Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nonesuch Oyster Tours, Scarborough

Last month a friend of mine came to visit Maine, and we used that as an excuse to check out the Nonesuch Oyster aquaculture tours that owner Abigail Carroll has started offering. Carroll's farm is located in the Nonesuch River off of scenic Pine Point in Scarborough. Her oysters can be found occasionally on Portland raw bar menus and at Harbor Fish Market. They're characterized by their green shells and grassy flavors, which we learned all about why that is on our afternoon tour.

We decided to bike the 2 miles to the tour's meeting point at the Pine Point town landing from my friend's family's summer place in Old Orchard. After we packed our layers, snacks, and white wine (since the tour is BYOB), we rode off. The tour convened at the Harbor Master's office, and there we found Abigail and a couple who would be joining us on the tour. All told there were 6 of us, which is the tour's max. 

We started by learning a little bit about oysters, how they grow, and the oyster nursery process that Abigail and her team are constantly refining. When I interviewed Abigail for my book, Portland Food: the Culinary Capital of Maine, several years ago, she was using an upweller at the dock to grow her oyster spat (baby oysters). They were then transferred to floating bags, which were tied along lines in the river until the oysters reached market size a few years later. 

Now, Abigail is working to transfer her oyster nursery to trays, made from the same coated wire used in lobster traps. The trays rest on the bottom of the river, keeping the oysters contained, but more closely replicating their natural nursery habitat. Same for the adults: they're scattered about the bottom of the river, which Abigail says gives the meat a better flavor and the shells a beautiful green color. When it's harvest time and water temperature allows it, the Nonesuch crew harvests the oysters by hand, hence the "free range" oyster tagline. 

After learning the nuts and bolts of the operation, we hoped in Abigail's skiff to motor out to the oyster farm and see for ourselves. The oyster farm is about 10 minutes from the dock and very close to shore in shallow water (for anyone who may be balking at the idea of a boat tour). 

At the farm, Abigail tied up to the harvest line and set up for what we were all anticipating most: the oyster tasting. She harvested oysters right from the bottom of the river for us, shucked them, and served them with nothing more than the optional squeeze of lemon or a scoop of shallot mignonette she whipped up before shucking. 

Eating oysters directly from the river they're grown in is a different experience than those served super cold at a raw bar. The oyster is closer to room temperature, about 60*F, which allows you to taste the full range of flavors that the cold would otherwise mask. 

We tasted that distinct grassiness, a slight brininess, and sweetness. Abigail shucked several dozen, and due to some polite eaters, there were plenty to go round. We also enjoyed a pleasant white wine from Maine and Loire, Portland's natural wine shop, where the ever-helpful owner Peter recommended an Austrian white. 

After our Nonesuch oyster feast, I remembered that Abigail had told me she was attempting to grow Belons, a different species of oyster, native to Brittany, France. Scientists experimented with seeding them in Maine in the 1950s, seeing that the conditions in Maine's rivers were similar to the Brittany region's. Abigail actually had some in her bin of interesting things, so she pulled one out for each of us that wanted one. She did caution that they have a very intense flavor and can be very polarizing.

I'm not afraid to say they were not for me! They just tasted bad and then finished with an aluminum flavor (some say copper, I got aluminum). A few weeks ago, I saw ZEST magazine quoting Fore Street chef Sam Hayward extolling the virtues of these oysters. The myth is perpetuated! If you see them, try one out and see what you think.

Our tour was about an hour and a half, and for $50 includes half a dozen oysters and is BYOB. The tours are offered Thursday through Monday at 1PM and 3:30PM (not every day though; the schedule varies). If you're looking for a pleasant afternoon on the water, with some education and oyster tasting thrown in, check out Nonesuch Oysters tours.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Flying Fox Juice Bar Now Open

Flying Fox Juice Bar opened yesterday at 98 Washington Ave. It's run by Birch Hincks, a friendly woman you may know from Eventide, with help from her partner Tim Adams of Oxbow Brewing. The small shop joins in the revival of inner Washington Ave. at the foot of Munjoy Hill and serves juice, smoothies, iced tea, and coffee. 

The shop is simply decorated with repurposed materials, colorful stools, and a magnetic letter menu. 

The juice and smoothie flavors listed are popular combinations, but custom blends are available too. Birch told me the flavors listed are the predominant ones, but the juices contain other ingredients—for instance, the kale/lemon flavor also has apple juice. 

Original Roomie A. and I had a beet/carrot (plus ginger) and a kale/lemon juice ($8 each). The juices are made to order and come with or without ice. 

It's pretty much a guarantee that I'll love anything with beet juice in it, and the carrot combo made it a nice earthy root juice. I love that the juice options are less traditional and tend towards savory, a taste I am personally cultivating in my juice preferences. 

Flying Fox Juice Bar is open from 7:30AM until 2PM and whether you need a quick caloric pick-me-up or simply some iced coffee, stop in and see this lovely new Munjoy Hill café.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Foulmouthed Brewing, South Portland

Foulmouthed Brewing opened in the Knightville neighborhood of South Portland about two weeks ago, with several kinds of beer made on premise and a small menu to accompany them. I went on Friday for happy hour with my friend LBK after an afternoon at Willard Beach, a combo activity I highly recommend. 

Once we stepped inside this recently rehabbed warehouse-turned-brewpub, we found a full house, the residents of South Portland clearly excited to have a cool, new neighborhood spot. Fortunately, two seats opened up at the bar, so we squeezed in and ordered a flight of the six beers available on tap (the flights are an "all or none" situation, which I liked—we were able to try everything and skipped the pesky step of choosing which ones we wanted in our flight). 

Shown above from left to right, we tried Brat, a Germanic session ale; Golden Bullet, an American pale ale; Kaizen Saison, a Belgian-style saison; Knightvillian, a black ale; Dark & Foamy, an amber ale with ginger and oak; and Malcontent, a double IPA. 

I loved the crowd-pleasing variety of styles, and in particular, enjoyed the Golden Bullet and the Malcontent. The Dark & Foamy was really interesting too, since most ginger beers I've encountered are very light. This one had a nice backbone that stood up to the spice of the ginger. 

After the flight, we ordered pints of Golden Bullet and took a look at the menu. The chef worked most recently at Hugo's, although his menu takes more inspiration from Nosh, another place of his prior employment, including those same addictive french fries. We opted for a tin of them, accompanied by smoked tomato mayo and ketchup. The menu is small for now, but offers a few sandwiches, like fried fish and pulled pork; two salads, including charred onion and greens; and bar food like nachos and poutine. 

Beer isn't the only beverage on offer here; there are also cocktails, which had I been in the mood for a higher alcohol experience, I definitely would have ordered. The Clean, Well Lighted Place, light rum, Luxardo, lime and grapefruit juice, Herbsaint, bubbly, sounds awesome, as does Strange Brew with Gordon's gin, Falernum syrup, pineapple and lemon juice, topped with Golden Bullet. 

I'm also intrigued by the rum runnings, a mix of rum and the first runnings of the brew process, apparently a sweet syrup. It's only offered on brew days while supplies last, so check facebook for its availability. 

Bottom line: a lot of people ask, how many breweries are too many breweries? I say, meh, who cares. Let's enjoy the fruits of their labor while the market sorts it out. If you live near this one, or find yourself in the area, you should stop in and see which of Foulmouthed's varied styles is your favorite one. Food helps you to stay a little longer, while inventive cocktails will please the non-beer drinker in the group. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Two New Portland Food Trucks

Since my update about the Portland area food trucks, I've spotted 2 more: first, Tacos Del Seoul on the Eastern Prom, about which I was very excited. While I haven't had the chance to eat there yet, the photos on facebook are positively drool-worthy. 

This Korean-Mexican fusion truck serves tacos and burritos with an Asian flare from the Eastern Prom during lunch hours. They've also posted up at the breweries on Industrial Way.

I've also spotted the El Rodeo food truck down on the Eastern End of Commercial St. (near the intersection with India St.). If you're not (un)fortunate enough to know what El Rodeo is, it's a Mexican restaurant by the mall that filled the former home of Outback Steakhouse. 

I went once and had some forgettable, greasy appetizer plate and a subpar margarita (sorry/not sorry to be so harsh, I love me some mall Mexican food, but this was not worthy). The truck's menu features tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. Let me know what you think if you try either of these Mexican food trucks!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Bissell Brothers Brewing at Thompson's Point

Bissell Brothers Brewing opened at Thompson's Point today, completing their move from the brewery incubator on Industrial Way. The new space is huge compared to the last one, with tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. Not only is there more space for hanging out and drinking beer, there's more space for brewing so, the brewery's capacity has expanded too, much to the delight of Bissell Brothers' fans.

During the grand opening, the brewery was selling three types of beer in cans, with a larger capacity than in the recent past, but the beer still sold out quickly. I went to enjoy a draught beer and check out the space without trying to purchase any cans. 

The new set up (at least during the grand opening) had two lines, one for cans only and one for cans and draught beer. 

The new space has a second floor of seating, above the bathrooms, and a little pass-through to a still empty space, making us wonder if it would become the home of Jay Loring's fried chicken shack. One can only hope.

Outside, the tables and stools from Industrial Way made the move, creating a narrow patio around some landscaping. But it was nice to sit outside and overlook the rest of Thompson's Point. The Highroller Lobster Co. was set up in the parking lot, serving rolls and dogs.

Bissell Brothers has plenty of space (and parking) for you now, so head over to their new space at Thompson's Point for some beer. They are open Wednesday and Thursday from 12-6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12-8 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Rum Riots at Liquid Riot

I spent yesterday afternoon at Liquid Riot, with the members of Friends of Evergreen Cemetery, giving a talk to commemorate the 161st anniversary of the Portland Rum Riots. Mayor Neal Dow is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, and the group leads tours covering the history of the rum riots. Rather than rehash some well-worn material, I opted to discuss how the laws formed since the end of Prohibition affect the burgeoning craft distilling industry today. I enjoyed a Hemingway Daiquiri, featuring Liquid Riot's Rhum Blanc, Luxardo, grapefruit and lime juices. 

This afternoon, the Friends of Evergreen Cemetery continue their commemoration with a (dry) talk at the Neal Dow House. Dr. Eileen Eagan, Associate Professor of History in the Department of History and Political Science at the University of Southern Maine, and Portland historian Herb Adams will be speaking about the 2 prominent figures of Maine's temperance movement: Lillian Stevens and Neal Dow. It will also be an opportunity to check out the Dow House, an incredible museum dedicated to one of Portland's most interesting figures. The talk starts at 4pm.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Cellardoor Winery Tasting Room at Thompson's Point

Cellardoor Winery's tasting room, the first drink-related business in a row of redevelopment at Thompson's Point, opened its doors on Saturday. Thompson's Point, formerly an industrial no man's land (for the history of the property, see That's Our Dump! published in The Bollard in August 2011), is becoming an off-peninsula destination already home to a summer concert series, special events, the circus school, and soon that of Bissell Brothers Brewing, Stroudwater Distillery, and a new restaurant from Nosh and Slab owner Jay Loring. 

Cellardoor Winery's facility and vineyard is located in Lincolnville, where the winemakers use grapes from California, New York, and Washington to make their wine. They do grow a cold-hardy hybrid to make a sparkling rosé and make wine from Maine-grown blueberries. 

The 5,000 square foot tasting room at The Point is a beautiful space, with about 40 seats around a central tasting bar, a retail shop featuring local artists' wares, and an event space with a large demo kitchen for cooking classes. It was open this weekend on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday as well. It will open again on Saturday, May 28th and be open 7 days a week. 

I sampled 4 wines for $8, selecting my varietals with a dry erase marker and a laminated sheet listing the 17 wines available for tasting. I tried the Cantina Rossa, a red blend of Barbera, Sangiovese, Carignane, and Grenache; the Trilogy, a Spanish-inspired blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Carignane; the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Chenin Blanc. 

Once the surrounding businesses open, this row will be a nice place to spend an afternoon, especially with out of town guests. You'll have something for beer, wine, and spirits lovers alike. Bonus: once you've gotten a little tipsy, you can check out the eternal weirdness that is the Cryptozoology Museum! 

Visit Cellardoor Winery's tasting room at Thompson's Point daily starting Saturday, May 28th from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hole History Show Opening

Happy warm weather, TGIF, omg isn't it glorious out, gahhhh Friday! Since Fridays and donuts go together like art shows and donuts, I'm here to announce the Hole History Show opening on June 2nd in Rockland. I've contributed something to the show, since I'm an ardent donut lover, as did many other artists, designers, writers and creators of all sorts. 

The show is at Asymmetric Arts on Main St. in Rockland and opens on first Friday, June 2nd. There will be donuts, obviously! The show runs through June 25th, so check it out! I'll post with more info after the opening. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Portland, Maine Food Truck Fleet Updates

Forget robins, the true sign of the return of nice weather in Maine is the food truck. Sure, some business owners tough it out year round, but most take the winter off. Now that it's warming up, chefs are tuning up their trucks and motoring to where people are lounging on the Eastern Prom, drinking beer on brewery's patios, and spending the day at the beach. Bring on the warm weather and the food trucks!

Here's a look at who is returning to Portland and generally where you can expect to find them (businesses are listed in alphabetical order):

Bite Into Maine - The OG food cart returns for its 6th year to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, serving several styles of lobster rolls. The rolls here are hands down my favorite ones, and the owners are so damn friendly. I always get picnic style with a layer of cole slaw, warm butter, and a sprinkle of celery seed. Open Fridays starting in June, Saturday, and Sunday at 11am until sellout.

Cannoli Joe's - This dessert truck sells several different flavors of cannolis like White Chocolate Raspberry, Sicilian, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, and even Pina Colada. Find them parked on the Eastern Prom from 12-5pm.

CN Shawarma - The shawarma truck is another one of my favorites. The owners serve shawarma meats (grilled on a spit) wrapped in Iraqi flatbread with delicious sauces and fresh vegetables. Don't miss the fries with seriously garlicky sauce. You'll find the colorful truck parked at the breweries on Industrial Way (Foundation and Austin Street), at Rising Tide Brewing, at Thompson's Point when the Bissell Brothers open up, and occasionally on the Eastern Prom.

El Corazon - This Mexican food truck is an old faithful in that it's consistently parked downtown at Spring and Temple Streets. This year, they're partnering with restaurants for special events and pop-up dinners, parking in front of Brian Boru for Cinco de Mayo and taking over the kitchen at BaoBao Dumpling House on May 16th for a 3-course meal. Reserve a seat by calling (207) 200-4801 or emailing elcorazonportland@gmail.com.

Fishin' Ships - This nautical, pun riddled truck kicks off its season at Street Eats & Beats this Saturday, launching into a busy season. Find them at Thompson's Point for concerts and at the Bissell Brothers' brewery once it opens. They'll also be at Rising Tide and the Industrial Way breweries and special events throughout the summer.

The Gorham Grind - This mobile coffee truck, named Flo, from the Gorham coffeehouse can be found at Thompson's Point this summer. The truck also makes appearances at the Crofter and Artisan market on Sundays at 84 Cove Street in Portland and the Westbrook Farmers' Market. Be sure to try the Rocket Fuel coffee milk.

Love Kupcakes - This cupcake camper (kupcake kamper?) can be found at special events and in the parking lot of Bull Moose at Mill Creek, serving several kinds of baked goods like whoopie pies, muffins, and cookies in addition to cupcakes and coffee. Gluten free and vegan options are available as well.

Mainely Burgers - This truck, run by college students, goes dark during the school year, but will be making a few appearances at Rising Tide Brewing this summer and movie nights at Bug Light, as well as stationed at its regular spot at Scarborough Beach State Park. Look for their sister truck Mainely Treats too.

Photo courtesy of Mami
Mami Japanese Street Food - You can find this truck's delicious Japanese fare at breweries around town (Rising Tide and Industrial Way) and at special events like the July 17th Cultivating Community's Twilight Dinner at the farm in Cape Elizabeth.

Milly's Skillet Seaside Kitchen - Formerly one of two Wicked Good trucks, Milly's welcomes you to Peaks Island on Jones Landing (see my review of Peaks Island dining options from last summer) with service beginning Memorial Day. Milly's will be serving sandwiches, soup, and sweets for island picnics or to enjoy on site at picnic tables all summer.

Muthah Truckah - Find grilled sandwiches from the Muthah Truckahs as they get in on the weekday lunch crowd with El Corazon at Spring and Temple Streets and then at various breweries (Allagash, Rising Tide) on weekends.

PB&ME - This truck specializes in combinations of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, available deep fried too. Other options include deep fried Oreos, burgers, hot dogs, and fries. Find the colorful truck at special events around Portland.

Photo courtesy of Rolling Fatties
Rolling Fatties - With a cute hashtag (#fattiesareburritos) and a wink, the owners of this Airstream-style trailer serve burritos in Kingfield and Skowhegan, but occasionally can be found around Portland. Find them at Thompson's Point several times this summer.

The SaltBox Cafe - Launched earlier this year, this food truck is actually a little shed on a trailer that serves breakfast and lunch on the Eastern Prom. Find them weekends starting at 8:30am on the Prom and occasionally at Rising Tide and Industrial Way breweries.

Sugarbird Coffee Truck - Portland's newest food truck just launched, serving drip coffee, espresso drinks, and hand pies from Ten Ten Pié. So far the trucks has parked on Commercial Street at Ocean Gateway, taking a stab at the cruise ship passenger market, and on Park Ave. by the Deering Oaks farmers' market on Saturdays.

Urban Sugar Donuts - All hail the mini donut! After an uncertain future, Rosie the donut truck is returning to Portland (Kevin Sandes, the owner, spends his winters at Sugarloaf in his brick and mortar shop). Find these tiny delights this summer at Thompson's Point, the Eastern Prom, and special events.

Wicked Good - Serving both "wicked" and "good" items, this bright green truck will be at special events, like road races, concerts, and movie nights around Portland this year. You'll find them at Wolfe's Neck Farm events like the family-friendly Spring Fest on June 4th.

Ziggy's - Formerly Gusto's, Ziggy's still serves pizza cones to late night revelers on weekends in the Old Port, with hand pies and fries rounding out the carb-heavy menu. You'll also see Ziggy's at special events and the Cumberland Fair this fall.

In addition to these trucks, you'll also find High Roller Lobster Co. (seafood rolls), Locally Sauced (burritos), and Snappy's Tube Steaks (hot dogs) food carts at the Industrial Way breweries and Rising Tide Brewing. The Maker's Mug coffee cart will be at Thompson's Point.

If you'd like to try several trucks at once, grab a ticket to this Saturday's Street Eats and Beats. So far the lineup includes El Corazon, Love Kupcakes, Pinky D's, Urban Sugar, and Fishin' Ships. It's at Thompson's Point this year from 12-5pm, and $15 in advance ($20 at the door) includes live music and a beer.

The Kennebunkport Festival's Brews and Tunes also has food trucks. It's June 11th at 1pm at the Green at the Captain Lord Mansion. Tickets are $20 and include live music from Spencer Albee, the Fogcutters, and Amy and the Engine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anthony Bourdain Comes to Portland

Chef, author, and TV personality Anthony Bourdain is coming to Portland, Maine on his "The Hunger" tour this fall, to hold forth on his travels and the food he encounters while filming his show Parts Unknown in what's sure to be an entertaining show. Bourdain has been through Maine before, for an event at Merrill Auditorium with chef Eric Ripert and to film an episode of No Reservations, where he further proves the maxim that it's impossible to say anything about the state of Maine without offending someone.

But that's sort of Bourdain's bit—he has lots of opinions and doesn't hold back. It's pretty amazing that he's been able to remain relevant in his career that has spanned almost 20 years as an author and a TV show host. His popular blend of humor and criticism makes him a knowledgeable insider to the food scene, but one that's not afraid to slaughter any sacred cows. (See that dust-up over his reaction to Street & Co. recapped by Meredith Goad in the Press Herald).

So with a new cookbook in the works (Appetites, due out October 25th), Bourdain is back on tour with his stand-up routine and a Q&A session with the audience. He'll be stopping in Portland October 9th at the Cross Insurance Arena.

Tickets go on sale May 6th at 10am, but readers of the Blueberry Files can access presale tickets with the code HUNGER. And whatever you do, come up with a good question for the man—he reportedly hates "where are you going to eat after this," although, honestly, I want to know.

Disclosure: I received tickets to this show in exchange for helping to promote the event.