Review of Otto Pizza

February 22nd, 2015

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Otto.

The vibe is casual and the crust memorable at Otto Pizza on Cottage Road in South Portland. Embrace your inner glutton and order the 16-inch Pulled Pork & Mango: It’s sweet and spicy and ample enough to satisfy two or more. Craving classic comfort food? Try the Meatloaf and Mashed Potato, a filling take on a family favorite – minus the ketchup. Otto does offer cannoli for dessert, but it’s the pies that shine here. Consider skipping the sweets and saving room for an extra 12-inch pizza instead.

Under Construction: Evo (Updated)

February 21st, 2015

Evo(twitter, website, facebook) has applied for a  liquor license. They are on the agenda for the City Council’s meeting on Monday.

According to the material supplied with the application, the owners plan to serve a menu of “Eastern Mediterranean Cuisine”. A draft menu (pages 74-75) was supplied with the supporting paperwork. Here’s an excerpt.


The full floor plan (1st floor show below) seems to show a mezzanine area for additional seating. You can find some concept sketches for the space on Evo’s facebook page.

evo_floor plan

Update: The Golden Dish reports the chef Brandon Hicks will lead the kitchen staff,

Executive chef is Brandon Hicks, who also oversees the kitchen at the Chebeague Island Inn as well has having had a solid background at some of New York’s top-rated Michelin starred restaurants. Executive sous chef is Matt Ginn, formerly executive chef of Five Fifty-Five in Portland as well as L’Espalier in Boston.

Interview with Paige & Chris Gould

February 21st, 2015

Eater Maine has published an interview with the owners of Central Provisions, Chris and Paige Gould.

If you don’t remember opening night that well, do you have a most memorable service in here?
CG: I think the three times we got standing ovations from the whole restaurant.

PG: Yeah, that was pretty intense.

CG: Somebody, like a four top, would stand up and start clapping, and then the whole restaurant would just start clapping about the food and the service and the drinks. Those nights stick out to me a lot because I’ve never seen that happen in a restaurant, and it’s happened three times here.

PG: It’s cute, he blushes.

Review of Congress Squared

February 21st, 2015

The Golden Dish has reviewed Congress Squared.

Service is excellent and prices at dinner huddle around the $25 range for entrees. With restaurant week starting next month, this is prime time to reacquaint yourself with Congress Squared’s new chef and its impressive menu of contemporary American fare. All of which makes C2  eminently qualified as a pivotal member of Portland’s Arts District dining.

Maine Shrimp Sample Harvest

February 20th, 2015

The Press Herald has a report in the ongoing sample harvests of Maine shrimp.

The record price stems from scarcity. Just like last year, the commercial shrimp season remains closed because of low stocks. The shrimp that sold at auction Thursday were caught by one of the three Maine fishermen involved in a sampling project to help state biologists track the timing of egg hatch, size, gender and developmental stages of the shrimp.

Interview with Larry Matthews

February 20th, 2015

As part of its ongoing Deep Dish series, the Portland Phoenix interviewed Larry Matthews, chef/owner of Back Bay Grill about where he likes to eat out.

With kids and a busy schedule (he’s often cooking the food at the Grill himself, as he is now) Matthews doesn’t get out much. When he does, he goes to Five Fifty-Five for mussels. Or for steak. Or for anything, really, that his friends, Five Fifty-Five co-owners Steve and Michelle Corry, and their team whip up.

Under Construction: Evo

February 19th, 2015

evo_logoA new restaurant called Evo(twitter, website, facebook) is under construction at 443 Fore Street which small space at the corner of Fore and Union that’s part of the Hyatt.

Evo will be a “Greek and Mediterranean and Tapas Bars” and hopes to be open this Spring. It is part of the Prentice Hospitality Group that runs Chebeague Island Inn and  other businesses.

Weather’s Impact on Restaurants (Updated)

February 19th, 2015

Today’s Press Herald reports on the negative impact the large number of snow storms are having on Portland restaurants.

Most of all, downtown restaurant owners dread parking bans. The owners are particularly upset that the city declared a 36-hour parking ban last weekend for a storm that dropped 2.3 inches of snow. The ban began at 10 a.m. Saturday – Valentine’s Day – prompting some restaurant managers to ask city officials to keep the tow trucks away until closing time. The city honored the requests.

The city in practice doesn’t begin towing cars downtown until 1 a.m., but many people don’t know that, so business suffers.

Update: The Forecaster and WMTW have also posted reports on the snow’s impact on restaurant sales.

Where Chefs Eat

February 19th, 2015

wce2015Phaidon Press collected restaurant recommendations from “more than 600 of the world’s leading chef” for the new edition of Where Chefs Eat. Portland restaurants included are Boda, Fore Street, Gorgeous Gelato, Hot Suppa, Otto Pizza, Pai Men Miyake and Piccolo. Primo in Rockland also made the cut.

James Beard Award Semi-Finalists

February 18th, 2015

The list of semi-final nominees for the 2015 James Beard Foundation awards were released today. The 10 Maine-based semi-finalists are:

  • Best New Restaurant – Central Provisions
  • Best Chef: Northeast – Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Company; Masa Miyake, Miyake; Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain and Brian Hill, Francine Bistro
  • Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional – Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Co.
  • Outstanding Baker – Alison Pray, Standard Baking
  • Outstanding Bar Program – Portland Hunt + Alpine Club
  • Outstanding Restaurant – Fore Street
  • Rising Star of the Year – Cara Stadler, Tao Yuan

JBF_AWARDS_MEDALLION-BLOGThe names released today are on the so-called ‘long list’. The final list of nominees (the ‘short list’) will be out in March 24th and the awards ceremony will take place May 4th. In a change of pace, the awards ceremony will take place in Chicago this year instead of NYC—a way for the Foundation to emphasize the national nature of the awards and of its mission.

Food & Wine: The Lost Kitchen

February 18th, 2015

lost-kitchenThe March issue of Food & Wine includes an article about chef Erin French and her restaurant The Lost Kitchen(facebook, instagram) in Freedom, Maine. It also includes recipes for several of chef Erin French’s dishes.

The restaurant has only been open since last July, but news of it has spread, and customers now come from many miles away. Chef Erin French, who is entirely self-taught, creates unfussy, astonishingly delicious food using as few ingredients as possible in combinations that are both exciting and viscerally satisfying…

The article isn’t online yet but you can pick-up a copy of the March issue at your local newsstand.

2015 James Beard Awards

February 16th, 2015

The semifinalist nominees for the 2015 JBF Awards will be announced this Wednesday by the James Beard Foundation.

What Maine chefs and restaurants do you hope will be on the list?

For reference take a look at the semifinals lists from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

This Week’s Events: JBF Awards, Salmon/Lamb Tastings, Natural Wine Walk, Viva Lebowski

February 16th, 2015

2015-02-11_21-36-56Tuesday — the local foods networking breakfast is taking place at Local Sprouts.

Wednesday — the semifinalist nominees for this year’s James Beard Foundation awards will be released.

FridayBrowne Trading will be at Rising Tide for a beer and salmon tasting, and North Star Sheep Farm will be at The Farm Stand for a lamb and wine tasting.

Saturday — Ned Swain is leading a Wine Wise natural wine walk, it’s the grand opening of Maine Craft Distilling’s Freeport tasting room, Viva Lebowski is taking place at Easy Day, and the Winter Farmers’ Market is taking place.

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.

Under Construction: Figgy’s

February 16th, 2015

Portland Magazine has published an interview with Natalie DiBenedetto about Figgy’s(facebook, website), the takeout restaurant she has under construction on Walker Street, and that journey that brought her to Portland.

By May she plans to be cooking at Figgy’s, her forthcoming take-out restaurant, now under construction in back of Yordprom’s building, which she owns. Figgy’s will offer skillet-fried chicken and classic sides like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, plus seasonal healthy vegetable choices and a daily dinner salad. Her other signature item will be Korean fried chicken wings.

This month’s issue of the magazine also includes a review of The Merry Table.

Neptune: Where to Eat Today

February 15th, 2015

Many restaurants and other food shops have closed due to the storm, but not all. Here’s a growing list of the eateries that plan to be open today, keeping us all well fed despite the white stuff:

  • Union Bagel, where I picked my breakfast of a double toasted everything bagel with butter.
  • Arcadia is open until 10 pm, $5 drafts.
  • Becky’s Diner is open.
  • Bier Cellar is open noon – 6.
  • Black Cat Coffee opened at 7:30 this morning.
  • Brian Boru is open.
  • Bucks Naked BBQ is open all day.
  • Central Provisions is now open.
  • CBD will be opening their shops on Diamond and Congress Streets at 10:30.
  • DiMillo’s will be opening their lounge and bar starting at 11.
  • Dobra will open at noon.
  • Eventide plans to open at 11am for brunch.
  • Five Fifty-Five is open for both brunch and dinner.
  • Frog & Turtle will be open for brunch.
  • Gelato Fiasco opens at 3pm.
  • Great Lost Bear is open.
  • Hilltop Coffee is opening at 10 this morning.
  • Hunt and Alpine will be opening at 1pm serving their happy hour menu.
  • Little Bigs is open.
  • LFK is open today.
  • Local 188 is open.
  • Lolita is open.
  • Maine & Loire reconsidered and is open today until 6pm.
  • Marcy’s is open.
  • MJ’s will be open 11-2.
  • Old Port Wine will open at 10.
  • Omi’s Coffee is open.
  • Pai Men is holding an all day happy hour.
  • Petite Jacqueline is open for both brunch and dinner.
  • Piccolo will be open for dinner.
  • Rosemont is open.
  • Salvage BBQ opened at noon.
  • Sonny’s is having a 15% off white sale off all food today.
  • Speckled Axe plans to be open 10 – 2 today.
  • Timber will open for dinner.
  • Zapoteca will be open for dinner.

I’ll be updating this list throughout the day as more info comes in. Email me at or post a comment if there’s someplace I missed.

Review of Miyake

February 15th, 2015

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Miyake, granting the Fore Street restaurant 4½ stars.

It may be pricey, but Miyake is the place to indulge in a range of superb Japanese dishes. Try the melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly or the crunchy black seaweed called hijiki that’s served atop cubes of tofu and slices of avocado. If you love sashimi, you’ll find the quality and freshness here unparalleled; order a small platter with eight pieces for dinner or go for broke and ask chef Masa Miyake to prepare a special tasting menu. And don’t overlook the simplest offerings from the kitchen: The house salad and the spicy seaweed salad are among the tastiest in town.

Reviews: The Cheese Iron & Howie’s

February 12th, 2015

The Press Herald has published a bar review of Howie’s,

Howie’s Pub has been around for 12 years and hosts mostly regulars because of its somewhat hidden location. However, it’s a friendly, lively bar, especially on Tuesday nights, and the beer and food selection is decent. Newcomers welcome.

and a review of The Cheese Iron.

The Va Benne Italiano ($7.99) is comprised of Mortadello, provolone, an assortment of salamis, house-made relish and house-made pesto served on a Standard Baking Company baguette. After I ordered it, the woman who was waiting on me asked a glorious question: Would I liked it heated? Would I ever! A few minutes on the press brought my sandwich into sandwich hall of fame territory.

Revisiting Uncle Andy’s

February 11th, 2015

The Press Herald has revisited Uncle Andy’s to learn what lasting impact there has been on the South Portland diner from their appearance last year on the show Restaurant Impossible.

But even though Fogg found plenty to argue with Irvine about, six months later he says that he can’t argue with the results. In the first few months after the Uncle Andy’s episode of “Restaurant Impossible” aired in August, the diner’s business increased roughly four-fold. That initial boost has leveled off, and today Fogg says the family-run place is doing about twice as much business as it did before the show.

Boda/Green Elephant Expanding

February 10th, 2015

The owners of Boda and Green Elephant are launching a third restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, according to a report in the Portsmouth Herald.

[General Manager Ben] Richards acknowledged “there’s a lot of restaurants in Portsmouth,” but said he believes what they will bring to the 2,800 square-foot-space on the first floor of Portwalk 3 is “something different.”

“It’s all vegetarian food and it’s a mixture of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai,” Richards said.

He also described the restaurant as “very high end” and upscale.”

Otto Pizza has opened several locations in Massachusetts, Zapoteca has opened a restaurant in New Hampshire and a number of Portland restaurant owners have explored opening new ventures in Biddeford. This initiative by Boda/Green Elephant is part of that emerging trend of exporting the Portland food culture to locales further south.

Portland Spirits Society

February 10th, 2015

Maine Today has published an article about the Portland Spirits Society.

But with the formation of Portland Spirits Society (and the not-so-tough work of distillery visits and repeated sampling) McCarty aims to turn that ignorance into educated appreciation for herself and any other Portland-area women interested in learning more about their booze.

Judging by the early enthusiasm for Portland Spirits Society, there are a lot of women who are interested.

Women aren’t happy to just drink Stoli any more, she joked. Instead, women are saying, “I’d be interested to know how (liquor) is made and who’s making it,” just like so many locals already do with their food.