5th Anniversary of Cider Club

Cider Club Portland celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this summer with a exceptional tasting of US and international ciders. The event that highlighted the progress made in cider appreciation and access over the past half decade.

The regular gathering of cider and apple folks was launched in 2018 by Sean Turley (instagram) initially as a way for local cider enthusiasts to share their passion and collaboratively taste ciders. The group has continued to evolve and now serves as an industry-focused gathering for cider producers and hospitality professionals. It has become an important crossroads for information and a networking event as much as a way to experience a diverse range of ciders and perrys that participants bring to share.

Turley shared his observation on the group’s anniversary, “It has been amazing to see cider grow so significantly in Maine over the last five years and the profound improvement in the quality of cider being produced across the country. Cider is in the same place as American wine in the 1970s, and the future is tremendously bright. It is such a pleasure too be involved with a group dedicating to helping cider realize its potential.”

A key philosophy that Turley established from the start is that all ciders—even ones that may likely be less than special—deserve to be tasted at the meetings and have something to teach. The group has collectively tasted 250+ ciders sourced from 10 countries and 18 states.

Maine now has 25 active producers with more various stages of development. According to IBISWorld there are 2,834 cider production businesses in the US as of 2023 which represents an increase of 13.6% from 2022. It’s exciting to imagine what the Maine cider industry will become and how the Cider Club organization can grow with it over the next five years.

If you are a beverage professional interested in more information on Cider Club, contact therighteousrusset@gmail.com.

Boba Tea in Maine

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article on the growing interest in and opportunities to buy boba tea in Maine.

The boba boom has hit Maine for sure. At least five new bubble tea shops have opened in the state since November, including Kim Boba Tea & Coffee on Mellen Street and Lecha on Stevens Avenue in Portland, as well as farther-flung locations like Quickly Boba Café in Brunswick, Boba OOB in Old Orchard Beach, and Bubble Tea Café all the way up in Presque Isle.

The drink is also on the menu at many local Asian restaurants, like Keg and Kraken or Crunchy Poke, and has even been sold at major chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Wine List Geekiness at Leeward

Leeward gets a mention in this Wall Street Journal article about restaurant wine list geekiness.

Chiaramonte told me the idea to ask for such a list came to him while reading an earlier Wine Berserkers post, about a real wine list that had been labeled geeky by another forum member, Dan Kravitz. Indeed, according to Kravitz, Leeward restaurant in Portland, Maine, has an “aggressively geeky” wine list because—at the time of Kravitz’s post on Wine Berserkers—few wines from familiar grapes like Cabernet, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir were listed. “[They] refuse to put anything well-known or popular on the list,” Kravitz said in an email.

25 Best: Hunt + Alpine

Mashed has included the Hunt + Alpine Club in their list of the 25 Best Cocktail Bars In The U.S.

Portland’s Hunt and Alpine Club opened in 2013 with the uncommon idea of serving Scandinavian and Alpine-style food with James Bead Award-nominated cocktails. The food menu is as animated as the atmosphere, featuring Finnish meatballs and tinned fish, but the cocktail menu is a character of its own. It includes to-go cocktails for two and features an entire section for “Negroni-ish” drinks for those who fancy something stiff. The Hunt and Alpine Club also serves a daily punch with rotating flavors that is available as a shot or a cocktail, as well as a mysterious “Bartender’s Choice” cocktail for $15 of a sippable surprise.

Fire on Exchange Street

The Press Herald reports there was a fire Friday night at on Exchange Street. The damage seems to have been limited to The Grill Room. A statement from the restaurant on imstagram reads,

We regret to inform our customers that our restaurant is closed until further notice due to a fire incident. Our priority is always the safety of our customers and staff, and we are currently assessing the damage and working with the authorities to investigate the cause of the fire. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding during this difficult time. We will update you as soon as possible on when we will be able to reopen and serve you again.
Thank you for your support.

The Quarry Wins Beard Award

Congratulations to The Quarry in Monson, Maine on winning the 2023 James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality.

Chef/owner Marilou ‘Lulu’ Ranta accepted the award tonight at the awards ceremony in Chicago, “I never dreamed this—never in my wildest that I’d be standing here today. I just have my restaurant in what I call the boonies, and somehow Mr. Beard still found me. Don’t stop believing, please keep working. I want to thank my husband. He told me I have a Sisu in me.” Sisu is a Finnish word that Ranta explained embodies perseverance, moxie and other qualities.

11 Maine chefs and restaurants were semifinalists in 2023. Maine chefs, restaurants and food professionals have won 10 awards since the Beard Awards program began: five in the Best Chef Northeast category, one in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer category, one in the Outstanding Hospitality category and three America’s Classics winners. Nezinscot Farm in Turner, Maine was announced as an America’s Classic award winner earlier this year.

For additional reporting see these reports in the Press Herald and Bangor Daily News.

Barrel-Aged Coffe & A Review of Bar Futo

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a review of Bar Futo, and

Chef Ian Driscoll’s menu is made up of classics like bouncy, funky tsukune meatballs and binchotan-grilled vegetables like asparagus (seasoned with very nontraditional horseradish ranch). Everything really does come out when it’s ready (pardon the restaurant cliché) because the grill is set to a steel-warping 1,200 degrees. On the cold side, Driscoll’s rhubarb crisp kakigori mountain is as visually spectacular as it is tasty. Bar manager Bryce Summer’s ice-cold cocktails, especially the hojicha daiquiri, hold up nicely against the inventive menu.

a feature article about barrel-aged coffee collaborations between coffee roasters and Maine’s distillers and brewers.

Normally, coffee beans are ready for sale after roasting. But with barrel-aged coffee, the raw beans spend weeks or months in empty spirits barrels provided by distillers, where they absorb residual liquor flavors along with notes of the barrel’s charred wood interior. Only then are the beans are roasted and bagged for sale.

Boston on Biddeford

Boston Magazine has published A Day Tripper’s Guide to Biddeford.

Over the past decade, Portland, Maine, has cemented itself as one of the foodie capitals of America. But it’s only recently that its neighbor to the south, Biddeford, has blossomed into a destination in its own right. Towering brick buildings once home to busy mills now house award-winning bars, restaurants, breweries, and distilleries. Throw in a hip new hotel, and you’ve got yourself a delicious treat in the form of a weekend getaway.