Thursday, March 26, 2015

Royal Rose Simple Syrups Cocktails

I love Royal Rose's flavored simple syrups - I use them in cocktails, and I mix with soda water for lightly flavored homemade sodas. Their unique flavors add give cocktails unexpected depth (like in my favorite Saffron Sour at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club), and you can feel good about their use of natural, organic ingredients. I've always had several bottles on hand ever since they came to Maine, launching with a cocktail party in a Biddeford mill building in 2013. 

Emily and Forrest, the couple behind the products, have since moved their manufacturing to Brunswick and continue to add new flavors. Emily offered to send me the newest flavors, and I immediately began searching for recipes using the unusual ingredients like fenugreek, anise, and jasmine. 

Turns out their bottles come with some of the best recipes for their products; the one recipe I found on my own was a bit of a flop in my mind (I've included it anyway, in case you think it runs towards your tastes). 

The anise simple syrup is made with both star anise pods and fennel seeds, in addition to cane sugar and lemon juice. The syrup is subtly anise-flavored; I know many don't like the stuff, but this syrup is a good gateway into the world of licorice flavors. It's not overpowering, but sweet and a little tart, and blended very well in the Love Below. It would make a great summertime or brunch cocktail.

The Love Below
From Royal Rose Simple Syrups

1 oz. light rum
1 oz. peach or orange juice
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Anise Syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

Combine rum, juices, and syrup in a cocktail shaker. Ad ice and shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass or champagne flute and top with prosecco.

The Rose Connelly brings out the earthier notes of the syrup; I didn't get much anise at all. If you think its a little sweet, as I did, an additional squeeze of lime will bring it into balance.

Rose Connelly
From Royal Rose Simple Syrups

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1/4 oz. St Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Anise Syrup
1/2 oz. lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice. Serve straight up or on the rocks.

After a few missteps, I ran out of rye whiskey, so I turned to Knob Creek for the Fenugreek Is Not Fennel! cocktail. And indeed, it's not fennel, but rather has a sweet, molasses type flavor in a syrup - it's actually used to make the flavoring that flavors artificial maple syrup.

Fenugreek Is Not Fennel!
From Royal Rose Simple Syrups

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Fenugreek Syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

The only misstep was, again, when I tried to find my own recipe - this Michigan Sweat Lodge sounded promising, although it was a Maine Sweat Lodge when I made it, since I used Maine wild blueberries. The harsh, bitter notes of Cocchi Americano and Campari combined and overtook any other flavor, however. If you just love the bitter end of Campari, this cocktail is for you.

Maine Sweat Lodge
Adapted from Chicago Reader

6-8 Maine blueberries
1.5 oz Wild Turkey 101 rye whiskey
1 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 oz Royal Rose fenugreek syrup
.5 oz Campari
dash Angostura bitters

Muddle blueberries in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add spirits, fenugreek syrup, and bitters. Add ice, and stir until it's chilled and the flavors are incorporated. Strain into a chilled martini or old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a smoked blueberry.

Stay tuned for recipes using the Jasmine, Ginger-Lime, and Orange-Vanilla flavors!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

April Portland Spirits Society Tasting: Salvage BBQ

I love Salvage BBQ so much, but I always think of their great barbecue, sides, and craft beer selection. So I was surprised when a Portland Hunt & Alpine Club bartender suggested them as a place with a great bourbon selection. 

I was casting about for opinions on where to host our next Portland Spirits Society event - and Salvage is a great place to host a big group, whether for a meetup or a party. The casual counter service and picnic tables lends itself well to coming and going, casually dropping in, and mingling. 

So our next women's whiskey tasting will be at Salvage on Wednesday, April 15th at 6pm. We'll be ordering from Salvage's large selection of bourbons and discussing what we taste, while we get to know other women interested in whiskey.

Plus, their delicious trays of fatty meats and fried sides can provide a solid base for all that booze! 

Join us for a night of casual bourbon education and delicious food. The event is pay-as-you-go and you can drop in anytime after 6pm. If you're a facebooker, RSVP to the event there. 

Buffalo Trace bourbon cocktail at Timber

And a few women and booze links: 
  • This woman offers "Nosing Services" to craft distillers to help them evaluate and blend their whiskeys. "The Sniffer," by Wayne Curtis, The Atlantic

  • Heather Greene, whiskey sommelier at The Flatiron Room in Manhattan, knows her shit and still faces sexism in the industry.

  • The Portland Rum Riots, May 31-June 2, will have lots of great liquor education events. Details on the special Portland Spirits Society/Rum Riots event coming soon! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wintertime Canning: Hot Pepper Jam

Canning hot pepper jam in the middle of winter is the perfect pick-me-up. It's nice to put up a quick little project that doesn't rely on perfect in-season produce, and this jam refreshes the canning pantry which is starting to look a little thin this time of year.

These are local Maine peppers though; I promised A. that we'd can one day last summer, and we both bought the necessary supplies. I, as is my tendency in the summer, overbooked my evening and had to bail, so I recommended that she freeze the peppers until we had time to can. Well, a good seven months later, we did. 

A. froze the peppers whole, so we thawed them partially before chopping. We also found we'd bought some habanero peppers to substitute in for some of the jalapeƱos to make it hotter. This jam came out delightfully spicy, sweet with a tangy kick. A. says it's great with cream cheese and bagel chips.

Hot Pepper Jam
Adapted from Sure Jell

1-1/2 cups red peppers, seeded, finely chopped (about 2 medium)
1-1/2 cups green peppers, seeded, finely chopped (about 2 medium)
1 cup jalapeƱo peppers, seeded, finely chopped (about 5 large peppers, 1 habanero)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl, divided
1 box Sure Jell For Less or No Sugar Needed Pectin

Wash 8 4-oz. jars, lids, and screw bands. Set lids and screw bands aside. Fill boiling water bath canner halfway with water and heat on medium heat. Add jars to canner.

Chop peppers; wear gloves when chopping hot peppers. Bring peppers, vinegar and water to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. Measure out 1/4-cup sugar into a separate bowl, and mix in pectin powder thoroughly.

When pepper mixture boils, add sugar-pectin mix and stir to dissolve. Return to a roiling boil and add remaining sugar. Stir to dissolve and return to a full rolling boil. After mixture boils, remove from heat. Ladle into 4 oz. jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims. Apply dome lid and screwband until fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool, check seals, and store for up to one year.

Yield: about 4 cups (8 4-oz. jars)

For more information about safe home food preservation visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

First Look: Reopened East Ender

I eagerly stopped into the East Ender on Middle Street in Portland last night for happy hour. I'm an unabashed fan of Karl and Bill's cooking - last seen coming from the bright orange Small Axe food truck. The two were so generous with their time, allowing me to profile them for my book and for no fewer than 5 Phoenix/Dig articles. 

I was momentarily sad when the two sold their food truck, but cheered up immediately when I learned it was because they were looking to move into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The news came at the end of last year that they would be taking over the East Ender on Middle Street. Well, the wait is over; they opened yesterday for lunch and dinner with a special happy hour menu between the two. 

Their cocktail list is impressive, unique without being intimidating. Between our party of five, we managed to order almost every one on the list. I tried the Haitian Divorce first, a warm, rich mix of Rhum Barbancourt (Haitian), Cruzan Blackstrap rum, Cynar, pineapple and lime juices. 

Sitting on Middle Street, with the sun setting an hour later than the days before, we all agreed it was the perfect drink to mentally transport us to warmer climes. The High Noon did the same thing with its refreshing mix of mescal, triple sec, Campari and grapefruit (or at least I think that's what was in it). 

We sampled a few of the bar snacks - fried vegetables in a Bagna Cauda sauce ($8) and the chicken liver croquettes topped with pickled onion jam ($9). They were both outstanding. The happy hour menu (served 3:30-5:30 Monday through Sunday) also had a selection of cheeses, mussels, a BLT, and the infamous cold-smoked burger. It's back! Hooray! If at any point, you can't find me between 3:30 and 5:30, I'll be at East Ender, taking a burger and $2 Miller High Lifes to the head. 

The redesign of the space might seem a little plain compared to the teal and cow-spotted decor of the previous East Ender but it's a welcome change. It's now grey and black, with lighter wood accents. The lounge area's mini fireplace has been removed and replaced with a banquette. I can't imagine there's less seating upstairs, but it seems roomier than before. 

Like I said, I'm predisposed to like everything Karl and Bill do. But even if that weren't the case, I'd be planning to frequent the East Ender. It's in the perfect spot in a nice little restaurant row. Between Eventide, the Honey Paw and East Ender, I may never have to leave Middle Street again. 

Dinner menu

The East Ender on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Portland Spirits Society Tasting: New England Distilling

I'm intimidated by the world of spirits in a way that it doesn't occur to me to feel about food. Sure, the world of food has it's high-end restaurant with their hard-to-pronounce ingredients and arrangements made using tweezers. But in the end, we all have to eat, and that need, I think, is a great equalizer. Taste is subjective, which means a dish can be perfectly executed, and you still might not like it. And that's OK - I don't think it means you're a rube or a philistine. 

But when it comes to cocktails and spirits, there is definitely a hierarchy. Digesting a cocktail list can feel intimidating. The world of spirits is seemingly endless. I ask people in-the-know what their favorite whiskeys are, and they rattle off a long list of names I've never even heard of. Oh, and you can't even get half of them in Maine, so good luck following up on that. 

There's different styles within a type of spirit: do you like London dry gin or Genever? Do you taste the unique botanicals on the finish? Is that cinnamon or coriander? There's a whole world of liqueurs, amaros, digestifs, aperitifs... oh, you haven't had Fernet? It's an industry (read: insider) favorite. And you say "coachy americano" instead of "koh-kee americano"? *snort*

And then there's bullshit (please excuse my French) like this: Your bartender might secretly hate you. I'll spare you the rant, but after reading a throw-away piece like that, it certainly doesn't make you want to go to a bar and try something new. 

Rum boxes waiting to be filled at New England Distilling

I have hesitated to write fully about my recent experiences exploring spirits on the Blueberry Files. I know that you come here for news about the Portland food scene. But I have been thrust into the world of spirits (I won't say unwillingly), writing my next book about the history of alcohol in Maine. It's been a positive experience - I believe that we are incredibly fortunate to have such kind, approachable bartenders and distillers in Maine. They aren't the ones continuing the air of mystery around their products. 

I started the Portland Spirits Society to have a social excuse to learn more about alcohol and was very happy to find that other people are looking for a more formal experience too. I mean, hell, anyone can give themselves an "education" in booze, just plunk down at a bar and start ordering. It's what I did when my editor assigned me a piece on tequila for the Phoenix

So I've decided to give into my desire to use this blog as a place for my thoughts on alcohol. It's the only way I can continue to create content here without feeling like I'm wasting valuable time that should be spent writing my manuscript. I like writing here, but ultimately it's a hobby. And hobbies should definitely not inspire a sense of guilt. 

If you come here exclusively for food-related stuff and are disappointed that my writing has taken a boozy tack, take heart in the fact that my deadline is quickly approaching, and one day I'll have the time to go out to eat again. But until then, I hope many of you are excited to explore the world of spirits, those both from Maine and away. I've been trying my hand at home bartending, and while there are tons of fantastic cocktail blogs (even in Portland - check out Three Sheets Mfg. for the real deal), I'd love to be able to share my evolution. Hopefully you'll find that it's approachable, and we can get over our intimidation together. 

The next Portland Spirits Society event (ladies only; sorry, dudes) is out at New England Distilling, 26 Evergreen Dr. Portland, which is near Allagash Brewing. Distiller Ned Wight will give us a tour and then we'll sample is Maryland-style rye whiskey, New England-style aged rum, and his unique gin (we can learn about gin styles together!). Hope to see you. 

Barrels of rye whiskey ageing at New England Distilling

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Women! and Whiskey! at Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

It was a great sight to see - over 30 women sipping whiskey, chattering about what they smelled and tasted. Paula Truman of Bow Street Distributing lead the event, summing it up best when she opened her talk with, 'Women! Whiskey!' The Portland Spirits Society women's whiskey tasting had a simple premise, not meant to be bigger than women drinking whiskey, with a little bit of learnin' on the side. 

We sampled four whiskeys, an Irish whiskey, a rye, a Bourbon, and a Scotch. We learned what characterized each one, came up with a few smell and tasting notes, but then, most importantly, enjoyed our samples and caught up with friends, new and old.

Paula (left) and A. at Portland Hunt & Alpine

The Four Roses small batch Bourbon stood out, a blend of four whiskeys from the Kentucky distillery. 

I was thrilled to find that the Scotch Portland Hunt & Alpine Club's owner Andrew Volk had selected for us was a mild, not-too-smoky, honey-sweet variety. I am truthfully kind of scared of Scotch.

From left to right (but pictured in the opposite order that we enjoyed them), we drank: 
  • Edradour 10 year Scotch whiskey
  • Four Roses small batch Bourbon
  • Jim Beam rye whiskey
  • West Cork Irish whiskey

I'd love to have a night dedicated to each one of these spirits (yes, even Scotch), learning about the different styles, regions, methods... What about gin? Tequila? Rum? Let's do it all. 

The next Portland Spirits Society event is a tour and tasting at New England Distilling, where they make rum, rye whiskey, and gin, on Tuesday, March 10th at 5:30pm (RSVP on facebook). 

After the event, A. and I went across the street to Sonny's, where I enjoyed a Pisco Sour. I can't get enough of egg white drinks lately. This one was a fine nightcap. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

New in Portland: Saucy Fish Co.

Portland, Maine is known for its seafood industry. Millions of tourists visit a year and atop their list of goals to accomplish while here is to eat lobster. They want to walk on the working waterfront, sniff the low-tide smell, see seagulls waiting for bait scraps, and watch lobster and fishing boats romantically steam out into the ocean for the day's work. 

But people haven't been that good to the ocean, and the once-thriving New England fishery is on the decline. There's still plenty of lobsters, to the relief of all those tourists, but small populations of the groundfish that people associate with New England like cod and haddock.

Of course, there's cool stuff going on in Maine to help boost the fisheries, both from the research and conservation angle, and on the market side. Maine is the coolest! The community-supported fishery, Salt + Sea delivers shares of locally caught, sustainable fish weekly. (Or rather, they did and they will again after the owner's maternity leave.)

I always assumed Gulf of Maine Research Institute educated schoolkids and then housed a bunch of scientists and interns working in labs, but it turns out they also work to increase demand for sustainable Gulf of Maine fish species. Their sustainable seafood project manager, Jen Levin, helped all of the Delhaize Group's supermarkets create a sustainable seafood policy, which includes our local Hannaford. 

Are you a little bit surprised to learn the local supermarket serves all sustainable seafood - everything from the fresh fish counter to the canned fish to the sushi bar? Again, Maine is the coolest. 

All of this brings me to Saucy Fish Co. When their PR rep emailed to say that Hannaford now carries Saucy Fish and would I like samples, I didn't hesitate to say yes. (Well, I did hesitate a little, because while I like receiving free things, I don't necessarily like reviewing things on el blog.)

But I knew that because Hannaford was carrying Saucy Fish Co. it meant they were sustainable (they also work with the Sustainable Seafood Coalition). It doesn't always mean the fish is local at Hannaford - although it can be - and this is a UK company. So it's probably not coming from the Gulf of Maine. For that, head down to Commercial St. to Harbor Fish Market, Browne Trading Co. or Free Range Fish & Lobster

But if you're at the grocery store looking for a good, but not junky, last-minute meal, grab a Saucy Fish. The Saucy Fish is 2 fillets, sold fresh in the refrigerator section by the fresh seafood case. At $7.99-8.99, they're priced about the same as a pound of fish. The fish No preservatives, additives or flavorings. And with it, comes a little packet of sauce that is made out of recognizable, real ingredients. 

And I don't know why, but that little packet of sauce makes all the difference. If you pick up some fresh fish, you're like, sigh, now what... but with Saucy Fish, you're going salmon with chili, lime, and ginger; tilapia with mango chili; cod with tomato. Just add some rice and a veggie, and voila. No thinking, delicious dinner. 

I baked some Saucy Fish, I pan fried some, and even went en papillote. They were all delicious. They froze well, thawed quickly, and were a great quick weeknight meal. Thanks to the Saucy Fish Co. for the samples, and I recommend you seek them out the next time you're at Hannaford. 

Plus, Saucy Fish! is fun to shout when discussing dinner ideas.

Salmon with chili, lime, ginger, over baby bok choi en papillote 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Women's Whiskey Tasting at Portland Hunt & Alpine

The Portland Spirits Society, the women's spirits appreciation club I started with Lora just for the hell of it, has hit the ground running - our first event, a tour and tasting of Maine Craft Distilling's spirits (including their single malt whiskey, 50 Stone), is next week and it has reached its capacity with 30 whiskey-loving ladies planning to attend.

Photo by Sharon Kitchens for the Huffington Post

Lora and I quickly worked to schedule another beginner's whiskey tasting event with the gracious staff of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. PH&A has a great selection of whiskey, and we'll learn from the knowledgeable and entertaining bartender, John Meyers. Bow Street Distributing's Paula Truman will also be there, as she's a whiskey enthusiast too.

The whiskey tasting is Wednesday, February 11th, from 6-8pm at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club and this is a ticketed event ($25 plus a small service fee), which will cover the cost of several tasting pours of different styles of whiskey.

To get a taste of what we're in for, see my friend Sharon's post, inspired by Lew Bryson's book Tasting Whiskey (which she lent me, and I'll attempt to open before this event!). Sharon met with Andrew Volk of Portland Hunt & Alpine and Don Lindgren of culinary bookstore Rabelais for a "home" whiskey tasting a few months ago.

The tickets for this event are going fast, so if you're interested, grab yours now! Hope to see you there.

John Meyers of Portland Hunt & Alpine, teaching a cocktail class in October

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DigPortland Closure, Maine Women and Whiskey

Portland's newest alt weekly, DigPortland, closed unceremoniously this week, and as a contributor to their Food & Draaaanks section, that means I lost my monthly column. While I have plenty of writing to do (see book manuscript deadline approaching quickly), many of my fellow freelancers unwillingly lost their bylines, and my editor and the staff writer both lost their full-time positions.

I don't agree that Portland wasn't big enough for two alt weeklies*, and I'm sad that there are fewer platforms for talented Maine writers. I was happy to be a part of creating something that diversified the media coverage in Portland and that helped to support artists, musicians, chefs, and food producers by highlighting their efforts. 

All of this is a roundabout way of saying, I'd written a column for this week's paper, and it won't be published. So you get to read it here! 

With my research into the history of alcohol in Maine, I've obviously been thinking a lot about booze. This "women and whiskey" trend in national publications has caught my attention and helped plant the seed for the Portland Spirits Society, a women's spirits appreciation group. We are having our first event, a private tour and tasting, in a week at Maine Craft Distilling (rsvp on facebook). If you can't make it, stay tuned; an announcement about our next event is coming before the end of the week. 

*I mean as far as coverage for two papers; I do not mean to comment on the financials. I don't know anything about that.

On a recent weeknight evening, similar scenes were happening behind the steamy windows in two adjacent East Bayside warehouses: Inside Maine Craft Distilling, a group of men and women from out of town sampled small pours of craft spirits. Karen Farber, co-founder of the business, tended to them, speaking knowledgeably about distillation, filtration, and flavor profiles. Next door at Rising Tide Brewing, co-founder Heather Sanborn waved goodnight to her staff as she headed home for the day. Behind the bar, Shonee Strickland, who is in the midst of opening her own brewery in Biddeford, filled in for tasting room manager, Stasia Brewczynski. Strickland poured me a Skipper, a hopped session ale, and then tended to a group of women next to me, explaining the different styles of beer available on tap.

That you might find women on either side of the bar at a brewery or distillery should come as no surprise. Since the industry’s inception in the late 1980s, women have come to occupy all positions within the production, marketing, distribution and sale of craft beer. And in Portland, you’ll find just as many women as men enjoying porters at Novare Res and saisons at Oxbow.

The local craft spirit industry is a bit behind that of craft beer when it comes to the number of women in its ranks. But craft spirits today are following the same growth rate as craft beer in the 1990s. Currently, there are fewer craft spirit producers and consumers than craft beer, and of the craft spirits crowd, women are a minority. Ideally, we can all agree that we’re finished with the stereotype that women don’t enjoy craft beer. But do we still need to shake the perception that barrel-aged spirits are a man’s drink?

Forbes magazine recently triggered a wave of think pieces on gender and liquor with their assertion that women now make up 37% of whiskey drinkers in the US, up from 15% in the nineties. Apparently the Cosmo is out and Canadian Club is in. In an attempt to learn what women in Portland think of brown spirits, I asked Maine Craft Distilling’s Karen Farber how women react to her products.

“We’re in a neighborhood of 3 breweries, and we get a lot of beer traffic,” Farber told me. “And for every woman who says, ‘oooo, this [spirit] is too strong,’ there’s one that suffered through a beer tour and is excited to come in here.” In particular, she finds a growing number of young women are interested in barrel-aged rum and whiskey.

Women have always played a role in the manufacture, distribution, and consumption of whiskey. As detailed in Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey by Fred Minnick, Laphroaig, Bushmills, Johnnie Walker, and Maker’s Mark have all had women as distillers or significant stakeholders. At home, whiskey was historically used as medicine for everything from constipation to fatigue and was administered to the ailing by women.

So why the splash surrounding Forbes' recent statistic? Part of it is marketing, as corporations stand to profit if they’re ahead of trends. More women are drinking whiskey? Great, let’s brand “Skinny Whiskey,” and promote it as low-cal. The other part is the very real notion of a “boys club” in craft beer and spirits. How else to explain the craft beer names, “Tramp Stamp,” “Raging Bitch,” and “PD” (where the illustration lets you know they mean “Panty Dropper”).

Fortunately, none of these are Maine beers. And thanks to the all-female Maine Beer Mavens, there’s a place for women to explore their love of craft beer in a novice-friendly environment. The recently launched Portland Spirits Society intends to do the same thing for women and whiskey. Beer Mavens co-founder Lora Burns and I are organizing tastings, tours, and educational events for wannabe whiskey aficionados.

National interest in craft spirits is growing among both men and women. While Maine may be a little further behind in the number of small distilleries or spirit-centric bars, we excel in entrepreneurialism and access to agricultural products to ferment. So while the rest of the country may be just learning that women like whiskey, we in the Great White North have always known that to be true.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reading the Tea Leaves

The Honey Paw on Middle Street

In 2015, over 100,000 cruise ship passengers are scheduled to visit Portland between May and November (up from 82,000 in 2014). Hoteliers aim to fill the 575 new rooms that opened up in the last year, plus the additional 110 planned for this one, with visitors that arrive by plane, train, and automobile. With Portland’s ever-growing reputation for an exceptional dining scene, more and more restaurateurs are hoping to be the answer to the question, where should we eat tonight? More importantly, where will we locals retreat to hide from all those tourists? 18 restaurants and bars are planned to open in 2015, building inspectors willing.

Here are the ones we’re most excited about and what these business plans might mean for Portland.

The Washington Avenue corridor

With multiple high-end real estate projects developing on the north side of Munjoy Hill and into East Bayside, many restaurateurs are eyeing the available spaces on Washington Avenue. Two unnamed restaurants are in the works, one in a former restaurant space near Silly’s, the other in the former J.J. Nissen Bakery building. The immediate success of Oxbow Brewing’s tasting room behind Coffee By Design on Washington Avenue points to the pent up demand for comfortable, casual spots around Munjoy Hill. In general, as the Old Port continues to maintain high occupancy rates, business-owners are looking for space in outlying areas, like the Arts District and the West End.

The wrath of grapes

As discerning diners like to know the provenance of their food, the traceability and hyper-localism spill over into beverages, illustrated by the growing demand for craft beer, wine, and spirits. Maybe wine is getting its time in the spotlight, alongside craft beer. The owners of Maine & Loire, a natural and biodynamic wine shop also opening on Washington Avenue, sure hope so. As do those of UnWINEd, the Blue Lobster Urban Winery, and Lincolns. UnWINEd, opening soon on Congress St. in the Arts District, will serve wine and appetizers in a comfortable lounge setting. The Blue Lobster Urban Winery has been in the works for several years now, but the proprietors assure Anestes Fotiades of Portland Food Map ( that they plan to complete their microwinery in 2015. Lincolns, while promising a selection of alcohol and beer, is co-owned by Mark Ohlson of MJ’s Wine Bar. This underground lounge at 46 Market St., where everything costs only $5 (hence Lincolns), is sure to offer a limited selection of quality wines.

Superstar expansions

While some businesses, like Lincolns and UnWINEd, are hoping to capture the local love with inexpensive, stripped-down lounges, others are aiming high with premium real estate and prices to follow. Dana Street (of Street & Co. and Fore Street) will open a 144-seat eatery on Maine Wharf with a high-end seafood menu and retail seafood market. The owners of Hugo’s and Eventide Oyster Co. are expanding their restaurant row down the block with The Honey Paw. The new restaurant’s concept is scant on details other than “non-denominational noodle restaurant,” but will surely continue the tradition of well-crafted, thoughtful, delicious food. Small Axe food truckers Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy find a brick-and-mortar home in the East Ender space—same name, new menu; don’t worry, their cold-smoked burger will make the transition.   Portland’s food and drink scene continues to expand, seemingly unabated, causing many to wonder when the bubble is going to pop. With residential real estate development, cruise ship schedules, and the number of hotel rooms increasing, many powers-that-be with money are betting that the bubble is still inflating. For the most part, these planned restaurant projects are still chef-owned and operated; Portland has not yet seen an influx of corporate restaurant groups. Here’s hoping the addition of these new projects continues to add to Portland’s high-quality dining scene.

To see a complete list of food-related businesses opening in 2015, visit

Originally published in DigPortland, January 1, 2015