Breakfast is one of my three favorite meals, and on the weekends when we can enjoy something a little more elaborate, it moves up a few notches. There is nothing better than a leisurely brunch. The annual Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off brings together various competitors all vying to be crowned winner of “Maine’s Best Breakfast”. The event is the start of Maine Restaurant Week. During the cook-off, guests taste samples of all the delicious breakfast fare and then vote for their favorites. The event, which was held this past Friday morning from 7:00 – 9:00 am, was a great segue into the weekend.
While this wasn’t exactly a leisurely brunch, the chance to enjoy such a wide range of breakfast selections from some of the areas best restaurants was too appealing to pass up. We usually try to get to a restaurant or two during Maine Restaurant Week, and thought it would be fun to head to the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, being held at Sea Dog Brewing Company in South Portland, for a change of pace.
We got to the restaurant close to the 7:00 am opening time so that we would be able to get to work at a decent hour once we were done. We were not alone in our thinking as the restaurant was packed and finding a seat was a little tough. They had removed all the bar stools opening up some standing room area. We debated standing at the bar, but were finally able to find a couple of spots at a table that was only partially full. We dropped off our stuff and started our food adventure.
When we arrived, we were given a listing of participating restaurants with descriptions of their breakfast entries for the event. All of my descriptions below are from the card provided by Maine Restaurant Week. We were also given two purple poker chips and told that we could vote for our two favorites by placing the poker chips in the box at that participant’s station. This was not an easy task. There was not one bad breakfast creation at the event.
Everything was so good, and beautifully prepared and presented. Being troopers, we willingly tasted everything, making notes and taking pictures until we finally had to pick our favorites. My husband was two for two, picking the top two winning entries. My first choice came in third at the cook-off, so overall we did pretty well. With this winning streak, I should probably submit my Oscar predictions now.
Here’s a run down of the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off 2016 competitors:
Eve’s at the Garden | Portland Harbor Hotel, 468 Fore Street • Portland, Maine 04101
Eve’s is a past champion of the breakfast cook-off winning for their Pork Belly Waffle with a sunny side egg, Pineland Farms cheddar and Maine maple and sea salt crunch. Their online menu lists some creative omelets and specialty dishes as well as some traditional fare.
For this year’s competition, they kept with the pork belly theme and created an amazing interpretation of “Pigs in a Blanket”. They made a Shredded Pork Belly Blintz with smoked ricotta cheese, maple pecan sabayon, and cocoa cracklings. The blintz had a wonderful rich and creamy texture. This was one of my husbands top two choices, and once the votes were tallied it came in as the first runner-up for the breakfast cook-off this year.
Our Vote: Best Unexpected Accent. The cocoa cracklings added a great flavor and texture to the dish.
Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant & Bakery | 1090 Post Rd, Route One Wells, Maine. 04090
Congdon’s has 32 doughnut flavors listed on their website including creme filled, twists and crullers. While donuts are not always my first choice, many of the versions listed on their site sounded yummy and I was looking forward to seeing what they would bring for the competition.
They showcased a large variety of donuts at the breakfast cook-off this year. There was definitely something for everyone. My husband is really not a “sweets” person so he went for their apple cider donut. I’ll admit, I did sneak a taste and the donut was excellent: moist and nicely spiced. While there were many other tasty looking donut options, I went for the chocolate covered bacon because, well, bacon and chocolate. Of course, it was delicious!
Our Vote: Best Selection. Their table was packed to the brim with so many options making it easy to find something to suit your tastes.
Chef Jeff Landry
Chef Jeff Landry, another previous champion of the breakfast cook-off, formerly of The Farmer’s Table, and Portland Harbor Hotel, was part of the event again this year.
Chef Landry’s entry was Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash with a sunny side up quail egg and Hollandaise sauce. Two of my husbands favorite things are sweet potatoes and corned beef hash so this one was off to a good start!
Our Vote: Best Creative Ingredient. I had never eaten quail eggs before today and it was not what I expected. It was rich and tasty. I enjoyed the strong flavor.
Saltwater Grille | 231 Front Street, South Portland, Maine 04106
I have only been to the Saltwater Grille once, for a holiday event, and was looking forward to seeing what they would bring to the breakfast cook-off. My husband loves savory, but I tend to lean on the sweet side and Saltwater Grille delivered. Their entry was a Liege waffle with moxie chocolate syrup and maple candied bacon. This was definitely my first choice and for the overall cook-off they finished in third place.
Our Vote: Best Sweet. The waffle was the perfect combination of soft and crunchy. The maple candied bacon was a delicious accent.
Sonny’s | 83 Exchange Street, Portland, Maine
I have only been to Sonny’s once during our PCRT Beer Week Scavenger Hunt adventures. I’ve tried a few times to go back for a more leisurely visit, but it’s always too crowded which is probably a good thing. Their online brunch menu looked fun but I wasn’t sure what to expect. They brought a couple of samples to the cook-off: Vegetarian and Pulled Pork versions of Ojos Grandes made with baked farm eggs, potatoes, black beans, Manchego, salsa verde and (for the pulled pork version) cheddar cheese.
Our Vote: Best Savory Vegetarian Option. Both the pulled pork and vegetarian options were extremely flavorful.
TIQA | 327 Commercial St., Portland, ME 04101
While I had heard of TIQA, I knew little about the restaurant ahead of the cook-off. They brought Glazed Loukamades (Greek donuts) with coffee braised beef and pickled candy apple.
Our Vote: Best Combination of Flavors. While normally, I’m not into “pickled” anything, these three items mixed so well that it ended up being one of my top two choices at the event.
Vignola Cinque Terre | 10 Dana Street, Portland, ME 04101
We had eaten a memorable birthday meal at Vignola Cinque Terre a few years back and were excited to see what the reigning champion would make for the breakfast cook-off this year. They brought Patate Ripiene – Grand View Farm pork sausage and farm egg custard stuffed Stonecipher Farm potatoes with micro sage.
Our Vote: Best Custard. While all the flavors mixed well, the custard added a nice touch.
Brunswick Hotel & Tavern | 4 Noble St, Brunswick, ME 04011
I was unfamiliar with the Brunswick Hotel & Tavern prior to the breakfast cook-off but took a peek at their menu before the competition and it looked like a great selection of hearty, traditional breakfast food options. Their entry followed suit and was a Maine potato stuffed with eggs, chives, country sausage, smoked gouda and aged cheddar.
Our Vote: Best Sausage. The strong potato flavor was complemented nicely by the egg and sausage combination.
Bayside American Cafe | 98 Portland St, Portland, ME 04101
When we first moved back to Maine, there were far fewer brunch options available than there are today, and I remember ended up often at Bayside American Cafe, formerly Bintliff’s American Cafe, and we were never disappointed. For the competition, they brought corned beef hash which is always one of my husbands favorites.
Our Vote: Best Hash. You can’t go wrong with a classic. The corned beef hash was moist and tasty.
Sea Dog Brewing Company | 125 Western Ave., South Portland, ME
Sea Dog has always been more of an evening destination for us but now that we know the South Portland branch serves breakfast too, we might have to expand our visiting hours. Plus, any place that serves poutine on the menu gets my vote. For the breakfast cook-off they brought Prime Rib Hash with fried egg and truffle Hollandaise served on a biscuit. The hash had large, generous chunks of prime rib.
Our Vote: Best Presentation. While the food was good, the presentation was my favorite.
Sebasco Harbor Resort | 29 Kenyon Rd, Phippsburg, Maine, 04565
Another destination that was new to me, was the Sebasco Harbor Resort but after looking at the pictures on their website it’s definitely part of my future travel plans. There is nothing I enjoy more than a restaurant with a view, and this place has great ocean front views. Their entry was a Maine Lobster Breakfast Taco with Bowden Farms buttery scrambled eggs, house made chorizo, Small Point Maine lobster, cotija cheese, brunois red pepper, Hollandaise, and cilantro on a warm flour tortilla. My husband easily put this as his first choice, and he was not alone as it took best in show for the event.
Our Vote: Best Breakfast Taco. Who doesn’t love lobster? While I realize there are in fact many people who do not like lobster, that does not include my husband or I. This breakfast taco was so amazing.
This was a fantastic event. We both enjoyed it so much. To have so many innovative, talented chefs in one room and to be able to try a taste of all of these unique creations in one sitting was wonderful. The tickets were a great value and money raised from the event went to Preble Street.
This was our first year coming to the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, but I would love to come back again in the future.
|things to know|
|Event||Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off|
|Location||Sea Dog Brewing Company, 125 Western Ave, South Portland, ME 04106|
|Website||Sea Dog Brewing Company|
|Favorite ♥||Lobster Tacos|