Under Construction: Cong Tu Bot

August 8th, 2016

Vien Dobui and Jessica Sheahan have leased a 1600 sq ft space at 55 Washington Avenue where they plan to open Cong Tu Bot (Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter), a Pho noodle bar. Dobui and Sheehan ran a few Cong Tu Bot pop-up dinners back in 2013 and I can say from personal experience that Vien’s noodles and soup are outstanding. I am very excited to see opening day for this new venture.

They’re planning a casual, moderately priced restaurant that customers want to, and can afford to make a regular destination. Cong Tu Bot will be open 10am to 10pm serving primarily lunch and dinner items but with some breakfast dishes in the mix and takeout will be available.

Vien was the first employee and a former partner at Tandem. He’s currently cooking at Palace Diner. A fellow Blue Bottle alum, Joseph Zohn, will be moving to Portland from Los Angeles to work as the sous chef at Cong Tu Bot. Zohn has also cooked at Reynard and at Marco’s in Brooklyn.

Jessica will be the GM for Cong Tu Bot. She has 9 years of experience both in front and back of house in the restaurant industry, both in  San Francisco and Portland.

Dobui and Sheahan are hoping to open sometime in early 2017.

This Week’s Events: Oxbow @ Eventide, Pomology, Foulmouthed Beer, Twilight Dinner, Jolly Pumpkin

August 8th, 2016

Monday — there will be an Oxbow tap takeover at Eventide tonight.

WednesdayBlack Tie is holding a farm dinner in New Gloucester, and the Monument Square Farmers’ Market is taking place.

Thursday — Foundation is releasing 500ml bottles of their new beer Pomology:Apricot, and The Great Lost Bear is showcasing beer from Foulmouthed Brewing.

Friday — the West End Rosemont and the Public Market House are holding a wine tastings.

Saturday — Novare Res will be featuring 21+ beers from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, there will be a wine tasting at LeRoux Kitchen, and the Saturday Farmers’ Market will take place.

Sunday — Emmet Helrich from Local 188 and Chef Paul Tuck from Sonny’s are  the featured chef for Cultivating Community’s Twilight Dinner at The Well, and the weekly Crofters & Artisan Market is taking place.

Rabelais Book Sale — Rabelais books will be holding their annual book sale August 25-28 at their store in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.


Reviews: Rhum, Local 188, Lolita, Dewey’s, Lunch & Lobster

August 7th, 2016

The Portland Phoenix has reviewed Rhum,

Other dishes put a variety of Pacific cuisines new twists. A creamy hamachi tartar was like a finely chopped poke with lots of sesame. The kim-chi croque madame offset the sour cabbage with runny egg yolk and melted American cheese. The little bahn mi, with pork jerky and some sort of siracha-touched mayo, unleashed enough umami to encourage more drinking. The fois gras loco moco attempts to take low cuisine pretty high – with delicate eggy pillows filled with the rich liver meat and spam.

the Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Local 188,

One place where this approach has paid dividends is on the dessert menu, where you’ll find …pastry chef Pat Tubbs’ literally named take on a Black Forest cherry dessert, the Bosque Negro ($8), a dense triple chocolate brownie dripping with slow-melting charred vanilla ice cream and dotted with deep red pickled cherries. Tubbs ties sweet and savory elements together with a Spanish-accented sherry pastry cream, soft raisin fruit jellies that echo aromas in the sherry, and a sprinkling of fried pine nuts that have been tossed in paprika. There’s a lot going on here, but apart from needing a little more vanilla char flavor in the ice cream, it all comes together in this remarkably inventive dessert – even the plating, which is aptly Picasso-esque.

the Press Herald has published a bar review of Local 188,

Local 188 has been a fixture in Portland’s West End for nearly two decades serving up Spanish-inspired tapas, one-of-a-kind cocktails, local beer and a comprehensive wine list that caters to everyone. Lively, relaxed, eclectic and fueled by the local art scene, Local 188 has helped create the city’s foodie foundation.

The Golden Dish has reviewed Lolita,

But it was well worth it because the food is so good here—tremendous flavors, gutsy preparations.  I had been several weeks prior to dine at the bar and had a wonderful meal of small plates: a piquant tuna tartare, a bracing grilled squash with a garlicky pistachio aioli and a robust stew of mixed shellfish.

The Bollard has reviewed Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster,

The Lobster Delight ($24.95) was indeed delightful: a one-pound lobster, an ear of corn and a dozen steamed clams, served with plenty of melted butter. While my husband made short work of that plate, I dug into another classic, the lobster roll with fries ($16.25). Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster’s version is the Platonic ideal: big hunks of fresh meat dressed in mayo and nestled in a grilled New England-style hot dog bun. The sole garnish is a leaf of lettuce.

and the Press Herald has reviewed Three Dollar Dewey’s.

Three Dollar Dewey’s is comfortable, the food is affordable and there’s zero pretense. We all know that Portland is a hardcore foodie town with new places opening almost every week all with something different to offer. I’m not knocking this, it’s part of what put and keeps Portland on the map. But it’s also good to remember the places that have stood the test of time. Three Dollar Dewey’s is one of those places for me.

Tandem to Expand

August 6th, 2016

Tandem Coffee is planning to expand into the original Bunker Brewery building later this year when Bunker moves to their new location in Libbytown.

Owners Will and Kathleen Pratt intend to use the 1,200 sq ft building to grow their coffee roasting and packing facility. The space freed up next door will become additional seating for the original Tandem cafe and a small bakery to augment the capacity of the main kitchen on Congress Street.

Interview with Leslie Oster

August 5th, 2016

Maine Women Magazine has published an interview with Leslie Oster from Aurora Provisions which includes some pointers for putting on a great event.

Leslie Oster is a bit of a legend in Maine. As general manager and catering director for Aurora Provisions (the café, catering company and market in Portland’s West End neighborhood), Oster will oversee a whopping 23 weddings this year and more than 50 catered events. She creates original menus and is known for her stunning table arrangements.

First Look at Rossobianco

August 5th, 2016

Eatcentric has published a first look at a few of the menu items from Rossobianco.

The risotto was the highlight was the meal with delicate lobster meat and oyster mushrooms providing slight chewiness while the risotto still had a tiny bite in each grain to contrast against the creamy sauce.


Frosted Glasses & Gruits

August 4th, 2016

The Beer Babe column in The Bollard explains why frosted beer glasses are not a craft beer’s best friend,

Across a busy table of work colleagues I tried, in vain, to gesture for the server to stop — to prevent the exquisite and complex taste and aroma of the beer from entering into an unholy communion with the frosted vessel. While I helplessly watched, she poured the beer directly into the glass, which was so cold that the edges of the beer’s head turned to spiky ice crystals. I grimaced.

and the beer column in today’s Press Herald reports on the gruits being produced by Urban Farm Fermentory.

A gruit is a beer flavored with a variety of spices and herbs instead of hops. Gruit recipes date back thousands of years and remained en vogue throughout Europe until hops became the flavoring ingredient of choice around the 1200s.

Rossobianco Now Open

August 3rd, 2016

Rossobianco (website, facebook, instagram) held a soft opening Wednesday night. Chef Scott London has put together a menu of Northern Italian cuisine to complement the restaurant’s focus on natural wine.

Rossobianco, founded by David Levi and Colleen Callahan, is located at 3 Deering Ave in Bramhall Square. The grand opening is scheduled to take place on Friday.


Hero Closed (Updated)

August 3rd, 2016

Hero sandwich shop in Monument Square has gone out of business, according to a report from the Press Herald.

Hero, the sandwich shop at 30 City Center co-owned by Todd Bernard of Empire and the owners of Otto, closed abruptly Monday after having been open just five months.

The Bangor Daily News has also posted a report on the closure of Hero and next steps for the Otto restaurant group.

Though Hero opened with a bang, the fervor in Maine’s foodiest city was hard to maintain. “There was not enough marketing behind it. We had a lot of momentum out of the gate, but not a sustained, concerted effort,” said Brody, who felt Hero’s story got lost in the fast-changing foodscape.

Update: Co-founder Todd Bernard had sold his interest in Hero to the owners of Otto a month prior to the closure of the restaurant.

Drifters Wife on Bon Appétit Top 50 List

August 2nd, 2016

Drifters Wife was selected Bon Appétit for their list of the 50 Best New Restaurants in America.

Chef Ben Jackson—whom the couple met while working at Andrew Tarlow’s Williamsburg restaurants—relies on local veg and fresh-caught fish (get whatever cod special he’s serving) to put out elegant shareable plates from a tiny kitchen: beef tongue consommé one night, clam toast with horseradish aioli another. Add in a roster of eccentric bottles, and Drifters Wife effortlessly nails that date-night wine-bar vibe that city dwellers know so well.

Check back on August 16th to learn if Bon Appétit selects Drifters to be in the top 10.

Portland area restaurants have featured prominently in the 50 Best list for the past few years:

  • 2015 – Tandem Bakery and East Ender
  • 2014 – Central Provisions and Palace Diner
  • 2013 – Eventide Oyster Co.

Maine Beer Co. Expanding

August 2nd, 2016

Maine Beer Company is in the early stages of planning to quadruple the size of their brewery in Freeport, according to a report from the Press Herald.

The expansion would add a large production and office building and expand the existing tasting room, outdoor seating area and parking lot. In a sketch plan submitted to the town, the company said the expansion is needed to meet demand for its beers, which have gained a national reputation and a legion of dedicated fans.

This Week’s Events: Birth of Sake, Oster Twilight Dinner, Rabelais Book Sale

August 1st, 2016

Wednesday — the Monument Square Farmers’ Market is taking place.

Thursday — the Portland Public Library is screening the movie The Birth of Sake followed by a presentation and Q&A session with Dan Ford of Blue Current Brewery.

Friday — the Portland Spirits Society is holding an informal women-only tasting event at Stroudwater Distillery.

Saturday — the Saturday Farmers’ Market will take place.

SundayLeslie Oster from Aurora Provisions is the featured chef for Cultivating Community’s Twilight Dinner at The Well, and the weekly Crofters & Artisan Market is taking place.

Rabelais Book Sale — Rabelais books will be holding their annual book sale August 25-28 at their store in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.


Review of Nosh

July 31st, 2016

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Nosh.

Today, the restaurant is all about outrageous offerings and its bar. And the bar is genuinely good. Cocktails, especially the cucumber-flavored Garden Gimlet ($11) and the sharply tart and tangy gin-based Nosh Blossom ($10) are very solid, as is the respectable selection of local beers offered on tap…When you do grab your server’s attention, be sure to order the crisp, cheesy polenta fries topped with arugula, as well as the “nachos” made with sweet potato tater tots. Thick-cut, Belgian-style french fries ($6) are also generally crisp and well-seasoned here – especially the salt and pepper variety. Beef patties at Nosh are well-prepared, but steer clear of the mammoth burgers with preposterous foods-as-buns like the Nosh Mac ‘N Stack and stick with the cheeseburger, which executive chef Noah Leether has down to a science.

NY Times: 36 Hours in Portland

July 29th, 2016

The New York Times has visited Portland for their 36 Hours in… travel series.

Portland’s reputation as a great dining town is well-deserved, but no one here rests on his or her laurels, least of all the chefs and restaurateurs behind renowned spots like Fore Street and Eventide Oyster Co.; both parties have recently opened new restaurants, adding to the quandary of travelers already stymied by an abundance of choices. Meanwhile, a new generation of Portlanders and newcomers is pushing the boundaries with a fresh take on everything from doughnuts to kombucha.

The restaurants highlighted in the article are: 3 Buoys Seafood Shanty, Becky’s, Central Provisions, Duckfat, Emilitsa, Eventide, Fore Street, Hugo’s, Liquid Riot, Portland Lobster Co, Scales, The Holy Donut, The Honey Paw, Two Fat Cats, Urban Farm Fermentory, Vena’s Fizz House.

Stroudwater Distillery Opening Today

July 28th, 2016

stroudwaterStroudwater Distillery (website, facebook, instagram) is scheduled to open today at noon. The distillery—Portland’s 4th after New England Distilling, Maine Craft Distilling and Liquid Riot—and its tasting room are located at Thompson’s Point in the same building as Bissell Brothers, Cellar Door and Big J’s Chicken Shack (set to debut later this summer).

Stroudwater is “currently rolling out distinctive bottles of Bourbon, Rye, Vodka and Gin”. A list of key staff on the Stroudwater website includes John Myers with the enigmatic title of Boss of the Sauce.