The last time we tried to stop by Duckfat in Portland, the "Closed for Renovations" sign put a kaibosh to our culinary plans but led us to the best lobster rolls of our lives at Eventide Oyster Co. We were on our way to Bar Harbor to spend some quality time by the ocean but duck fat fried fries were calling our names and we just had to make that 1-hr lunch detour.
We became obsessed with Duckfat when we saw Owner Chef Rob Evans compete on Chopped Champions. Off the high of last night's Fuel feast, we had high expectations for Duckfat. The joint is considered more of a laid back sandwich place with lots of unique twists, perfect for lunch. You can drool over the menu here. Vacation is the time to splurge and indulge right? Born and raised in Montreal, poutine to me is the epitome of comfort food. Gravy fries with shredded cheese is no poutine. I hold very high standards to every poutine we try, aka I better hear that cheese curd squeak! Duckfat's version of a poutine (hand-cut fries fried in duck fat and smothered with duck gravy) was just o.k. and the Pineland Farm cheese curd didn't squeak.
I swear the French Canadians have poutine down to a science, even the McDonald's version is good. There's a distinctive taste to a Quebecois cheese curd that no ones seems to have perfected here, except for Shirley's Cafe in Jonesville. The owners are from Montreal and must import their cheese from Canada because it's the only place that makes poutine that tastes like the ones at home to me. We've tried poutines from The City Gastropub and Lil' Britain in Bennington and they don't come close to that at Shirley's. Plus nothing is more disappointing when the gravy completely melts the cheese curds; it's a fine balance of warm gravy to squeaky cold cheese curds to crispy fries.
Back to Duckfat, while the fries had a nice crisp the poutine just didn't wow us. To accompany our paninis, we ordered the craft sodas: a root beer for J and an all Maine tonic for me with raw apple cider vinegar, honey, and maple. Not your typically sweet sodas, but a nice refreshing drink to cut the rich flavors of our sandwiches. Reubens are J's go to sandwiches and he couldn't pass on the Corned Beef Tongue Reuben. You read that right! The corned beef tongue was cut very thinly and not tough at all. Paired with housemade sauerkraut, thousand island, and pressed on crispy rye bread, it was the perfect panini. Mine on the other hand, I was a bit disappointed with. I ordered the Roast Pork Belly panini: with pickled peppers, manchego, and saffron-tabasco mayo. As much as I love pork belly, I just wasn't wowed by my sandwich. The richness of the pork belly needed to be offset by more acidity and the mayo added more richness that wasn't necessary.
Overall, Duckfat was a bit of a let down except for the reuben. I'm hoping we can squeeze in a redemption trip in the near future because we do love to try new and unique eats.