WISCASSET—Lobster. Blueberries. Beer. Maine’s most well-known fare is synonymous with the state. But, what about sea salt? Seaweed? Kombucha and Jun? The native products that can be derived from Maine’s land and sea are so much more and Maine Tasting Center aims to educate the public about it, while providing a brew-pub style space to taste all of it.
Sara Gross, general manager, and her parents Andy Gross, president, and Elizabeth Gross, chef, opened the Center the first of July, transforming what was formerly Judi’s Country Store into a compound of small buildings. It is the first statewide tasting center of its kind focused on elevating the recognition of all of the food and beverage products that Maine produces.
“We aim to be a promotional hub for all of these industries,” said Gross.
With a background in community engagement for a history museum, Gross is a natural docent when it comes to the varying industries.
“Some industries have a higher capacity for marketing than others, so we want to introduce both the tourists and locals to the variety of Maine-made foods and beverages,” she said. “We’re hoping to create brand loyalty to all of these Maine products, which they can either take home with them, find here in Maine, or order online.”
The brew-pub style tasting room is outfitted with a bar, inside tables, outside tables on a dog-friendly deck, a full kitchen, and a retail area for food and beverage. On the menu board, patrons can sample Maine-made beers, wines, ciders, meads, and non-alcoholic sodas. Each month, a new brewery is featured with beers specifically from their lineup. Bateau Brewing out of Gardiner was the first featured brewery in July.
On the food side, small plates range from mini lobster rolls to finnan haddie paté. A cheese and charcuterie build-your-own board are also available, along with a smoked seafood board.
Each week, the Tasting Room prepares a bite-sized pairing, such as a Ricotta Toast with basket ricotta made from Lakin’s Gorges cheese, with a one-ounce semi-sweet mead from Honeymaker.
The Learning Center, a separate building, is currently still in the middle of a build-out. When it is done, it will have a demonstration kitchen, a large video monitor to amplify what the guest chef is making, and seating for 54 class participants.
“Our core classes will be deep dives into particular industries, rather than straight-up cooking classes,” said Gross. “For example, we’ll be piloting our first class on Maine wild blueberries for Maine Blueberry Weekend (August 7 & 8) taught by a nutrition advisor for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. We’ll be working with experts in these industries, so people will learn all about how for example, the blueberry industry operates in the state, what are the economic impacts, what are the struggles and successes so forth. Throughout the class, everyone will have the opportunity to sample a variety of wild blueberry value-add products like candies, jams, wine, and more.”
“We love eating,” said Gross. “We are a family of foodies and our family vacations would always include visits to farms, cheese makers, fish hatcheries, wineries, breweries—all of that.”
Gross, who moved from Michigan to be near her parents and create a business around their shared love of these experiences, hopes to convey the Maine experience to all who visit the Maine Tasting Center. “The best part is that so many of these producers are willing to open up and share with the public what they’re doing and making.”
The business is located on Route 1, but the physical address is 506 Old Bath Road, Wiscasset.
For more information visit: Maine Tasting Center
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org