DAM Good Eats Presents: The Downtown Press Café

By Eryn Finnegan and Jeremy Austin President and Staff Reporter

   The latest excursion found our food reviewers once again at a local joint: The Downtown Press Café. Located in downtown Farmington on Marceau Court, in the building where the former Asian cuisine restaurant – Sweet Ginger – once operated. Downtown Press Café is known for their wide array of paninis, breakfast sandwiches and signature waffles.

   The inside of the restaurant has received a substantial makeover since its Sweet Ginger days. The walls are now a warm shade of orange and the counter has moved from the corner of the dining room to a more central location right outside of the kitchen. This gives the space a sense of openness, and creates an inviting atmosphere. T-shirts, mugs and other Downtown Press Café merchandise sit on a shelf off to the side next to the restrooms. There’s also a small coffee and tea bar with a cooler of cold beverages.

   Journalism club president Eryn Finnegan kicked off her meal with a small cup of cheeseburger soup (minus the bun). The cheesy broth, vegetables and beef meatballs evoked the flavors of a traditional cheeseburger, and was just small enough to fill her stomach temporarily and keep her hungry for the main course.

   Following the soup, Finnegan dove into the “Sweet Mama,” a panini layered in crisp, smoky ham, fresh pineapples, and enough honey mustard to lightly coat the bread – but not so much that it dripped from the sandwich and made a mess. The honey mustard was key in tying everything together as the blend of flavors was surprisingly sweet and tangy, creating a memorable flavor profile.

   Staff reporter Jeremy Austin ordered the Whistle Stop, a panini consisting of oven roasted turkey, applewood smoked bacon, tomato, provolone and pesto mayo. The combination was absolutely delicious, and has become the standby order for this staff reporter. The sandwich remained clean and intact, yet was still satisfactorily saucy.

   Along with the paninis, the writers split a five-cheese pizza. It had asiago, romano, parmesan, provolone and mozzarella with a marinara base and Italian spices. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a simple slice of cheese pizza, and this particular one packed a lot of flavor with its blend of cheeses. The pizza was less a pie and more of an elongated flatbread design, giving it a more gourmet appearance.

   Though these reporters were too full by the end of their paninis to experience the sweet side of the Downtown Press Café, dessert options were plentiful and tempting. Dessert offerings can range from cinnamon buns to cupcakes and tarts. In addition to baked goods, the café also offers dessert waffles – with new daily flavors.

   For college students keeping to a tight budget, the Downtown Press Café is worth a try. The café’s menu is plentiful, and a full meal consisting of a panini, a drink, and a soup or a side comes to less than $20.

Dam Good Eats Presents: Calzolaio

Dam Good Eats Presents: Calzolaio

By Jeremy Austin and Eryn Finnegan Staff Reporter and President


The Fish N’ Chips had crispy, flaky skin, while retaining flavorful juices inside. (Photo by Jeremy Austin)

    The Flyer’s dam good food recently visited Calzolaio Pasta Company, a higher-end restaurant located in a tall, dark red building lined with fairy lights and surrounded by a river cutting the road off from the parking lot. A fifteen minute drive from the UMF campus in Wilton, ME, Calzolaio is a place with an expansive menu and creative flavor combos, but runs high price-wise, so be ready to splurge.

   After sliding down the steep hill to the door, these reporters were greeted with soft folk music, a black and white film on one screen, and hockey on the screen behind the bar. While a reservation was not necessary for entry, every entrant was asked if they had one, and for good reason; the restaurant began to fill quickly when we were getting ready to leave. Thankfully, our writers managed to slide in just before the dinner rush.

   Our reporters were seated at a comfortably small table, with an assortment of red and white flowers in the center alongside tall bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Wanting to live a little, one reporter ordered an Italian Pilsner beer while the other ordered a pineapple vodka and raspberry mixed drink called the “C’monIwannadrinkya.” Even before dinner was served, our reporters were well on their way to an entertaining evening.

   Crispy bacon coiled loosely around shining white scallops, coated in a thin glaze of maple syrup set the tone for their taste buds. Though our reporters were only given four scallops total, it was an appropriately sized appetizer, just enough food to leave a good taste and get them revved up for their entrees.

   Staff Reporter Jeremy Austin ordered the Fish N’ Chips. Calzolaio’s rendition of the dish consisted of a plentiful helping of batter-fried haddock accompanied with hearty, crispy curly fries. A small ramakan of tartar sauce sat nestled between the mountains of food. The sauce was not only delicious when liberally applied to the batter-fried haddock, but it proved to be a delicious accompaniment to the curly fries as well.

   Journalism club president Eryn Finnegan ordered “Tenderloin Tips and Ravioli Bluebeard,” which consisted of several juicy steak tips on a kabob skewer, ravioli with a blue/purple mushroom sauce reminiscent of a blueberry sauce, and a small pot of sweet potatoes. A bite with all four components at the same time was a well crafted symphony of flavor, and each component separately was also tasty. The exterior of the steak was crunchy and charred to a crust, with the inside still juicy and flavorful, the standout component of the meal based on taste, but the blue mushroom sauce was both exciting visually and regarding flavor. This is a good sauce to try for eaters who may not like the texture of mushrooms, but still enjoy the flavor.

It was halfway through this portion of the meal where Austin decided to try one of  Calzolaio’s wines, and he ordered a glass of pinot noir. With the deep, sultry red of the wine and its rich and dry yet fruity taste, it proved to be a satisfying beverage indeed. While one writer tapped out for the evening after her entree, the other nobly ended his meal with a divine piece of Toll House pie and a hot cup of black coffee.

Dam Good Eats Presents: Adventures to The Big Stop

By Jeremy Austin & Eryn Finnegan Staff Reporter & President

After a long trip, these voracious writers, stomachs fiending for a scrap of food, searched for a quick, cheap alternative to the fast food, which they spent too much money on already. They stopped at the ever-familiar truck stop on Rt. 4 Wilton Road, nestled between the credit union and the Farmington Ford/Mercury dealership: The Big Stop, a restaurant attached to a Circle K and an Irving. It’s a wonderful place to pick up a hot batch of mozzarella sticks -bursting with gooey cheese, or a large slice of the rich chocolate cream pie.

   Stepping into the Big Stop, one nearly forgets they have also stepped into an Irving gas station. The two entities are separated enough to allow for an immersive dining experience. Soft yellow lights warmed the dining area as the sun set outside, and the smell of grilling meat and fresh, generously salted french fries wafted from the kitchen doors and out to the bar where they waited to be seated. After missing out on breakfast sandwiches with donuts replacing the bread, the duo was ready to devour anything on the menu that looked remotely appetizing and nutritional. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as their eyes scanned the spiral bound menu, but it was quickly evident their sandwich craving had not fully subsided.

    Fortunately, a hot reuben and a delicious-looking whiskey BBQ burger came to save their hungry stomachs. The reuben was quite delightful. Its sauerkraut, corned beef and Swiss cheese all working in perfect harmony with every bite. The sandwich was served on marble rye bread and, although still hearty in its own right, was panini-esque in nature. Thousand Island dressing was served on the side in a small plastic cup, which the reuben (or the fries it came with) could be dipped in. Either option is highly suggested.

   The Whiskey BBQ Burger was a standout item on the menu, boasting sizzling, steaming grilled patties and homemade whiskey barbecue sauce. this burger paired with a steaming batch of fries is a fist pump of greasy, indulgent, tasty victory. Sauteed onions spilled onto the plate with each bite, the tomatoes were juicy, and the whiskey BBQ sauce gave a small burst of heat just intense enough to keep me wanting more.

   In terms of ingredients, the burger and fries were standard, but the fact that they were cooked perfectly elevates this classic pairing. The flavor of the onions, tomato, burger, and sauce all in one bite offered a reminder that these recipes and ingredients are cooked together for a reason: they balance each other out by offering spiciness, sweeness, and saltiness simultaneously.

   Bookending these lively entrées were mozzarella sticks and slices of chocolate cream pie. The mozzarella sticks, though small in number, were big in flavor. Each bite left behind thick tendrils of cheese as we pulled the sticks apart: the mark of a true artisan mozzarella stick. The slices of pie were about the width of Eryn’s face, but that didn’t stop these reporters from stuffing their faces until their lips had been replaced with crumbs, smears of chocolate frosting and whipped cream. Jeremy’s fiance, who had decided to accompany them on this culinary adventure, was clearly unimpressed by these animalistic behaviors.

   Overall, while their appetites at the time may have influenced their ratings, the writers were pleased with the food and the service that the Big Stop provided. The writers give The Big Stop a rating of six mozzarella sticks out of six—they would most certainly be eating there again.

UMF Establishes Student Exchange Program with Al Akhawayn University in Morocco

By Eryn Finnegan President

UMF Interim President Eric Brown recently visited Al Akhawayn University (AUI) in Ifrane, Morocco, to establish a student exchange program, effective starting the 2019-2020 school year. A public, nonprofit liberal arts college situated in the Middle Atlas mountains, AUI possesses many similar characteristics to UMF.

   Brown pointed to AUI’s population of 2000 students, American-based curriculum and English-speaking opportunities as major reasons for partnering with AUI. Brown also cited AUI’s course catalogue, noting that the way they set up their classes and majors is similar to UMF.

   “Some schools you really need to speak the language, such as [Le Mans University] in France,” Brown said. “Here, any student can get by with ‘survival’ Arabic and be very home at that campus.” AUI has several international students from the U.S., Europe, and Africa.

   Brown expressed interest in creating further student teaching opportunities for Education majors, noting the private K-12 school attached to the university.

   “We’re looking into having Ed majors do their student teaching there if they so choose to,” Brown said. “It’s a pretty unique system; I think the high school is technically on the campus itself, and the K-8 campus is just a ten minute drive away.”

   AUI also has a program called “presidential interns,” focused on graduating students who might be interested in a Fulbright or the Peace Corps. For either a semester or the whole year, they place students in different administrative parts of the school, such as first-year students or working with admissions or curriculum.   

   The city of Ifrane has a market, a downtown with shops and restaurants and nightlife, 10-15 minutes from campus. Brown offered a small smile as he scrolled through photos of his trip on his iPhone, showcasing the colorful tapestries and cloths, tall piles of spices and architecture. Leaving the city and approaching campus, Brown also saw 800-year-old Cedar forests, snow and apes flying through the trees.

   “When people think of North Africa, they tend to think of deserts and camels, but this school is very much like us in geography and climate,” Brown said. “They had snow on the ground, they have a snow and ski team, and the opportunity to do serious skiing in the High Atlas mountains. I’m hoping to entice their students to come ski in Maine.”

   Brown discussed his first trip to Morocco nearly 20 years ago and how this trip led to this new partnership between UMF and AUI.

   “I traveled through Morocco for a summer about 20 years ago, and one of the places I stopped was this (at the time) brand new university, AUI,” Brown said. “Twenty years pass, and we’ve been thinking, where else can we extend opportunities for our students? I thought back to AUI and early this summer, I reached out to the president, Driss Ouaouicha. He agreed there were similarities between our institutions and he invited me to visit and give me a tour of the campus and surrounding area.”

   Brown said that both presidents agreed that the missions of their respective universities are largely the same, embracing liberal arts education and teaching students critical thinking.

   “[UMF’s mission is] supporting the liberal arts in a way that draws the best out of students and professors, through undergraduate research,” Brown said. “A well-rounded, comprehensive education, being able to really think with versatility about a range of issues; that’s at the heart of the liberal arts mission for me.”

   According to their website, AUI’s mission is “educating future citizen-leaders of Morocco and the world through a globally oriented, English -language, liberal arts curriculum based on the American system,” as well as “[enhancing] Morocco and [engaging] the world through leading-edge educational and research programs.”

   Brown also spoke of significant differences, particularly in terms of culture. “There are very few clocks; banks here always show the time, but there, the day is structured around Islamic prayer times,” Brown said. “It doesn’t feel as rushed, as if every minute has to count down to something. It’s more in-tuned with the natural rhythms of the day, sunrise and sunset.”

   “There’s a lot of continuity between our institutions,” Brown said. “If you’re interested in international business or North African cultural studies, a lot of their programs go along well with ours. They contribute to a rich and historic tapestry.”

   “I don’t think we’d find another school in the world so close to our mission and feel,” Brown said.

  Students interested in learning more about Al Akhawayn University can visit their website at http://www.aui.ma/en/.

UMF Graduate Brings Fiction Writing Contest to UMF for Second Year

By Eryn Finnegan President

  The Islandport Magazine fiction writing contest is back for its second year. This contest is held in partnership with the UMF creative writing program and is open exclusively to UMF students of any major.

   Islandport Magazine is a quarterly publication from Islandport Press, located in Yarmouth. The winning piece will be featured in the spring 2019 issue, with 40,000 copies distributed to their readers, over 100 stores across the state, as well as subscribers of the Maine Sunday Telegram.

   The only requirement is that the pieces must be based in Maine. How writers choose to tackle this requirement is up to them. According to Shannon Butler, a 2013 graduate of the UMF creative writing program and creator of the fiction writing contest, Maine does not have to be explicitly mentioned; it can be represented through setting, character or mood.

   “Most of what we got [last year] was pretty straightforward fiction, the daily lives of New Englanders represented in different ways, which was a lot of fun,” Butler said. “This year, I really encourage subtlety. You don’t have to have a lobsterman character; you can feature much more of Maine than just what people know.”

   Creative writing major Aimee Degroat won the first contest with her piece, “Where He Ain’t.” Her piece, published in the spring 2018 issue, was well received by Butler, her coworkers and readers of the magazine. Butler cited the reception of the winning piece as a major reason the contest is being held again.

       Butler created the contest as a way to promote fresh Maine voices. “We wanted to break out of the Portland market since it’s saturated with writers and artists, but Maine has so much more talent around the state,” Butler said.

   Butler also mentioned the lack of magazines focusing on fiction writing as inspiration for the writing contest, calling Maine a “hub for fiction writers, readers, artists and creative communities.” She suggested to her colleagues that the contest pull from UMF’s creative writing program after thinking back to her classmates.

   “When we started the magazine, we wanted to keep [Islandport Press’] core values of promoting Maine and New England talent,” Butler said. “We wanted to make sure we were featuring fresh voices, so I was like, why not feature the freshest voices? I said, ‘let’s go back to UMF,’ and my coworkers were really supportive.”

    Butler first discovered Islandport Press when she successfully sold them an ad for a poetry book while working as an intern for Caribou based magazine Echoes. Her apprenticeship at Echoes oriented her career aspirations toward the world of publishing, though she still manages to write everyday.

   “When I left [Echoes], I started angling myself more towards publishing than writing because I became more self aware,” Butler said. “I’m more of an active reader now, but I’m still engaged in the writing community. I write press releases and emails now. I edit pretty much daily.”

   Butler also stressed the importance of being a skilled writer and communicator, and that a writing degree can lead to many job opportunities.

   “The great thing about a writing degree is you can use it anywhere,” Butler said. “There’s publishing and editing, but pretty much every kind of industry has room for writers. Hospitals need writers, nonprofits need copywriters and people to write press releases. There’s so many options for writers that aren’t just writing.”

   The deadline for the Islandport Magazine fiction writing contest is December 31st. Students interested in participating should email any questions and/or submissions to magazine@islandportpress.com. For more information, visit their website at www.islandportpress.com/writingcontest.