Katie Made Bakery – Portland, Maine

Katie Made Bakery - Portland, Maine

Street Address: 181 Congress Street, Portland, Maine
Hours Of Operation:
Mon: Closed
Tue-Wed: 7:30am-4:30pm
Thu-Fri: 7:30am-6:00pm
Sat: 8:00am-3:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-12:00pm

I’ve become more familiar with businesses on Munjoy Hill and the surrounding neighborhood a bit more since my girlfriend started living there about a year ago. Since there are so many good places to eat, I figured I’d try some of them out and put the results down for all to see on my blog. I frequently search on the web to see if a place is highly-regarded before I seek out food there, so I figured there would be some use for my reviews of these places.

Katie Made is a little bakery situated right up near the Portland Observatory on Congress Street, mid-hill. It’s an unsuspecting little place and one might easily overlook it since parking on the hill can be spotty depending on what time of day and year one visits. However, if you’re in the area and want to try out some baked goods and maybe a little breakfast or lunch, you won’t want to miss out.

I’ve been going to Katy Made for a while now, and they’ve never given me anything resembling a bad experience. The staff consists of Katie herself, who you can see toiling with a smile in the kitchen and who even hand-delivers your food to you if she has the time, along with a cashier and another baker in back who I’ve rarely seen but who I’m sure is there quite a lot like the other two women. They are always friendly and accommodating.

The only downside to this establishment is that if you’re looking to dine in somewhere, there aren’t a lot of options open to you. The place makes use of its interior room but even doing so, there is only room for about 10-12 people maximum, less if you don’t want to sit across one of the small tables from a stranger. There are a couple of seating options available outside as well, but those are dependent mostly on weather.

For breakfast, one can get a variety of regular menu items Katie offers, including a loaded breakfast sandwich (which I always get) that comes on an english muffin with a scrambled egg patty, mushrooms, sizzling sausage, caramelized onions (though I get it without onions, myself), melted cheese and a touch of mustard. The price isn’t bad, either. The breakfast sandwich is only around $6.00 if I remember correctly, making it on level with big chains like McDonald’s but with extremely superior ingredients.

However, for this review, I went in to grab a quick bite to eat for take out lunch. When I arrived, the place wasn’t super-packed and I was waited on right away. The cashier put my purchase through with no problem – a Cuban Sandwich ($7.00) and two Strawberry-Cheese Danishes (Forgive me for not remembering the exact price, but they were around $1.50 or $2.00 each). I sat down on one of the comfortable seats near the window and waited only around 5-10 minutes for my food to be brought out by Katie herself, smiling as she handed me the foil-wrapped sandwich that was good and hot through its wrappings. I bid the women adieu and left to enjoy my sandwich.

The Cuban Sandwich came on a delicious roll that held up its integrity throughout the meal. There were tangy pickles, melty cheese and very delicious and generous strips of real cut pork. The mustard had a zip to it, but did not overwhelm the taste buds. I finished with my favorite thing at Katie Made, which are the Strawberry Cheese Danishes (I reluctantly gave one to my girlfriend). The pastry was light and fluffy with enough backbone to chew and to give it a pleasing texture. The insides were creamy and addictively delicious, the strawberry slices bursting with flavor.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Munjoy Hill area and want a really solid breakfast or lunch, or a nice pastry to accompany you for the day – hit up Katie Made Bakery. You can tell Katie and her entire staff put a lot of love into what they do.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check Out The Katie Made Bakery Web Site Here
http://katiemadebakery.com

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Otto’s Pizza – Portland, Maine

Art work on take out boxes done by Ella Trout from the Breakwater School

Art work on take out boxes done by Ella Trout from the Breakwater School

Street Address: 225 Congress Street (Munjoy Hill Neighborhood)
Hours of Operation: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am (Note: Other Locations May Be Different)

I was first introduced to Otto’s Pizza one night after I attended a show at the Port City Music Hall. I was semi-new to the Portland city night life, and one of my friends, who was more familiar with the area, texted me and told me to try Otto’s on upper Congress since they were open later than most other places in the area. I did, and I am so glad I did.

Otto’s has one passion, and it is pizza – using a host of fresh ingredients and combinations that will leave not only your hunger satisfied, but also that of your taste buds. The price is pretty average for a pizza joint, but is also cheap compared to other establishments. One can get a slice of pizza for around $3.50 if you’re not that hungry, or a 12″ pie for $10.00 and a 16″ pie for $15.00 if you’re really famished.

I was at my girlfriend’s place on Forest Ave and her brother was visiting so I decided to pay a visit to Otto’s for a late-night pizza party and also decided to use my experience there for my first ever food review on my blog. Keep in mind – I did not have a sit-down meal while there, aside from a slice I enjoyed while waiting for my pies to be baked in the oven. My review, this time, is for the take out version.

When I arrived, the lobby was semi-packed with folks waiting for their food, and all of them seemed in good spirits. Two men and a young boy waited for one of the employees to be finished with her shift at the counter and two women waited separately for their own food.

“Hi,” smiled the girl at the counter. “What can we make for you? Are you here to get a slice or some pies?”

“Actually,” I said. “I’m going to be getting two pies. The 16″ Chicken and Basil ($19) as well as a 16″ White Bean, Sausage, Herb and Chili Flake ($21).”

She rang me up for my purchase and then I also added a slice of Pepperoni pizza ($3.50) to munch on while I waited. She finished ringing up the order promptly and then warmed the slice for me and placed it on a paper plate to hand to me. “Here you go,” she said.

I took the slice and enjoyed it at a table near the wall. The waiting area is a bit drafty in cold weather and so I was glad I had my coat on. The main dining room is a much more suitable place to enjoy your meal if you’re not just stopping in for a slice, but I was only getting take out this time. The pepperoni was crispy and not too greasy. The cheese was, as usual, very springy, delicious and not too melty. The dough was just the balance needed between really crispy and really soft. I took my time enjoying the slice and after around fifteen or twenty minutes, my pizzas were finished being made.

When I arrived at my girlfriend’s place, she and her brother were happy to see me with the pies and they dived in right away. We all tried one of each slice to start. The White Bean, Sausage, Herb and Chili Flake had virtually no grease and had just the right amount of spicy finish with the mild sausage and the chili flakes to mesh really well with the creamy white sauce (you can choose red or white sauce for this particular pizza) and the delicious blend of herbs and cheese. The Chicken and Basil was delicious, with generous dobs of what seemed to be a sort of pomodoro sauce on top of the cheese along with a happy amount of fresh strips of basil. The chicken seemed to have been marinated and had a great flavor that could stand on its own. However, because the sauce is loaded with lots of olive oil and the cheese has a bit of grease, the crust’s integrity in the middle of the pie didn’t hold up as well as the White Bean’s. This didn’t detract in much of a negative way to the eating experience, however, because the flavor was so spot-on.

I’ve long been a fan of Otto’s up to this point and this visit ensured that I would definitely be back. For those of you not near Munjoy Hill, there are other locations as well in Maine and even in Massachusetts (their Cambridge/Brookline location is especially nice as it’s right near Harvard).

If you’re craving pizza and you want to enjoy a nice, solid experience – check them out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Check Out Otto’s Website Here
http://ottoportland.com/

Check Out Otto’s Website For This Location Here
http://ottoportland.com/225congress.html

Check Out Otto’s WordPress Blog Here
http://ottopizza.wordpress.com/

ottocambridge-pizza-box

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka the crime-fighting everyman named Kick-Ass who inspired many people to take arms and assume the role of city protectors is looking to form a superhero team with none other than Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) – the closest thing to a real superhero that Dave has ever seen. However, Hit Girl has her own problems with the “Queen Bee” of the school, Brooke (Claudia Lee), who’s raining on her parade and her new adoptive father-figure Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) who forbids her from participating in antics as Hit Girl. This leaves Dave to look elsewhere, which leads him to Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his ragtag group of superhero hopefuls. As Dave tries to continue on his path as defender of the innocent, he must contend with the likes of The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – formerly Red Mist, who has gone insane with revenge bloodlust resulting from Kick-Ass killing his crime-kingpin father, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)….as well as all of the hired killers that money can buy.

In my opinion, this film was much more enjoyable than Kick-Ass, the previous entry. While I love both movies, this one kept my interest the entire time and it did not waver. The characters, especially Colonel Stars and Stripes and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) really jumped out and distinguished themselves within the context of the film.

The action was fast-paced, there weren’t a lot of slogging story problems and the special effects were decent. There were a couple of silly elements which almost ruined some of the movie for me, but other than that the only thing I can really complain about is Hit Girl and her dealings with high school students and high school life: Nobody really cares. We spent far too much time dealing with the likes of Brooke, and exposing ourselves to Hit Girl’s vulnerable side…but Hit Girl doesn’t NEED a vulnerable side. I wanted to see more of her, well…hitting stuff.

So, if you liked the first one or other films in this genre (Super, Defendor) then you’re sure to love Kick-Ass 2.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara is the flagship novel of author Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. (First King of Shannara actually takes place before The Sword of Shannara, but he didn’t publish that until later on).

Shea and Flick Ohmsford live in Shady Vale, a quiet community of hard-working folk living in peace. When evil from the North comes looking for the last living descendant of Jerle Shannara, aka Shea Ohmsford, a mysterious Druid by the name of Allanon arrives to help the two escape and embark on an epic quest to find the fabled Sword of Shannara, which has the power to destroy the evil Warlock Lord.

Many critics (and a few of my friends) have universally panned this novel because some say that it’s a blatant rip-off of Tolkien. Admittedly, there are heavy imprints of Tolkien’s influence at work here, but it’s only at the beginning. Towards the end, you begin to truly get a sense of what Brooks is trying to do with his characters, and especially in later novels when he expands to areas that Tolkien never touched and you get to see other elements besides Tolkien’s writing which he drew on, like mythology and history.

I would liken this series to the lovechild of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, actually.

If you look past the initial similarities (and assuming you like Brooks’ writing style) what you’ll find is an enjoyable romp through the Four Lands and the beginnings of an epic fantasy adventure that seems to be more and more rare these days.

The characters are memorable, the settings are great, the monsters are scary. What more can you ask for?

JOE Rating: ★★★★