Distiller Ned Wight can trace his heritage through a long line of distillers, starting with his great-great-great-grandfather John Jacob Wight, who ran the Sherwood Distillery in Hunt Valley, Maryland in the 1850s. The family business shuttered in 1958, and the legacy seemed lost to the annals of time. That is, until Wight?a former brewer at Allagash Brewing Co.?moved the operation and opened New England Distilling in Portland. Wight has filled his distillery with a blend of new and old-fashioned equipment, from a custom-built traditional copper pot still to barrel racks salvaged from his ancestral distillery.
Wight's spirits, like his distilling process, are an exercise in creative fusion. Each spirit's unique flavor comes from New England grain combined with recipes from around the world. This trio of craft spirits includes Gunpowder Rye, a spicy Maryland-style whiskey caramelized in the copper pot still, Ingenium Gin, a Dutch-style sipping gin made with exotic Southeast Asian botanicals, and Eight Bells Rum, crafted with Caribbean molasses and aged in bourbon barrels. Their unusual characteristics?and Wight's unorthodox operation?have earned praise from publications such as Maine Magazine.
Urban Farm Fermentory aims to obtain as much of its ingredients from the local community as possible—even its founder, Eli Cayer, is a Maine native. At the Fermentory, juice pressed from Maine apples is allowed to ferment under the direction of yeast that occurs naturally in the air and on the fruit itself, producing a cider that is as tart as it is dry. Raw Maine honey goes into the experimental center’s crisp mead, and its kombucha is sure to please lovers of fermented tea and displease the ghost of Earl Grey. As it expands, the Urban Farm Fermentory is coming to serve as a hub for local artisans, providing a space for enthusiasts to provide workshops in such fields as making lacto-fermented foods such as kimchi, and harvesting mushrooms.
In June of 2012, the Portland Press Herald lauded the recently opened Spread for bringing “urban couture to Portland” with a space where “every surface seems to twinkle.” A month later, the paper was still raving about the eatery, which it described as a “modern art gallery meets bar.” It’s easy to see why: chandeliers hang above lounge furniture and original artwork, while exposed brick and a backlit wine bottle display serve as the bar’s backdrop.
As upscale as the decor, the menu includes smoked local squash with creamy fondue, slow-cooked lamb shoulder, and seafood chowder with housemade bacon. To accompany meals, bartenders pour wine and mix classic or contemporary cocktails from a drink menu that the Portland Press Herald regards as “nothing short of spectacular.”
The food at Mediocre Deli & Pub isn’t mediocre; in fact, it’s “well above mediocre” according to the Portland Press Herald, which added that its unique name is “a badge of deli confidence, eye-catching and ironic.” Owner Aaron Plourde and his wife Cindy may have a sense of humor about the deli’s name, but his deli’s food is downright serious.
They stock their sandwich station with five kinds of cheese and a huge variety of fresh breads. Design-your-own pizzas heap savory meats, cheeses, and veggies atop freshly made crusts. They also dish lighter eats, such as salads, kids' meals, and Maine-style italian sandwiches.
When she's developing a menu, executive chef Rae Hebert doesn't start with the dishes. She starts with the people around her. What do local Maine farmers and artisans have in store? she asks. What did they grow, craft, or raise this season, and what do they anticipate having in a few weeks? That's why the menu at Wild Duck Pub changes with the seasons, just like the color of tree branches' mood rings. Hebert's lunch and dinner menus each average seven entrees and just a handful of smaller dishes, which lets the kitchen team home in on?and perfect?every bite. Even the burger, for instance, features a Maine-raised grassfed beef patty. And the BLT, that humble American staple, gets an upscale reboot with basil mayonnaise and fresh mozzarella.
A ground-to-glass facility, Maine Distilleries controls every step of its small-batch production to create award-winning vodkas and gin. The process starts on a farm in Fryeburg, where the business grows its own Maine potatoes. Eventually, those potatoes are combined with water sourced from the Cold River, and after three rounds of distillation, the final, gluten-free product lands inside hand-numbered bottles. Maine Distilleries' spirits are available in 26 states, and its highly detailed process has even been featured on the History Channel.