"What should you order? Open the menu and go 'Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.'" This advice came from my friend and esteemed Boston colleague Sheryl Julian; utterly by chance we had chosen the same frigid evening to drive two hours north to Fore Street, our favorite New England restaurant, for a late-winter lift. She and some Maine friends, whom she had similarly encountered there by chance, were having an after-dinner drink in the bar when my guests and I arrived. We had all been unable to secure a reservation—a sign, in winter, of the restaurant's popularity—and had chosen different ends of the dinner service to avoid a long wait.
It is part of the critics' code never to recommend everything; and I imagine that Julian's dinner, like ours, had its share of small flaws. (For the record, she says that it was flawless.) After so many good meals in a place we like so much, both of us go off duty when we step through the door and see the wooden crates of local apples in the vestibule and herbs and vegetables from nearby farms in the glass-walled walk-in refrigerator just beyond it.
Everything at Fore Street is transparent, and was that way even before the term acquired its current vogue-word status (the restaurant opened six years ago). The entire kitchen is visible, with tiered tables and booths on three sides, like the seats in a theater-in-the-round. The back wall is dominated by a wood-fired oven and spits turning over an open hearth. The brick walls, wooden beams, high ceiling, and big windows are original to the warehouse that long occupied the building. The workers enjoyed an unobstructed view of the port and the ferries that ply Casco Bay.