Eats: Rails

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Chicken Scratch

For best results, use a deep fryer to make this dish. Alternatively, use a frying pan with plenty of oil.

For the chicken:

8 ounces chicken breast

3 ounces whole milk

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1 egg

2 ounces all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons mixed herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, parsley

2 tablespoons nutmeg

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Procedure:

Mix egg and milk.

Stir herbs, nutmeg and salt into flour.

Dredge chicken in egg-milk mixture, then in flour mixture.

Deep fry chicken in fryer or pan.

For the pancakes:

One batch pancake mix

2 cups raw corn

Butter

Procedure:

Make pancake mix according to package instructions and stir in corn.

Cook pancakes in butter.

For the potato-hay nest  and egg

1/2 cup spiralized potatoes

Egg

Procedure:

Deep fry spiralized potatoes, or fry in frying pan.

Poach egg.

For the BBQ maple syrup

4 ounces BBQ sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 ounces maple syrup

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch allspice

Procedure:

Blend all ingredients.

To plate:

Serve chicken alongside pancakes, top the potato “nest” with poached egg, and serve with BBQ maple syrup.

Main Line Surf and Turf

For the dusted fillet:

6-ounce filet mignon

1 ounce mushroom porcini powder

1 ounce blueberry dust powder

For the whiskey mussels:

3 ounces mussels, shelled

1 ounce Maine craft distillery single malt

1 ounce butter

2 tablespoons crushed garlic

1 cup mixed mushrooms, such as oyster and shiitake

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

Coat fillet lightly in porcini and blueberry powder.

Poach mussels in single malt, butter and crushed garlic.

Saute mushrooms lightly in butter.

To plate:

Slice steak and layer pieces of steak alternatively with the mussels.

Serve with sauteed mushrooms.

New Lewiston restaurant blends city’s past with aware, upscale, inspired cuisine

The name of L-A’s newest eatery, Rails, couldn’t be more appropriate.

“It was an old railroad depot. . . . The end of the line for people who were coming to work,” says Ileshea Stowe, director of operations and public relations at Rails, which opened recently at its remodeled location on Lincoln Street in Lewiston.

Most of those seeking employment in Lewiston and Auburn’s textile mills and shoe factories in the 1800s and early 1900s were of French Canadian descent and arrived by rail. The new restaurant is located in what was known as Little Canada and was at one time referred to as the Ellis Island of Lewiston. “My family – on both sides — came through here,” says Stowe, whose parents own Rails.

For many years, the historic station stood empty. “When we got involved, it was a disaster,” says Stowe, “but it was a disaster with good bones and a great history.”

As renovations moved full steam ahead, Stowe was surprised by the passion that locals had for the structure, and how many came forward to contribute to the making of Rails. Owner Claire Dick came up with the name, calling it Rails because of its history, its architecture and the site-specific artifacts that survived the years, including the now ornamental rails that run through the dooryard.

The “rail car seats” running down the center of the dining room, constructed locally by McIntosh & Tuttle, are thoughtfully reminiscent of seats in yesteryear’s rail stations. Other details of the decor include pews and kneeling benches from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as train tracks used as foot rests in Rails’ “Bar Car” area.

An antique organ, repurposed as the hostess desk, is on loan from the Franco Center, and other historical pieces such as trunks and photographs have been donated by members of the community, including antique time charts that were found behind old pictures in frames and scale-model railroad cars and tracks that were rescued from a local dump.

In her life pre-Rails, Stowe was a teacher. She still owns a small farm where she raises poultry, pigs, sheep and a goat. Stowe became interested in food preparation because of allergies and because of her passion for “interesting and innovative food,” she says, adding, “People who have food issues can always come in here to eat.” Even the poutine, a local favorite, is “gluten free and (made with) goat cheese, so most people who are allergic to dairy can still have it.”

Stowe says she also wanted to create a “melding of community, history and fun.” So it’s no surprise the restaurant’s tag line, “Local-motive dining,” which was coined by Rails kitchen Manager Susi-Q Beck, arose organically.

“We’re considerately and thoughtfully sourcing our product, and giving a lot of thought to creating dishes that are unique but traditional,” says Stowe. She notes that Rails’ Chef Paul Olaf Lively “excels at pairing things that you wouldn’t necessarily think might go together.”

The “Chef Paul experience is a combination of sweet and savory, using infusing – a steeping of flavors – to create the overall experience,” explains Lively. A generous portion of Lively’s inspiration comes from the immigrants who passed through the doors when Rails was the train station, bringing together the flavors of French Arcadia, Cajun cuisine and even Japanese.

On the appetizer menu, Chef Paul’s Charcuterie Board — served on wooden cutting boards made by McIntosh & Tuttle — is laden with house-made pates and meats, as well as freshly baked breads and other enticements, such as “candied rainbow chard stems,” the latter an example of Lively’s “don’t throw anything away” philosophy.

The Charcuterie Board includes two styles of homemade jerky, described by Lively as “a maple Szechuan jerky and a black pepper fennel seed jerky made with filet mignon.” It also features Lively’s signature pate made with “black mission figs, ginger, pistachio and a foie gras mousse” and a pork and locally sourced ground sirloin pate made with cranberries infused with an 18-year-old Macallan scotch, smoked bourbon apples and pecans, wrapped in local organic bacon. The board includes house-made boursin cheese, a peach gastric and a sprinkle of scotch-infused cranberries — “a little sweet and sour to compliment the savory of the meats,” Lively says.

Lively’s signature dish is a tri-color beet terrine made with spiral, red and yellow beets and goat cheese, laced with vanilla bean and honey and pressed into a triangle. The terrine is left to set for a period of time to allow the color and flavor of the beets to infuse into the goat cheese. It is presented with a swoosh of beets roasted with sugar cane and coconut milk, a vinaigrette made with yellow beets, a roasted garlic and parsley oil, and local greens.

Rails’ Chicken Scratch is, according to both Lively and Beck, “a takeoff on chicken and waffles . . . a southern thing.” Using organic local chicken, the breast is “coated in spices and buttermilk, fried and served with a barbecue maple syrup.” The dish includes organic corn cakes made with bacon butter, shoestring spiral sweet potatoes and a “sous vide” slow-cooked soft-poached egg.

Another signature dish is the Maine Line Surf & Turf. Braveheart beef, Lively explains, “is the Rolls Royce of filet mignon,” and like the egg in Chicken Scratch, the meat is “sous vide and rolled in a blueberry and porcini mushroom dust, then finished by pan searing and served with a whole Maine blueberry demi glaze and a roasted garlic parsley butter,” he says. It is presented with two exotic mushrooms and fresh mussels poached in a single-malt scotch and butter.

The Southern Rail is a smoky duck served under glass accompanied by a delicate sweet and savory Swiss chard anglais, roasted carrots, pink fingerling potatoes and local Brussels sprouts, as well as a cranberry and granny smith apple crisp with foie gras and a sweet potato crumble.

In the decade prior to his arrival at Rails’ doorsteps, Lively was also an award-winning chocolatier. Rails’ dessert menu includes his hand-rolled and dipped chocolate truffles. Using “16 different grades of chocolate from around the world (and) over 75 different infusions,” including a single-malt scotch, Lively’s menu offers creations that include the Porky Pig truffle – a truffle featuring the flavors of dark chocolate, bacon and butterscotch.

Susi-Q Beck came to Rails with a background in urban farming and community action with respect to food. Formerly a “personal and natural chef,” Beck specializes in cooking “whole foods that are nutrient dense.”

Beck’s favorite menu items include the Grand Trunk Franco American salad, her own creation, which she describes as “a gluten-free and vegan meal salad with a mixture of beautiful seasonal greens, roasted, pickled and raw vegetables, and dried fruits.” It is served with Rails’ remoulade, a spicy French dressing, and offered with optional add-ins.

Beck is also partial to the Grand Trunk pork. “Its Berkshire pork medallions wrapped in bacon with a light and airy, sweet and spicy sauce” which, she says, brings “it all together to give you something different than what you thought.” “It’s pretty,” she says, “and it’s the whole experience!”

Stowe’s favorites include the Lincoln Street poutine, the Southern Rail and the Southern Pacific Double Stack – described on the menu as an “open-face chickpea-beet patty, sprouts, on a house-made savory shortbread.” According to Beck, the Double Stack is served on “an incredibly beautiful bread, like a pink peppercorn crust . . . a light but satisfying organic, vegan dish.” It’s one of the “hidden gems on the menu, (especially) when you’re the vegan at the table.”

According to Beck, now that the kitchen crew at Rails has been together for a few weeks, “we’re gelling,” making for a “happy kitchen-happy food” environment and product. She says she is “excited to be in Lewiston where soul food and home food is really up and coming.”

“Lewiston is a great city with a great history, great people and beautiful architecture,” says Stowe. “More than just that,” she adds, “it’s rewarding to create jobs and make a place where people want to come visit and eat, (and) be a part of the revitalization of the community.”

Rails Restaurant

103 Lincoln St., Lewiston

333-3070

railsmaine.com

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday.

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