When Pigs Fly
The baking masterminds behind When Pigs Fly bread cook up delectable dishes in Kittery.
By Kathy Gunst
Photographed by Ted Axelrod
When Pigs Fly
460 US Route 1, Kittery
Calling When Pigs Fly restaurant in Kittery a pizzeria is like saying L.L. Bean sells tents. But there it is, just north of the outlets on Route 1, a large building set back from the road with a wide expanse of lawn in front and a sign: “When Pigs Fly: Bread Outlet and Pizzeria.” Step inside the high-ceilinged, industrial space and your nose will be the first indicator of good things to come. The smoky scent of two wood-burning ovens envelops you like a warm welcome.
On a Friday night in early fall, the place is packed. Reservations are only accepted for large parties, so expect to wait during peak times. Waiting can make you grumpy, so take a seat at one of the tall tabletops in the bar area and order a drink. The beer menu alone offers more than twenty choices, with brews made in Maine, Pennsylvania, California, Belgium, Denmark, and more. Noise is an issue here, and the atmosphere in the bar area was dominated by the blasting of some (very bad) eighties rock. This is not the spot for a quiet romantic dinner. The overall noise level has improved since they first opened in 2011, however, with the addition of sound baffles strategically placed throughout the restaurant.
Appetizers can be ordered while waiting for a table, but it’s not easy to home in on the best choice: everything on the extensive menu sounds delicious. House-made charcuterie includes thinly sliced jambon de Paris, a hunk of moist duck and pork terrine, and thick slices of garlic and spicy fennel sausage artfully arranged on a slab of black slate. The meats are served with house-made cornichons, pickled red onions, bread and butter pickles, mustard, and a deliciously sweet and spicy date and fig conserve. Exceptionally tender octopus comes with “dragon sauce,” chunks of squash, spicy sausage, and a drizzle of sesame oil — a complex mélange of textures, flavors, and spices. The pickled vegetables offer a colorful combination of cauliflower, carrots, red peppers, garlic, and more, packed into a Mason jar, served alongside a creamy, herb-flecked ranch dip.
Chef Ben Hasty grew up on a farm in nearby South Berwick, where his father raises livestock and sells to top local restaurants. Hasty buys a whole pig from his “Pop” once a month for When Pigs Fly, and uses it to make the house charcuterie, as well as fresh hams, Canadian bacon, and more.
He’s only twenty-nine years old, but Hasty’s résumé reads like a chef more than twice his age, with stints at award-winning restaurants like the French Laundry in California, Arrows in nearby Ogunquit, the Dunaway in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Hugo’s in Portland. When he met When Pigs Fly’s owners, brothers Andrew and Ron Siegel, he felt he had an opportunity to serve the kind of food he loves best.
“This food is fun and funky,” Hasty explains. “I want people to crave the food they eat here and not just think of this as a place to come for birthdays and anniversaries. I want them to come back week after week.”
Hasty appears to be achieving that goal, as steady repeat customers come back for his collection of pizzas, pasta, salads, and sandwiches. His skills, it turns out, extend far and wide. The spaghetti carbonara was wonderfully creamy, made with Benton’s bacon, coarsely cracked black pepper, cheese, and a lightly poached egg yolk (centered in the middle of the tender pasta), which exploded on contact. The Belgian endive salad was presented like a geometrically designed work of art — crisp endive wedges criss-crossed with sweet, thin slices of green apple, sprinkled with creamy bleu cheese, spiced walnuts, and fresh chives dressed in a light vinaigrette.
But the main draw is the pizza. Again, the choices are vast and untraditional: Medjool date and sopressata sausage with red sauce, basil, mozzarella, and chile-infused honey; or ratatouille and goat cheese with fennel and olives. There’s lobster pizza and pies with duck confit, butternut squash, kale, and Swiss chard. Diners can also choose from a long list of fresh ingredients to create a custom pizza.
The chicken and bacon pizza has a gorgeously charred crust. Thick, tender pieces of chicken and bacon are paired with an onion cream, sautéed spinach, and Fontina and bleu cheeses. Though it sounds a bit like overkill, this pizza is spot on. It has a great balance of textures, sweet flavors, and fabulous cheeses.
For dessert, the Cookie Trio featured three housemade cookies paired with extraordinary flavors of ice cream: Heath chunk cookie with chocolate sorbetto, cinnamon cookie with peppermint gelato, and chocolate sea salt cookie with burnt sugar almond swirl.
Yes, I am already craving more.
Kathy Gunst is the author of fourteen cookbooks. Her most recent book is Notes from a Maine Kitchen (Down East Books, 2011). She is the resident chef for NPR’s award-winning show Here and Now.