​Longstanding Falmouth restaurant offers tasty and wide-ranging selection of Italian

I was recently invited to Ricetta’s to try what they had to offer. I had been there before, but not in several years, so I figured this would mostly be a new experience for me. We went on a Sunday night since that was the most convenient time to get to Falmouth, which is a little outside of my usual restaurant visiting area.

The bar menu was extensive, offering many beer, wine, and liquor selections. I was looking for a basic cocktail and went with the Lemon Drop Martini – housemade Lemoncello with Ice Pick vodka in a chilled glass. I passed on the sugar rim. My wife opted for the house pinot grigio with St. Germain liqueur, fresh squeezed lemon and orange then finished with a splash of Sprite.

Once we received our drinks, we put in some orders for apps. We requested Stromboli Bites ($9) – house-made dough stuffed, rolled and baked in our brick ovens. We also added samples of the Meatball Marinara ($7) – mini house meatballs and house marinara sauce, served with garlic ciabatta – and Fried Calamari ($12) – tender calamari dusted and fried then tossed with hot cherry peppers and served with marinara sauce for dipping.

Our apps came out very quickly, starting with the meatballs and calamari. I went for with the meatballs first. They were a little more meaty and dense than I am used to, but the seasoning and sauce were on point. After a couple of those, reached for the calamari. Those too were well seasoned. The tender squid and cherry peppers were a well done example of the common starter.

As soon as we were done the first two apps, we placed our main course orders and our stromboli came out. There were three “carne” with mild sausage, pepperoni, and mozzarella and three “primavera” with sauteed spinach and mozzarella. I commandeered the ones with meat and Mrs. Portlandeater gladly took the veggie version.

A couple bites into the stromboli, I was impressed. I really liked the dough and found it to be well-stuffed with the meat and cheese. All three of our apps came with marinara and I enjoyed that too, using a fair amount on the turnover. Those seemed to be a particular hit at the table as we ate them quite rapidly, finishing every last bite.

Like clockwork, as I was chewing on my final morsel, the entrees came out. I had the Abbondanza Sandwich ($13) – hot Italian sausage with roasted peppers, roasted onions, roasted garlic aioli and mozzarella cheese. For her, it was Chicken Caesar Salad ($9 w/o chicken) – chopped hearts of romaine and homestyle croutons tossed in our house Caesar dressing with pecorino romano.

My first bite of abbondanza reminded me of New York street sausage except that it was on a bun instead of in a roll. I enjoyed the heat of the pork and the roasted veggies. All together, it combined for a really tasty meal. I also had a large pile of crispy fries to go with it which I happily shared with my wife.

She enjoyed her salad, but commented that it was a little light on dressing. I had a bite and confirmed that it was tasty despite the modest dosing of sauce. We worked hard on all our food, but both started getting full before completely finishing our meals. I finished most of mine and she had a fair bit of salad to take home.

We packed up the Caesar and took home a few house-made cannolis which turned out to be excellent, especially the ones with little chocolate chips at the end. I enjoyed Ricetta’s, much the way I remembered liking it many years ago. Everything was good, but I found favorites in the stromboli and my sandwich. Don’t shy away from any of the other items though. They offer tons of wood-fired and grilled options. Head there next time you’re in Falmouth with a hankering for Italian.

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World’s Best Lobster Roll Competition ends in stunning upset

The field had been narrowed down to 12 competitors for the World’s Best Lobster Roll Competition by the time the Downeast Lobster Roll Festival came to Thompson’s Point in Portland. Those 12 – eight from Maine and four from away – brought everything they had to earn the title of World’s Best Lobster Roll.

Rules were simple – everyone who had a VIP pass received three tokens. They could try any and all the rolls and distribute the tokens among the entrants they felt were best.  All three tokens could be given to one, one each could be given to three, or any combination thereof. From there, the field would be narrowed to three finalists and five judges would determine the very best on earth. 

The competitors were as follows:

The Lobster Lady – Phoenix and Isle aux Haut, Cousin’s ME Lobster – Los Angeles and others, Sea Ray Lobster – Bar Harbor, Northern Maine Community College – Presque Isle, Freshie’s Lobster Co. – Park City, Utah, Stonington Ice Cream Co. – Stonington, The Clam Shack – Kennebunkport, Bob’s Clam Hut – Kittery, Bite Into ME – Cape Elizabeth, The Highroller Lobster Co. – Portland, Eventide Oyster Co. – Portland, Luke’s Lobster – New York City and other

I made my way around the room at Thompson’s Point trying each of the rolls over the course of an hour or so. To wash them down, I took advantage of the Allagash Hoppy Table Beer being served. As I walked around grabbing the lobster sandwiches one by one, I made note of the ones that stood out among the rest grading them all on a scale of 0-100 like I was scoring a test.

There was no doubt that these were all some of the best rolls on the planet – all of A to A+ quality. The Lobster Lady had the biggest rolls – full-sized and overstuffed with meat. When I noted that they were huge, she asked if they were bigger than the others. I responded in the affirmative and she said “this is what we do.”

Northern Maine Community College’s Rob Ottoviano was particularly passionate about his roll, made with Maine maple syrup and presumably lots of love. He had an entire cheering section wearing promo t-shirts and roaring for their guy. His mother made a plea for one of my tokens as I went by and devoured his creation.

Some rolls were warm and some cold. Some had butter, some mayo, and some a lemon slice. A few had seasoning or greenery. They were all excellent, and all of them added ingredients to the lobster that enhanced, but didn’t overwhelm it. To my dismay, I had to make decisions about which were my favorite.

Unfortunately, there were four that stuck out to me. While my 100 point scale never left the 90s, those four were in the 98-99 point range. The first was Freshie’s Lobster Co. The rolls were simple, high quality, and made with fresh ingredients. They gave my mouth the happies.

My next choice was Northern Maine Community College. The hint of sweet maple was nice, but it was also the first roll I had that came with a lemon wedge. It was good without lemon, but – and this may sound crazy – a squeeze of lemon made it just unbelievable. That acid addition transformed it into something incredibly special.

For my last pick, it was a coin toss between Stonington Ice Cream Co. and The Clam Shack. Stonington’s roll had a bit of onion which gave it a freshness that the others didn’t have. The Clam Shack’s offering was on a bun instead of a roll and kept it basic with mayo and a nice portion of lobster. I found their simplicity alluring, but in the end, I dropped my token in the Stonington bucket.

At approximately 1:30 we learned the three finalists were Freshie’s, Northern Maine Community College, and The Clam Shack. I was off by one, but glad to see many in agreement with me. With some time to check out the festival, I went out and did that with anticipation of viewing the final judging at 3:30. Unfortunately, everyone was soon forced inside due to the weather and the final round took place at 2:30.

After the judges sampled the sandwiches and deliberated, the crowd awaited a winner with great anticipation. When the announcement came, the final results were in favor of…drum roll please…Freshie’s Lobster Co. 

Freshie’s owners Lorin Smaha and her husband originate from NH and ME respectively and she had told me she didn’t believe there were any advantages to coming from outside as a competitor. Nonetheless, they overcame that to win the title of World’s Best Lobster Roll.

Those who stayed for the final round were treated to a free roll. It was an excellent experience and all the competitors deserve high praise for their great products. Congratulations to the three finalists and especially Freshie’s for representing Maine lobster so well in Utah.


Special thanks to Kathleen Fleury of Downeast Magazine for the invite and Lorin Smaha of Freshie’s Lobster Co. and Sarah Sutton of Bite Into Maine for their thoughts on the competition. 

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​The first ever Downeast Lobster Roll Festival is almost here

On Saturday, July 8th from noon to 5pm,  the Downeast Lobster Roll Festival will take place at Thompson’s Point in Portland. There`s hardly a better place for it than the seriously up-and-coming site which will feature The World’s Best Lobster Roll Competition, bringing with it the greatest, tastiest lobster sandwiches in the country to determine which is the very best on the planet. 

In case lobster is not enough, rest assured there will be more than just the pride of the Maine seas in store. Live music, games, and lots of other food and drink will be present and available for purchase. Bring the whole family or don’t and just gorge on earth`s favorite consumable crustacean all by yourself.

But about that lobster roll competition…After receiving countless entries, the participants were narrowed down to just 12 finalists who will go head-to-head at the beginning of the day with the winner being announced at 3:30. Of those 12, eight are from ME and four are hoping to upset the locals.

One of the certain favorites in the competition is Bite Into Maine in Cape Elizabeth. Sarah and Karl Sutton, owners of the renowned trailer with stunning ocean views, assume a Maine competitor will win and promise that their entry is “a little out of the box – but not too much”. They look forward to bringing their food and story to more Mainers.

Freshie’s Lobster Co. out of Park City, Utah is one of those from away that has made the final 12. Owners Lorin and Ben Smaha grew up in New England – he in Cape Elizabeth and she in NH – but know they will be at somewhat of a disadvantage. “It seems to me like Mainahs might be more skeptical of us because we are from out of state,” Lauren notes.

Both competitors focus on the classic roll and look forward to sharing their best with the crowd on July 8. I look forward to eating all of them and giving my thoughts on which one truly is the best on earth. If you haven’t bought tickets yet, they start at $10. 

For more information on the Downeast Lobster Roll Festival, go to downeast.com/lobsterroll/. Hope to see you there!

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​What to expect when the new bar with a secret door opens tomorrow

 

Portland has been waiting with great anticipation for a bar that will finally be open to all on Friday at 4pm. Sitting quietly at 26 Exchange St., Blyth and Burrows offered media a preview of what was in store and I happily attended. Created by owner Joshua Miranda, B & B was built with the War of 1812 and two of its fallen captains – both of whose burial sites are in Portland – in mind. That war and those captains are reflected in everything about the locale.

 

Upon entering, patrons will be greeted by the bar on their left and a shelf with seating straight ahead. Past the bar and a few steps up will be another bar – where the oysters are housed – and some additional seating. But that’s only where the fun begins, because from that room, a secret door will lead down the stairs and into The Broken Dram.

 


A speakeasy is cool, but it’s also particularly noteworthy because it will have a completely different theme than its upstairs big brother. The music, food, drinks, and entire concept will be completely its own. Cool drink pairings will highlight the menu. And in case that’s not enough, there will be a secret entrance in from the alley and also another disguised door to a lounge which will be full of Victorian themed furniture.

 

The drink menu in the main bar will be separated by flavor profiles using period trade routes. I recommend Blood of the Incan – pisco, solerno, blood Orange agave, lillet rose, lemon, cranberry bitters – from The Americas column. Strong and fruity, the drink feels right when sitting at the bar. If a little adventure suits you, you might try the first drink on Silk Road – General Tso Fashioned – rittenhouse rye, dry orange curacao, teriyaki, ginger lemon, hot pepper bitters.

 


Food at the bar will focus on sea creatures with raw, cold, and hot options. One raw example, the Scallop Crudo with black garlic, dashi, cucumber, pear offers sweet and subtle flavors. More crudo, tartar, and of course oysters – by the six or twelve – will be available. Oyster lovers will enjoy the multiple accompanying condiments.

 

Cold options on the menu will include Hummus and Tapende – yuzu, castelvetrano olives, seasonal vegetables, black sesame – a light but flavorful offering. The Lobster Roll – Maine lobster, miso aioli, house bao – provides a Maine standard with a twist. The delicious Bahn Mi – marinated pork, pate, cilantro, Vietnamese pickles – seems perfect to eat with the General Tso Fashioned. Hot items will include crab cakes, oysters, ribs, and more.

 

Adding to the fun of sitting at the bar, the staff will be well versed in the history it is based upon, having been required by Miranda to read Knights of the Sea. Portland was heavily entrenched in the War of 1812 and now we have a location that remembers it. What else can you expect from Blyth and Burrows? Well, that, like much of what you’ll find there, is a secret…until you visit for yourself.

 

Stay hungry.

 

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Local beer pairing dinner is what you never knew you wanted

It was just recently…very recently, in fact…that I reviewed a special menu at UNION. But with the opportunity to attend a media dinner and sample their newest foray into food and beverage pairings, I thought it appropriate to let my readers know what’s in store. This time it was the first of what they plan will be monthly pairings for the restaurant, offering a set price for four courses, each with a beer from that month’s local brewery. This month’s featured brewery? Maine Beer Company.

Starting with a pre-game Lunch – that’s one of the MBC beers – we whet our appetite for dinner. Once our first beers had been finished we received a pour of the – hold the capitalization – a tiny beautiful something. With a single, uniquely flavored hop, atbs carries a distinct flavor. Within a few sips of that, we were given an app of Hamachi Crudo – olive oil, muddled cucumber, chili, mint.

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What stood out to me on the app were the cucumber and mint. Distracting me from the fact that I was eating raw fish, it provided a refreshing flavor that injected a little bit of cool summer breeze into my life. I might be getting used to uncooked seafood a bit after years of mostly avoiding it, but for now, I’ll attribute that the the excellent work of an accomplished chef.

Our next pour was Another One. Born from an experiment that involved brewing a dark and a light beer with the same hops, this light, delicately flavored liquid was the survivor. Of note, at least one local bar won’t serve it, because “I’ll have another one” is too ambiguous of an order when a beer by that name is on the menu.

With the AO, we were served some bread with sea salt and hop butter and then Braised Local Rabbit – house green curry, kaffir lime, sweet potato. The braised hopper was absolutely delicious with some some lemongrass, cilantro, and spice notes too. While the curry was nice, the transformative parts of the dish to me were the cilantro and lime. And if that seemed odd, it was even more strange that the lime went exceptionally well with the sweet potato. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that combination, but it was utterly brilliant.

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The third dinner beer was Woods and Waters. Named for the Katahdin National Monument, we were “warned” of its piney hops which it turned out were indeed a reminder of the woods. With that beer came the most beautiful plate of the evening – Roast Local Leg of Lamb – barley porridge, hops and spruce gremolata, smoked carrots.

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Obtained from North Star Farm in Windham, the lamb was brined with beer and salt. The gremolata underneath added a little garlic and the porridge was just right. The carrots lit my mouth with the sweet smile of maple. The plate felt like a full meal unto itself, though it was sized appropriately for the circumstances. I finished it and was ready for final course.

MO was the last beer of the night. Brewed to be right between the Peeper – their first beer – and Lunch, so as to be not too heavy or light, it was different than most final beer pairings which feature a thicker, heavier brew. However, this one was intended to not fill up that last bit of space in the diner, therefore saving room for dessert which for this meal was Honey Panna Cotta – caramelized bananas, vanilla bean fritter, honeycomb, toasted macadamia.

When the dessert came out, it didn’t look like much. It didn’t feel like I was looking at the love child of Gene Simmons and a proboscis monkey either, but it just didn’t have the beautiful colors the other plates had. That didn’t matter to me as I tried the panna cotta with some banana and nuts. It was good and I figured I’d follow that up with one of the two fritters. Those stopped me dead in my tracks. The fritters were undoubtedly the best I ever had with the fry-iest, most decadent, texture and rich, doughnut-like flavor. What a creation!

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After I stopped reeling from the power of the fritter, I was able to eat the rest of my food including the second fried ball of battered divinity. It was a great cap to a meal that featured foods from the light to the hearty. A little bit of rich sweetness provided just what I wanted in a final course and as I wrapped up, I felt like I had accomplished something, eating a meal that had so many pleasant flavors.

I really liked what UNION did with this meal. First of all, they put out some awesome food. Regardless of whether you order from the menu or eat a prix fixe meal, you’re sure to get something great. But the pairing with a top shelf local brewery is a long overdue endeavor. More restaurants should be doing this. As the craft beer explosion continues and Maine nears 100 breweries – yes, we’re almost there – restauraunts will only benefit from working with them. Congratulations to UNION and Maine Beer Company for both putting out great product.

To reserve your spot at the “Dinner with Maine Beer Company”, call 207-808-8700. Seating times are every future Wednesday in May at 6:00 pm. Tell them Peterpeterportlandeater sent you and let me know what you think.

Stay hungry.

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Ten things I love about you Silly’s

I’ve been to Silly’s on Washington Ave. more than any other restaurant in the greater Portland area. My wife and I absolutely love it. She took me there shortly after we first started dating and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. But you might wonder what it is exactly that makes them one of my favorites and the restaurant I go to most often. Well here is a list of ten things I love about Silly’s.

1. The quirky atmosphere

The crazy atmosphere is one of the major components that makes Silly’s what it is. Random bright colors, interesting decorations, and a downright mish-mosh of design I’ll coin “modern madness” create a feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. Once you walk into Silly’s, you feel as though you left behind the outside world and walked into a fun house of food.

2. Names of menu items

With the most interesting food names in the city, just looking at the menu is fun. Not up for The Empire Strikes Mac – a meaty Mac and cheese concoction – or WeeBee Jammin – a jerk chicken plate? Check out the specials menu where you might see alternate choices like Faux-ghetti Bout It  – a vegan spaghetti squash meal – and Turnip The Volume – turnip fries with dipping sauce.

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3. Delicious food

I’m pretty sure the menu at Silly’s was made primarily by repeatedly taking a bunch of awesome stuff, mixing it all together, and coming up with a name for it. Take the KaaNoodling for example, with peanut butter ginger scallion garlic sauce, rice noodles, peppers and char-grilled chicken topped with cilantro and lime wedges. How could that possibly be anything but awesome? It couldn’t and it’s not. Plus, they have the second best vegan/vegetarian menu in town which means they’ve got something for just about everyone.

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4. Hot sauce

Every time I ask about the hot sauce, I get a different answer as to what’s in it, but I guess it doesn’t matter. That’s because it is the best hot sauce I’ve ever had. I just can’t get enough of it and will put it on virtually anything they serve from pasta to nachos to fried chicken. The heat definitely adds up over time, so use caution when eating it if you’re sensitive to spice, but definitely try it, because it’s incredible.

5. Cake

Yes, Silly’s has awesome desserts too, but nothing quite matches up to their amazing cakes. With lots of fruit flavors, varieties of chocolate, and everything else you can think of, the list is always changing. On my most recent visit, I had the Peach Cream – peach cake with cream cheese frosting – and it was insanely great.

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6. Eat at Silly’s

It’s not just a slogan I love, it’s a command I follow. Look around and you will spot the phrase in any number of places including tons of pictures with the “Eat at Silly’s” bumper sticker in all parts of the globe. Sure, it might be a little demanding, but eating at Silly’s does sort of seem like sound advice, so why not take it?

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7. Brunch

Like the non-brunch food, the brunch menu includes all manner of crazy options with lots of delicious ingredients you never thought to put together. Including the sweet and no-so sweet, your favorite tweener meal is sure to be downright awesome at Silly’s. And with create-your-own Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, they’ve got some of the very best brunch drinks in town.

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8. Lemonade, Limeade, Kool-aid, Tang

What do these four drinks have in common? Silly’s carries them all! Sure, lots of places have lemonade, but the other three are rarely seen around town. For me, the fact that they carry limeade is enough to merit some sort of award, but if you aren’t invigorated by a tall glass of Kool-aid or Tang, you might have forgotten what it’s like to be young. For those of you who prefer milkshakes as a reminder of your youth, they have those too.

9. Outside terrace

The outside terrace at Silly’s is definitely one-of-a-kind. With old wooden doors creating a barrier wall, toilets used as planters, and all manner of wild decorating, the terrace is the place to be when the weather is nice. The scenery is enough to keep your mind occupied while you’re out there, but add it to all the other great aspects of the restaurant and you’ve got something that makes Silly’s even more enjoyable in the warmer months.

10. Great value

Nothing at Silly’s is small. In fact, sometimes we go and only order apps like nachos or fried pickles which is often plenty. But the portions combined with with prices that are among the most reasonable in all of Portland always make me feel like I won when I leave. When you’re done, you’ll probably have enough to take home for tomorrow’s lunch too, all for a price that’s less than you’d ever expect.

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Those are ten things I love about Silly’s. I’m sure you’ve been, but if you haven’t, stop reading and head there now to experience all they have to offer. I’m never more than a short time away from going, so maybe I’ll see you there.

Stay hungry.

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Latin food and mezcal dinner make for a great night

I was recently invited to a media dinner at Sonny’s on Exchange St. to sample some food representative of the new direction in which they will be taking their menu and also to try some Del Maguey Mezcal to go with it. With the opportunity to not only try the food and beverage, but also get some insight as to how the spirit was produced, I looked forward to learning almost as much as eating.

 

My evening started with a beverage, the Pufferfish – mezcal, cocchi rosa, dry curacao, lemon, absinthe. The drink was light pinkish in color and nicely permeated by citrus with a smokey mezcal highlight. It was an excellent drink and a particularly appropriate prelude to the meal. I sipped it and mingled for a bit before it was time to be seated for some food.

 

The meal started with Fish Chicharron. The raw fish bite wasn’t exactly what I was dying for considering that I’m not much of a connoisseur of raw seafood. However, when I finally unearthed the courage to eat it, I found it to be pretty solid and maybe an indication that I should try more raw swimmers in the future. I don’t have much to compare it to, but I felt it would be worth eating again which surprised me. This course was paired with Chichicapa mezcal.


Our second food of the evening was Moqueca Custard – coconut, chile, octopus. Not exactly a custard, the take on a Brazilian stew was delicious with a bit of heat throughout from the chile. I love octopus, and the pieces of the eight-legged sea squirmer were quite the tasty topper to the thick, creamy broth.

 

Next up was a “Chicken Caesar” Taco. The small taco was absolutely delicious with its soft shell a great holder to the bird, greens, and other flavor enhancers. I took a few bites and it was quickly gone. Then I commiserated with others at the table about how we wondered if there were more of them available.

 

Huarache with fermented salsa and epazote – or Mexican tea – was the fourth course. It was paired with Santo Domingo mezcal. Normally made with meat, the hurache was vegetarian and might have been one of the tastiest meatless dishes I’ve had. Sitting on a tortilla, the offering was teeming with flavor. A really well put together item, I was a little sad when it was done.

 

Last on our plates in the savory category was Cochinita Pibil and a taster of Minero mezcal. Marinated and wrapped in banana leaves, the hunk of Yucatan style meat was served in a large rectangular portion. Tender and very tasty, there was so much food, that I was somewhat full after eating it all, which was fine since it was essentially the entree.

 

As a pre-dessert dessert, we had the opportunity to try Tepache with meringue, canela, citrus. Tepache is a sweetened, fermented beverage made with pineapple. With fruit, flower petals, and hard crisps of meringue that were cooked at a low temperature for 18 hours, the plate was light and tasty with plenty of acid, some of which was from lime.

 

The final dish was “Mole” – almond tortilla, smoked chocolate, fruit nixtamal. There was a scoop of whipped cream next to it all. The nixtamalization of the fruit refers to soaking it in an alkaline solution – lime based in this case – to soften it. The chocolate was much better than the standard and added a great component to the combination. Chocolate and fruit is always great, but the smoke and citrus notes earned extra credit. Tobala mezcal rounded out the final course.


Sonny’s meal was a fun experience and the Latin food was truly enjoyable. The tacos and huarache are certainly worthy of menu appetizer status. The other items seem like they would do well on there too. Either way, if this is the type of menu Sonny’s is working toward, it seems to be a good choice. The food has flair, flavor, and doesn’t feel like other restaurants in Portland.

 

Del Maguey mezcal was excellent too. We had the opportunity to try four of them per above and they all had their own unique qualities. Each made by a single family in a different village in Mexico, the spirit supports producers who are competing against major corporations to sell their wares. There are significant flavor differences in each one, the result of differing agave species, growing regions, ages, roasting durations, fermentation times, and the like. Find all the details on their website at delmaguey.com.

 

If you are looking for a mezcal a bit on smoother side, you may want  to try the Chichicapa or the Minero. The Santo Domingo was a little harsher up front as was the Tobala, though a little less so. Try any of the Del Maguey mezcals and remember that if you’re drinking Del Maguey, you’re helping to support a hardworking family in Mexico. Since drinking is a philanthropic endeavor, head over to Sonny’s to have a mezcal cocktail and a bite to eat and feel good about yourself.

 

Stay hungry.

 

Hungry for more? Get notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry by clicking the “follow” button on the right side of this page after entering your email address directly above it. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

 

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow @portlandeater on Twitter. You can now also find me at pppe.bangordailynews.com.