Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Hot Doggin’ with Snappy’s Tube Steaks

A unique new hot dog ‘truckster’ has hit the Portland, Maine food scene.  Already vibrant, this business brings its own snappy personality to the growing number of food trucks and carts providing speedy and delicious food to locals and tourists alike. This is the hot dog cart to visit for dogs with a Maine flair and specialty toppings, featuring creative names like ‘The Salty Dog,’ ‘The Grange,’ and ‘Born to Brie Wild.’

Snappy manning the cart!

Snappy manning the cart!

Owned and operated by Ed Shevenell and Kari Williams, Snappy’s Tube Steaks stands out in its appearance, too.  The cart is a 1961 Cushman Truckster with a hot dog vending unit mounted on it. Ed has never been one to settle for standard when unconventional is possible, and Kari has long recognized the value of a strong brand, which Snappy’s is focused on building.

But the real highlight is all about the flavor. Drawing on their years of experience in the culinary industry, including time at some of Maine’s most renowned resort destinations such as Sugarloaf, Migis Lodge, and the Black Point Inn, Ed and Kari have created clever topping combinations that take your standard red snapper or all beef hot dog and deliver an entirely new and unique experience.  I’ve never had a hot dog quite like these. Take the “Don’t You Forget a Banh Mi” dog, for example – my choice largely for the addition of jalapenos – which features a special Banh Mi slaw, hoison mayo, and lime juice. I honestly could have eaten the topping all by itself – it was that good. In combination with the Pearl casing all beef hot dog, a smooth base for the tart and tangy flavors of the slaw, it was truly outstanding.

Simply stupendous 'Don't You Forget a Banh Mi' dog

Simply stupendous ‘Don’t You Forget a Banh Mi’ dog

Similarly, many people love the Salty Dog, which features savory sauerkraut, and the just launched ‘Born to Brie Wild,’ which I plan to try as soon as possible.  Snappy’s offers the Pearl casing, all beef hot dog I mentioned as well as the classically, fantastically Maine red hot dog.  Frankly, if you’re Maine-raised like me, you probably have fond memories of biting into many a red snapper at family cookouts, at fairs and festivals, and for dinner when Mom was away and Dad manned the grill.  A red snapper from the aptly-named Snappy’s will deliver a wave of flavorful nostalgia for you.  Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post all about the history of the red hot dog.  It’s fascinating and not to be missed.

Most days, Ed, Kari, and the Snappy’s Tube Steaks truckster can be found on the Eastern Promenade in Portland from approximately 11am – 5pm. In addition to a stunning ocean view, this spot offers open space, a playground, and picnic tables, making Snappy’s a perfect lunch out with the kiddos.

Picture perfect setting for a classic hot dog delight!

Picture perfect setting for a classic hot dog delight!

In addition to the daily gig, Snappy’s is available for special events and can often be found at a craft brewery or festival over the weekend days. Keep your eyes peeled for your opportunity to experience tube steaks like never before!

Find them on Facebook or follow them @snappysmaine on twitter!


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Best Baking: Two Fat Cats Bakery

Bakeries abound in the bustling foodie city of Portland, Maine, sending tempting sweet and savory smells out into the street air to mingle with pedestrians and lure them in. I’ve had the very good fortune to visit a few of them recently, including Bam Bam Bakery, Holy Donut, and Big Sky Bread Company, while others include Rosemont Market, Foley’s Cakes, and more. While I found Bam Bam’s treats delightful, and Big Sky warm and welcoming with a gratifying approachability, my visit to Two Fat Cats just the other day was completely charming.

We ducked in briefly to wrangle some pastries and desserts for a brunch at my aunt’s home, but the few minutes we spent inside (not to mention the treats we enjoyed later) were sufficient to win me over. The space inside for customers is small, as if to say, “our focus is baking, after all,” and I found this very appealing.  This isn’t a place you go to take advantage of free wifi – it’s a place you go for excellent baked goods.

We were greeted by the sight of  a tall rack stacked with cooling pies.  Pretty, picture-perfect pies.  I couldn’t resist a little on-the-spot photography:

Oh yum...

Oh yum…

After descending a small set of stairs, we moved to the glass counter to make our selections, which showcased frosted cookies, fluffy scones, tidy turnovers, and other delights, and ended up with a colorful assortment:

Delicious!

Delicious!

I specifically chose two blueberry scones because they looked so good, but I’ll be honest, I was prepared for disappointment.  I’ve been excited about scones far too frequently only to be let down by dry, crumbling, flavorless bites.  I am so happy to report that Two Fat Cats’ scones are an outstanding exception.

Hands down, this is the best scone I’ve ever eaten.  Just moist enough, with a little drizzle of icing, it was spectacular.  Between the atmosphere and the product, I was and am completely sold on this bakery.  While I can’t speak for the other goodies personally, I can say the frosted sugar cookies were a big hit with my kiddie cousins, and my aunt couldn’t keep herself away from the peanut butter cookies, so I’d rank it a success all around.

If you are in the greater Portland area, this is a must-visit for any bakery needs!

Two Fat Cats Bakery
47 India Street
Portland, Maine 04101
207-347-5144


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Clam It Up in Yarmouth

Oh boy!! Next weekend brings to you my very favorite Maine summer event, the Yarmouth Clam Festival. Kicking off on Friday, July 17th, the Festival ushers in three days of fun and food, great for all ages.

I may actually squeeze in a visit this year (which is VERY exciting), before a big 50th anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle at the beautiful Black Point Inn. In case I don’t, let me reminisce and share a few and recommendations now:

The arts and crafts show still stands as one of the best I’ve attended. Rows of original artwork and quality home craftsmanship stretch across the North Yarmouth Academy Lawn and are well-worth a visit, Friday and Saturday 10am – 9pm and Sunday 10am – 5pm.

Ladies, I’m thinking of you when I recommend the Firefighters’ Muster (wink), held on Saturday from 1pm – 330pm on Main Street at Memorial Green.

Naturally, there’s an impressive and varied selection of clams, other fried foods, and I imagine somewhere in the mix, something ‘healthy.’

There are road races, fun runs, live music, cooking demonstrations, carnival rides, and much more. Bring the sunscreen, family, and friends and be ready for a great time!


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A Cozy Caffeine Fix at Coffee by Design

I’m opening this post with my punch line right up front: Coffee by Design served up the prettiest dang cup of coffee I have ever seen.  I mean, really, take a look at this image of brewed perfection:

One lovely, photogenic caramel latte

One lovely, photogenic caramel latte

Oh, and it was delicious, too.

Admittedly, I’m far from a coffee aficionado.  I first began drinking coffee regularly at my first job, which stocked only regular old Folgers and perhaps even more appallingly, powdered creamer.  Sorry, but that stuff is disgusting.  Now I’d give serious consideration to drinking my coffee black before using it, and I’m a “I’ll-have-a-little-coffee-with-that-milk” kinda girl.

Incredibly, this taste-bud-offending introduction to coffee did not deter my venture into the benefits of the caffeinated state, and I’ve gone on to have many more coffee experiences – most good, a few less appealing.  Perhaps I have a much greater appreciation for good coffee now than I would have without that introduction.  For example, I recall my first Starbucks Vanilla Latte with glee.  My eyes were opened to an entirely new world of possibilities.

Our Coffee by Design experience was enjoyable from beginning to end.  We spent about an hour in the Diamond Street location before it was time for Nick and me to go to the Portland International Jetport for our return to Georgia (and warmth, and no snow – it has pros and cons).

Display and merchandise area

Display and merchandise area

Coffee by Design touts themselves as creating ‘handcrafted, micro roasted coffee,’ and I’d concur that the micro roasting of coffee delivers the same value we all associate with micro brewing (uh oh, I’m sounding a bit like a coffee snob).  Their location at Diamond Street is also a roastery, and large glass doors give the patrons a view from the coffee bar space into the micro roastery, where large steel tanks also call to mind microbrew tours.  There is something surprisingly beautiful and striking about clean, industrial spaces like this one.

While waiting for our coffees to be ready, both my husband and I wandered the space, enjoying the various pieces of art and the many posted anecdotes regarding the owners’ journeys to discovering the best of coffee (check out their “Travel to Origin” and “History” sections for more insight).  These images and descriptions were my favorite part of the decor – it humanized the business and made the owners (and staff’s) commitment to crafting superior coffees very evident.  Although I haven’t been to their other locations, I hope they also include these interesting stories that reinforce the business’s commitment to economic and social sustainability.

photo 2

While the latte was excellent and the atmosphere and decor attractive and welcoming, certainly the most special part of the hour or so spent in the coffee bar was the time it gave my family to simply visit.  We grabbed a table in the back corner, surrounded by four comfy leather chairs, and spent the remaining minutes before our flight talking, planning our summer vacation in the Sebago Lakes Region, and sharing new insights gleaned from the various Maine-based magazines scattered around – Down East (of course), Maine Home+Design, and more.  I left with a strong appreciation for the time and space we had the opportunity to enjoy there.

Coffee by Design is an impressive and admirable business.  Their story reflects the many special characteristics I’ve come to associate with Maine and the people who live there: a commitment to honesty, to doing the right things in the right way, and supporting other businesses, both local and international, who also uphold these values.

Go in and get a cup!  Or for Mainers far from home like me, visit the online shop.


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From Down East Magazine: Uncle Henry’s Takes Over the World

If you’re from Maine, you can imagine my excitement when a Down East Magazine email entered my inbox with the leading story, “Uncle Henry’s Takes Over the World.”  I have been waiting for this day since I was a child poring over the pages, fascinated by the heart-racing possibility of finding exactly what I wanted in the next ad – and giggling over the sometimes outrageous descriptions.

Okay, I admit, to suggest I have been “waiting for this day” as if with bated breath is a bit strong, but the simple truth is, if you have Maine roots, you likely also have a deep affection for Uncle Henry’s weekly publication of down-home classifieds.  This article by Down East sums up what is so special about it, and why even in today’s internet age, Uncle Henry’s has continued to thrive.

For me, Uncle Henry’s is all about possibilities.  As a little girl, it was the possibility of finding my first horse (and I searched tirelessly).  As an adult, I see it as the possibilities of community, and human connection, and giving a new life to things that still have a lot to give in return.


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Maine and Loire: Shop Wine the Natural Way

It is a nearly universally accepted truth that wine is intimidating.  Even now, as someone who knows a fair amount about wine and someone who certainly knows what she likes in a wine, I am apprehensive about engaging in conversations with another person who “appears” to be quite well-versed in the language of wine.  It’s human nature to want to be right and to be perceived as knowledgeable – and let’s face it, wine is just hard to know.  There are so many varietals, and the same varietal may be called one name when grown in one region, and another when grown somewhere else.  Add in labels in French, Italian, German, and heck, even English – and you’ve got an awful lot of ways that people can feel, well, ignorant.

The label says it all.

The label says it all.

But here’s one thing you can know: when you shop at Portland’s newest wine shop, Maine & Loire, no matter what bottle you buy, you’re getting a low intervention wine.  So what does that mean, and why does it matter?  Fundamentally, this approach is based in the belief that the entire process of making wine must be rooted in respect for the land (terroir) and the natural development of quality grapes into quality wine.  In layman’s terms, it means chemicals aren’t applied in the vineyard (or very minimally), it means the grapes are cared for and harvested by hand, natural fermentation is allowed to take place (no manually added yeast), and it means the aging and preserving process is impacted as minimally as possible by additions like sulfites, which occur naturally in wine and are often added as a preserving measure.

It was this last item that excited my husband, Nick, the most.  The morning after he and my dad consumed an entire bottle of Pinot Noir, purchased during our visit to Maine & Loire, he enthused, “And I don’t even have a headache!”  What a proud moment.

While the emphasis on terroir driven, low-intervention, and natural and organic wines sets Maine & Loire apart as a shop, there is no question that it is the welcoming, knowledgeable owners who make it come to life.  As they say on their website, they celebrate wines that are “alive and soulful,” and believe firmly in only selling those wines they also love.  Their recommendations come from the heart in addition to a wealth of research.  As Peter said, “what you see in the store represents more than a year of research.”  For impact’s sake, I have chosen to interpret this to mean an entire year’s worth of hours – 8,760 (but perhaps I’m being too literal).  Regardless, a great deal of time, energy, and care has gone into the selection they present in their bright, industrial space.

 

Labeled shelves and plenty of open space make for easy browsing.

Labeled shelves and plenty of open space make for easy browsing.

If you’re on the fence about visiting, you shouldn’t be.  Check them out (and scoot next door to Maine Mead Works while you’re at it) at 63 Washington Ave, Portland, Maine.  In fact, they have their first tasting coming up next Saturday, January 31st from 2pm – 5pm.  My number one recommendation when you visit: talk to Peter and Orenda, the owners.  Get their guidance and recommendations – and don’t be intimidated by the labels and languages.  Wine is meant to be enjoyed first – only discuss it if you want to.

As Maine & Loire’s site says, drink more wine!

 


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Don’t Miss Out: Eat Drink Lucky

Today’s post is simply a brief recommendation to check out (and sign up) for Eat Drink Lucky, the Portland, Maine edition.  A few months ago, I discovered them on Twitter and signed up for their free, daily e-newsletter.  Given Portland’s status as a foodie city, it seemed like a wise way to stay in touch with Portland’s exciting culinary ventures when I’m far away.

(Unfortunately for me, reading about all of the great edible things happening 1,000+ miles away has only made me incredibly jealous of all of you lucky people who live in close proximity.)

Jealousy aside, I’ve enjoyed every edition.  The newsletter is cleverly written, brief, and regularly introduces me to, or reminds me of, fun cultural events and dining (or drinking) opportunities.

For example, I was inspired to post about them today specifically by their “Drink” section, which clued me into Rosemont Market’s three wine tastings this week (and next) that will be geared toward helping you select the perfect Thanksgiving pairing.

Happy wining and dining!