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Colleen Katana

Colleen Katana is a romance novelist by day and a cocktail reviewer by night. She lives in Portland where she can usually be found hunched over her laptop, wearing fabulous (albeit sometimes impractical) shoes. Instagram: katanacollins

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Posted: January 15, 2018

Get high-end drinks and snacks in historic Bolster, Snow & Co.

Written by: Colleen Katana

One of two bar areas at Bolster, Snow & Co.
Photos by Colleen Katana

There is nothing I love more than a beautiful, historic building. In fact, my house is a stop on a historic trolley tour here in Maine (no, I won’t tell you which one), but that’s how much I love historic properties – to willingly take on a decade-long restoration project, which, let’s be honest, will probably last more like two decades.

So, I was thrilled to check out Bolster, Snow & Co. I watched that property sit abandoned for 10 years, and I dreamed of a life where I had the funds to buy it myself and bring it back to its glory, and I’m so excited that the DeLois brothers did just that, turning the 1881 property into a 15-room boutique hotel called The Francis, named after the original architect, Francis Fasset.

The two-year renovation project is so beautifully done that you would never even know the property had once been home to a funeral parlor after the mansion served as a private home. Inside, hardwood floors and several lounge areas surround crackling fires. Beautiful, carved woodwork complements the original fireplace tiling, creating a gorgeous intertwined combination of contemporary and historic.

Walk a little deeper inside and you’ll find the bar and restaurant, its name a nod to Mellen E. Bolster, a wealthy merchant for whom Francis Fasset originally designed the house.

While the inside of the hotel lobby is beautifully historic, I was surprised that the bar itself didn’t reflect more of the building’s history within it. The bar and restaurant is composed of two very small rooms and two small bars, one of which faces the (rather brilliant) chef, Nicholas Verdisco and team, as they work to create your food. The floors are hardwood (and likely original), the walls are painted gray and white, and generic posters adorn the walls.

Where was the nod to the rich history of the building? Why weren’t there photographs of what the home used to look like or even old photographs of the streets of Portland? There was nothing wrong with the ambiance, except that I was surprised, and it didn’t seem to fit the rest of the property.

The Winter Sour ($9) has Campari, lemon, honey

The cocktail list had seven specialty cocktails to choose from, as well as a full bar and huge wine list, most of the selections available by the bottle. I started my evening with the Honey Buck ($13), which was made with Stroudwater vodka, lemon, ginger and honey. It was a simple mixture and quite delicious. I could have used a touch less lemon and a pinch more ginger, however, that’s just my preference since I’m not a big sour flavor person.

Because of that, I was nervous to try my husband’s drink, the Winter Sour for $9. However, this drink was unique and delicious. I loved how the smoky Campari offset the lemon and honey, and the egg white added a frothy, slightly creamy texture that complemented all the flavors. In fact, I liked it so much that my husband and I switched drinks.

Truffled deviled eggs are one of the delightful snack offerings.

We were also feeling peckish and decided to try some of the snacks ($6 each or three for $15). We tried the much talked about carrot fries, the pickle bowl and the truffled deviled eggs. As I mentioned above, the drinks were great, however, this food was outstanding. The carrot fries were a fresh take on that beloved old side – delicious and crispy with a nice sweetness that you find with certain root vegetables. Deviled eggs are becoming pretty trendy, but I had to admit, Bolster, Snow & Co. knew just how to make them, drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with paprika. They were delicious and simple without too many bells and whistles. And I assumed the pickle bowl would just be fine, but it was an assortment of freshly pickled vegetables, including beets, kimchi, cucumbers and other seasonal veggies.

The food was so incredible, we found ourselves making a reservation to come back for the next prix fixe night, which happens every Wednesday.

In the future, if I’m just going for drinks, I would opt out of the dining area and sit instead in the front parlor so I could really enjoy all that beautiful historic architecture Francis Fasset gave to us.

Bolster, Snow, & Co.

WHERE: 747 Congress St., Portland
PHONE: 772-7496
HOURS: 5-9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Prix fixe menu every Wednesday night, seasonal menu, full bar, parking (across the street at Tandem after 6 p.m.), fireplace, chef’s counter, dinner, weekend brunch
BOTTOM LINE: The drinks are good, well thought out and made with care. However, the food here is where it’s at. Get the best of both worlds by sitting at the chef’s counter and watching the magic happen or, if you’re not eating, sit out in the front lounge by the fireplace and enjoy one of the fabulous cocktails.

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