Maurice Bonneau is Maine’s Michelangelo of Meat, a butcher of incomparable skill and creativity who sold his products at his eponymous Sausage Kitchen in Lisbon Falls and through a few markets (super- and local) in the area. When word got out last summer that Maurice was retiring, there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, as locals bought and gobbled up every last link they could find, and tailors then got to work extending waist seams.
Kerry Conroy-Morongell wasn’t bummed about missing links. “I never used to eat sausage, ’cause it upset my stomach,” she told me in May. It was the town itself she was concerned about. Kerry’s had a hair salon on Main Street for decades and owns a handful of other properties there. To lose this landmark local business would be a major blow — not only due to the loss of the Sausage Kitchen itself, which brings lots of people to town, but also of what the business could be, and how all of Lisbon Falls would benefit, if it were expanded and developed in the ways Kerry envisions.
“I have a vision for this place to be more like Red’s Eats, where people come and sit down,” she said, referring to the seafood shack in Wiscasset that’s improbably garnered a fanatical global following. The wide sidewalk in front of the store, over which a handsome new awning was installed last month, could easily accommodate outdoor noshing, with service through a take-out/pickup window. Kerry recently sold one of her downtown properties to a craft brewer (Christy Cain, of the forthcoming Olive Pit Brewing Co.) and another cannabis shop just opened down the street. You don’t have to be Warren Buffett to recognize that a business selling hot gourmet sausages and “red snapper” dogs in this market may as well be printing its own money in the basement.
So Kerry and her family took the reins of the Sausage Kitchen from the Bonneau family last year. Over the course of many months, Maurice and, to a greater extent, his son Andy showed Kerry and her brother and business partner, Toby Conroy, how their sausages are made. The Bonneaus also bequeathed to them the cherished recipes for Maurice’s brats and bangers, the Andouille and chorizo, the Greek loukaniko lamb and Swedish potato dinner links, smoked mettwurst and kielbasa and linguica (the list is long, and making me hungry, so I’ll stop there).
I asked Kerry what it was like for someone who didn’t eat sausage to suddenly be elbow-deep in a notoriously grisly profession: “Did you find the process gross?”
“Not at all,” she said, and thanked me for the opportunity to point out that the Sausage Kitchen uses only the highest-quality cuts of pork in its products, so the grinding process is surprisingly clean and free of blood, bone or grisly bits. Turkey — generally considered a healthier sausage meat — is actually less pleasant to work with than pork. “It’s a bird, it’s not a clean meat,” said Kerry. The turkey meat they get is deboned and prepared for grinding, but it’s still “messier” and “slimier” to handle, she said.
Kerry’s husband, George Morongell, smokes the sausages when he can spare time away from his full-time engineering job, and their young daughters, Kylee and Katelyn, help run the retail side when school’s not in session. Plans to start serving hot food are still being developed, but they’ve already greatly expanded the number of retail outlets offering their products, and Chef Toby has developed several new sausage varieties that are already hits: most notably a maple breakfast link that spares you the trouble of swirling your sausage in the pancake syrup, delivering that sweetness in every bite.
To fact-check this piece, Mainer’s in-house pit master Mort Viande slow-smoked a few varieties last spring and we sampled them to find out how they measure up to the master’s work. No spoilers here, but let’s just say that when we publish the results of this summer’s annual Smokin’ Sausage Showdown next month, the Sausage Kitchen will still be the team to beat.
The Sausage Kitchen (36 Main St., Lisbon Falls) is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. You can also shop online at thesausagekitchen.com.