Ted likes to joke that we live 15 minutes from the eighth wonder of the world … L.L. Bean. But I’m being totally serious when I say that about the same distance in the other direction is another wonder—the culinary mecca that is Portland, Maine. Anyone who has even a passing interest in food has no doubt heard about the high concentration of superb restaurants in this pint-sized city. We’re often asked to name our favorite, which is a tough if not impossible call, but among the Portland restaurants we truly love is Sur Lie.
Opened in 2014 by Krista Cole and Tony Alviar on a one-way side street downtown, Sur Lie is the sort of place where you can stop in for drinks and a snack after work, or on a weekend for a celebration dinner. Chef Emil Rivera’s food is surprising and inventive, but never precious, and the service is skillful and kind. From the owners to their staff, everyone seems to genuinely enjoy making sure their guests are well cared for and having a wonderful time.
This quality is especially evident Sur Lie’s beer dinners, the latest of which featured beer from Banded Horn Brewing Company in Biddeford. The evening began casually as people gathered in the bar and the first beer of the evening was poured—we chose Luminaire, a crisp, hoppy lager that was also served with the first course. Seated at two long tables in the dining room we got to know our fellow diners while diving into yeasty slices of bread made with Luminaire grain, slathered with Emil’s housemade ricotta, which was topped with prosciutto dust, lemon oil, charred spring onions and balsamic reduction. As each of the three subsequent courses was presented family style, Emil enthusiastically explained the food and bar manager Caleb Cole—Krista’s brother—introduced the accompanying beer. Scallops presented in a silky pool of parsnip puree and green olive beurre fondue were paired with a “Spring Bounty Skillet” of fiddleheads, North Spore wild mushrooms, walnuts, and a soft-yoked duck egg, with Vertumnus oak-aged IPA. For the next course, Nachtvar dark Czech lager accompanied seared duck breast with wilted greens, alongside sweet potato with brown butter and roasted malt praline. We all feigned protest when trays of hot pastrami sandwiches on pretzel buns were set before us, but that didn’t stop everyone at our table from scarfing up every last morsel, between sips of Norweald American stout. Emil explained that the sandwiches were a popular item on Sur Lie’s lunch menu (no longer offered), and that the pastrami comes from our favorite meat market, Bisson’s in Topsham. The perfect finish was a bright and creamy citrus cheesecake, served in jars, with spent grain crust, pommelo candy and black current sorbetto, a fine way to wrap up a spectacular feast.
To make sure you’re in the loop for Sur Lie’s next beer dinner, follow them on Facebook.
Note: While we were Sur Lie’s guests for the dinner, all observations are our own.