Tonight, Meredith and I enjoyed a private peek into part of Portland’s food and cocktail future with a sampling of two future area establishments, and I’m happy to report that the town seems to be in good hands.
The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club has been on our radar ever since Andrew Volk and his wife Briana announced their creative idea after moving from the other Portland, where Andrew was an award-winning bartender at one of our favorite Portland, OR restaurants, Clyde Common. The concept is brilliantly simple – a club where the craft cocktail comes first, an “ever-changing cocktail menu that will reflect Andrew’s experience and passion in the industry”. There’s a membership aspect to the club that features, among other things, personalized cocktail menus, trips, tastings, partnerships with other bars, and annual and monthly events, including their “Hush, Hush” speakeasy (to which we were fortunate enough to score an invite), featuring talented chefs alongside Andrew’s cocktails. How amazing does all of this sound? Sign us up!
The third of the Hush, Hush events took place last night at Might & Main’s awesome new digs on Fore Street. The space is perfectly Portland and perfectly Might & Main, and having worked with these talented folks in the past, I was excited to catch up with them and others over drinks and food.
The drinks. Andrew absolutely killed it with the libations. Featuring the Fernet Branca portfolio, each cocktail was pleasantly unique, inventive, and flavorful. We started with a refreshing Herb of Grace Punch (Candolini Ruta Grappa, black tea, oleo-saccharum, and lemon juice), which judging from what I’ve read about the bitter Candolini Ruta Grappa, “refreshing” is no easy task. Next, was the Punt e Mes Sangaree (Punt e Mes, Royal Rose Tamarind, nutmeg, and grapefruit peel). This one was slightly heavier than the first, but delicious none the less, and seeing the Biddeford-based Royal Rose Syrups being used was a huge plus. Unfortunately, in the excitement over the cocktails, the accompanying food (which I’ll get to in just a minute), and the pleasant company, Meredith and I accidentally skipped over the third offering: the Saffron Sour (Fernet Branca, Royal Rose Saffron, egg white, and lime juice), but we have it on good authority that this one might have been the best of the bunch! Finally, the Fratelli Stinger (Brandy, Branca Menta, and a lemon twist) finished our drinks for the evening with a deep citrusy mint send-off.
You’d think that all of the above would make for a good post, but I’d completely fail you if I didn’t tell you about the second half of this tasty evening – the food. Chris Gould (of Boston’s Coppa and Uni) prepared an exceptional spread of small plates to accompany the cocktails. Chris, with his wife Paige, is planning on opening a “seasonally inspired small plates restaurant with international flavors” sometime later this year, and if the dishes we sampled tonight were a fair preview, this yet-to-be-named place will quickly rise to the top of any Portland must-eat list. Chris’s Little Neck Clams (with a lobster emulsion, uni, and wheat berries) and Goat Cheese (with Za’atar, dried olive, and lavish) were flavorful but perfectly balanced, and I could have eaten the Smoked Brisket (on homemade potato rolls, with dijon mustard, and pickles) until I had to be carried away. The Yellow Fin Ventresca (with preserved orange, anaheim peppers, and celery leaves) however, was a dish that left me sneaking back, again and again. And again.
I think that when it’s all said and done, the hardest part of last night’s Hush, Hush is the waiting game we’ll now have to anxiously play until both of these places find their permanent homes. Until then, you can rest assured that we’ll be keeping our ears to the ground for any updates, and that when they do open their doors, they’ll have at least two faithful patrons waiting on the other side.