It’s Moxie Festival Weekend and I charge you all with participating in this fabulous Maine event, even if it’s only vicariously from your own kitchens.

If you want to get serious about it, though, throw on your best orange duds (or at least accessorize) and get yourselves over to Lisbon. The festivities begin Friday at the high school, where you will find me at the Recipe Contest judges’ table at 5 p.m. sharp, sampling dishes infused with the soft drink that put this town on the map. It’s the highlight of my summer, and the third year I’ve been involved in this Moxie mission. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

I’ll admit I lived in Maine for two decades before I ever put my lips to a can of Moxie. Then I met Julie-Ann Baumer, a Lisbon native who gives new meaning to “moxie,” i.e., “peppy, cheery, and decidedly different.”

When I first met her, Julie-Ann was in charge of the Moxie Recipe Contest. Five years later, she heads up the whole shebang. I credit her with bringing me into the Moxie fold, and here I will stay. Along the way, I’ve met some fabulous cooks who know what to do with Moxie besides drink it.

One of those people is Brian Lovering, who has entered the contest and won in his chosen category for four years. Last year, he wowed the judges with his tacos, named after his partner Holly, who had recently passed away. He said, “Holly loved food trucks so I wanted to make traditional, comforting street food.”

He incorporated Moxie to de-glaze the Dutch oven after browning the roast, simmered it in the soda, then combined a Moxie reduction into the taco sauce to finish these tasty tacos.

Shelley Tebbutt also took away a top prize for this silky, satisfying crème brulee. You’ll want to keep a batch of Moxie reduction syrup on hand at all times so you can make it on a whim, or any time you want to impress someone, even if it’s just yourself.

Do me a favor. Get yourself some Moxie and use your imagination. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

Holly’s Heavenly Street Tacos: a distinctively different way to bring that famous Moxie flavor to your taste buds. Andree Kehn / Sun Journal

Holly’s Heavenly Street Tacos

2 liters Moxie
2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast
2 tbsps. olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Cavender’s Greek seasoning, to taste
6 cups beef stock
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 Vidalia onions, diced
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chipotles en adobe, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped and seeded
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
Salsa of your choice
Moxie reduction syrup*
20 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed

Rub meat with salt, pepper, and seasoning. Sear all surfaces in Dutch oven until browned. Remove meat, discard any remaining oil, and deglaze pan with 12 ounces of Moxie. Place meat back in pan with garlic, bay leaves, onion, salt, pepper, and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer at medium to low heat, covered, for 3 hours. Remove from heat, uncover and cool.

Shred meat and place in a large bowl. Mix in lime juice, chipotles, and tomatoes. Serve on tortillas with salsa combined 2:1 with Moxie syrup* (see below). Garnish with avocado. Yield: 20 tacos

Moxie-Infused Crème Brulee

1/2 cup Moxie reduction syrup*
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
Additional sugar for caramelizing
Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, fresh mint

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine heavy cream, whole milk, Moxie reduction syrup and vanilla in a double boiler. Cook over boiling water for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool 10 minutes.

Use an electric mixture to combine egg yolks, whole egg and sugar. Add the cream/milk/syrup mixture in a steady stream. Gently stir to combine ingredients then pour through a fine strainer and skim off foam.
Fill four 4 oz. ramekins half-way and place them in a large baking dish. Pour enough hot water around the ramekins until it reaches half-way up the sides. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the crème brulee sets.

Allow to cool slightly. Dust lightly with sugar. Follow butane torch instructions to caramelize the top of each crème brulee or place under broiler, watching carefully until tops are browned. Garnish with berries and mint. Chill. Yield: 4 servings

*Moxie Reduction Syrup

Pour 1 liter of Moxie into a large saucepan. Cook, uncovered, on medium-high heat, for approximately 75 minutes, or until the Moxie has thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup in volume.

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