Saturday, February 27, 2016

And The Winner Is...

For many a year, I've woefully missed the annual Sea Dog Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, the flagship event kicking off Restaurant Week here in Portland. Typically, I enviously listen to the local news anchor gush about the mouth-watering offerings as I hustle to get ready for work, wishing I'd remembered, once again, to take time off to attend the event. This year, however, I was actually prepared, and purchased the Sea Dog Breakfast Competition tickets online three weeks in advance! Oh, and to fully enjoy the experience, I even asked for the morning off. Yay, me!

Tickets to the event cost $20 with all proceeds to support the Preble Street Resource Center. The price tag - to sample the culinary wares of 11 of the best Maine chefs around - is a bargain, and the opportunity to help out those less fortunate is the cherry on top. The event this year ran from 7am to 9am on Friday, 2/26/16.

I'd heard that the line out the door to Sea Dog restaurant forms waaayyyy before 7am, so my companion and I arrived around 7:45am. There were no tables to be had, but we found ourselves a cozy little corner to hole up in, and soon the indulgence commenced.

We started at Vignola Cinque Terre with a Patate Ripiene - pork sausage and egg custard stuffed into a bite-sized potato. Delicious! The custard was creamy (albeit a bit cold) and the pork just the right combo of salt and spice. A perfect and encouraging start.

Next, we sampled TIQA's Glazed Loukamades. Also a bite-sized portion, these tiny, crunchy donuts were topped with a "coffee-braised beef and pickled candy apple". A bit difficult to eat, in that the construction fell apart quickly, but the meaty flavor melded well with the crispy donut and the sweet/tart zip of the candy apple. In my humble opinion, two slices of the candy apple would have added a perfect balance to the dish.

We continued to make our way through the offerings: the Liege Waffle from Saltwater Grill, two variations of Ojos Grandes from Sonny's, Prime Rib Hash from Sea Dog, Sweet Potato Corned Beef hash with Quail Egg from Chef Jeff Landry, Corned Beef Hash from Bayside American Cafe and Maine Stuffed Potatoes with egg/sausage/gouda/cheddar from the Brunswick Hotel & Tavern. Congdon's Donuts from Wells, Maine, was also in attendance, serving up fresh donuts and whoopie pies to satisfy the sweet tooth.

And then there were the stars of the show: the mini Maine Lobster Tacos from Sebasco Harbor Resort and the "Pigs in a Blanket" blintzes from Eve's at the Garden (Portland Harbor Hotel).

Now, I love lobster. I pretty much love it any way it's prepared, and this mini lobster taco did not disappoint. Served on coaster-sized flour tortillas, the chef prepared these to order, piling an egg-and-chorizo-scramble topped with cheese, lobster and cilantro (finished with a splash of hollandaise) onto each delicate tortilla. The creamy eggs and the kick from the chorizo complemented the juicy, briny flavor of the lobster beautifully - it was like brilliant sunshine bursting inside my mouth! Oh yes, I thought, this is number one.

But then came the blintz. I honestly was not expecting much from what sounded like a basic crepe stuffed with bacon and cheese, and since this was the last tasting of the morning, and my stomach was pretty full, I figured one bite would do.

Was. I. Ever. Wrong.

Imagine this: a tender, delicate crepe, its insides stuffed with a gloriously cheesy, bacony, maple-pecan sabayon (sabayon is a cooked mixture of eggs, sugar and wine), and topped with crunchy "cocoa cracklings". The artful melding of sweet-and-salty, combined with the creamy ricotta texture and the crunch of the cocoa elevated this dish to outstanding. One bite? Nope. I ate almost the whole thing.

My votes: Blintz, #1, Lobster Taco, #2. My companion agreed with the top two, just in reverse order, and ultimately, her votes mirrored those of the rest of the crowd. The champion of the Sea Dog Breakfast Competition was indeed the Lobster Taco from Sebasco Harbor Resort, with the "Pigs in a Blanket" Blintz from Eve's coming in at second place. The Liege Waffle, a lovely sweet confection topped with Moxie-chocolate syrup (The Saltwater Grill) came in third.

We left sated and warm on a chilly winter's day, thrilled with the experience and committing to attend again next year. Trust me when I say this event is well worth taking the morning off. The only issue: no doggie bags for the HungryGals!

Sea Dog Brewing Company
125 Western Ave
South Portland, ME 04106

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