Archive for the ‘General News’ Category

Snowmageddon Eats

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

A few Portland eateries are still scheduled to be open today. Here are the one’s I’ve heard  about:

If you hear of any others, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Year in Review: Best of 2014, Crowdfunding, National Press, ‘Culinary Boom’, Top Restaurants and Articles, Look Ahead to 2015

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

lolita

2014 was a very busy year for the food and dining industry in Portland. I’ve scanned through the records for the past year and here’s my summary of the key events and trends:

  • Best Newcomers – There were more than 40 openings in 2014. Some lasted a few months or less, and others are very strong ventures that made an impact in their first year and I hope will be with us for many years to come. Of them, I’d put Central Provisions, Lolita and Palace Diner at the top of the class of 2014. Right out of the gate all three had a focused vision of what they wanted to be and delivered at a high level of consistency and quality.
  • Crowdfunding – Portland food businesses have been tapping into crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo since 2010 when Cakeface raised $1,545 on a $1,000 goal to buy baking equipment. This year that approach seems to have hit an all time high with approximately a dozen Maine food ventures raising more $350,000. Crowdfunding can be a good way for a new business owner to providing start-up capital while at the same building awareness and an online network of contributors who are also likely to be regular customers.
  • National Press – national press coverage of the Portland food scene was truly amazing to watch this year. There were feature articles in Bon Appétit, Saveur, Food & Wine, and the Wall Street Journal, and nearly every week there seemed to be reports on Portland food in publications as diverse as Maxim and the Financial Times. Press attention from outside Maine does tend to be cyclical so I’ll be surprised if this continues at the same level into 2015.
  • Beer – the amazing growth of the Maine beer industry continued in 2014 with approximately 20 new breweries opening across the state. In the Portland area a number of existing breweries added capacity, Bissell Brothers had an extremely successful first year, and both Foundation Brewing and Austin Street launched. Oxbow and Geary’s opened a tasting rooms in Portland in 2014, and Sierra Nevada brought their roving beer festival to Portland in August. Both the Maine Brew Bus and Maine Beer Tours seemed to be doing brisk business all summer. Another Portland brewery, the Fore River Brewing Company, is already under development with plans to open in 2015.
  • Under Construction – There are 20+ new businesses currently in various stages of development. A few themes I saw evident in the past year were small plates (Lolita, Central, Sur Lie) and a shift in interest to Mediterranean cuisine (Ebb & Flow, Lolita, Sur Lie, Lazari, Tiqa). The Longfellow Square area continued to be a hot spot for new business development and several eateries are now venturing into the post-Longfellow stretch of Congress (Tandem Bakery, Bramhall, Figgy’s, Arabian Days). Inner Washington Ave and the portion of Congress immediately nearby seems to also be gathering momentum. We’re also seeing beginings of a mobile to brick-and-mortar transition with the acquisition of Steve & Renee’s by Hella Good Tacos and Small Axe taking over the East Ender.
  • Upcoming in 2015 – the number of new businesses under development seems to be slightly tapering off but there are many new ventures already in process. The ones I’m looking forward to the most are:
    • the new incarnation of the East Ender by Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy
    • Figgy’s, a fried chicken and southern food cafe in the West End
    • Lincolns, a inexpensive bar in the Old Port
    • Maine & Loire, a natural wine shop opening soon on Washington Ave
    • Eventide/Hugo’s new restaurant, The Honey Paw
    • Dana Street and Sam Hayward’s new seafood restaurant on Commercial Street
    • The new eatery under construction on Market Street by Steve and Michelle Corry
    • The bar Joe Ricchio and Joel Beauchamp have in development

Notable Events of 2014

  • miyakedinerJanuary – Casa Fiesta and Miyake Diner opened, Small Axe’s Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy began the search for a brick and mortar restaurant, the Food Co-op announced that they leased a space at 290 Congress Street for their new retail store, Nathaniel Meiklejohn announced plans for his bar The Jewel Box, Novare Res and The Great Lost Beer were on Draft magazine’s list of America’s top beer bars, the Oxbow edition of Off the Wagon was released, Tandem’s Ayele Yirgacheffe was an award winner at the Good Food Awards, Shannon Bard was the featured chef of a James Beard House dinner, Little Bigs began selling crauxnuts and Mesa Verde went out of business.
  • centralFebruaryCentral Provisions and Thai 9 opened, the blog Eating Portland Alive got started, Oakhurst Dairy was sold to a national dairy farm cooperative, a controversy flared up over an archaic provision in Maine law that prohibited bars from listing the ABV of the beers they serve, Black Dinah announced plans to open a facility in Portland, Peggy Grodinsky became the food editor of the Press Herald, Tortilleria Pachanga started production, the list of James Beard semifinalists were released, word first surfaced about a new waterfront restaurant being launched by Dana Street, Jonah Fertig left Local Sprouts to help other organization successfully launch cooperatives, the Meat House closed.
  • fiftystoneMarch – Red Sea and Vietnam Bakery opened, Hella Good Taco bought Steve & Renee’s Diner, Portland Police made a formal recommendation to the City Council not to renew Sangillo’s liquor license, Maine Craft Distilling released their Fifty Stone single malt, Tandem announced plans to open a bakery in the West End, Star Chefs include several people from Portland in their 2014 Rising Star list, the Uprising iPhone app was released, three Maine chefs were contenders in the F&W’s People’s Best New Chef competition, MECA kicked off a culinary program, Hugo’s announced their Yankee Swap series and Maine Restaurant Week took place.
  • April – India Bazaar, Liquid M2 and Ana’s Mobile Gourmet opened, the Chalice mobile app launched, Hugo’s and Miyake were included in the Opinionated About Dining list of the top 100 restaurants in the US, Pepperclub began a search for a new space, the City Council voted not to renew Sangillo’s liquor license, the books Eating in Maine and Portland Food were released, and Roost and Slainte went out of business.
  • bestfoodblogMay – Clark Street Market, Old Port Spirits, Riverside Grill, Timber and Maine-ly Meatballs opened, Coastal Root Bitters launched, and Vincenza’s Bakery opened for a very short time on Exchange, Blue Rooster announced their summertime guest chef series, the inaugural Rum Riots cocktail festival took place, Piccolo held a Star Wars themed dinner on May the Fourth, PFM won the Best Food Blog category in the Phoenix readership poll, the Boston Globe published an article about Bissell Brothers, I led a Maine Brew Bus Portland Coffee House Tour and wrote a Portland dining guide for Down East magazine, El Rayo closed the Cantina, Gingko Blue and Down Home Cookin’ also closed.
  • slabJune – Lolita, Fishin’ Ships, CN Shawarma, King’s Head Pub, Foodworks, Anapurna’s Thali and Slab opened, Uncle Andy’s was featured in an episode of Restaurant Impossible, Dean’s Sweets announced plans to move to Fore Street, Food & Wine named Cara Stadler one of the Best New Chefs of 2014, Speckled Ax held a Panamanian/Gesha tasting, Bon Appetit published an article about food in Maine, partners Masa Miyake and Will Garfield decided to end their partnership resulting in the closure of Miyake Diner.
  • elrayoJulyEl Rayo Scarborough and Maps Cafe opened, Zest magazine launched, Saveur and Maxim both published articles about the Portland food scene, Tasting Table produced a Portland eating guide, Andrew Zimmern put together a Portland eating guide for Food & Wine, Down East made an exhaustive search for Maine’s best lobster roll, Piccolo hosted brewers from Oxbow and Del Ducato for a beer dinner, and Portland & Rochester went out of business.
  • beercampAugustThe Farm Stand, Ten Ten Pie and Tandem Bakery opened, an SUV crashed into Bruno’s, Beer This Week launched, Andrea Swanson bought Foley’s Bakery, the Maine Seaweed Festival took place, Tiqa announced plans to open a restaurant in the Marriott on Commercial Street and O’Maine Media owner Rory Strunk announced plans to launch a media kitchen, Central Provisions and Palace Diner were on the Bon Appetit list of Best New Restaurants in the US and Hunt alpine was on their list of the Best New Bars, Zagat published their list of the 10 hottest restaurants in Portland, chef Natalie ‘Figgy’ DiBenedetto announced plans to launch Skillet/Figgy’s in the West End, Sierra Nevada’s traveling Beer Camp festival came to Portland, Liquid M2 and Thai 9 went out of business.
  • nanlSeptember – Arcadia National, Geary’s tasting room, The Jewel Box, Huong’s, Golden Lotus and Sur Lie opened, Dean’s Sweets relocated to Fore Street, author Rowan Jacobsen was in town to launch his new book on heirloom apples, Novare led a campaign to get actor Bill Murray to come to Portland Beer Week, Rob Evans wrote an article about Portland for Serious Eats, the Pepperclub went out of business.
  • October – Bramhall, Arabian Days, C Salt and Bao Bao opened, Rosemont announced plans to open in the West End and Hugo’s announced plans to open The Honey Paw, the Boston Globe published an article about the ‘culinary boom’ in Portland, David Turin was the featured chef for a dinner at the James Beard House, food writer Malcolm Bedell announced his plans to launch a food truck called ‘Wich, Please, the Financial Times wrote an article about the Portland food scene, Maine Pie Line announced plans to close and Harvest on the Harbor took place.
  • sangillosNovember – Dutch’s, Oxbow tasting room, Ebb & Flow and the Portland Food Co-Op opened, the local chapter of the US Bartenders Guild got its start, Joe Ricchio posted his annual pumpkin beer survey, the Maine shrimp season cancelled for 2nd year, Sangillo’s appeal hearing took place, chefs Frank Anderson and Rebecca Ambrosi launched The Hunter’s Bend, the North Spore mushroom CSA got its start, preeminent wine writer/importer Terry Thiese was in Portland for a series of events, Portland Beer Week took place, Pocket Brunch held a breakfast and a game dinner, Mainebiz published an article about the Maine brewing industry, Alton Brown spoke at Merrill, and The Salt Exchange and Oscar’s New American went out of business.
  • palaccetunaDecember – Otto opens 2nd location in South Portland, Maine Craft Distilling opened a tasting room in Freeport, Frank Cornelissen was at Vinland for a natural wine dinner, Two Fat Cats bought Maine Pie Line, Palace Diner’s tuna fish sandwich was highlighted by Bon Appetit as one of their best meals of 2014, Ilma Lopez shared new about her husband Damian Sansonetti’s illness.

Top 10 Articles

  1. Tandem Bakery – first word on plans for Tandem Bakery (March 17)
  2. Bao Bao – floor plan and draft menu of the restaurant (April 26)
  3. Bramhall & Sur Lie – floor plan and draft menus for the bar and restaurant (August 2)
  4. F&W Andrew Zimmern – details on Food & Wine article by Andrew Zimmern on his favorite places to eat in Portland (July 19)
  5. Alton Brown – first word on his planned visit to Merrill in November (May 31)
  6. Guest Chef Series – details on the Blue Rooster summer guest chef series (May 8)
  7. The Jewel Box – first word on Nathaniel Meiklejohn’s plans to open The Jewel Box (January 7)
  8. Dutch’s Opening Soon – details on the soon to open Dutch’s with photos by Zack Bowen (November 3)
  9. The Honey Paw – first official word about Eventide/Hugo’s plans for a third restaurant (October 8)
  10. West End Rosemont – first official word about a Rosemont Market in the West End (October 8)

Top 25 Restaurants

  1. Central Provisions (-)
  2. Timber (-)
  3. Slab (-)
  4. Vinland (-)
  5. Empire Chinese Kitchen (11)
  6. Lolita (-)
  7. Outliers Eatery (2)
  8. Bao Bao Dumpling House (-)
  9. Blue Rooster Food Co. (3)
  10. Back Bay Grill (22)
  11. Caiola’s (10)
  12. C-Squared (-)
  13. The King’s Head (-)
  14. Piccolo (7)
  15. Eventide Oyster Company (4)
  16. Fore Street (27)
  17. Five Fifty-Five (18)
  18. East Ender (40)
  19. Grace (24)
  20. Hugo’s (14)
  21. Sur Lie (-)
  22. Petite Jacqueline (6)
  23. Blue Spoon (23)
  24. Golden Lotuus (-)
  25. Miyake Diner (-)

The numbers in parentheses indicate their rank last year. Order is determined by the number of times these restaurants were looked up on PFM during the year.

Passings

For some other perspectives on the past year see Dig Portland, The Golden Dish, Urban Eye, Map & Menu, Eater Maine, Maine Today, and Peter Peter Portland Eater.

For more information on Portland’s food past see the 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 year in review reports, as well as PFM blog posts from 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the Portland Food Timeline.

Press Herald Looks Forward

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Meredith Goad has assembled a list of “suggestions for ‘food experiences’ worth seeking out in 2015″,

When you’re talking food with friends, are you embarrassed to admit you’ve never been to Red’s in Wiscassett for one of their classic lobster rolls? Time to get in on the conversation. Here’s a goal for you in the new year: Make a list of can’t-miss Maine classics, and start checking them off.

and wine write Joe Appel has put together his 2015 wine resolutions.

So, moving into a new calendar year, here are my resolutions for trying to find different ways to engage with wine. I don’t expect to “achieve” all of them, or to accomplish even a single one of them comprehensively. But I’ll rejoice in the attempts.

CBD Kinetic Coffee Sculpture

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

The Bangor Daily News has published an article on the kinetic coffee sculpture that sits atop the new CBD building in East Bayside. The article includes a short video interview with the artist.

The handiwork of South Portland sculptor Jac Ouellette is a 1,000-pound statement piece that can be seen from Interstate 295.

“This was a good challenge for me,” said Ouellette, who spent the last year working on the sculpture, which soars 15 feet high on the Diamond Street building and moves with the wind.

More on the Portland Food Co-op

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

MPBN, WCSH and The Golden Dish have all published reports on the Portland Food Co-op,

The dairy cases stock all of the products that we’ve become so familiar with at farmers’ markets: Lakin’s Gorge’s ricotta (Rockport), Balfour cultured cream (great sour cream), yogurts and cheese to Swallowtail’s dairy lineup of kefir, cheese and flavored yogurts. Ice cream choices include the excellent Catbird Creamery and the store has a small but professional kitchen where many preparations like soups, sandwiches, salads and vegetable dips are made. [Golden Dish]

and today’s Press Herald includes an interview with Mary Alice Scott, the co-op’s education and outreach coordinator.

Q: Why join a co-op instead of going to a mainstream grocery store?
A:
It’s a mission-driven idea. People want to support businesses that are locally owned and know they’re generating jobs. Our mission is to have a huge amount of organic and local products and buy from local vendors whenever practical. It’s not just fruit and vegetables, it’s local cleaning supplies and other local items. We already have relationships with more than 120 local producers.

Two Fat Cats Buys Maine Pie Line

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

News became public yesterday that Two Fat Cats bakery has purchased Maine Pie Line from owner Briana Warner.

Two Fat Cats has purchased both the business name as well as the recipes and plans to restart MPL’s wholesale business,

That means savory hand pies like spinach, feta and artichoke and southwest veggie will be back in Maine cafes, such as Coffee By Design, and a fresh line of gourmet, locally sourced pies will soon fill the cases at the nine-year-old India Street bakery.

[Two Fat Cats owner] Begin expects to see her retail business grow by 15 percent and double wholesale orders with the acquisition.
[Urban Eye]

For more information see these reports from Urban Eye and Eater Maine.

Star Ratings, Restaurant Critic Interview, Natural Foods Movement

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

The Food & Dining section in today’s Press Herald includes an article by Krista Kern Desjarlais about star ratings in restaurant reviews,

On the positive side, stars can fill seats, and they give a measure that lets chefs place their restaurant against others in their genre. A lukewarm review may not affect an already busy and popular restaurant. In this business, we all know the restaurants that meander up and down the scale of consistency and quality, yet remain popular regardless of a critic’s awarding (or withholding) of stars. This is an enigma of the restaurant world and shows why stars do not always tell the whole story.

an interview with Sunday Telegram restaurant critic James Schwartz,

Q: Many restaurant critics say that awarding stars is the hardest part. Is it?
A: Yes, it’s my least favorite decision. I am conscious of two things: First, I am standing in for the reader, because I have had the good fortune to go to the restaurant. So I feel a responsibility to the reader to accurately describe my experience. And I am conscious of the fact that the number of stars awarded can positively or adversely affect the business life of a restaurant. That is a second responsibility that I take very seriously.

and a conversation with author Joe Dobrow on “How the natural foods revolution has changed what we eat”.

His book offers a captivating behind-the-scenes look at exactly how we got from the dusty co-ops of yesteryear to the shiny mega-stores of today. It also explains how the growth of natural foods propelled a number of health food products into the mainstream, such as granola bars, almond milk and kale. Along the way, Dobrow explains how natural foods companies (built on values and ideals as much as capitalist principles) have begun to influence mainstream business culture by promoting concepts such as corporate accountability, transparency and the triple bottom line.

Bao Bao Review & Maine Cookbooks

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Portland Magazine has published a short review of Bao Bao,

On to the dumplings. Our first indulgence, Steamed Hake, Burdock ($8.08), is like nothing we’ve seen anywhere. “Thread-cut” dumpling wrappers are ribboned layers enveloping the tender fish. Happily devouring our six pieces, we accelerate into our next plate of dumplings: the absolutely essential Lamb, Black Bean, Chili, Peanut ($8.08).

and an article about Maine cookbooks.

Some of the great Maine cookbooks are out of print but hardly out of sight in a city and state with such a good used-book network of stores and used sections within stores. “Saltwater Seasonings is one of the very few that really catches the spirit of Maine,” says Don Lindgren, owner of Rabelais Books in Biddeford, probably the center of the universe for vintage and rare cookbooks.

Crowdfunding: Als Pals Pickles

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Westbrook-based Als Pals Pickles(twitter, facebook, instagram) has launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter-clone site Indiegogo. Owner Al Arsenault is hoping to raise $5,000 to “better pickling equipment, promotion and building up a stock”.

I am passionate about making awesome pickles, I take pride in the quality of my product and I’ve really enjoyed all of the pickle lovers I have come across in my time as a pickler What your contribution will go towards is better equipment for maintaining a great quality pickle, this includes kitchen equipment such as knives, cutting boards, pickling pots and gloves and would allow me to buy my pickle jars in bulk. It also includes promotional equipment like banners, business cards, label paper, label printers, promo art and a tablet for mobile card transactions.

For more information or to contribute to the campaign visit the Als Pals page on Indigogo.

Portland Food Co-op

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

The Forecaster has published an article about the new Portland Food Co-op.

West End resident Jennifer Morrison works nearby on India Street, and said her first store visit came after months of anticipation.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, clutching a carton of almond milk and an orange. “I feel like I could do all my shopping here.”

Morrison said she tries to shop at locally owned markets, and was pleased to find a large selection of organic fruits and vegetables. Before leaving, she stopped at a table in the front of the store and signed on as a co-op member.

The co-op has a grand opening planned for December 10.

Outdoor Seating Regulation

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Today’s Press Herald reports on discussions between city officials and restaurant owners regarding regulation of outdoor seating.

Portland planning officials are struggling to find a way to protect the city’s vibrant restaurant scene while also making sure that pedestrians can maneuver through sidewalks and public spaces cluttered with outdoor seating.

Turkey Buying Guide

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

The Blueberry Files has published her annual Thanksgiving turkey buying guide. It includes price per pound details on 18 different turkey brands available from local farms and markets.

Ah, meat. The epicenter of the local food dilemma. On one side, you could argue that meat should not be cheap. On the other side, you have your desire to serve a huge, perfectly-roasted, glistening bird that will satisfy all of your guests, with plenty of leftovers for the next day. Somewhere lost in all of that is the financial reality that locally-raised or organic meat simply costs more than the unethical alternative. 

Booze, Fish and Coffee: Bramhall, Hunter’s Bend, Wich Please

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

In the new episode of Booze, Fish and Coffee co-hosts Bo Bigelow and Brian Ericson talk about the new Bramhall, The Hunter’s Bend and the kickstarter campaign for Which Please food truck.

Maine Food Co-ops

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

MPBN’s Jennifer Rooks interviewed journalist Laura McCandlish, Mary Alice Scott, and Veronique Vendette from the Gardiner Food Co-op & Cafe for yesterday’s edition of Maine Calling.

A look at the rise of food co-ops in Maine.  We’ll find out how they differ from your  local grocery store, and the benefits of joining a co-op.

You can listen to the entire show on the MPBN website.

Financial Times: Portland Steps into the Spotlight

Monday, October 27th, 2014

The Financial Times has published admiring look at Portland that touches on the city’s food scene.

Culture is one thing but if there’s one area where the new Portland has truly excelled, it is food and drink. In the past two decades the city’s restaurant sector has mushroomed and, as in the rest of the country, good ingredients are increasingly high on the agenda.

The article recommends Empire, Duckfat, Central Provisions, Salvage, Eventide and Blue Rooster and draws special attention to Vinland,

But a serious star has emerged in the shape of Vinland, since last January the city’s leading contemporary restaurant, where chef David Levi favours localism, seasonality and foraging. This is the place Portland needed to crystallise its gastronomic ambitions once and for all.

O’Maine Media Kitchen

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The Bangor Daily News reports on O’Maine Studios and owner Rory Strunk’s current initiative to launch the O’Maine Media Kitchen.

Popular in larger cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the media kitchen concept is new to Maine. But marketing pros such as Cynthia Fisher of Bar Harbor Foods in Whiting are ready to roll.

“Oh my God. I don’t have to go to Philadelphia to shoot a video,” the company’s vice president of marketing said to the group. “We need to get everyone behind us because this is huge for Maine.”

For more information visit the O’Maine Media Kitchen Kickstarter page. Strunk has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise $65,000 for the project.

Indie Biz Awards

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Portland Buy Local held an awards ceremony last night. Three local food business among the winners of this year’s Indie Biz Awards:

  • Local Flavor – Local Sprouts Cafe
  • Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind – Maine Brew Bus
  • Portland Icon – Rosemont Market and Bakery

Triangle Cafe

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Foundation House, an alcohol and drug addiction recovery program, has leased the former Portland & Rochester. They’re renamed the space Triangle Cafe and plan on using it as “a multi-function space that provides a nutritional and occupational based holistic component to our program as well as a location for our residents and alumni to gather.”

According to their marketing materials their plans also include making “This new venture is also open to the public”.

Gorgeous Gelato’s Liquor License Application

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Gorgeous Gelato(website, facebook, twitter) has applied for a liquor license. As they explain in their cover letter (page 77),

Espresso coffee and certain Gelato sundaes become really exquisite when some liquor is added. We would also love to serve our customers a very small selection of famous Italian liquors, such as: Lemoncello, Grappa and Sambuca.

O’Maine Media Kitchen

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The Business section in today’s Press Herald reports on O’Maine Studios and owner Rory Strunk’s current initiative to launch the O’Maine Media Kitchen.

Rory Strunk has built a successful outdoor sports-themed broadcast network, produced an Emmy award-winning television show and created content for such iconic brands as Absolut vodka. Now he wants to build a world-class kitchen studio in Portland that Maine’s food and beverage industry, restaurants and homegrown celebrity chefs could use to meet the growing demand for culinary-themed online video content.

For more information visit the O’Maine Media Kitchen Kickstarter page. Strunk has launched a crowdfunding campaing on Kickstarter to raise $65,000 for the project.