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A hamburger plate and double cheeseburger from Dairy Delite in Berwick.Photos by Bob Keyes

Dairy Delite has been delighting folks in Berwick for generations with its soft-serve and hard ice cream. It’s a spring and summer tradition to treat the kids after baseball practice, a soccer game or another occasion. Or, just because.

I took my family for dinner after work on a recent weekday, and we couldn’t have been happier – or, frankly, more surprised. We knew the Shaker Pond ice cream was good. We had no idea how much we would enjoy our burgers, chicken, fries and onion rings.

Dairy Delite has been a Berwick tradition for families for many years.

Dairy Delite is situated in the heart of Berwick, next to the fire station, across from the long-closed Prime Tanning plant, which is now mostly an empty industrial lot awaiting redevelopment, and a stone’s throw from the New Hampshire border. It offers outdoor dining on a small patio, but the view isn’t great. We walked the short distance from our house – our 10-year-old rode his bike – on a nice spring evening and brought our dinner to eat at our kitchen table.

We wondered if our food would cool on the five-minute walk home, but it didn’t. It was still warm as we unpacked our paper-wrapped bundles. That’s when the fun began.

Luke, the 10-year-old, loved his chicken tenders, as did his mom. Asked to describe them, he said, “When you bite it, the chicken kind of blows up.” His mother’s taste-test translation: “It has a light batter and is very moist and juicy.”

They both loved the fries, which were crisp on the outside and soft inside. The onion rings were a bit greasy, but otherwise appealing with their thin batter and salty taste.

The star of the dinner was my double cheeseburger. The patties were thick and cooked medium, and tasted local. By that, I mean the meat had a fresh flavor that suggested it hadn’t been processed somewhere far away and a long time ago. Cooked and complemented with lettuce and a tomato slice, the burger surely weighed a solid half pound on the plate. The only failure was the bun. It crumbled under the weight.

Everyone was happy, but our experience wasn’t perfect. There are easy alternatives to plastic plates – a half-pound burger notwithstanding – and we were disappointed having to toss plastic into the trash. I also realized, after the fact, we were charged 35 cents each for lettuce and tomato on the burger. I don’t mind paying extra, but I was surprised by the charges on the receipt.

Overall, we felt the prices were fair. The double cheeseburger was $6.50 plain – $7.20 with the lettuce and tomato. The seven-piece chicken tenders cost $10.95, and the onion rings were $3.95.

Most importantly, we had a nice family experience at a longtime local business in our community.

Dairy Delite

WHERE: 6 School St., Berwick. (207) 698-4700. On Facebook
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
WAIT: About 10 minutes
PARKING: Lot
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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Conundrum is inviting from the cozy front porch facing Route 1 in Freeport. Photos by Angie Bryan

Spoiler alert: There’s no way I’m not going to love a wine bar with over 500 wines by the bottle and a cocktail menu. But even before pursuing the drink options, I was charmed just entering from the cozy front porch at Conundrum in Freeport.

Interior at Conundrum

The main bar area was also inviting, with both high-tops and sofas, as well as music at a reasonable volume. But what really wowed me and my drinking companions was the large enclosed back patio, complete with heating when needed. It was hard to decide where to sit, but opting for speed, we sat directly at the bar, hanging our purses on the hooks underneath.

Luckily, I had done an arm workout earlier and was therefore able to lift the massive drinks menu. Conundrum is, above all, a wine bar, so that makes up the bulk of the menu, but I was delighted to discover six cocktails in the $9-$10 range. (There were even three beer-based cocktails in the $10-$11 range, as well as 14 draft beers.) When I saw that there was a key lime martini, my fate was sealed.

Choose from a massive wine list or among specialty cocktails, like the key lime martini.

At first, I was disappointed not to see a graham cracker crumb rim on my glass, but all was forgiven when I tasted the masterful blend of Absolut Vanilla, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice and cream. From that moment on, all I could hear was Jimmy Buffett as I sipped my way onto an imaginary beach. The last sip was as good as the first, and I was truly sad when my glass was empty.

My companions stuck to the original wine mission, one ordering an $8 Conundrum Table Red, which she pronounced “jammy” as she happily consumed it, and the other selecting a “delightful” $8 Vouvray chenin blanc. We also had a $14 cheese board that came with three cheeses, pickles, fig jam, mustard, warm bread and crackers.  The bread and crackers were so good that we asked if they were made in house (they’re not, but the pasta is). Our server won us over when she turned our cheese board around so that we wouldn’t miss a piece of cheese that we couldn’t see from our side. At some point, we also checked out a fabulous $10 Touriga Nacional red from Setubal, Portugal, and a lovely Valdobbiadene Prosecco.

There are several seating options at Conundrum, including a back porch with optional heating.

The wine menu is too extensive to cover thoroughly in this space, especially after taking up a paragraph waxing poetic about a key lime martini. Suffice it to say that there is an entire page of bubbly by the bottle, an entire page of white wines by the glass ($8-$13), and an entire page of red wines by the glass ($7-$15). There are also half glasses available (for amateurs, I guess) and you can try the wines before you decide what to order.  There’s a remarkably long list of wines for sale by the bottle, with the Cabernet Sauvignon section alone taking over two full pages. Quite a few wines are no longer in stock, so the list could probably use a bit of updating (it’s been in business for over 18 years), but that won’t stop me from returning the next time my liver and I are in Freeport.

CONUNDRUM WINE BISTRO

WHERE: 117 Route 1, Freeport
PHONE: (207) 865-0303
WEBSITE: conundrumwinebistro.com
HOURS: 4:30-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
AMENITIES: Parking lot, heated enclosed back patio and taco bar next door.
BOTTOM LINE: Cozy spot for wine lovers; perfect spot for a date.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No

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Exterior of The Blue Spoon Cafe in Portland’s West End Photos by Aimsel Ponti

Blue Spoon Cafe, an extension of the restaurant of the same name on Munjoy Hill, opened in May in the spot that was home for many years to Aurora Provisions in Portland’s West End.

The cafe has a glorious breakfast menu that includes scones, beignets, breakfast sandwiches and grain bowls. On the lunch front, you’ll find a daily soup, four types of salads, three varieties of tartines and, what got my interest, a selection of sandwiches.

I rolled in there for a late-ish lunch on a dreary Tuesday afternoon, and the joint was pretty jumping with several sit-down parties, as well as a few people grabbing stuff to go.

Like with Aurora Provisions, the cafe revolves around an island of display cases where you can peruse baked goods and prepared side dishes, order food and help yourself to the coffee bar.

Interior of The Blue Spoon Cafe.

There are several seating options, including a corner alcove that seems like the perfect place to hunker down with a laptop and a giant coffee to get some work down. I chose a window seat and appreciated the natural light.

I could have ordered any sandwich on the lunch menu, including the BLT, turkey melt or ham and brie, but I went with the chicken salad, with dill, aioli and local greens served on sourdough bread for $9. A Spindrift cucumber sparkling water and bag of Deep River chips rounded out what indeed would be quite the happy meal.

Chicken salad sandwich from The Blue Spoon Cafe in Portland’s West End
Photo by Aimsel Ponti

When my sandwich was presented to me, I felt like “The Flinstones” in the Bronto Burgers drive-through, getting a rack of ribs so big it tips over the car. Surely, it would break my table in two. And surely I would never, ever be able to eat the whole thing. Right?

Of course, I did, partially because this became the day I fell in love with dill. I finally understood what’s been missing from every chicken salad I’ve ever eaten (and there have been quite a few), not to mention the magnitude of putting it on some of the best sourdough bread on the planet.

My only complaint was the acoustics. It was loud in there, an echo chamber of chattering voices and not the kind of typical din you’d expect to hear in such an environment, but I reached into my bag, pulled out my earbuds and the problem was solved with some cello music.

Now, a different song is playing in my head, as I think back fondly on my lunch – to the tune of “Blue Moon,” but with the word “spoon” instead.

Blue Spoon Cafe

WHERE: 64 Pine St., Portland; (207) 613-9922, thebluespoon.com
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
WAIT: Less than five minutes
PARKING: Lot
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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Bath Brewing Co’s chocolate-inspired dark beer. Photos by Carla Jean Lauter

Several years ago, Maine’s midcoast had a noticeable void of craft breweries. At the time, I chalked this up to the extreme seasonality of some of the coastal towns, many of which close down except for essentials in the winter months, which would be challenging conditions for any new brewery. In the last two years, however, the map has rapidly begun filling up with spots in the tourist-based hubs.

The Bath and Boothbay areas in particular have shown growth, as several new breweries have opened with another on the way. In Boothbay Harbor, next to the historic footbridge that unites the east and west sides of the community, Footbridge Brewery has opened, just in time for the summer crowds. Originally constructed in 1901, the footbridge provides clear views of the boats in the harbor as well as a simple place for visitors or locals to take a stroll. At the very end of that path sits a small, cozy tasting room that opened earlier this month.

Footbridge Brewery in Boothbay Harbor is now open for the summer.

When I visited Footbridge Brewery on a foggy afternoon last week, they had four beers on tap that ranged from a soft and pleasant wheat beer named Winter Bush to a solid pale ale called Fisherman’s Thumb. The only one in the lineup I was not fond of was their Ovens Mouth, a jalapeño beer that I found too spicy. As I sat in the tasting room, a dark stout was being brewed, which enveloped the room with a lovely and comforting aroma of oatmeal and chocolate. Footbridge Brewing joins Boothbay Craft Brewery as the second brewery in the area, but it is the first to take residence in the harbor itself, nestled in among stores and restaurants with a view of the harbor.

The beer menu at Bath Brewing Co.

Bath Brewing Co. opened a brewery and restaurant last summer and began brewing its own beer once its brewing system came on line several months later. Now it has established itself as a great spot for live music and fresh food, as well as a lineup of well-crafted brews. Bath Brewing had nine beers on tap when I stopped by, and they range from a set of hoppy pale ales and IPAs to the darker and more creative. A standout was the Long Reach Lager, a 5.2 percent ABV that servers recommend to those who profess to only drinking light lagers. Long Reach Lager is a good choice, because it has some flavors from the malt that will be familiar to big-beer lovers, but also has a bit more body and flavor than some watered-down light beers might. In my opinion, it should be just as attractive to craft lager fans. It finishes clean and refreshing.

On the more unusual side was the Hot Chocolate Porter, modeled after a Mexican-style hot chocolate with cayenne pepper added to the brew. The overall effect was a rich stout background with a hint of heat toward the end. Not a bad match for the gray, foggy day but probably not something I’d order after walking around the streets of Bath on a warm, sunny day. If you prefer to take the beer home, you can pick up a growler of any of the beers on tap. They also feature guest bottles, cans and taps, so you can sample beers from around the state and region.

Bath will soon be home to a second brewery. Bath Ale Works plans to open in the first quarter of 2020. Once it opens, one could easily spend a day or two (with a sober driver, of course) following Route 1 for a series of beer destinations. In Brunswick, you could begin your tour at Black Pug Brewing, take a jaunt over to Flight Deck Brewing and then stop on Maine Street at Moderation. Bath Brewing Co. would be a nice break for lunch, and then continue up to Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, finishing at Boothbay Craft Brewing for a well-earned dinner. While in the neighborhood, you could swing a bit farther to Newcastle to the first Oxbow Brewing location, perhaps to take home some bottles.

In the days of prohibition, Route 1 was used to smuggle beer from Canada into the United States and from ships off the Florida Keys to points north. As these coastal Maine towns along Route 1 continue to add breweries, the route’s boozy reputation may become earned again, but for different reasons. This time, the pursuit of alcohol down the well-traveled path will be a more convenient, and certainly more legal, pursuit.

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Quality Shop is on Stevens Avenue in Portland, near Deering High. Photos by Ray Routhier

I was hungry when I decided to get lunch from Quality Shop the other day, but I didn’t know what I wanted.

I didn’t want to know what I wanted. I’m sort of decision-averse, and I get easily overwhelmed with all the little decisions I have to make all day. I was hoping something on the menu would just reach into my subconscious and I’d instantly know what to have.

Two cheeseburgers and fries are $7.99 at The Quality Shop in Portland.

Then I looked at the menu. Two cheeseburgers with fries for $7.99. Done. The menu item hit me hard on several levels, including nostalgia (I’ve always loved cheeseburgers), value and the comfort-food factor.

Quality Shop has been a fixture on Stevens Avenue in the Deering Center neighborhood for some 80 years. It’s the kind of place that serves no-frills food, and lots of it, in a cozy market atmosphere. There’s no bistro seating and you can’t order a small plate. It’s the kind of take-out that has powered Americans on the go for generations.

And it’s fast. I called ahead on a weekday at lunch, and the woman who took my order apologized that because they were crowded, it would take awhile – about 10 minutes. I had to drive from South Portland, so 10 minutes seemed perfect.

When I got there my order was ready. The two burgers were very warm, wrapped in foil. They were much bigger than I expected for a two-fer deal. Both were thick, with white American cheese, on buns that had been buttered and grilled. They came with a white-and-red box of crinkle-cut fries, also hot.

A large regular Italian, with ham, is $4.79 at Quality Shop in Portland

It was too much food for me, but that didn’t stop me from eating it. Because it was just $7.99, I thought that at a place with such low prices, I should buy my next day’s lunch, too. So I ordered large regular Italian – a Maine Italian, that is – for $4.79. It was on a very soft roll, as a Maine Italian should be, with ham, cheese and all the veggies. The ham was a little thicker than I usually find in an Italian, but tasty.

Besides burgers, the grill selection includes hot dogs ($1.79), as well as gyros and a chicken souvlaki. There are fried foods like chicken tenders, clam cakes and fried mushrooms. Then there are cold sandwiches, hot sandwiches, salads, pizza and a couple pasta meals, including spaghetti and meatballs for $4.29.

Deering Center is a pretty neighborhood with many picturesque places nearby to stroll through, including Evergreen Cemetery and Baxter Woods. So if you’re looking for a pre- or post-stroll lunch, or just some fast and satisfying take-out, Quality Shop lives up to its name.

QUALITY SHOP

WHERE: 473 Stevens Ave., Portland
INFO: (207) 774-6434, On Facebook
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
WAIT: About 10 to 15 minutes for lunch phone order
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No

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Dried herbs and fancy cocktail glasses hanging above the bar were the first indicators that creative cocktails were coming.Photos by Angie Bryan

You know how some hosts set the mood before the party by sending out a really fun invitation card? (Yes, some people still mail paper invitations, I swear!) The owner of The Wallingford Dram in Kittery has done the same thing, but via décor.

The minute you step into the tiny cocktail bar, you know you’re in for something extraordinary. The interior is decorated with deep forest green paint, dark stained wood and a subtle nautical theme, thanks to a few paintings of boats, some brass gauges and small ship lamps illuminating the high-top tables. The focus on creative cocktails is evident from the fresh herbs on the counter and dried ones hanging from above. Also hanging above the bar is a wide variety of vintage-looking cocktail glasses.  My drinking companions and I were hooked before we ever opened the menu.

Swear To Me, Golden Hour and Knock Life are among the selections on several pages of cocktails on the menu.

Speaking of the cocktail menu, it’s several pages long. My friends and I had a difficult time narrowing down our choices, finally ordering a Swear To Me, a Golden Hour, and a Knock Life, each $10. The Swear To Me (gin, Thai basil, ginger, grapefruit liqueur, lemon, black pepper and honey) reminded my drinking companions of a Finnish cocktail called the Lonkero (aka Long Drink). The ginger and the grapefruit were low-key, with a smooth finish (see what I did there?). The Golden Hour (tequila, sherry, house apricot liqueur, lime and orange-chipotle-cinnamon agave nectar) was a bit sour (in a good way), starting off with a burst of flavor and then ending with notes of cinnamon and apricot.

The Knock Life (coconut oil-washed bourbon, lemon, passionfruit, orgeat, vanilla and bitters) was my favorite, a good thing since it was the drink I had ordered.  The orgeat (an almond syrup) gave it a creamy texture without using cream, and the flavor layers developed with each sip.

There was no way we were leaving after one drink, so after a semivicious argument over who had to stop drinking in order to drive us home, my remaining drinking companion and I opted for the $11 Northsea Lineman and $10 Boat Cowboy.  Our second round was just as impressive as our first, with the Northsea Lineman (rye, Islay single malt, Italian vermouth Punt e Mes, maraschino, bitters and salt) feeling like a smoothed-out single malt, and the Boat Cowboy (tequila, bourbon, pineapple gomme, allspice dram, lime and bird’s eye chili) equally smooth, with a mild aroma of spice.  I couldn’t taste the chili, but my four years of eating spicy food in Pakistan might have damaged my judgment in that department.

Watching the bartender work was almost as enjoyable as drinking her creations. At one point, she was doing a dry shake with an egg white; at another she was spanking a bundle of fresh mint over a glass. Once, we saw her squeeze fresh citrus oil from zest. The bar was packed almost immediately after it opened, so service was a bit slow at times, but the drinks were worth the wait.

The Wallingford Dram

WHERE: 7 Wallingford Square, Kittery

PHONE: (207) 703-4298

WEBSITE: thewallingford.com

HOURS: 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

AMENITIES: A menu featuring page after page of original cocktail creations, with some delicious nibbles available as well.

BOTTOM LINE: Not the kind of place you go for a rum and coke – this is the kind of place you bring your mixologist friends when you want to impress them.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No

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A large counter means less wait at Maine Beer Co.’s new tasting room.
Photos by Carla Jean Jauter

Maine Beer Co. has been steadily, massively growing – and if you haven’t been paying attention for a while, it may be time to come back around.

This spring, the Freeport brewery opened a completely renovated tasting room, wood-fired pizza kitchen and gathering space, housed in an addition to the building and taking over some of the production floor that visitors could once look down on through glass windows from the original tasting room space. To say that the tasting room has expanded doesn’t seem to sum it up. This new space is massive, well-designed and stunning.

This dripping tree is one of the striking features of the new space.

Some of its features include a long, beautifully lit bar where there’s never a long line to get samples, flights or food. Prominently located in the center of the first-floor seating area is a kinetic statue of a tree that drips water as if it is raining through the leaves, the water caught by a stone-rimmed fountain pool. There’s also an upper balcony that overlooks rest of the tasting room; a smaller, set off to the side seating area that’s a bit quieter than the main space; and yet another outdoor area that’s covered and can be used in all weather.

On the upper balcony, you can walk through a timeline of the brewery’s creation, from the seed of the idea to its debut as a nanobrewery on Industrial Way to the current brewery that now produces over 20,000 barrels of beer annually.

Maine Beer’s motto is “do what’s right,” which has meaning beyond its beer and brewing philosophy. Many companies, when they reach a certain size, are able to contribute to charities that they support and will host specific fundraisers for organizations to answer the need of the community. Maine Beer, however, has taken a different approach by donating 1 percent of its sales – and has from the day its doors opened – to a rotating group of environmental nonprofits. The organizations range from national conservation groups, like Allied Whale and The Gorilla Fund, to local ones, such as Maine Audubon, Wolfe’s Neck Farm and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. Through this effort, Maine Beer’s annual giving is over $150,000 and continues to grow as the company does.

In addition to the first floor of the new tasting room, pictured here, there’s a balcony that overlooks it.

The good deeds don’t stop there, either. Maine Beer Co. is working to reduce its carbon footprint and has embarked on a project aiming to generate more renewable energy than it consumes in the day-to-day operations of the brewery. To accomplish this, they’ve installed solar panels on buildings on the brewery and will also be funding solar facilities elsewhere. Last month, Wolfe’s Neck Farm recieved a $25,000 donation from Maine Beer Co. toward its own solar farm project, covering a sixth of the cost.

As part of the tasting room expansion, Maine Beer has also found the creative energy and time to create a series of beers, called the Black Barn Program, exclusively available on site. They are brewed in the smaller brewhouse but still go through all of the lab testing and quality control as the other staple beers, so they feel like less of an “experiment” than some tasting-room-only brews made at other breweries. The rotating styles are numbered (Black Barn Program Nos. 1, 2, 3, etc.) and can be purchased by the glass or in bottles directly from the tasting room while available. On a recent visit, I tried No. 3., a dry, hoppy IPA with a sharp but crisp bitter bite, and I would definitely come back just to see what the next one turns out to be.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Maine Beer Co. will be holding a two-day celebration this weekend. Dinner, one of its nationally-known IPAs, will be on tap, as will its sister beer, Second Dinner. On Saturday, there will be an oysterfest with Maine Oyster Co. and live music from Sugar Hill Music, and if you bring in a shirt, you can have it screen printed on a people-powered printing press. On Sunday, there will be a pop-up ice cream vendor. More details are being released via Maine Beer’s website and social media as the event gets closer, but it should be a great time to stop in and give a nod to 10 years of hard work in brewing and in creating a company that gives back every step of the way.

 

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The annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland is scheduled for June 27-29. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Is there anything more Maine than celebrating food outside in the summer?

The concept of the food festival is perfect for Maine, where summer is short and glorious, and both tourists and locals alike take food seriously. This summer’s list of food festivals includes traditional church-run ethnic food celebrations in southern Maine, a block party of local eateries and breweries in Portland, a combination food festival and farmers market in the western foothills and a new food festival with music on the former air base in Brunswick.

Food festivals are so popular that a huge annual one being held this weekend on Thompson’s Point in Portland – Street Eats and Beats – is already sold out. But there are still plenty of others around Maine this summer. Here’s a sampling of some to  whet your appetite.

DON’T KNOCK THE BLOCK

The third annual Washington Avenue Block Party will be held June 8 beginning at 11 a.m.  Some 25 eateries, breweries and other food and drink purveyors will participate along inner Washington Avenue, roughly between Cumberland Avenue and the Eastern Promenade. Some of the businesses include Hardshore Distilling, Maine Mead Works, Terlingua BBQ, Oxbow Brewing, Silly’s Restaurant and The Cheese Shop of Portland. Events will be outside on sidewalks or in parking lots, and at least one seating area will be under a giant tent. On Facebook: Washington Ave Block Party

Stonewall Kitchen’s Fifth Annual Battle of the Food Trucks will be held June 8 in York. Photo courtesy of Stonewall Kitchen.

 

SHOP’N AND TRUCK’N

Also scheduled for June 8 is the Fifth Annual Battle of the Food Trucks at the Stonewall Kitchen Company Store off Route 1 in York. The event is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot with trucks selling exclusive menu items featuring Stonewall Kitchen products. Some of the 11 or so food trucks expected include Mainely Burgers, Clyde’s Cupcakes, Mami Food Truck and Crepe Elizabeth. But touring Stonewall Kitchen’s store is a food event in itself. You can spend hours gazing at and sampling their sauces, mustards and various condiments and then sample a local food truck’s fare outside.
On Facebook: Stonewall Kitchen’s Fifth Annual Battle of the Food Trucks

SUMMERTIME AND THE TASTING IS EASY

A brand new food festival is taking flight this year at Brunswick Landing, on the site of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The new Taste of Summer Festival will be held June 22 from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 until June 17, with a drink ticket. Besides sampling food from local restaurants, food trucks and craft beverage makers, people can rock out to music by The Mallett Brothers Band and Sons of Alfond. Some of the food vendors include Cooks Lobster House, Portland Pie, Maine-ly Meatballs, PB&ME, Falafel Mafia, Gouda Boys and Get Sticky Maine. Beverage sellers include Maine Craft Distilling, Black Diamond Whiskey and local Brunswick breweries Flight Deck, Moderation and Black Pug.
On Facebook: Taste of Summer Festival Maine

The annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland is scheduled for June 27-29. Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski

GET YOUR GREEK ON

Some food trends come and go, but spanakopita and baklava are here to stay.  The 38th Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland, scheduled for June 27-29, proves that. Every year, crowds line up on Pleasant Street to get their fill of moussaka, dolmades, souvlaki and other Greek specialties. Volunteers start prepping the kitchens and the food in April, with more than 100 people involved. Organizers say there are probably a dozen or so people who have helped create delicious dishes for the festival for three decades. There’s also nightly live Greek music and dancing, under a big tent near the church. On Facebook: Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Portland, Maine

If you can’t get to the Portland Greek festival, don’t fear. You can always head to Saco on July 19-21 for the Saint Demetrios Greek Festival for your favorite Greek delicacies. That festival also has live music all weekend, as well as the St. Demetrios’ Youth Group Dancers. stdemetriosofmaine.com

Pink oyster mushrooms sold quickly at the 2018 Foothills Food Festival in Norway. This year’s is August 10.
Photo by Carl Costanzi

THAR’S FOOD IN THEM HILLS

The Foothills Food Festival on Main Street in Norway, scheduled for Aug. 10 from noon to 6 p.m., is billed as a celebration of western Maine’s local food movement. So, besides food vendors and local restaurants, there will be a farmers market, including Pietree Orchard, Wandering Root, Pen-Y-Bryn Lavender Farm, Wrinkle in Thyme, Sterns Hill Farm, Sue’s Honey, Jumper’s Hill, Shady Grove Mushrooms and Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch. Some of the food vendors and restaurants will include: Street Eats, Gone Loco! Cafe, Worth-the-Wait BBQ, Isuken Coop, Fiddlestick Farm, Cafe Di Cocoa, Cafe Nomad, 290 Main Street, 76 Pleasant Street, X-Vault and Norway Brewing Co. There will also be a beer garden with nearly a dozen local purveyors on tap. foothillsfoodfestival.org

 

 

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Every neighborhood needs a place like Other Side Diner, the new breakfast-and-lunch spot from Pete and Jessica Sueltenfuss, owners of the two Other Side Delicatessens in Portland.

The food isn’t fussy but it’s well-prepared with fresh, local ingredients. The interior of this updated, retro diner has been well thought out: It’s a pleasant atmosphere with plenty of seating – and parking.

The Sueltenfuss’ have done an excellent job renovating the space, which used to be the home of Hella Good Tacos and before that, Steve & Renee’s Diner. The dominant color in the diner is black (with chrome accents), but it’s not depressing or dreary. Hanging pots of ferns and ivy add a splash of green, and the traditional diner tabletops have a red squiggly pattern and look like the kind of tables you’d expect to find if you took a time machine back to the 1950s. The restaurant has about a dozen traditional black-and-chrome diner stools at the main counter where singletons can sit and read the newspaper (pardon the shameless plug) or visit with the person they’re rubbing elbows with on the left or right. The diner also has table seating for more than 20. Coffee is served at every table in a black coffee mug with the Other Side Diner logo on it, and you’ll be tempted to buy one.

Here’s the omelet with spinach and bacon, English muffin, hash browns and a side of bacon at Otherside Diner in Portland.  Photo by Meredith Goad

The menu isn’t huge but has plenty of variety. I went for breakfast because that’s one of the things I like to do on my days off. Before I ordered, the chef sent out some of the diner’s signature Greek donuts, rolled in sugar and a little honey. From the menu I was torn between the omelet with spinach and cheddar, served with toast and hash browns ($12), and the French toast with citrus butter ($11). My server also told me about a couple of specials that were awfully tempting. I went with the omelet, which was cooked perfectly and filled with fresh, sauteed spinach. Instead of toast I asked for an English muffin, which was split and toasted on the griddle, and slathered in butter. Thin and crispy; so simple yet so good. The hash browns come in a ball shape – somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball – and are crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

My best decision was to order a side of bacon ($6). Pete Sueltenfuss does all his own butchering of local meats, and it shows.  The bacon was thick, chewy and full of flavor.

Other breakfast options include pancakes with Maine maple syrup for $11 (blueberry compote is $2 extra); corned beef hash with potatoes and onions, two eggs and toast ($14); and the Hercules Breakfast, which is two eggs, two pancakes, meat, toast and hash browns ($16).

The lunch menu features about a half-dozen sandwiches ranging from $11 for a grilled cheese to $14 for a roast lamb pocket with a Greek salad.

If you don’t want coffee,  a large beverage list includes the usual soda and juice, but also local tea from Homegrown Herb and Tea on Munjoy Hill. (Thanks for reminding me, Otherside Diner, that I need to get back there.) If you’re having brunch, there’s a selection of wine, beer and cocktails.

Otherside Diner is kid-friendly with a children’s menu that features chicken fingers, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs and other kid favorites. (The Sueltenfuss’ have children of their own, so they know what they’re doing in that department.)

Bottom line: This is a great addition to off-peninsula Portland, and I plan to return for that French toast.

OTHER SIDE DINER

WHERE: 500 Washington Ave., Portland
INFO: (207) 772-0002, On Facebook.
HOURS: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday
WAIT: 10 minutes
PARKING: Yes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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As fun as it is to visit tasting rooms to see what’s on tap, I always get a little spring in my step when I find a new beer I can take home. Thus, I was happy to find that Moderation Brewing Company has dipped a few toes into the world of canning, with small releases of its beers sold from its tasting room on Maine Street in Brunswick.

Grog Shop is a new beer that will be available on draft and in cans starting this week. It’s an IPA that uses organic rye from Blue Ox Malt House to back up its dry-hopped goodness. Rye is a slightly spicier grain that adds some spunk to the beer’s profile. Following Moderation’s convention of naming beers after local historical references, Grog Shop’s name comes from a speech given at Bowdoin College in 1885 by Neal Dow, the former Portland mayor and champion of prohibition, who called out Brunswick as being “indifferent to the evils of intemperance” and said that the Legislature was always “on the side of the grog shops.” Moderation Brewing found a reference to this speech in an issue of the Brunswick Telegraph, where someone penned an op-ed to defend the town’s honor.

Foulmouthed Brewing’s Frobscottle is named after a fizzy green soda from “The BFG.” Photo courtesy of Foulmouthed Brewing Co.

In South Portland, Foulmouthed Brewing Company has also entered the canning market, debuting two beers this week whose names are just as fun as the contents inside. Grawlix is a 6.7 percent IPA and is probably the perfect name for a Foulmouthed beer. When someone swears in a comic or illustration, and the profanity is replaced by nonsense characters (e.g., @#$%&!), that’s called a grawlix. The beer is brewed with local hops, and the description on the beer menu at Foulmouthed says it “features the best @#&! hops grown right here in Maine.”

Foulmouthed’s second beer to make it to cans is called Frobscottle, a fanciful reference to “The BFG” by Roald Dahl. In the children’s book, Frobscottle is described as a fizzy green soda in which the bubbles go down rather than up. The fizziness of the drink is also able to lift people into the air and gives them “whizpoppers” (flatulence). Foulmouthed’s version is a bit more down to earth, but does provide a bit of fanciful fun. While it is not green, it has some fun flavors that dance around in it. It is a sour that has been aged on raspberries, but with oats in the grain bill that provide a smoothing effect to the mouthfeel. It is zingy but mild, making it a nice approachable sour.

Another new beer to the South Portland scene comes from Fore River Brewing. Collaborations between breweries are always interesting, but collaborations between breweries and non-breweries can also be a rewarding partnership. For Fore River, that recently meant pairing up with Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) for a brand new pilsner. On The Point is unique in that it is brewed with a variety of French hops that are new to the United States. The Barbe Rouge hops are grown in France and add a distinct strawberry-like note. The name and label were designed by SMCC staff and students. The cans, with a sleek, fresh look (not to mention fresh taste) were released last week.

Geary’s Pick Me sports the company’s new branding for its new beers. Photo by Carla Jean Lauter

Returning to the OG brewers in Maine, the new owners of D. L. Geary Brewing Company (now sometimes referred to as “Geary’s Brewing” or just “Geary’s” on new labels) have come out with a trio of canned releases with a completely new look to their labels. I first spotted Pick Me on the shelf at my local beer store and was surprised by the radically different branding, so I took it home. Pick Me is a blueberry pilsner, which is rather a weird idea to me, especially considering that lagers are usually left somewhat pure in their recipies and usually don’t get involved with fruit. The end result is of a sweet blueberry flavor profile without a lot of beer backbone. If you’re really into blueberry beverages, it might hit the spot on a warm day, but to me, the combination felt a little forced. Geary’s OG Session Lager and a beer called Razzle Dazzle, a “sour raspberry lager” were released with similar labels. I’ve yet to taste the Razzle Dazzle, but I’ll give it a try the next time I come across it.

The new labels, which feature a white background and stylized fonts, with a simple Geary’s in script at the top, are part of a rebranding effort for the brewery’s “contemporary” beer lineup. Riverside IPA and other new beers will get this new treatment rolled out this spring and summer, while classics like Geary’s Pale Ale will keep the shield design of their logo.

 

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