Ramona’s Launching as a Takeout Service

Ramona’s (website, instagram) a Philly-inspired hoagie shop created by Chad Conley and Josh Sobel, will be opening as a takeout service at 98 Washington Ave this Friday, April 17th. Pre-order your sandwiches online at ramonas.me/takeout.

Conley is well known as the co-owner of Palace Diner and founder of Rose Foods. Sobel hails from Philadelphia. He is a member of the Rose Foods staff, and has worked in NYC at Mile End, Diner, Marlow & Sons, and Court Street Grocers; he was also a co-owner of Southside Coffee. Grub Street put Southside at the top of their list of NYC’s best breakfast sandwiches back in 2016.

Cooking for Community

A new organization called Cooking for Community (website, facebook, instagram) is working with restaurants to buy local food from farms and fisheries to provide meals to those in need. So far Cooking for Community has raised $55,000 dollars. A pilot project will launch  Monday with the kitchens of Chaval and Little Giant preparing 450 cooked meals for Catholic Charities of Maine, Wayside Food Programs, Amistad and Preble Street.

Cooking for Community will enable production and delivery of hundreds of locally sourced, warm, fresh meals during its first week. At the same time, it will create and revise the structure and best practices for its expanding program model. Ultimately, the volunteer-run group hopes to expand to involve many more local restaurants, local food providers and donors to feed hundreds, possibly thousands of underserved, unemployed, elderly, and homeless people each day.

The Cooking for Community program “reinforces a positive feedback loop: restaurants can pay employees, leveraging payroll funding from the Cares Act federal stimulus package. Producers, farmers and individuals in the fishing industries, a big part of this loop, will receive financial support. The model also uses donations of perishable food goods that would otherwise go to waste.”

The organizers “hope is to inject essential nourishment, resources and hope back into thousands of Mainers’ lives. Anyone in need will know where and when they can depend on a free meal, cooked with love from all of us in Maine.”

For more information watch this interview with organizer Ellie Linen Low and Little Giant owner Ian Malin on Youtube.

Also pay a visit the Cooking for Community website, where you can also make a donation to support their ongoing efforts.

Fire at Walkers Maine

Walkers Maine in Cape Neddick suffered a fire on April 1st. Here’s a statement from owners Justin and Danielle Walker,

On April 1, 2020 Walkers Maine suffered from fire damage. The good news is no one was hurt and we have an incredible community resource in the York fire department who responded within minutes during a pandemic. We can’t thank them enough.

Danielle and I are saddened that we won’t be able to cook for you during this tenuous time, but rest assured; we will work quickly to get our restaurant up and running again.

We’ve even begun the process of investigating how to keep our take out business alive while the restaurant undergoes repairs. I’m able to cook with a small kitchen or high end facility and while the fire may interrupt our business; it can’t take away my creativity and ingenuity when it comes to doing what I love.

We can’t tell you how much the outpouring of support during this time has meant to us. Even under our current circumstances, we know with you in our corner we will prevail.

Stay tuned for more updates and stay safe.

Justin & Danielle Walker

Dreams on Hold…Now What

Today’s Press Herald takes a look at the special challenges being faced by restaurateurs whose restaurants were open briefly or just slated to open moments before the pandemic slammed into the Maine restaurant industry.

For several weeks now, the coronavirus pandemic has pummeled dining rooms in Maine and around the country – with no end yet in sight. And while some restaurants have been able to turn to curbside takeout, many have closed for the interim. “The uncertainty of it is agonizing,” Raquel Stevens said. In an interview with the New York Times in late March, internationally known chef/restaurateur David Chang predicted that small independently owned restaurants, exactly the sort that make Portland such an exciting restaurant city, will have “a morbidly high death rate.”

Perhaps none are more at risk than the newcomers. And perhaps none are more determined to beat the odds.

Maine Made Hand Sanitizer

The Press Herald has published a report on an ongoing collaboration among breweries, distilleries and UMaine to produce hand sanitizer for Maine hospitals.

Breweries in southern Maine have been donating the base stock of fermented liquid – beer – and distillers have been refining it until the alcohol reaches the necessary potency. Chemical engineers at UMaine mix the alcohol with hydrogen peroxide and glycerol, and then the university distributes the final product to hospitals.

Food Goes Virtual

Many areas of our lives have gone online as a response to the corona virus pandemic. Those who can, now are working from home, FaceTime calls are taking the place of meeting friends in person, and yoga studios like Lila have overhauled their approach to teach classes online.

The restaurant industry is also finding new ways to use digital media to remain connected with their customers and build connections among them…from a distance.

  • Paolo Laboa from Solo Italiano has been posting cooking videos on instagram. In the most recent the one chef Laboa shows how to make crepes with a savory filling of ricotta and spinach, swiss chard, pea shoots and borage.
  • Baristas from Tandem and Bard have gone on instagram to demo how to get the best cup of coffee from your home aero press, chemex or pour over set-up.
  • Briana Holt from Tandem has published a video with detailed instructions and recipe on how to make her buttermilk biscuits. The video is available for a donation and all the funds go to supporting out of work Tandem staff. So far Beneficial Biscuit initiative has raised $10,000 towards a $25k goal and unleashed an army of home bakers who have posted photos of the biscuits they’ve made based on Holt’s recipe. “We want to do everything we can right now for our crew,” said Tandem co-founder Kathleen Pratt, “and this little thing we started has also brought together our community, which is something we’re really proud of and really missing right now.”
  • The Maine Sommelier Society recently held their monthly blind wine tasting via a video conference.
  • Wine Wise is now pairing up with restaurants to offer virtual wine and food events. Participants get a meal and wine for two delivered to their door, and then tune in to a video conference to engage with the featured chef and Wine Wise founder Erica Archer to learn more about what they’re drinking and eating. Events with Sur Lie and Solo Italiano have already sold out, but tickets for two sessions with Chaval are still available.

Seed Saving and Seed Sales

Down East has published an article about prolific seed saver and founder of the Scatter Seed Project William Bonsall,

“It’s extraordinary,” says Albie Barden, a fellow seed saver in Norridgewock, who focuses on heirloom corn. Bonsall, he says, is a “living treasure.” Twenty years ago, Barden approached him for a few kernels of flint corn once widely cultivated by Native people in New England. Bonsall sent a packet of a variety called Byron, which he’d collected years before from an elderly Wilton resident with a few ears stored in a shoebox. Barden and others have since found the variety to be reliable, disease resistant, and delicious. Now, it’s beginning to catch on among small-scale farmers, Barden says, and has great potential to become a more widespread crop. If not for Bonsall, the lineage might have died out in a shoebox.

and the Press Herald has published a report about a significant increase in seed sales this year as Mainers plant more home gardens.

Seed sales for this time of year have spiked like never before, local and national garden supply sellers say. It’s a trend fueled by people stuck at home with time on their hands, worried about short-term grocery trips and long-term food availability. Some are first-time gardeners, others are starting their gardens earlier than usual – with seed starter kits on the kitchen table – or planning bigger gardens. Some are using gardening as a project for kids being schooled at home.

Easter and Passover Takeout

Some restaurants and markets are starting to announce takeout options for Passover and Easter:

  • Union – is offering a glazed ham dinner with a salad, quiche, three sides and carrot cake. $65 for two, $95 for four.
  • Chaval – has posted menus for Thursday through Saturday including a packed Easter dinnner.
  • Royal River Grill House – has spiral ham, pork crown roast, leg of lamb, prime rib roast, and truffle mac and cheese available for order in family size portions from their website.
  • The Black Tie Company – has a full menu of Easter dinner mains, sides and bakery/dessert items to go. You need “order by 5pm this Wednesday for pickup or delivery on Friday. 207-761-6665”
  • Luke’s Lobster – for pickup on Saturday. “you’ll get grilled lobster tails, slow roasted lamb shoulder from North Star Sheep Farm, local day boat scallops wrapped in bacon, potatoes, salad, and Bixby treats”, $45 per person. (207) 274-6097.
  • Buxton Common – has both Passover and Easter dinner menus.
  • Sea Glass – has a takeout Easter dinner menu.
  • The Good Table – has an Easter dinner takeout menu.
  • Other Side Deli – the butcher shop at Other Side Deli has lamb leg roasts, whole lamb racks, and house-brined and smoked hams. Orders must be in by April 7th.
  • Pat’s Meat Market – has meats for Passover and Easter. Order online.

If you know of any other restaurants offering Easter or Passover takeout please let me know.