Local sandwich shops built a 144-foot Maine Italian sandwich in Monument Sqaure in Portland in 2018. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Everyone knows Maine as a mecca for lobster, and most probably have some association between blueberries and our state. But there’s another category of quintessentially Maine food and drink that people from away might not even know exist.

Whoopie pies are Maine’s official state treat. Photo by Doug Jones

They’re decidedly untrendy and, in some cases, acquired tastes. But if you’re looking for an authentic Maine culinary experience, put these on your required eating list.

WHOOPIE PIE

The two round chocolate cakes with a creamy white frosting between them are ubiquitous throughout the state, from convenience stores to boutique bakeries. There’s even a festival held in their honor every June in Dover-Foxcroft. But the sweet sandwich has had more than its share of controversy, starting a debate among state legislators in 2011 about what should be the official state dessert. Although blueberry pie won out, the whoopie pie was named the state treat. That, however, riled up people in Pennsylvania, who claim it originated there.

The brown soda in a bright orange can has a flavor that’s difficult to describe (some say licorice) – and that people either love or hate. Lianne Milton photo

MOXIE

There may have been less dissension over Moxie’s designation as the official state soft drink in 2005, but that doesn’t mean the beverage hasn’t caused many a dispute. The brown soda in a bright orange can has a flavor that’s difficult to describe (some say licorice) – and that people either love or hate. It all began in 1884 when Union, Maine, native Dr. Augustin Thompson whipped up a carbonated tonic called Moxie Nerve Food in Lowell, Massachusetts. Fast-forward to the 1920s, when Moxie outsold Coca-Cola on a national scale. By the ’50s, the love affair was mostly over except for here in New England. These days the mysterious elixir is bottled at Moxie Beverage Co. in Bedford, New Hampshire, and has a cult status that apparently again got the attention of Coca-Cola, which purchased the company last year.

Fiddleheads are only available for a few weeks in spring. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

FIDDLEHEADS

Fiddleheads are the coiled fronds of young ostrich ferns that resemble the head of a violin, hence the name. They crop up only for a couple of weeks in the spring, when they are foraged in the wild and sold at farmers markets and in grocery stores. Popular preparations include battered and fried, sautéed or boiled and served with butter and salt, but however you make them, make sure to cook them well. Raw fiddleheads have been known to cause food poisoning.

Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy has long been the best selling liquor in Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

ALLEN’S & MILK

Maine’s love affair with Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy knows no limits. Even when the trendy cinnamon whisky Fireball outsold Allen’s in dollar figures for the first time last year, the coffee brandy remained the most popular liquor in the state, in terms of volume purchased. Bottled in Somerville, Massachusetts, by the longtime spirits family M.S. Walker, Allen’s arrived in Maine in the late 1960s, and the first to soak it up were Down East fishermen. It’s typically served with milk over ice, better known as a sombrero, among some other names less fit for print.

W.A. Bean & sons in Bangor is the only company that makes red hot dogs in state. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

RED HOT DOG

Sure the color is, well, kind of garish, but that hardly matters. These dogs are called red snappers for a reason; they have bite. The original can be traced to before the turn of the 20th century, though the first to dye their dogs red is in dispute. Now, Bangor’s W.A. Bean & Sons is the only company making them in state. Since 2016, Dexter has held a festival in their honor.

ITALIAN SANDWICH

Italian sandwiches exist elsewhere but the term means something different in the state of Maine. Created by Giovanni Amato, an Italian immigrant who had a bakery on Portland’s India Street in Portland in the early part of the 19th century, it’s made with ham, American cheese, pickles, olives, onions, tomatoes and green peppers on a very soft roll. The Amato family went on to create an empire of take-out eateries, and the ingredients in its Real Italian are replicated by sandwich shops all over the state.


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