Hugo’s Restaurant

You know you are in for a treat when the chefs and the kitchen are on full display.  Though you might imagine this to be a noisy environment, it isn’t at Hugo’s Restaurant.  Each chef is working quietly and earnestly as if on their own little culinary planet.  It is spellbinding to watch such an enormous amount of effort, detail and sheer artwork going into the preparation of these tiny portions of food.

Bar surrounding the kitchen at Hugo's Restaurant
Bar surrounding the kitchen at Hugo’s Restaurant

In 1988, this restaurant opened as a humble family eatery and it has changed dramatically over the decades.  It is now a refined space with a dark wood interior and elegant yet subdued artwork.  There are booths up against the walls and a bar with bar stools that surrounds and envelopes the über cool industrial kitchen.  (I noticed cookery books on display including a volume from NOMA).

Kuri squash with accruements
Kuri squash with accruements

With Hugo’s, haute cuisine is simplified but also has a presentation that is fresh and exciting.  The offerings change daily depending on what is in season and which market ingredients have inspired the chef on any given day.

The menu is separated into three sections with four categories and four items under each category.  Guests can mix and match across the categories as they wish.  Diners choose any five courses from all three menus for $90 or two courses for $45. Also one can add additional courses for $22.  Dessert is included.

Succotash styled dessert
Golden raspberry  styled dessert

The categories are:
Foraged and Farmed, From the Sea and Forest and Field

My starter is firmly in the Forest and Field category.  It is a luxurious cream of broccoli soup with parmesan puff, yogurt and carrot.  The parmesan puff is divine and the soup is tasty and perfectly seasoned.

Succotash styled dessert with miniature brown tomatoes
Succotash styled dessert with miniature brown tomatoes

For my third item I select the Kuri Squash, also known as Japanese Squash.  It has an orange coloured firm flesh yet quite delicate flavour.  My companion and I receive a sizeable portion which I didn’t finish it was so filling.  It is accompanied by duck liver mousse, crispy quinoa (which is stunning in appearance and taste) plus peach jam.  Yum!

My main course is the grilled swordfish which arrives with vinegar glazed mussels, head lettuce and sulfar beans.  The swordfish is quite a good sized portion and very succulent with the accoutrements being equally delicious.

Two desserts on a plank
Two desserts on a plank

But it is the dessert that wins the award for ‘Best Presentation’.  Two separate creations appear on a single wooden plank.  One is a succotash (a take on Southern style mixed vegetables…but sweet) with tiny brown tomatoes (I have never seen miniature or brown tomatoes before).  The largest fragment is a two tablespoon sized portion of cake topped with a minty foam.

Shipyard Brewed beer based in Portland
Shipyard Brewed beer based in Portland

Golden raspberries with a chocolate bark are the main ingredients of the next desert which includes a dollop of raspberry sorbet, tiny floral leaves and a smattering of crumble.  Both are displayed on the plate beautifully and tasted as good as they looked.

The imagination that goes into each individual portion of food is truly impressive. I would go to Hugo’s Restaurant again and again.

Hugo’s Restaurant, 88 Middle Street, Portland, ME


The Rosetta Probe: Comet-Chaser

Rosetta Probe
Rosetta Probe

I am not sure why I feel so proud that the European Space Agency has hatched this incredible project.  But I do.

It was ten years ago, on 2 March 2004, that the Rosetta probe was launched into space.  Its mission: to go to the outer reaches of our solar system, get into orbit with an icy comet and then send a landing device to gather information from it.  It had three gravity assist fly-bys with Earth and one with Mars before going into hibernation and waking up in early 2014.  If all goes as planned, Philae, will land on the comet on 12 November, 2014

Here is a fantastical, fictional film by Tomek Baginski about the Rosetta Probe and comets.

The Rosetta Mission was named after the ‘Rosetta Stone’ which is a fragment of Egyptian stone tablet which unlocked the secret to hieroglyphics for the first time.

Rosetta will study the organic, icy material in comets in great details. It is believed this could unlock secrets of the Solar System such as how the earth became a watery planet?   Comets are the most primitive building blocks of our cosmic world, surviving the Solar System’s chaotic 4.6 billion year history more or less intact.

Philae, the landing vehicle, is named for the island on the River Nile where an obelisk with found with bi-lingual Greek and hieroglyphic inscriptions similar to the Rosetta Stone.

So look to the night sky on the 12th November.  Who knows.  You might be able to see something of this miraculous comet-chaser if you look hard enough.