My sunny summer travel series continues on this snowy day, originally published in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram in June, July & August of 2014.
After a formal “foodie tour” of Portland, I’m feeling restless. As a local, I know there are fresh, fab and funky finds a little farther off the beaten track. I decide to sip, savor and explore my own way through Portland’s East Bayside, where roasters, brewers and bakers are doing their own gustatorial thing with outstanding results.
We head down Fox Street for a wake-up taste and tour of the majestic new Coffee By Design roastery, café and world HQ on Diamond Street. Alan Spear shows off his shiny new “green” roasting machines as we sip the new Independents Blend, created to support local businesses. These guys make me so proud — as always, CBD does well by doing good. Altruism is alive and well in East Bayside at www.coffeebydesign.com
Indie BotanicalsWe head a short block to Maine Craft Distilling, home of our newest obsession — indie botanical spirits. We first taste their Alchemy gin in a tasty Negroni at Lolita. Here at the source, served as a naked sip, it’s even better. We continue with Chesuncook, a divine distillation of carrot and barley infused with mint, basil and cucumber. We blaze through tiny sips of Black Cap vodka, triple-distilled through local maple charcoal — as clean and clear as Cold Stream Pond with a tasty wallop.
Maine blueberry “Blueshine” is a little sweet, but hey, along with cleverly named Queequeg and Ration rums, we decide that Maine Craft distills something for everybody over 21. My companion brings home three bottles of delicious indie spirits which ought to keep us entertained for what’s left of summer. www.mainecraftdistilling.com
Call Me Ishmael
Next door, Rising Tide Brewing Company epitomizes the new wave of craft breweries. For someone whose beer knowledge stops at red, brown and yellow, Rising Tide definitely lifts my boat. My seafaring companion and I sit in their casual tasting room and enjoy a flight of 4 oz. tastes. I discover two new favorites, Ishmael and Spinnaker, yum. While refining our tasting chops with another flight, I detect a flavor that can best be described as cat-whiff. True to form, I blurt my discovery as my companion turns a hoppy shade of pink. “Go to the head of the class,” the counterman says, “the Simcoe hop does have a distinctly ‘catty’ taste.” Score!
Rising Tide’s beer-and-cheese hour is one of the best deals in town at $15, with artisanal brews and pairings by cheese maven Ruth Miller. Portland’s venerable food trucks raft up here on weekends, including Fishin’ Ships, Small Axe and the Good Shepherd Food Truck. Get there. www.risingtidebrewing.com
Sagging? Not us. We tumble into Tandem Coffee Roasters café for a little pick-me-up. Their “Time and Temperature” espresso grabs our attention, flavorful and rich with deep, dark aroma of Italy. These guys honed their skills at Blue Bottle in San Francisco, and were kind enough to switch coasts and share their prodigious gifts with us here in East Bayside. We love Tandem’s hipster ambiance and collection of vinyl — the music is as densely flavorful as the coffee. Look for the white bicycle sculpture / bike rack out front. And hey, I learned a new word: Tandem holds free “cuppings” every Friday. www.tandemcoffee.com
Down here in the innovation district, handcrafted baked goods are a natural. Here at Maine Pie Line, Briana Warner’s nifty and tasty hand-pies are elevating the art of the simple British pastie to a straight-up art form. Her savory, palm-sized pies are filled with home-grown Maine ingredients like kale, Portobello mushrooms, turkey, goat cheese, caramelized onions, dried cranberries and much more. Warner’s sweet pies are equally inspired, with combinations like green tea in chocolate shortbread with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. She’s right — these are pies like my mother never made.
NEWS: Since publication of this story in August, Maine Pie Line has merged with the venerable Two Fat Cats Bakery on India Street. Originally part of the innovation destination in East Bayside, I include them in this post. www.mainepieline.com
Imbibables and Fermentables
We take our golden-crusted indulgences next door to Urban Farm Fermentory for beverages to enhance our feast. We choose fresh pressed Maine apple cider that is, as promised, wildly fermented and dry. UFF has an outdoor perch for a sipping, and adheres to a freewheeling bring-your-own-hand-pie policy. Sweet. This magical laboratory offers a combination of imbibables and fermentables plus sniffable spices, pods and herbs. They can talk about yeast for hours. Their tasting room has 12 tap lines and features afternoon tours with experimental batches of kombucha (fermented tea) and hard cider.
< My daughter Rachel takes a hit of Urban Farm’s potent probiotic kombucha each morning and swears by it — digestively and spiritually.
Rock on, Urban Farm. www.urbanfarmfermentory.com
Herbs and Flowers
Take a break from sipping and savoring at Swallowtail Farm and Creamery, a leafy, fragrant retreat. Swallowtail sells herbs, herbaceous products, holistic elixirs and salves in a tiny corner shop that smells like a garden and feels like a sorcerer’s cave. They also offer fresh and foraged artisanal cheeses, yogurt and kefir. An old fashioned new-age combo of farm, fragrance and forage — check out this nifty little healthful oasis. www.swallowtailfarmandcreamery.com
We check in with Bomb Diggity Bakery’s Rob Hammond whose early-morning handiwork supplies English muffins for breakfast sandwiches to the iconic Holy Donut and Whole Foods by the Bay — more yeasty local sourcing. They are bomb diggity. www.bombdiggitybakery.com
We end our three-hour homegrown tour with a Pure Pops popsicle, made in small batches with organic sugar and lots of local fruit. Eclectic flavors include Apple Cranberry Crisp, Avocado Lime, Blueberry Lavender, Peach Rhubarb, Pineapple Ginger, Strawberry Basil, Watermelon Cucumber Mint and more. I adore the Grapefruit Tarragon. Get there early for best selection, and remember, it’s a self-serve honor system! www.pure-pops.com
Conception to Creation
Explore East Bayside at the crossroads of invention and innovation and see what’s new under the Portland sun. •