PORTLAND, ME – So much of the press that Portland gets tends to center around a few neighborhoods, all within walking distance of the compact downtown. But if you’re planning to visit this food-crazy city, you have to get in a cab or steer your rental car to South Portland, and make the 15 minute drive to go see Pamela Fitzpatrick Plunkett. Together with husband James Murray Plunkett, they are the proprietors, bakers, creators, accountants, purchasing agents and marketers of Little BIGS, a very personal bakery in a no-name strip mall, far from the spotlight of the Old Port and Fore Street areas.
Chicago food lovers will recognize Fitzpatrick’s name (pre-marriage) as the talented baker who helped open Fox & Obel and put its bread program on the map. Having worked under Nancy Silverton at La Brea in L.A., then logging time with Lettuce Entertain You, Fitzpatrick was seemingly always wearing an apron, always covered in flour and perpetually scraping the dough from her long, nimble fingers. Her bakery has already received some positive local press, but after a recent stop there on our trip to Portland, I have to say, I would drive many miles out of the way for one of her pastries or one of James’ delicious, savory hand pies.
Watching him fold Korean barbecued beef into raw dough, then wrap about two dozen in the blink of an eye, I tore into an Indian “samosa” of sorts, and kept thinking, “why doesn’t Chicago have a place like this?” Certainly, we have great places like Floriole, La Fournette and Bittersweet, but none of them are creating the assortment of delicious, craveable savory pies like the ones we sampled in South Portland. The doughnuts were also of note, but try something a little different, like a Boston cream, or her ethereal crullers; maybe a doughnut topped with blueberry jam, banana-Nutella, pecan, caramel apple, whatever – just ask Pamela for a suggestion, she’s there about 15 hours a day – and then get ready to hit the treadmill or better yet, walk it off back in town.
Back in the city, another fine option for a morning coffee and pastry (or pie) is Tandem Coffee Roasters. The hipster shop is in an old tire and brake shop, and they recently opened their bakery, which churns out a fine little selection of cakes, pastries, cinnamon rolls and since this is Maine – pie. Their cold-brewed coffee was a winner too, and the walk down Congress is a fun way to kill some time on a lazy weekend morning.
340 Main St., South Portland, ME
Tandem Coffee Roasters
122 Anderson St, Portland, ME