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, and 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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ladies' Barr Hill Spirits Tasting at Eventide Oyster Co.


The ladies of the Portland Spirits Society had another great time on Monday night at Eventide Oyster Co. where we slurped oysters and enjoyed learning about and sampling Vermont's Caledonia Spirits. I may or may not have spilled vodka on the floor right out of the gate, before I'd even had enough/any to justify such a thing. 

We learned about the process of making the vodka and gin, both made from honey (which must be so expensive). The vodka is distilled until it has a neutral flavor, while the gin has some honey added back into it, giving it a lovely floral characteristic. The Tom Cat gin is "rested" gin that is aged in charred oak barrels, giving it a most delicious smoky sweetness. It's one of my new favorite craft spirits. 


Here's Jeff from Barr Hill, looking a little bit like he didn't know I was taking his picture (that's exactly what's going on here). After a brief spiel from him, we tucked into oysters on the half shell, fried fish, and some of those amazing chickpea fries (aka fried panisse)—seriously don't overlook them the next time you're at Eventide. 




Lastly, we enjoyed two cocktails with the spirits: a negroni with the gin and a gin and tonic with the Tom Cat and Eventide's housemade tonic. Negronis are not for me, I must finally admit, but the G&T with the aged gin was fantastic. It tasted almost like an Arnold Palmer. 

Many thanks to Eventide Oyster Co. and Jeff Cole for the hospitality!! Ladies, stay tuned for info about our next Portland Spirits Society event (even better, sign up for the e-mail newsletter to be the first to hear about it) and in the meantime, get your ticket to Splashed Bash, Dispatch mag's friendly competition celebrating local bartenders and craft spirits on May 13th. 



Thursday, April 21, 2016

BBF Travels: Wine and Eats in Napa, Mendocino

Of course no trip to California would be complete without exploring its wine—while I'm not a big wine person (wino?), I do at least know that other people say there's good wine there. On my recent vacation to the San Francisco Bay area, I had some time to explore the northern regions of the state, heading to Napa and Mendocino for a night each. And that means...wine country! 

On our first day in Napa, we stayed at the gorgeous White House Inn, a bed and breakfast downtown. We intended to just stop in and ask for some winery recommendations, but that turned into an early check-in, so we dropped our stuff and headed back out with a Napa Valley winery map in hand. 

For the Napa Valley newbie, the road north of town (Silverado Trail) heads right through all the federally-recognized grape growing regions, dubbed American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). And with a winery map, you can see which ones require advance reservations and which ones have tasting available on a walk-in basis. I didn't want to commit to reservations, so we limited our visits to the tasting rooms with more flexible policies. 


Our first stop was Stag's Leap, and while it wasn't my favorite, I'm glad we went as it showed us a different style of Napa Valley wineries. We sampled 4 wines for $40 each, with bottle prices ranging from $70 to $245. The wine was good and the view was gorgeous, but I thought at this rate, we'll be broke fast. 


Fortunately, the next recommendation on our list was more up our alley, with a relaxed vibe in the tasting room. We visited Robert Sinskey Vineyards, where we sampled one white and four reds for $45. This tasting came with a cute sampler of housemade treats: delicious gougeres, savory shortbread, Marcona almonds, and some Vermont cheese. Our friendly tasting room guide of course had a connection to Maine, as I tend to find a lot of when I travel. 


We liked the POV pinot here, and the prices were much more reasonable here than the first winery, so we left with a bottle. (Note: typically the tasting fee is waived if you buy a bottle of wine.) After our two winery visits, we headed back to the hotel to take a dip in the chilly pool and get ready for dinner. 

Earlier in the day we'd spent some time in Napa's Oxbow Public Market, where I was thrilled to find a local distillery's tasting room. Napa Valley Distillery makes a lot of fruit-based spirits like brandy and eau de vie. We explored the twee shop, full of bitters, mixers, garnishes, and their spirits, then tried the full line of drinks. 


The vodka is technically a neutral brandy and is only twice distilled to retain some of that grapey character. We also tried their Hollywood Ginn, pear brandy, Sidecar cocktail, Grand California (their take on Grand Marnier), and an Ancho chili liqueur. 

Several of the spirits we tried were bundled together in their Bar Club boxes, an ingenious idea I hope some of our local distilleries adopt. For $75 a quarter, the distillery sends you a box of their goodies, including spirits, liqueurs, pre-mixed cocktails (like the Sidecar), as well as mixers and garnishes like bitters, cherries, and pickles. I admittedly didn't love their line of spirits, but I'm still considering signing up anyway just for the idea. Does anyone have any good spirit subscription boxes recommendations? 


Before we went out to dinner in Napa, we had a drink at Cadet, an adorable beer and wine bar I fell a little bit in love with. We tried several other places before we stumbled upon this one, but eschewed them because of the cheesy vibe, so when we found a chill place with a good local beer and wine list, we were happy. After all the wine that day, I wanted a sour beer, so I ordered a Flanders red ale from Cismontane Brewing Co. in Santa Ana. We also shared a charcuterie plate with cheese and olives. 

Cadet seemed hip and cool, with its vinyl collection and mid-century modern light fixtures. Basically I was in heaven. But I couldn't tell if this was a spot that just ordered the "hip lounge" decor from a catalog or was legit. When A.'s friends from high school showed up—East Coasters who moved west to run a winery—they asked how we knew to come to Cadet, confirming that it's a spot for those looking to enjoy some local wine in a low-key spot. 


The next day, we packed up and hit the road for more wine en route to Mendocino. On the way (I think where 128 runs into the 101), we drove past a food truck in a really random-seeming spot. Nothing else around, just a freeway ramp and an intersection. Since we were hungry, we pulled over and joined the fair number of cars stopped for this truck. It had no name, no cutesy branding, just a menu of tacos, burritos, and tostadas. I ordered up chorizo and pastor tacos, and we ate standing by the car, leaning over so the red grease dripped onto the ground. Those were some delicious tacos.

After our night in Mendocino, we made our way back to the Bay area, but with plenty of time to explore, we went stopped in Healdsburg for lunch and a beer. My friend recommended Shed to me, and I now recommend it to you—assuming you have a high tolerance for all things bougie or at least a sense of humor. The sleek market/café is a bit over the top. Very Martha-meets-Kinfolk. Lots of bakers' twine and preposterously expensive candles.

But the food was very good! We loved both the white pizza with nettles, asparagus, Meyer lemon and ricotta and the farro salad with beets, wild mustard, bread crumbs, and sprouting broccoli. 



As a parting shot, some ceviche we made the weekend before at A's brother's house. We picked up rock shrimp at the farmers' market and tossed it with lime juice, diced red onion, mango, cilantro, and some chile flake. After an hour or so in the fridge, the shrimp had turned opaque as they were "cooked" by the acidic lime juice. We devoured it with corn tortilla chips. It'd make a nice snack here in Maine the next time you see some local shrimp for sale. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Drizly Alcohol Delivery Service Comes to Portland

I've got the most exciting news for you, just in time for the weekend. If you live in Portland or South Portland, you can now have alcohol delivered to your house. That's right, only a few minutes after you tap a few times in an app on your phone, some nice man will knock on your door, scan your ID, and in exchange, hand you a bag full of booze. No trip to the store, no lugging cases of beer up the stairs, no pants required (OK, put on pants when for you open the door). This is revolutionary, people. 


I received a press release about Drizly the Boston-based service's expansion into the Portland area, and I laughed out loud. A shitty thing had happened to me that morning (car vandalism) and then someone offered to send me a gift so I could try out the service. Champagne delivery? Yes please. 

I also thought back to the time that I wanted to enjoy a bloody mary during a football game. Problem was I didn't have any vodka and it was only a short while until kickoff. I went to several stores in the West End looking for one that sold spirits (now I know better and know exactly where the hard stuff is sold), wasting precious minutes before the game started. You know what would have been a lot better? If I'd just been able to pick up my phone, order a bottle, and then gone back to frying up shrimp or whatever. No frantic race around town, more time for relaxing. 

Drizly works by partnering with a local retailer (in Portland the Craft Beer Cellar and Old Port Spirits) and charging the retailer a membership fee. So users pay only $5 delivery fee, plus the optional driver tip (but tip your driver). The alcohol is the same price as in the store and you've got the great selection that's available at CBC and Old Port Spirits. 


To try the service out, the Drizly rep offered to send me a gift (you can send gifts too!) of some bubbly. I was able to schedule when I'd be home to receive my gift and then received a text when the driver was at my door. I went down to meet him, he scanned my ID, and cheerfully handed me off my bottles of wine. I'm sold.

Drizly is available for Android and Apple phones, but you can also order through the website.

Disclosure: I received the wine free of charge from Drizly, but the opinions and words in this post are my own.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

BBF Travels: Hog Island Oyster Co. Marshall, CA


Two weeks ago, I jetted off to San Francisco to spend a week with my boyfriend, his brother, and his brother's family. It was the perfect antidote to Maine winters, something I've realized that I need after 8 winters in this lovely, but at-times frigid state. Spring (break) fever is real and contagious. Since spring in Maine (or should I say "spring") is lacking to this somewhat-southerner, heading south where there's green grass, sunny days with warm breezes, and loads and loads of flowers helps me retain my sanity until Maine spring fully kicks into gear...in like June. 

We arrived on a Wednesday night, and after generously taking the next day off to entertain us, everyone had to go back to work on Friday, which left A. and I to our own devices. We hopped in the convertible (yesssss) Saab and headed for the coast. My mission: oysters al fresco. 

My friend Tessa had recommended checking out Hog Island Oysters near Point Reyes, where you can have oyster picnics right by the water. As soon as I'd heard even those limited details, I'd put that activity on our agenda. 


The odds were in our favor that day, since while a picnic requires advanced reservation, the oyster "boat" bar was open that day and did not. (Note: if you plan to visit the farm, they have since started a new reservation-only policy for the bar as well.) 

Both the bar and the picnic tables are located on a slice of land between Route 1 and Tomales Bay, where the oysters are grown. You eat and relax next to the oyster processing facilities, where men in Grundens and sea boots toss around giant bags filled with shells, hoisting them, emptying them into a sorter, and at times even whacking the bags with baseball bats. It's definitely a working farm and the workers serve as "edu-tainment" while you're eating. 


The oyster bar serves the Hog Island Sweetwaters on the half shell and broiled, as well as some non-shellfish offerings like charcuterie and some salads. We had a friendly server offer to take our order while we stood at our communal high top table, but you can order at the bar as well. A. and I ordered both the raw and broiled oysters and a charcuterie plate to make it a substantial lunch. Some bottles of IPA from local Drake's Brewing Company rounded out our meal. 


The Hog Island Sweetwaters were instantly my new favorite oyster, offering all of the things you love about oysters and avoiding the flavors that can turn people off of them. They were clean, well-shucked, and incredibly sweet with very little briney or funky seaweed flavors. 

The broiled oysters were amazing as well, slightly larger than those served on the half shell and topped with a BBQ bourbon chipotle butter. They disappeared quickly, all warm and buttery, but we stopped by the oyster window on our way out to order a few dozen to take home with us for a Saturday afternoon grill out. 




The next day, we shared our newfound love of grilled oysters with A.'s family - of course, being hip to all things hedonistic, they were already experts at home-grilled oysters for a crowd. After exhausting our enthusiasm for shucking, we decided to grill up the remainders, recreating the spicy garlic butter ones we'd had the day before. 

Although it may seem more complicated, preparing grilled oysters can be easier than shucking raw ones, at least for those among us who aren't expert shuckers. By heating the oysters for a while, they steam and soften (ok, ok, die) and are much easier to open than when they're alive. Lacking a barbecue grill, we improvised with the broiler and it worked great. Later we moved on to topping the oysters with garlic butter, arugula, and Parmesan cheese, all of which went superbly with local sparkling rosé and ample amounts of sunshine. 


Grilled BBQ Bourbon Chipotle Oysters
Adapted from Hog Island Oyster Co.

One stick unsalted butter, softened to room temp 
1/4 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup bourbon 
6 cloves finely chopped garlic 
Several chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
2 dozen raw oysters

To make BBQ bourbon butter:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well. To save for future use, scrape butter onto wax paper, close wax paper around butter, and shape into a log. Freeze for up to 6 months for best quality.

To make barbecued oysters: 
Preheat oven's broiler or grill to very hot (500*F). Spread oysters on a broiling pan and place in oven (or directly on grill surface) for 5-10 minutes or until several have popped open. The oysters should be very easy to shuck; if not, heat until they are. 

Shuck oysters, leaving meat in cupped half of oyster shell. Add 1-2 tablespoons compound butter and return to heat source. Grill for several more minutes, until butter has melted and is bubbling. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Brunch at Terlingua

It's no secret that I love Terlingua, the new-ish barbecue restaurant on Washington Ave. in Portland. The owners are friends of mine, for one, but their restaurant is the whole package--a relaxed environment, friendly service, tasty food, and great cocktails and draft beer. Plus it's within walking distance of my house. 

So while I've been for drinks and dinner many times (I even hosted a tequila tasting there, one of the best Portland Spirits Society events to date), I hadn't been to brunch. And the buzz about brunch was building, so A. and I made a post-spin class date to check it out. 

The dish I'd been hearing the most about was the pulled pork benedict ($13), so clearly that was on the agenda. The other menu choices that sounded tempting were the chilaquiles, or strips of corn tortillas served with beans and eggs ($10) and the burger with its bacon-jalapeno jam ($14). But I've been on a french toast kick lately (well, specifically the Palace Diner's version), so Terlingua's with caramelized bananas, berries, whipped honey butter, and almonds ($10) sounded really appealing. 

A. ordered a mimosa, and while there's an extensive list of breakfast cocktails, I went with the lime Topo Chico (Mexican sparkling water). 


A. and I shared both dishes and the server was very accommodating in getting us extra plates and quickly clearing away dishes when we were finished with them, as the small two-top table was filled by the large plates. 

The french toast transcended a lot of other versions that are just egg-coated bread. This was custardy on the inside and as you can see, it came covered in fruit, which helped to add interest and keep the dish light. 

After moving quickly through a few slices of toast each, we turned our attention to the long-awaited, much-heralded benedict. The poached eggs and pulled pork are served on a green chile biscuit and then topped with a jalapeno hollandaise sauce. The dish avoided all the common pitfalls: the biscuits were light, the hollandaise actually had some flavor, and the pulled pork wasn't too salty or heavy. It was as delicious as everyone has said. 


So add me to the list of people recommending Terlingua for brunch, but really for any meal. The brunch menu is available Sundays from 10am until 3pm, and they do not take reservations. Shortly, you'll even be able to enjoy eating outside at picnic tables on the patio! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Allagash Saison Dinner at Table, Kennebunk

This past Saturday, March 12th was Saison Day, and unless you're a self-proclaimed beer nerd, you probably didn't notice. Truth is, Allagash Brewing Company made up this holiday three years ago to help promote its 2nd most popular style of beer (Allagash White being the best seller). This year, there were events all around Maine to celebrate: tastings, special releases, and beer dinners. 

I attended the Saison Day tasting dinner at Table in Kennebunk at their new facility in the former home of Abbondante on Western Ave. (which sits just behind Pedro's). The food was prepared by the chef of Ocean at the Cape Arundel Inn and paired with several different saisons from Allagash. Truthfully, when I accepted the invite, I did so a little warily, not being a big fan of either saisons or French-Canadian cooking. The sample menu referenced pork rillettes and cassoulet, so I was expecting a meal of heavy, rich foods. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the menu and how much I enjoyed the different varieties of saisons. 


We arrived a little before 6PM, which this time of year still left a little lingering light for us to check out the beautiful exterior of the restaurant as we approached. I never ate at Abbondante before it closed, but I was delighted by the the rustic building and its ample outdoor seating and firepits. 

Inside, it's just as pretty, with a soaring ceiling, a huge stone fireplace, and hanging wagon wheel light fixtures adorned with Edison bulbs. The large communal table in the center of the room was set with plenty of candles and glasses, lending the room a very festive feel. 

We were greeted by Amy of Table and introduced to several Allagash staff members who were on hand to answer questions and chat. A server brought us a glass of the Allagash Saison to kick things off and after a while, we listened to a brief introduction to the beer by Josh Wolf, the sales manager for the area. 


Josh explained what a saison is... kinda -- he said it's more a tradition than a style. The style came from Belgium, where farms would brew beer in the winter when it was cooler and serve it to their farmworkers in the summer (saison means "season" in French). The resurgence of the style in the US has brought us beers that are lower in alcohol content, paler in color, and have fruity, spicy, and malty flavors with a dry finish. That said, Allagash then does all kinds of fun stuff with their saisons that throw a lot of that out the window. So there's usually something for every type of beer preference. 

The Saison went well with our first course of those pork rillettes (also made with Allagash Saison), but the Saison is pretty easy drinking, so it pairs well with most things. The porky spread was nice with the accompanying creamy mustard sauce and the tart pickled vegetables. 

Next, servers delivered wine glasses of the Allagash Century. This one is fermented with Saison and Brettanomyces yeast for a year in stainless steel, so it has a bit of the tart flavor that the Brett brings. That tartness cut through the rich, sweetness of the next dish: mussels ragout with caramelized onions and creme fraiche. I was skeptical of this one before I had it, not being able to envision what mussels ragout was exactly. But the mussels were tender and plump in their broth of sweet onion goop and the potato chips on top delivered a nice crunch. 


The main course, a huge piece of roast cod over sausage cassoulet with root vegetables, was paired with Allagash Interlude. Again, this beer is made with Saison and Brett yeast, but some of it is aged in former red wine barrels, which of course imparts a wine flavor. If you have a wine drinker you're trying to turn on to beer, this one would be a good place to start. 

Over this course Josh from Allagash shared with me the phrase "screwed by the 'lude," as in, "my night was going fine until I was..." Apparently Interlude has been the cause of several of the brewery's employees' crazy nights and wicked hangovers. I laughed, but began drinking my water in earnest. 


Our entree portion was huge, so I didn't make much of a dent, but despite the appearance of that "dreaded" cassoulet, this dish was very light and spring-like. The roasted fennel in particular was lovely. I must revise my opinion about French-Canadian fare prepared by the right hands. 

For dessert, we enjoyed the Allagash Astrid, a nice sour also brewed with Saison and Brett yeast and fermented in stainless for a year. It then ages further in used Aquavit barrels, which is a lovely idea, but I didn't pick up any of the characteristic caraway or anise flavors from the spirit. The herbs I did detect came from the dessert, an apple croustade with a rosemary crumble, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and some blood orange caramel. 


We finished chatting with our tablemates, thanked our hosts, and went to take a post-dinner stroll around Kennebunkport before getting in the car to Portland. The tide was out in the river and the three dories have yet to make their seasonal appearance in the river. The streets were quiet and many of the boats still sported their winter covers. We were full, slightly buzzed, and had the streets to ourselves, so we wandered around and remembered all the fun we've had on our past KPT adventures. Even though it was only a night out, it felt like we'd captured some of that summer vacation vibe. 

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Braised Pork Rillettes
From Chef Pierre Gignac, Ocean at the Cape Arundel Inn & Resort

3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder cut into 1 inch cubes
8 ounces pork fat or 8 slices of bacon cut into ½ inch pieces
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
1 medium size sweet onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
4 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup Allagash Saison
½ cup brandy or cognac

Preheat your oven to 325°F or a household slow cooker to low temp. Season the meat evenly with salt and pepper and transfer to a heavy pot or the slow cooker. 

Add onions, garlic and spices and stir to blend. Add wine, Saison Ale and brandy. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and braise in the oven 4 hours. If using a slow cooker, cover with lid and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. 

After cooking, remove from oven or turn off the slow cooker. The meat should be very tender. Drain the braised pork mixture in a large sieve over a bowl, careful to remove all herbs and the bay leaves. Reserving the cooking liquid.  

Transfer the pork into a bowl. Shred the meat into very small pieces with a fork. Add the braising liquid cup-by-cup and beat with a wooden spoon (or a hand mixer). Mix until the mixture looks spreadable. Transfer into ramekins and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. 

Serve with toasted baguette, mustard, and your favorite pickled vegetables. 

I attended the Allagash Saison Tasting Dinner free of charge and I have previously worked with Table for promotional events, but the opinions and words in this post are my own.