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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: February 5, 2016

Valentine’s Day Dining: Love on the menu at these Maine restaurants

Written by: Susan Axelrod

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Valentine’s Day, celebrated by couples at all stages of romance, is a prime night for dining out. Even the best home cooks may surrender the job to the pros when it comes to shucking oysters, searing foie gras, or creating elaborate chocolate desserts. And who wants to ruin the postprandial warm and happy mood by filling Tupperware with leftovers and loading the dishwasher? How much nicer to hold hands across a restaurant table and say to the waiter, “Why yes, I will have another glass of wine.”

These Maine restaurants will take good care of you and your special someone on Valentine’s Day. Since it falls on a Sunday this year, reservations are a must; some restaurants are also offering the same menus on Friday and/or Saturday evenings. Unless indicated, prices do not include tax and gratuity.

Looking for other things to do Valentine’s weekend? Done:

Feb. 14, Noon – 7 p.m. — Beer and chocolates at Rising Tide Brewing
103 Fox St., Portland | 207-370-2337 |
Bring your valentine to the tasting room for flights of artisan truffles — including one made with Rising Tide’s Waypoint — by Laura Rudy, owner/chocolatier of La Creme Chocolat. She will also have gift boxes to take home. INFO

Feb. 14, 6 – 8 p.m. — “Beer, Hearts, Chocolate” at Allagash Brewing Company
50 Industrial Way, Portland | 800-330-5385 |
Tickets to this annual event, which benefits the American Heart Association, include a flight of four Allagash beers and a special, locally made chocolate to pair with each for $15 per person. More fun: make-your-own valentines, a photo booth and acoustic tunes from Adam Waxman. TICKETS

Feb. 14, 2 – 6 p.m. — Romantic cocktails and bites at Vena’s Fizz House
345 Fore St., Portland | 207-747-4901 |
As a precursor to dinner — or an alternative — Vena’s offers couples their choice of two special cocktails and small plate for $35. Sip a gin-based Love Potion #9 or vodka-based Aphrodite’s Revenge with XOXO gougeres, couple’s canapes and crostini, or a molten chocolate cupcake with butterscotch pudding and whipped cream. Additional small plates are $8 each.

Guide to love: Many splendid things to do on Valentine’s weekend 2016

Great romantic escapes for Valentine’s Day


Five Fifty-Five

555 Congress St. | 207-761-0555 |
Celebrate your love in one of Portland’s top dining rooms, decorated in a classic, contemporary style. The 4-course menu offers choices in each course — main courses include: seared Maine scallops with sweet potato, hearts of palm and coconut milk; rye-braised beef short rib and Maine duck with caramelized yogurt and maple jus. $85 per person, with wine pairings available for an additional cost. Also offered on Friday and Saturday. Dinner begins at 5 p.m.


443 Fore St. | 207-358-7830 |
One of the city’s newer restaurants celebrates its first Valentine’s Day with a 5-course Mediterranean menu served in a dramatic, contemporary space. Start with Jerusalem artichoke soup or spinach persimmon salad and continue with dishes like venison with Turkish coffee, sumac juniper and Brussels sprouts — a vegetarian option is available for each course. $75 per person, with optional $35 per person wine pairing. Menu also offered on Saturday; both evenings dinner begins at 5 p.m.


111 Middle St.| 207-747-5307 |
Named to a short list of “Best New Romantic Restaurants in America” by Travel & Leisure magazine in 2014, Piccolo is a 20-seat, rustic Italian gem owned by husband and wife chefs Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez. On Valentine’s Day, they will serve a 5-course tasting menu, welcoming guests with a glass of prosecco. The menu will feature Maine raised beef and duck, New England seafood, local organic vegetables, house made pasta, and pastry chef Lopez’ decadent desserts. $75 per person with wine pairings available for an additional charge. Two seatings: 5-6 p.m. and 7:30 – 8:15 p.m.


593 Congress St. | 207-653-8617 |
Maine’s only all-local restaurant will offer a 5-course organic, gluten-free special menu for $230.40 for 2, including 20 percent tip and 8 percent tax. Wine pairings are available: $50 per person Chef/owner David Levi also offers a 15 percent discount for parties of 4 – 8 guests. Two seatings: 6 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets purchased via include a small processing fee. Tickets may also be purchased by calling the restaurant. Same menu offered on Saturday night.

Congress Squared

157 High St. (at the Westin Harborview Hotel) | 207-517-8831 |
Chef Brian Anderson’s 4-course menu includes Maine oysters with osetra caviar and Champagne cream, poached lobster with vanilla bean hollandaise and housemade Tanzania chocolate gelato with strawberries and pistachios. $55 per person. Dinner served beginning at 5 p.m.

Sur Lie

11 Free St. | 207-956-7350 |
Chef Emil Rivera’s 5-course menu starts with a course named “to meet” and ends with one named “to kiss.” Romantic-themed small plates include: warm cardamom and pistachio babka with lemon butter and Maine honey; truffle fettuccine with burrata, duck egg and sage pesto; and chocolate pot de créme with a hazelnut madeleine and black currant sorbetto. $60 per person; $30 wine pairing. Seatings begin at 4 p.m.


327 Commercial St. | 207-808-8840 |
TIQA celebrates love all weekend with dinner and cocktail specials on Friday and Saturday and both brunch and dinner on Sunday. Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with mimosas and live music by Pete Kilpatrick for $30 per person. For dinner, served from 6 to 9 p.m., the menu includes dishes from around the Mediterranean: Egyptian watercress and chickpea soup with rose water and ras el hanout; Greek horiatiki salad; and marinated duck breast with pomegranate-orange blossom gastrique. $65 per person with a glass of Champagne.

Cafe Stroudwater

Embassy Suites Portland, 150 Westbrook St. | 207-775-2200 |
Chef Peter Pappas’ 5-course menu begins with a glass of prosecco and includes such dishes as: seared local sea scallop with honey-parsnip puree, caramelized leeks and bacon dust; local wagyu beef and pork bolognese with house-made pappardelle; and chocolate souffle with white chocolate creme anglais and dulce de leche. $75 per person. Served 5 – 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


The Maine Table

700 Main St., South Portland | 207-774-6151 |
The restaurant at the Best Western Merry Manor Inn offers a 5-course menu that includes a choice of 3 entrees: grilled shrimp and lemon skewer with feta/dill sauce; char-broiled pork tenderloin with balsamic and cranberry sauce; pan-seared beef filet with red wine reduction; and wild mushroom Stroganoff over quinoa and wild rice. $69 per person. Seatings at 5 and 7:30 p.m.

The Good Table

527 Ocean House Rd.| 207-799-3134 |
The Kostopoulos family will transform their homey dining room with white linens and candles; a romantic setting for chef Ryan Weeks’ regular menu plus festive specials, including the restaurant’s famous desserts. Offered both Saturday and Sunday evenings beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea

40 Bowery Beach Rd.| 207-799-3134 |
Start your evening with a drink in the cozy bar before taking a seat in the inn’s ocean-view dining room. Chef Steve Sicinski’s 4-course menu includes fried Damariscotta oysters, lobster and rock shrimp chowder, and beer-braised short ribs, for $75 per person. Also offered on Saturday; served both evenings from 5 to 10 p.m.

Southern Maine Community College’s McKernan Hospitality Center

2 Fort Rd. | 207-741-5543 |
On Saturday, Feb. 13, culinary students of SMCC, under the direction of the executive chef, will prepare a four-course, Italian-themed dinner for parties of two served by student staff in the school’s oceanside dining room. $85 per couple. Cash bar. Reservations  begin at 5:30 p.m. For reservations, call 207-741-5672 or email


The Brunswick Hotel & Tavern

4 Noble St.| 207-837-6565 |
Chef David Pendexter’s 3-course dinner includes spinach and berry salad with gorgonzola cheese and candied pecans, seafood shepherd’s pie and limoncello-mascarpone cake with blueberry compote. $48 per person. Reservations between 4 and 10 p.m.

Tao Yuan

4 Noble St.| 207-725-9002 |
Chef Cara Stadler will serve a special tasting menu from 4 to 8 p.m.


The Kennebunk Inn

45 Main St.| 207-985-3351 |
At their convivial restaurant, chefs Shanna and Brian O’Hea offer a fixed-price, three-course menu with choices in each course for $49.95 per person. The sweet finish is a special “couples dessert” — pineapple upside down cake, “Miami Vice” strawberry daiquiri with coconut cream and chocolate glazed coeur a la creme Serving from 4 to 8 p.m.

The White Barn Inn

37 Beach Ave.| 207-967-2321 |
Just named to’s list of the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America, the dining room at The White Barn Inn has been welcoming happy couples on Valentine’s Day for more than 40 years. Served from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 14, a four-course dinner with a variety of choices in each course is $130 per person, with optional wine pairings an additional $85. The “Cupid’s Menu Gourmand,” offered for the same price, includes smoked salmon tartare, Wagyu beef sirloin, foie gras-braised short ribs and chocolate strawberry crepe souffle.


Natalie’s at the Camden Harbour Inn

83 Bayview St. | 207-236-7008 |
With its bright red upholstered chairs and lampshades, set off by sparkling white tablecloths, swanky Natalie’s is an especially appropriate setting for romance. Chefs Shelby Stevens and Chris Long’s luxurious 6-course tasting menu begins with oysters and caviar and finishes with a macaroon tasting. $102 per person with wine pairings an additional $89 per person. The chefs’ lobster tasting menu will also be available for $109 per person; wine pairings $76. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.

The Hartstone Inn

41 Elm St., Camden | 207-236-4259 |
If old-fashioned romance is your cup of tea, spend Valentine’s Day surrounded by Victorian charm in the chintz and lace-trimmed dining room at this cozy, food-centric B&B. On Feb. 14, chef/owner Michael Salmon’s 5-course prix-fixe menu starts with a mushroom and roast duckling crepe and ends with a trio of chocolate desserts. $65 per person. A different, but equally special menu is offered on Feb. 13; both evenings dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.


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