Hunt & Alpine

Hunt and Alpine co-owners Andrew and Briana Volk were interviewed by Inside Hook about how their cocktail bar has had to change and adapt during the Covid pandemic.

However, Volk realized that even the flintiest of Mainers wouldn’t want to sit outdoors in January, February and March. After New Year’s, the business contracted to a 50-square-foot retail shop inside the bar. Within, shoppers can browse refrigerated cocktails to go in addition to wine, tinned fish, prepared foods, branded clothing and even a pretzel puzzle. Volk also plans to make deliveries in Portland, and possibly to nearby ski areas.

Dining Survey

Mainebiz has published the result of an Eat Drink Lucky survey of 2,010 restaurant patrons.

In the latest report shared with Mainebiz, more than one out of four respondents (27.7%) said they have resumed dining inside, while close to three out of four (72.8%) said they have not.

Of those who had been eating outdoors, only 21.6% of those said they would continue doing so now that the weather has gotten colder, while 45% said they would not and 34.7% said they are not eating out at all.

High Demand at Maine Food Pantries

The Maine Sunday Telegram has published about the high demand at Maine food pantries.

The number of Mainers struggling to feed their families and turning to food pantries for help is rising to new heights as coronavirus cases spike and the state faces its worst loss of jobs in any recession in 50 years.

Food pantry directors say they have stockpiled enough food to meet the need for now, but the volunteer efforts are straining and more federal relief will be needed to address poverty and hunger as the pandemic wears on.

“There is a desperate need out there,” said Don Bisson, executive director of the Biddeford Food Pantry, where there has been a 25 percent increase in clients since this time last year.

Bravo Leasing Former Aurora Provisions

Bravo Maine (website, facebook, instagram) has leased the former Aurora Provision at 64 Pine Street where they’ll be restarting their series of cooking classes in February.

In addition to holding classes at 64 Pine Street, starting in mid-February Bravo Maine plans on opening as a cafe serving coffee, French pastry and lunch, daily 11 – 3.

They also plan to use 64 Pine Street for kids cooking and baking classes, and for pop-up dinners.

Taco Trio Expanding to Saco

The Saco Bay News reports that Taco Trio is opening a second location in Saco.

The new restaurant is scheduled to open in March at 27 Elm St., the former location of Skipper’s Seafood and Rotisserie. The space was been vacant since early fall of 2019, when Chuck and Karen Forzely decided to retire and close the seafood restaurant after 21 years.

Rasmussen and Pena said they had looked for years for a big enough location in the Saco and Biddeford area, and 27 Elm St. was an ideal spot.

Little Brother Launching in February

A new business called Little Brother Chinese Food (instagram) is under development. Little Brother will sell a line of Chinese dumplings from their home base at Fork Food Lab.  Owners Richard Lee and Claire Guyer plan to launch Little Brother on February 5th a week a head of Chinese New Year.

Once their website is up you’ll be able to order three different styles of frozen dumplings for final preparation at home: a pork and napa cabbage dumpling made with ginger, scallion and sesame oil which Lee learned how to make from his grandmother and aunt, a vegan dumpling made with soy protein, napa cabbage and roasted mushrooms, and each week there will be third rotating option on the menu. In  recognition of the Year of the Ox which start on the lunar new year, Lee and Guyer are making a spicy beef dumpling made with their house chili oil, Szechuan peppercorn and chili flakes.

Guyer and Lee moved to Portland at the end of March from Chicago. Guyer grew-up in Maine in Thomaston and prior to moving to Illinois worked in Portland as a baker for Hilltop Coffee and for Borealis Breads, and was a server at Silly’s. In Chicago Lee got his start in the kitchen working for chef Joe Flamm at Spiaggia and for a time worked at Parachute.

In Chicago the couple ran the Oxheart Collective supper club as a way to experiment with food and engage with love of hospitality.

In time Little Brother may evolve from its current takeout-only model into a restaurant.

Outdoor Dining Extended to May 10th

News Center Maine reports that the City Council has extended the outdoor dining provisions through the winter to May 10th.

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday night to extend outdoor dining to May 10. The extension is part of the City’s emergency proclamation.

“This is not just for business owners, but for folks who work in one of our largest industries,” City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said.

The City extended outdoor dining on public sidewalks and parking spots in October. That was set to expire Monday. 

Sugar Giant & Boozy Giant

Little Giant restaurant in the West End is  launching two new ventures—Sugar Giant and Boozy Giant. Both brands along with the new Little Giant heated outdoor dining space are expected to launch as soon as this weekend.

Sugar Giant (website, instagram) will be a pick-up/delivery bakery with online ordering (website launching soon). The menu will feature ready to eat items as well as options that customers can finish off in their kitchens at home. The new bakery will be operate in the mornings out of the Little Giant restaurant which already has the necessary equipment and kitchen space. In addition to online ordering, Little Giant customers will be able to add Sugar Giant items to their takeout order, and when LG outdoor dining restarts customers will be able to add bakery items to their order to take home after the meal. The Sugar Giant website is now up and accepting pre-orders for the launch on Saturday. I’ve got my order in for the cinnamon rolls and blueberry galette.

Boozy Giant (instagram) will be a wine and beer delivery service that will pair an expanded and curated set of wines for local delivery 5+ nights a week.

Little Giant will be working with CarHop and DoorDash to deliver baked goods and wine/beer to their customers, while exploring taking the delivery part of the operation in-house. A new baker has joined the Little Giant team as part of the launch of Sugar Giant.

While both of these new initiatives came about due to the pandemic, owner Ian Malin shared he’s created the business plan for each around the expectation they’ll continue to be important facets of Little Giant even after Covid recedes and life returns to a new normal.

New Natural Wine Shop for Portland

Sommelier and wine educator Margot Mazur (instagram, substack) is in the early stages of planning to open a new wine shop called American Fizz in Portland in late 2021.

At American Fizz Mazur plans to focus on natural American made wines including fruit wines and ciders—with most bottles falling in the $15 – 25 price range. Mazur is also planning to stock locally made foods and produce. A wine education program will be a central part of Mazur’s plans.

Mazur currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts where she formerly was a sommelier at Lauren Friel’s highly regarded natural wine bar Rebel Rebel, and the beverage director at Wild Child.

She recently launched a email newsletter on Substack also called The Fizz. Become a subscriber to get access to her weekly interviews with with women who work in the wine industry.

This newsletter is going to be mostly containing interviews with women in wine—winemakers, sommeliers, shop owners and employees, servers, farmers, and everyone in between. There will also be some deep dives into specific wine-related topics, such as the history of American winemaking, a look into wine additives, and the technical side of preventing wine from turning into vinegar (wine nerd stuff).