grocery and pantry items from all over the globe. A long counter on the left of the shop houses an espresso machine, fresh brewed coffee, and a frozen case filled with imported gelato of many flavors. Beyond this is a case of cheeses and artisan meats. There is also a perfect little collection of fresh free-form breads by Standard Baking Company. A foccacia makes itself known, which must be the starting point for the European daydream.

The racks of stuff offer many riffs on the foccacia. A cache of Italian-inspired items on the shelf points toward on bruschetta, a popular appetizer and snack in central Italy. A vacuum-sealed box of Pomi diced Italian tomatoes leaps from the shelf. Sounds perfect. Next is the cold case, which as you may know, is my major weakness.

Here I can make my bruschetta complete with the smallest container of oil-cured olives. These look like olives that sat in the sun for too long or are perhaps sickly. But, on the contrary, they are well and ready to be eaten. The curing in oil (olive, of course) causes the fruit to wrinkle slightly, but the flavor intensifies marvelously. And then, the cheese. There is one remaining container of Silvery Moon Tuscan Herbed Cheese Curd. This is local fresh cheddar marinated in oil and seasoned with herbs. The excitement is such that I forget my budget until I am at the register, learning that this adventure has set me back $13.70. This is not awful by any means, but I still have an adult beverage to procure. Where to go when in need of a selection of inexpensive libations? RSVP on Forest Avenue.

The glow of pink from the middle of the room seems special. Blush wines have long been marginalized as the Jessica Simpsons of the wine world: attractive, but with little substance or other redeeming qualities. Located above the generally awful White Zinfandels are their slightly more respected cousins, the Rose wines. A rather arty label draws out a 2003 Lisa Rose from the Setubal region of Portugal. It seems promising, with a blend of Syrah and Castelao grapes. The bottle's cost, $6.79, would mean breaking the budget, but not by more than pocket change. But if I can debunk the "pink wine" myth, it might pay off.

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