Review of Custom Deluxe

imageThe Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed Custom Deluxe in Biddeford.

Malz’s tribute to his New England roots – a bean supper ($14) – may be his best entrée. At first glance, it looks ordinary, with a few alarmingly crimson chunks of Maine Reds piled into a bowl with a spoonful of baked beans. But looks are deceiving. The beans are earthy, sugary, complex. And no wonder. Malz cooks them with turnips and carrots and – get this – bottles of Moxie and root beer, then finishes them with miso, the traditional Japanese seasoning made of fermented soybeans. As for the Maine Reds, they’re boiled in dashi, a Japanese broth flavored with fish flakes and seaweed. Underneath the beans, dogs and a few fatty chunks of ham, is a mound of sticky rice showered with sesame seeds. Though a crazy cross-cultural mashup, the dish is as comforting as a warm blanket. I loved it.

This is restaurant critic Jame Scwartz’s last review before stepping down from the job. The paper has begun the search for a candidate to fill the position. If you’re interested in the job contact the paper’s food editor, Peggy Grodinsky.

Pine Pitch Press: Narrative Cookbook

pinepitchPine Pitch Press has put out an open call for submissions for their newest book, a Maine narrative cookbook.

If you want to test the limits of your gluten allergy, or figure out how your mom made that birthday cake, or recreate the first meal you made in college that wasn’t in a hot pot, here’s your chance. We don’t want to just hear your golden-hued memories of Nana’s Thanksgiving stuffing (though we do want that). We want the recipe for the lasagna you can only make, for whatever reason, when you’re sad. We want the special sauce for your third straight loss in the town BBQ championship. We want, above all, to hear not just how you make something but how you make it yours.

The narrative part? Well, that’s up to you. Basically, it’s anything that’s not pure instruction.Tell us how you found the ingredients. Or cut and paste a poem from the back of the Barilla box. Or shoot a photo essay of all the people that pass by your door while you’re waiting on the beef bourguignon. There has to be a recipe that is somewhat make-able and then…something else. We’re ready to be surprised and confused.

Pine Pitch Press is based in Portland. They specialize in “publishing the written, drawn or otherwise printable in small-batch anthologies”.

New England Cocktail Conference

The annual Rum Riots series has grown up and now in its third year is rechristened as the New England Cocktail Conference (website, facebook, instagram, twitter). The conference will “bring together the bartending industry, and enthusiasts, from all over New England to celebrate, learn and raise a glass together” this summer, June 2nd through the 5th.

Along with the new name comes an expanded scope and size. Bartenders from Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will be participating in the event and each day classes, dinners and events are themed to focus on a particular type of spirits.

For more information on the NECC and to check out the draft schedule visit

BCA How to Open a Restaurant

Best Chefs America interviewed Krista Kern Desjarlais for their article on How to Open a Restaurant.

Krista Kern Desjarlais, of Bresca and the Honey Bee and the upcoming bakery The Purple House, thinks that most restaurants fail because people haven’t financially planned for the worst. There will be delays in construction, zoning, and gaining licensure. Extra costs always show up during the design process. You’ll need reservoirs of cash to pay for overhead during thin times, or if you aren’t slammed the moment you open your doors. It takes most restaurants at least a year to start making a profit.

Young Chefs to Watch: Cara Stadler

Condé Nast Traveler has included chef Cara Stadler in their list of 10 Young Chefs to Watch.

Terrible students can make for fine young professionals. That’s true in Cara Stadler’s case, anyway. Despite some self-proclaimed lackluster grades in high school, Stadler, 27, had a star pupil kind of year in 2014, with a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef Award nomination and Food & Wine Best New Chef nod. Seems that bad grades don’t mean a thing when “the kitchen is my jam,” says Stadler, who owns Tao Yuan in Brunswick, ME, and Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, ME, with her mother, Cecile.

Under Construction: Drifter’s Wife

The Portland Phoenix has published an update on the Drifter’s Wife, the new natural wine bar under construction on Washington Ave by the owners of Maine & Loire, Peter and Orenda Hale.

Chef [Ben] Jackson said he plans to take full advantage of Portland’s established amenities, like the farmers’ markets, and to source locally as often as possible.  Although a formal menu has not yet been released, Jackson has a few ideas as to food offerings. Jackson cited Moroccan and Japanese culinary influences (he and his wife are traveling to Japan for their honeymoon in the coming weeks) but said that the main theme is probably going to be twists on French classics. This is a nod to Maine-et-Loire in west-central France, Maine and Loire’s namesake and a region in which many of the Hales’ favorite wines are produced.

Ben Jackson is the former executive sous chef at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. It was at the Wythe that both the Jacksons and Hales worked and originally met.

Visit the Drifter’s Wife’s instagram page and website for more information.

Review of Pizzaiolo

The Golden Dish has reviewed Pizzaiolo.

The pesto was not overly garlicky and topped with plenty of melted mozzarella cheese.  The porko had lots going on.  The sausage was well spiced and the meatballs and pepperoni were compatible additions. The rich tomato sauce and mozzarella added great texture and taste.  As pizza goes both were admirable.

Out for Bid: Courthouse & Castle

2016-01-27_21-19-48The Friends of Deering Oaks Park and the City of Portland are putting the castle in the park out to bid for someone interested in running a cafe or other food  business there. Interested parties should contact Troy Moon at For additional information read this article in the Press Herald.

The city hopes to select a vendor by March 1. Lease negotiations will be completed by March 15, and the castle should be open for business in May.

Kotts said that, after her experience last year, she believes a food truck – or two or three food trucks – would be perfect for the space. They can cook just outside the castle, then serve customers fresh, hot food inside.

Cumberland County is seeking RFPs for a Courthouse Café/Coffee Kiosk in the Cumberland County courthouse.

The Courthouse has approximately 200 daily employees and an additional 200 to 400 visitors per day. We are requesting a proposal to sell coffee and/or donuts, muffins, etc. to employees and visitors. We are asking you to provide a concept of your kiosk, products sold, prices, and rental to the County for the space provided. New ideas are welcomed, including possible lunch plans.

Under Construction: Portland Meatball Co.

The Forecaster has posted an update on the Portland Meatball Company which is slated for 104 Exchange Street.

Palacci declined to elaborate on the restaurant plans, submitted Dec. 23, 2015, to the city Planning Office on behalf of the Portland Meatball Co. by architect Matthew Provencal of Mark Mueller Architects.

The plans call for converting 2,300 square feet of space to seating for more than 30 customers, with a bar with 12 seats. The conversion is estimated to cost about $98,000, according to the application.

Portland Restaurant Staff Meals

Today’s Press Herald features a behind the scenes look at restaurant staff meals.

Staff meal, or family meal, is a longstanding restaurant tradition of serving the staff lunch or dinner. Restaurant workers can’t leave their jobs during a shift to grab a sandwich if they get hungry like office workers sometimes do. They are either prepping furiously for service or serving customers. The practice of staff meal varies widely, from elaborate meals where staff gather together around a communal table, to a big discount on anything ordered off the regular menu, to nothing at all. The food is often leftovers, combined with what’s available in the walk-in, and is prepared by the kitchen staff.