Recently, I was lucky enough to connect with one of our favorite food and liquor vendors, The Dogfish Company. Dogfish has two locations, 953 Congress Street and The Dogfish Bar & Grill, as well as their beverage catering branch, Spirits Bartending. Many brides entrust them to handle either their catering or bartending needs (often times both.) I cannot even find a way to begin explaining how awesome these people are. I was able to hear from both the founder, Ted Arcand and the lovely general manager, Courtney.
1) What inspired you to open Dogfish Company?
So Ted Arcand attempted to explain the story of Dogfish Company a few ways, but eventually he decided that he couldn’t improve on perfection and he directed me to his “Our Story” page on thedogfishcompany.com. Truthfully, I was so into the way he explained things I was content to just leave it be anyway!
“In my mind the Dogfish Company was established in 1987, while watching a sunset on a beach in Menemsha Harbor on Martha's Vineyard. Legally we were recognized as a formal corporation in the state of Maine in 1995. In 1987, I had only just started working in the restaurant biz, but somehow I knew, someday I'd own a restaurant. Drinking beers with my old friend Beanz on that beautiful beach, I told him so. "Beanz someday I'm going to open a bar called the Dogfish Bar & Breakfast Café?"
His response was: "Will I be able to drink for free?" (NOTE - I must meet Beanz)
A very costly promise I often now regret making! In 1995, the Dogfish Company, Inc. was organized. Back then we trained young minds to bartend & also had a beverage catering business Spirits. In 1999, we opened the Dogfish Market in Portland's West End. We were open 7 days a week, morning to night. We served the best breakfast sandwiches in town, great big deli grinders (does anyone remember the Manic Molly?) & had an assortment of beer & wine for sale. We ran the market for 5 years & gained a small but loyal customer base. With Chris Roux, my good friend & longest tenured Dogfish crewmember at the helm, I was free to look into other opportunities. In 2002, I noticed a vacant building for sale in Portland's prominent St. John neighborhood. (Insert tongue in cheek.) In early 2003, the Dogfish Café opened. Small (real small,) intimate (real intimate), but very successful, we were soon looking to expand the Dogfish empire. In 2006, I acquired the building at 128 Free Street & soon we were running the second Dogfish location, the Dogfish Bar & Grille. We continued to build our beverage catering biz, Spirits, & now that division is a very significant part of the puzzle. We cater events of all different genres, all year round and love doing it. We are lucky enough to have people come on for Spirits events and have a staff at the restaurants who are interchangeable enough to work them as well.”
2) What are you determined to bring to every event you work for? What sets you apart?
"Spirits Bartending was founded with the idea that every aspect of your beverage needs should be available from one source. You shouldn’t have to coordinate between the bartender, the liquor store, ice & rental companies, caterers, etc. Planning for your bar service should be a pleasant & convenient experience. It should be planned by people who are experienced in all aspects of beverage service. It should be handled by friendly, helpful staff willing to take the time to work out every detail to make that special occasion perfect. If you are looking for a specific item, we will do everything possible to get it for you. If you want to have a signature drink, we will invite you into one of our restaurants to brainstorm and taste(!) what you have in mind. We work and have great relationships with many local vendors & venues. No matter what the event is, we want your day to go smoothly and without hassle. We have prided ourselves in mastering that for over 15 years!"
3) Are there any trends you’re seeing in drink requests for weddings in particular?
"One of the fun things about working with events is you never know what requests you are going to get. Everyone is so different that it is difficult to name a particular trend! When a couple is interested in having a signature drink for their wedding, it can go a couple of different ways. Sometimes they know exactly what they want and have already chose a name for their cocktail. A lot of times, couples are unsure. They have an idea and a direction but are not positive on how to put it together. In this case, we invite them into one of our restaurants for a sit-down. So many elements can go into a signature cocktail! Of course there is the basic like and dislike of certain liquors, but what about the time of year? The location? Will grandma like it? This process lets a couple figure out what they want, gives a little insight into their personalities and shows them how their cocktail will be recreated exactly on their special day."
4) What advice would you give to people looking to hire bartending professionals?
"Most people are aware that Portland is quite the foodie city, but what a lot of people don’t realize is Maine is quite the event state. Each year, resources continue to grow as more vendors and venues pop up all around us. Planning an event of any size can be a lot of work, but our state allows you the ability to have options. Don’t settle for the first Google link you see. Take your time and choose what works for you. There is a great company at www.thedogfishcompany.com……… ;)"
5) If Granite Ridge were to have a signature drink, what would it be?
"Granite Ridge is so hard to define with a signature cocktail. There are so many different ways to go. When thinking of Granite Ridge though, we think of Maine. People have a tendency to zero in on Maine’s amazing coastline and forget the vast expanse of beauty throughout the rest of the state. Granite Ridge is a perfect example of classic and rustic Maine beauty. What’s better to drink in the Maine woods than whiskey? (I TOLD YOU I LIKED THEM FOR A REASON!) Especially when you can combine it with some delicious local ingredients. We would recommend a Blueberry Old Fashioned. This is a spin on a drink that is as classic as the gorgeous mountain view you will take in while enjoying one! Maine is known for blueberries and while they have their particular season, they are enjoyed year round. Add a dash of Maine Maple Syrup for an autumn spin when the weather gets colder." (I will be making this ASAP it already sounds ridiculously delicious.)