I’m bundled up, ready to take on the bitter Portland afternoon wind. The sun shines blindly as I step out into a winter afternoon. My date Mick Jagger* greets me with a warm smile. We mosey down to our first lunch date of the new year. The brown snow and slush mixture squishes between my black leather boots and his white Adidas tennis shoes. We head to BiBo’s Madd Apple Caf?. Portland sidewalks are ultra-slippery, so we both take our time, which is critical on a first date. Unsightly spills and falls in public are treacherous; mud on clothes is no way to start a daytime date.
The moment we enter BiBo’s we are in a romantic Venice caf?. The name is as intriguing as the atmosphere. Proprietors Bill Boutwell and Andrea Raymond purchased it four years ago next month. The original name was Madd Apple Caf?. “Madd apple” means eggplant in Old English because eggplant was assumed to make people mad. Boutwell and Raymond wanted to adopt similar clientele from the original restaurant but also wanted to let people know that there was a change in ownership. BiBo is the first two letters of Bill Boutwell’s name, which in German means “big bird.”
I just hope Mick isn’t mad and that he doesn’t still watch Big Bird.
Sunlight flitters from the large picture window giving warmth to an array of plants and flowers in bright lemon-colored window boxes. The walls are an enthusiastic mandarin color. Charismatic and bold paintings created by local artist Nancy Parker decorate the comfortable dining area. The dining tables and sitting areas range in size and each have a unique focal point. Some are covered in trendy bohemian-style cloth while others are sharp with lustrous wood.
The dining area is split into two sections and the divider is a large window. Mick and I sat near the window, and it felt like we were in a fresh summer home. Looking through the window at other diners created a calm atmosphere for a first date. We swiftly delve into conversation. We discussed our not-so-exciting winter break, the recent increase in snow (this winter will actually be a true blue Maine winter) and our upcoming semesters.
Although BiBo’s has a marvelous selection of wines, Mick and I opt for water, the clean and crisp first date drink. Wine is a wonderful touch to accompany gourmet dining, but too much of it on a first date might leave you in a jam. Spilling out your emotions of a past boyfriend or girlfriend is never a wise thing, especially because a first date should never evolve into a therapy session.
We investigated the menu, which offers nothing run of the mill. The combinations were fresh and eclectic and the menu changes regularly. The dishes unite with texture and fresh spices. For example, the seared wasabi salon salad ($6.95) is served with greens drizzled with wasabi vinaigrette. I sway toward the crab avocado melt ($8.95). I suddenly am sidetracked by the delightful sound of the golden saut?ed lobster crab cake salad presented over mixed greens with tomato-ginger vinaigrette ($8.95). I feel as though I am back in my bedroom trying to figure out my outfit. With a pile of clothes forming on the floor, I decide on a dashing pair of dark jeans and a cute and practical top, which was my first choice all along. I go for the crab avocado melt.
Our lunches were arranged artistically on our plates. Mick and I ate slowly, savoring the rich textures and blends. The presentation of the crabmeat salad was delightful. It was shredded on top of a plump tomato slice with thin avocado slices. Melted Swiss cheese was a canopy securing the melt together. Mick eyed the menu for a moment and decided on the Philly cheese steak sub saut?ed with abundant onions and mushrooms, cheddar and a tantalizing tangy horseradish mayonnaise ($6.95). Our lunches came with crisp flavorful roasted potatoes, similar to French fries but more enjoyable to consume, and a garlic-marinated cucumber coupled with rich greens and a zesty dressing.
Although quite full from our elegant lunch, there is always room for dessert. Mick had chocolate peanut butter terrine ($5.50). Although he is not a fan of nuts, he boasted that it was amazing. I chose the chocolate macadamia cr?me brulee ($5.50). It was exhilarating to crack the brulee and discover heavenly chocolate custard with nips of macadamia nuts. Our desserts were garnished with fun dollops of orange and raspberry sauce and looked too gorgeous to tamper with.
Mick and I spent over two hours at BiBo’s enjoying each other’s company and the zeal of our surroundings. Mick turned out not to be mad, but a very fun guy who might watch a cartoon ever so often, but no Sesame Street.
BiBo’s Madd Apple Caf? offers a variety of gourmet food at a moderate price. The intimate atmosphere is perfect for a long midday lunch date or a delightful dinner date. BiBo’s receives a lovely salute and five eggplants. It’s spectacular!
*Names have been changed.
BiBo’s Madd Apple Caf? is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until closing and Sunday from 4 p.m. until closing; for lunch Wednesday through Friday from 11:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and for brunch Sunday from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Reservations are suggested.
23 Forest Ave., Portland, Maine. (207) 774-9698