PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – A spicy staple of Portuguese cuisine is the star ingredient in a new menu item at Dunkin’ Donuts.

The international company is marketing a chourico breakfast sandwich only in Rhode Island and neighboring Bristol County in Massachusetts, a region that researchers say has the highest per capita Portuguese population in the country.

“Occasionally we roll out regional flavors,” said Todd Wallace, a field marketing manager for Dunkin. “We like to bring things in and out to create some flavor news.”

The doughnut and coffee chain has capitalized on other localized and seasonal flavors. You can only get a chicken biscuit in the South, for instance, or a pumpkin-flavored latte in the fall.

Chourico is a deep red, large link flavored with red pepper and lightly smoked. It’s bigger and spicier than its sister Portuguese sausage linguica, and it’s often served at home with eggs.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island absorbed a steady stream of immigrants from Portugal and its former territories in the Azores Islands, Cape Verde and Brazil. Many went to work in Fall River, a former mill town, or New Bedford, a whaling and fishing port that was the setting for Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick,” or Provincetown, the fishing-village turned artists’ haven on Cape Cod.

For Dunkin’ Donuts, it also helps that Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass., form a single television market.

The company is now considering an even more Rhode Island-centric product, coffee milk. For non-Ocean Staters, that’s coffee flavored milk.

Dunkin’ already sells coffee milk, but could brand its own. The flavor already outsells chocolate and strawberry flavored milks in Rhode Island, Wallace said.

AP-ES-10-09-08 1759EDT

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