Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day at Izakaya Minato

We braved the towering snowbanks and poorly shoveled sidewalks to walk down to Izakaya Minato, the newest addition to Portland's Washington Ave., last night. This petite Japanese eatery opened a few weeks ago next to Terlingua and has gained an instant following within the neighborhood. The bar has been consistently full the few times I walked by after its opening. 

When we visited, there was some seating available at a communal table, but the hostess offered us a table in the dining room—which I didn't even know existed, since it's not visible from the street. There's another room off the bar that has table seating for about 20. The whole place has a very homey vibe and was full of friendly people. We waved to some neighbors, and throughout our meal compared rave reviews with the couple seated at the table next to us. 

interior of Izakaya Minato
Once settled with our menus we checked out the drink choices. There's a selection of Japanese bottled beers, mostly local drafts, sake, and cocktails (many made with sake). I went with a ginger kombucha from the Urban Farm Fermentory and turned my attention to the dinner menu. 

The menu has a good mix of vegetable, seafood, and meat dishes, as well as noodle and rice dishes. While there were many items we wanted to try, when our server came, A. ordered sashimi omakase for two (market price that night was $14 for one serving) and three other dishes. As is common in small plates restaurants, we hung onto our menu in case we wanted to order more food later. 

The sashimi came first, a beautiful arrangement of uni, scallop, tuna, fluke, and...ah, shoot, I was on a roll there, but forget the last one. The plate also had artful arrangements of thinly sliced vegetables and herbs that added some flavor zings to the cool, fresh fish. 

Our server came back to check on us and declared the uni his favorite—I had to tell him it wasn't mine, but that I was working on it. I think that's the first time I've ever had straight uni; usually I encounter it in other dishes. It has a buttery texture, but a pretty strong briny flavor that, like oysters, may be an acquired taste for some (including me, I guess!). 

We finished all of our courses before the next one came, which was kinda fun—we sat eagerly awaiting the next surprise. 

Our next course, the kani dashimaki or crab and egg omelette ($9) was juicy and savory. So much flavor was packed into the thick slices of egg. The pile of shreds on the plate was daikon radish with some soy sauce, which I didn't love, so I went without after sampling it. 

The tsukune shiitake arrived next—mushrooms stuffed with chicken sausage and served with chili Kewpie mayo ($8). Fortunately, they were sliced in half (we all know how crazy hot a stuffed mushroom can be) since we devoured them so quickly. The little caps were salty, savory bombs and dragging them through the spicy mayo gave it a smooth richness. If I had any food guilt issues, this dish would have triggered them! 

And lastly, another savory meat treat—the kalbi or Korean-style short ribs with kimchi ($14). These thinly sliced ribs were doused in a spicy, sweet sauce then charred on the grill, and the combination of crispy fat and tender meat was addictive. They're also fun to eat, gnawing around the bones for little bits of flavor. The kimchi added a nice crunch and cut the fatty meat with its tart, fresh flavors. 

Deciding that we'd ordered the perfect amount of food, we declined another round and dessert as well. Our tab came to $76 before tip (includes three kombuchas), which while not cheap, was a fair price for the high-quality seafood and skillfully prepared small dishes we enjoyed. 

My takeaway is that Izakaya Minato a great hangout spot that's different enough to feel casually hip, while the food is a good mix of the familiar and novel. As of now, the Izakaya opens for dinner at 5 p.m. and is closed Sundays. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

My First Homebrew: Everyday IPA

I joke that there are certain hobbies I'm saving for later—like knitting. I figure I've got a long life ahead of me (knock wood), so I've got to save some things for later. Homebrew fell into that category for a long time, and plus it seems like a mid-30s hobby... your taste in craft beer needs to develop and you need to have enough disposable income for the pricy supplies. So this past fall, something finally clicked, and I stopped seeing homebrewing as a somewhat boring activity, and became interested in trying it. 

Fortunately, a lot of the men in my life have dabbled in homebrewing, so there was no shortage of family members who wanted to give me their equipment and dole out advice. I started by slowing gathering the equipment and helped a friend brew a Scotch ale in order to get an overview of what the process was like. 

homebrew supplies

After receiving a beer kit for Christmas (thanks, Liz!), the time had come to jump into making my own batch of beer. I started with a one-gallon kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop for Everyday IPA. The idea behind Brooklyn Brew is for city dwellers with limited space to make small batches of beer, so the kit comes with everything you need minus some common kitchen items. My next batch will be five gallons of beer or about 50 12-ounce bottles (!!).

The first step is heating the grain (aka mashing) to create the wort. This involved heating the grain with water to a certain temperature, maintaining that temperature for a period of time, then straining out the grain. This step does a few things, but its primary purpose is to turn the starches into fermentable sugars.

The next step is to boil the beer and add hops as you go. The boil takes an hour, but my IPA recipe called for me to add hops every 15 minutes. Hops are added in different stages to contribute to flavor development (i.e. creating bitterness when added at the beginning of the boil and more volatile hop flavors, like pine or citrus, when added at the end).

After the boil was complete, I put the pot in the sink to cool. I do have a fancy wort chiller, but it wasn't worth it to hook it up for a gallon of beer—an ice bath in the sink brought my beer down to 70*F fast enough. 

After the wort was cool, I add the yeast and funneled the beer into its fermentor. I used the one-gallon growler that came with the kit, but my next batch will go in the five-gallon glass carboy my dad gave me (thanks, Dad!). 

After sealing the beer off with a tube/cup of sanitizer situation, I let the beer sit on the counter for two days. I was pleased to see signs of active fermentation happening, which was a sign that I hadn't killed my yeast off by adding it to wort that was too warm and that my yeast wasn't old/inactive. 

Two days later, I replaced the tube with an airlock and put the growler in a dark place for two weeks to fully ferment. 

After two weeks, the beer looked pretty much the same, save for the couple of inches of sediment at the bottom of the growler. This is called the trub and is made up of yeast that has died after living its short, but useful, life. We thank you for your service, yeast. 

And now bottling time! The part where I probably screwed it up, due to sticking my less-than-sanitary hand into the beer a few times. 

In order to create carbonation, I added some honey to the beer, before I siphoned the beer into four 22-oz. bottles (only four?!?) and capped them. Theoretically, the remaining yeast will feed on the sugar, create gas, and fizz my delicious-tasting IPA. There's a lot that could have gone wrong, so we'll see. 

Two more weeks in the hole, and the beer will be ready. Stay tuned to Instagram for the taste test. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Big Fin Poké, Westbrook

I often complain about going to Westbrook, not for any particular reason other than Portland-centrism and that I always manage to get lost whenever I attempt to navigate to or through our neighboring city to the west. But add Big Fin Poké  to the small, but growing, list of things I'll happily (ok, begrudgingly) travel to Westbrook for. 

Poké, if you're not familiar, is best described as deconstructed sushi. It's a Hawaiian seafood salad made up of raw fish, seaweed, onions, and seasonings like ponzu, soy, or sesame oil. I will be annoying and tell you that I first had poké years ago from a grocery store deli in Maui. It was way better than poi, another traditional Hawaiian food, that I'm pretty sure you had to grow up eating to appreciate. 

But poké has arrived on the mainland (or at least on the upscale menus and glossy magazines of the mainland), riding the popularity of sushi, "clean eating," and food served in bowls. Here in Maine, we now have Big Fin Poké on Westbook's Main Street in a space with large windows, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. 

You can choose to make your own poké bowl or choose from selections of Big Fin favorites. I went with the Hawaiian Original, as making my own from the myriad options seemed overwhelming. I thought the tuna, green onion, sweet onion, chili flake, sesame oil, and seaweed sounded like a classic combination as an introduction to poké. I also said yes to toppings pickled ginger, sesame seeds, seaweed salad, jalapenos, and cilantro (see what I mean about overwhelming options??). 

Poké bowls come over rice in a regular size for $10.95 (or a large for $13.95). You can also order your fillings wrapped in sushi rice and a seaweed sheet as a "pokiritto." 

The poké was made with big, solid chunks of tuna and the whole bowl was a delightful experience in contrast: cool fish, warm rice; soft fish, crunchy onions and ginger. The seaweed was mild, if you're put off by overly sea-y (sea-ish?) flavors like I can be. It was a light but filling lunch that felt healthy but still indulgent.

On future visits I'll try yellowtail poké with pineapple and yuzu sauce or spicy tuna with cucumber and add some avocado. While it's not necessarily on the beaten path for many Portlanders, you should go out of your way to try poké for lunch or an early dinner.

Big Fin Poké is open 11am-8pm and 12-7pm Saturday and Sunday. They sell beer and wine too!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

EVO Kitchen & Bar Review

It's difficult to come to you with seemingly trivial praise for a local restaurant when the news is a parade of awfulness brought about by our new Cheeto-in-Chief. But one cannot maintain this level of anger and anxiety for four years—the risk of burnout is real. While that's not to offer an excuse for checking out if you aren't checked in in the first place, self care is necessary in order to continue to fight against the fear and prejudice espoused by our upper administration. 

So continue to call your representatives, donate your time or money to organizations, and do something kind for a neighbor or friend. But relax for a few minutes, enjoy these pictures of beautiful food, and do something nice for yourself today—ideally something that also supports a local business, since we've got the greatest chance to make a difference in our own communities. 

(Side note: can I just add that writing the above was hard for me? I'm much more comfortable with straightforward food talk or snark. But I need to be honest and part of that is getting used to being uncomfortable. After all, no one promised us that life would be 100% comfortable all the time...from discomfort comes learning. Now back to food!) 

Seared tuna with ginger, scallion, pepper relish and an avocado garlic sauce

So, EVO. For some reason, I had an unfair "meh" feeling about EVO, despite never having set foot in the place. From the outside, it seemed kind of corporate, due to its proximity to the new Hyatt (even though the businesses aren't related) and I've grown tired of the trend of small, expensive plates of food. 

Combined with a few mixed reviews after its opening, EVO hadn't earned a spot on my "must try" list. Just like you, when I do have the money to go out to eat, I don't want to risk it on a place that may deliver mediocre experience, hence my tendency to stick with a rotation of "tried and true" favorites. 

But I ended up really loving EVO, and while the cost of the small plates can add up quickly, I had some solid, delicious food that makes me want to pay the diminutive restaurant a visit again soon.

Brussel sprouts with butternut squash and a tahini shmear
The seating on the first level of EVO is all bar seating, either along the kitchen or the window facing the street. It's great for people watching, whether that's passersby or the kitchen staff—since the kitchen is completely open and about the size of a walk-in closet. The second floor, a lofted space over the kitchen, is obscured from view from both the street and the restaurant below, so if you're seeking more intimate space (or if you're in a larger party and don't want to sit in a row), then request a table upstairs.

EVO's menu is Lebanese, which has become well-represented in Portland recently, between TIQA, CN Shawarma/Baharat, and Falafel Underground.

Jerusalem artichoke soup
We started with the tuna, which I probably would have passed over had my dining companion not suggested it. Like...tuna, ginger, scallion, we get it. But there's a reason it's so prolific—it's damn good, and EVO's is no exception. The spicy relish topping and quinoa chips were a nice contrast to the soft tuna.

The cream of sunchoke soup also played around with texture, the pickled sunchoke slices and crunchy crumbs (of what, I forget) topping an impossibly creamy, rich soup. The Brussels sprouts salad's tahini dressing emphasized the nuttiness of the seared vegetables beautifully presented on the ceramic dish.

Another hit was soft gnocchi, tossed with assertively spiced lamb sausage, peppery arugula, garlic, and butternut squash. I wanted to take a deep dive into a bowl of cubed potatoes, chorizo, and a poached egg—a dish that also appears quite at home on the menu at the newly offered Sunday brunch.

Gnocchi with lamb sausage, squash, arugula
Potatoes with chorizo and egg, topped with egg foam 
The scallop dish didn't receive its proper due, since I was quickly becoming very full. But these scallops replace in my heart the one we lost at Ebb & Flow when it closed. At EVO, the perfectly seared scallops are paired with potatoes three ways—in roasted cubes, pureed and in fritters with lemon and dill.

You can see from the portion of the scallops that the "small plates" can actually be rather large, making dinner at EVO one you don't have to worry about coming away hungry from.

Scallops with potato fritters and purée
I managed to make room for a scoop of baklava ice cream, which, while I loved the baklava itself, pieces of it throughout the ice cream made it seem icy rather than smooth and creamy, like you'd expect.

All in all, EVO was a hit. Even if you still see EVO as a special occasion place, stop in for one of their speciality cocktails and sample a dish. I bet it'll win you over, just like it did me.

Note: EVO will be closed to update their ventilation system from January 29th until February 2nd. The existing system had created some complaints about the smell/air quality in the restaurant, so they're upgrading it.

Baklava ice cream
EVO Kitchen & Bar | 443 Fore Street, Portland | (207) 358-7830
Dinner at 5PM, Sunday brunch 10AM-2:30PM, closed Mondays

Disclosure: I was treated to this meal, but the opinions and words expressed in this post are my own. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inauguration Day Bake Sale

Tomorrow, the Inauguration Day of He Who Shall Not Be Mentioned, boxes of assorted cookies from over 15 Portland bakers and chefs will be for sale as a fundraiser for Maine Planned Parenthood. They'll be sold at East End Cupcakes, Little Giant, Aurora Provisions, Tandem Bakery, Sur Lie, and Standard Bakery and will sell out quickly, so if you want one, call to reserve yours or head to one of the participating retailers first thing. 

I spent yesterday afternoon working at East End Cupcakes, helping to decorate these boob sugar cookies—owner Alysia Zoidis wants to remind you to #gramyourmams. Stock up on fuel Friday for your marching on Saturday. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

First Look at Tipo

Tipo, the neighborhood restaurant from Central Provisions owners Chris and Paige Gould, opened last night, serving wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas, and small plates. We went for an early dinner anticipating a crush of people, but found a pleasant, steady flow of customers in the open, well-lit space. 

The hostess sat us at a communal table for 10 and we scoped out the wine list. As the restaurant is Italian-themed, it seemed appropriate to order some red wine. I wasn't familiar with any of the wines, so I asked our server for advice, and she recommended her favorite, a delicious Barbera d'Asti ($11). 

Other drink choices included Italian bottled beers and cocktails like an Aperol Spritz and the Il Moto with Amaro Montenegro, Cocchi di Torino, Calvados, and plum bitters (admittedly I only know what like 2-1/2 of those ingredients are). 

We ordered a few small plates, a pizza, and a pasta dish. Our server informed us the plates come as they're ready from the kitchen, so sharing is recommended. 

We started with the marinated Spanish mackerel ($9) served over rapini with Calabrian chili and garlic. The fish was meaty with a nice fish flavor and bitterness from the greens. We also enjoyed the mushroom ragu with fried polenta and truffled egg yolk ($14). It's hard to go wrong with mushrooms and polenta in my book. 

The winter greens salad ($8) was also a hit—with pancetta, frico, black pepper and parm, it was much like a Caesar salad. Other tempting starters included the charred Mediterranean octopus, fried smelts, hand pulled mozzarella, and wood-oven littleneck clams. 

Shortly thereafter, the pizza arrived. We chose the lamb sausage, feta, za'atar, harissa, arugula variety from 5 choices, with a make-your-own options available as well. The crust was tender and chewy with a nice char from the oven. 

Obviously we had to try some handmade pasta too and debated between the rye cavatelli ($12/24) with pork ragu and the black pepper tagliatelle ($10/20). (OK, I was only pretending to consider the tagliatelle, I knew going in I wanted to try the ragu.) It was heavenly. My only regret is that I was filling up and wasn't able to eat more/all of it. 

For dessert, we ordered the zeppoli, fried dough with whipped ricotta and lemon. The other choice was a chocolate hazelnut tart. The hot dough melted the sweet ricotta and it was the perfect end to our decadent carb-fest. 

Tipo is sure to be a hit with the neighbors. Even those used to dining on-peninsula should venture out to this relaxed neighborhood spot. Tipo is located on Ocean Ave. in the former home of Borealis Breads. They're currently serving dinner at 4 p.m. with weekend lunch and brunch coming soon.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Writing Forward into 2017

Typically, end-of-the-year reflections involve looking back on the year that's just passed, but I don't know that 2016 was one that anyone wants to spend much time dwelling on—the universal sentiment seems to be that the year was one big garbage fire. I personally had a just fine year (short of being witness to the trauma and tragedies that affected my friends and, of course, the state of national politics), but I'm hoping 2017 will be a better year for everyone.

Best Nine Instagram Pics

The beginning of a new year is not the only excuse to take stock of things, but also because today, January 9th, marks the 8th anniversary of my blog. And my, how far we've come from 2009 when I frequented RiRa and Bull Feeney's and Bresca (RIP) was my favorite special occasion spot.

Certainly the explosion of food trucks in Portland in recent years has changed the fast casual dining scene—this year, the most popular post on the blog in 2016 was an update in the spring about the current fleet of food trucks. I'll be sure to update readers again this spring as the food truck fleet is ever-changing. 

Other popular posts of 2016 included the growing businesses of Thompson's Point, with Cellardoor Winery joining Stroudwater Distillery and Bissell Brothers Brewing. The third most-viewed post was the first look at Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, with brunch at Terlingua and a first look at Drifters Wife coming in at fourth and fifth popular posts. 

Looking back at my posts from 2016, I see I spent time exploring areas outside of Portland—a dinner in the Kennebunks turned me onto the delicious Spanish-inspired Toroso from Chef Shannon Bard; I explored the growing businesses of Westbrook, and ventured to Brunswick for a smoky Scotch tasting (still not my fave). 

I was busy with the Portland Spirits Society, a women's spirits tasting group, last year—our absinthe night at Vena's Fizz House was a popular one, as was oysters and Caledonia Spirits at Eventide Oyster Co. While I don't have any PSS events scheduled just yet, I've definitely still got some ideas kicking around in the hopper for the new year. 

I ended the year on a high note with a trip to the Florida Keys. It was our friend LBK's birthday and she cashed in her chips for a trip somewhere warm. A group of 7 of us stayed in Marathon for the better part of a week, and then a smaller group of ladies headed down to Key West for some mischief involving scooters, drag queens, and piña coladas in to-go cups. 

The only food photo I took on the trip (even food bloggers like to take vacations from photographing their food) was lunch on our first day in Key West. We stayed down the block from Bien Key West, and while that plate of creamy pasta and accompanying bottle of wine at Antonia's was extremely comforting, this fresh salad with pickled beets and spicy, tender shrimp on top was the best thing I ate in the Keys. 

I leave you with our first brunch spread of the new year—a posh and inspiring way to start 2017. Between the cheese board with idiazabal and jamon iberico that my friend smuggled in for me from the Basque country and the sturgeon caviar from Browne Trading Co., we celebrated the passing of another year, hoping for a kinder, gentler year full of nourishing food for all. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Thanksgiving in Stowe, Vermont

This Thanksgiving, I ended up in Vermont with the boyfriend for a little getaway. I've never traveled (other than to see family) on Thanksgiving and now that I have, I kinda love it. There's a bit of a thrill, feeling like you're skipping out on the obligation and only taking the rest, relaxation, and, of course, eating part. 

As you might expect, Stowe is an adorable little village, located at the base of a ski mountain. I don't ski, but I always dig on the vibe in a ski town. Everyone's on vacation, everyone enjoys being outside, and the aprés culture is my favorite part. 

We stayed at Field Guide, a boutique hotel managed by Lark Hotels, and I'm in love with every one of their properties. Field Guide is located on Mountain Road, on the way to the ski resort and is built into a hill. We stayed in a suite which was on the fourth floor by itself. Our room overlooked other parts of the inn, giving it a European village feel. 

The Lark Suite is gorgeous, with modern and quirky touches in the living room, large bathroom with walk-in shower and soaking tub, and the bedroom with a king-size bed. 

Breakfast at Field Guide is included with your stay and is delivered in a basket outside your door every morning. We enjoyed breakfast in bed—especially Thursday morning watching the Macy's parade with fresh coffee from our in-room Keurig (appropriate, since Keurig was invented in nearby Waterbury). 

Breakfast consisted of housemade baked goods like corn muffins and spiced gingerbread, muesli, fresh fruit, fresh-squeezed OJ, and yogurt parfaits. I'm definitely skeptical of hotel breakfasts, but every one that I've had at a Lark property has been delicious. 

But when we first arrived on Wednesday night, we had an urgent mission: beer. We arrived on the later side, but we figured we could max out our time and visit two places in the village. First up was Idletyme Brewing, just up the street from the hotel. 

The brewery has a full restaurant and bar and seemed on the fancier side as far as brewpubs go. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a flight of 6 of the in-house brewed beers. While they had a large variety of lagers, we filled our paddle with ales—from the grapefruit pale ale to the Double IPA. I enjoyed being able to try similar styles side-by-side. My favorite was the Idletyme DIPA. 

Next, we headed back down the Mountain Rd. to Doc Ponds, right across from Field Guide. I've heard a lot about the great beer selection at Doc Ponds and the food items sounded great too. By this time, the pre-Thanksgiving hometown crowd had started to thicken and the bar was nice and lively. 

Our bartender was very friendly and in talking to him, we learned that he had eloped in Portland—getting married on Peaks Island after taking a tour of Allagash Brewing with his fiancé. So he knew a lot of Maine breweries and helped us select some local brews. A. and I both ordered the Ebner, a double IPA, from Hill Farmstead on special that night for $4! 

After a round, we ordered their Doc Burger, a small burger on an impossibly soft bun and some duck fat fries. It was up there with some of the best food we had on the trip, but does much beat an amazing burger late night after a few beers? 

The next day, after that Macy's parade/breakfast in bed combo, we had grand plans to do some hiking, but forgot a few items that derailed our plans (namely: hiking boots). We also forgot our swimsuits for the hot tub, so we set off to a neighboring town's a snow storm. Yeah, shoulda stayed in bed with the parade, but that hot tub was calling! 

We still got our outdoor activity fix in by walking on Stowe's rec path, which despite that I might have scoffed at the idea of going on a walk on a rec path, was really lovely. The path meanders over creeks, through fields, and generally away from the rush of the busy road that it parallels. We joined lots of other families out for their pre-meal walk, throwing snowballs and generally enjoying the winter wonderland-ness of it all. 

After a walk through town and a dip in the hot tub, we were ready for our Thanksgiving Day dinner. I was happy that the hotel's restaurant stayed open on the holiday, ensuring that we wouldn't be forced into some elaborate prix fixe meal at a resort or hotel. 

Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant is cozy and decked out in a quirky mix of camp decor and modern furnishings. We sat at the bar and while the beer menu is full of local selections, I ordered a cocktail, the Pickwick Social (a nod to the name of the former bar in that space, Mr. Pickwick's), a mix of Barr Hill gin, Aperol, strawberry simple syrup, lemon, and egg white. I wanted to like it, but it had too much going on and never came together in a coherent flavor. 

A.'s Ginger Duke with Knob Creek bourbon, fresh ginger, cider, basil simple syrup was a much more successful combination. As was the spiced bar popcorn that came in a cute jar. 

The menu format is my ideal—small plates designed for sharing (I know, I know, eyeroll), but they were good-sized portions that did allow us to truly share without feeling like you need to restrain yourself to be polite. 

I ordered the creamy polenta, topped with mushrooms and a crispy egg that turned out to be a deep-fried, soft poached egg. Aren't you glad *that's* not your responsibility? Sounds hard to do. But egg-mushroom-polenta is a winning combination in my book. 

We also shared the spinach salad with warm bacon dressing (omg), the Brussel sprouts with apples and bacon, and the pot pie. The pot pie had mushrooms and sweet potatoes, giving it a slight twist to the classic. 

For dessert, we enjoyed "pie in a jar" (apple on that day), but requested it to go to enjoy with Thursday night football in our room. For the win! 

We had to make our way back to Maine on Friday (sob), but we took the morning to visit the Alchemist and stock up on Focal Banger and Heady Topper. We also had one more meal in the area, so we stopped in neighboring Waterbury for lunch. 

I wanted to visit Prohibition Pig, a brewpub with a focus on smoked meats and local beer. They have a huge draft selection of over 20 beers with near half of them made in-house. They also offer half pours of their beers, which I loved. I tried the Lawson's Finest Sip of Sunshine and A. got a different Hill Farmstead and a Pro Pig. 

We shared the wedge salad, fries, and the special chicken sandwich with barbecue sauce, cole slaw, and cheese. SO GOOD. 

After that, we stopped by the Craft Beer Cellar to pick out some more Vermont beers—they sell single beers there, so I was able to buy some beers from Rock Art Brewery, 14th Star Brewing, Lost Nation and Lawson's to round out my haul. 

I love Stowe and can't wait to go back and explore more—there's tons of other restaurants and beer we didn't have time to try. If you're looking for a winter getaway, I recommend Field Guide as your home base! 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Foundation Brewing, New England Distilling, and Bunker Brewing Expansions

OK, that's enough wallowing—I decided I'm not going to let the President Elect and the depressing implications about a quarter of the American public keep me from something I, it's not like Donald Trump cares whether I'm updating my food blog or not. 

Let's focus instead on the positive efforts of our community and continue to support our local food producers, and in this case, those that make booze! We could all use a drink right about now. 

On a recent Saturday, my friend and I decided to go out to Industrial Way in Portland to check out the rearrangement of the breweries out there. We started at Foundation Brewing, which has expanded into some space left vacant when Bissell Brothers relocated to Thompson's Point

Foundation not only expanded their space, but reoriented their tasting room bar, allowing for more seating and a better flow within the brewery. Entering through the large garage door (open on the day we visited—in late November!) leads you right to the counter where you can order pours of draft beer, buy cans and fill growlers. 

The rest of the bay is full of seating, but we took our samples out to a barrel to enjoy and sample some food from Mami food truck.  

With the six or so draft beers available, we could pick four to make a flight of 4 oz. samples. I chose three brews I hadn't tried before and Epiphany IPA. The Zuurzing sour farmhouse was a standout for me, and I found I might even like Venture IPA more than Epiphany. 

After we enjoyed our beers at Foundation, we headed next door to New England Distilling's new tasting room. It's opened right next to Foundation in an effort to capitalize on the crowds that visit the breweries of Industrial Way. Not as many people make it over to visit the distillery on Evergreen Drive. 

Inside, we found a tiny bar room with incredibly friendly bartenders who were serving up four drinks that day. We chose from the Gunpowder Cosmonaut (rye whiskey, jam, bitters), Eight Bells Allspice Daquiri (rum, dram, lime), Ingenium Old Fashioned (gin, cherry syrup, bitters) and the Gunpowder Whiskey Sour (rye, syrup, citrus). 

I ordered the rum daiquiri, a delicious tart and spicy cocktail, and when we asked the bartender to tell us about the allspice dram, she went so far as to write down the recipe for her homemade version. The juices were fresh squeezed, the bitters were all local, and the cordials and syrups were housemade—which I was so impressed to find in this tiny bar in an industrial park! 

That New England Distilling's commitment to quality extends from their spirit production to their sample cocktails is no surprise though. 

Continuing the theme of new breweries/bars, I suggested we hit the highway and head over to Bunker Brewing Co.'s new Libbytown location. The brewery has moved from a tiny brick bunker to a huge, warehouse of a production space, allowing them to make a lot more beer, which was reflected on the tap list's eight or so selections that day. 

The new space has the Maine brewery tasting room vibe down on lock—exposed industrial features, check. Repurposed materials for the bar, tables, and walls—check. Even unique hardware on the bathroom stall doors! 

One of the brewery walls is covered in a mural designed by Tessa Greene O'Brien and painted by her friends—yours truly filled in some of the yellow and blue squiggles on the right. The mural is the design of the Salad Daze can, Bunker's American Pale Lager (which is Tessa's design). 

The newly expanded Bunker is a great place, as are most Maine brewing tasting room's, for families and couples to hang out for an afternoon. The space is a little hard to find, located off Western Congress St. through a dirt parking lot on the backside of a warehouse. Good luck!

If you think you're an old hand at the businesses of Industrial Way, it's time to revisit, as expansions and new businesses have changed the landscape. We also visited Austin Street Brewing and coming soon is Battery Steele Brewing.