New Food Trucks

Two new food trucks are set to launch this weekend:

The Pink Waffle (instagram) has its Portland debut at Bellefower Brewing on Sunday, 1-4 where they’ll be serving up a menu of waffle plates, waffle-based sandwiches and waffle snacks.

Snowology (instagram) will be launching on Saturday serving up bowls of flavored ice. The have a menu of 20 flavors and 5 house combos like Acadia Sunrise (cherry, mango, orange dreamsicle). Snowology will be in the Oakdale neighborhood starting around 3 pm.

Rosemont Market & Wine Bar

Rosemont Market has announced plans to open the Rosemont Market & Wine Bar on Thompson’s Point.

With the anticipated opening of the Children’s Museum at the Point, we jumped at the opportunity to put fresh, local food into the hands of more Maine families and those visiting from away.

Our intention for the wine bar space is to create a gathering place for our community to come together and enjoy a glass of wine, some local snacks, and to share the stories of our producers that make Rosemont’s wine program so special.

We look forward to hosting our friends and neighbors, farmers, and suppliers as we all experience and celebrate good food, delicious wine, and our community. We can’t wait to welcome you in.

The new Rosemont location will be located in one half of the space formerly occupied by the Cellardoor Winery tasting room (Rwanda Bean Coffee is already building out a new roastery in the other half of the space).

The market and wine bar is expected to open as soon as this summer.

Ben Jackson Joining Magnus

James Beard Award nominated chef Ben Jackson will be joining the team at Magnus on Water for the relaunch of the Biddeford cocktail bar and restaurant.

Alchemy /ˈalkəmē/ a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

The food Ben cooks is deeply comforting, yet vibrant. It is often full of subtle surprises—some may even say it’s alchemy. Yet, perhaps most of all, Ben is inspired by the phenomenal land and seascape of Maine; the bounty and gifts of all the beings here. He hopes to honor these lives, our family, and the change of seasons, via the food on our plates.

I think this is an amazing match-up of talent, and am looking forward to seeing how the synergies develop between Jackson’s food, Catapang’s cocktails and the stellar hospitality Magnus got known for in the short time they were open.

Magnus on Water (websitefacebookinstagramtwitter) was launched by Carmen Harris, bartender Brian Catapang, general manager Brittany Saliwanchik and Julia Russell on January 18th 2020 and had a short run of regular service before being shutdown by the pandemic. They re-opened during this past summer for outdoor service on their granite patio.

Prior to moving to Maine, Jackson was a sous chef at Diner and Marlow and Sons and the executive sous chef Reynard in the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. In Portland Jackson was the founding chef at Drifters Wife which closed in 2020. Jackson was a James Beard Best Chef nominee in 2020 and Drifters was named one of the 10 best restaurants in America in 2018 by Bon Appétit. In the time since Drifters closed Jackson has been private chefing as well as operating events and the Beautiful Swimmer takeout pop-up series.

Magnus plans to open early this summer. Stay tuned to their instagram account for updates and further information.

Friends & Family in the Arts District

A combination bar/cafe and specialty market called Friends & Family (instagram) is under development at 593 Congress Street in the space formerly occupied by Vinland. The 30-seat counter service eatery will serve small plates, cheese and charcuterie as well as wine, beer, and aperitivos. During warmer months Friends & Family is also planning additional seating in Congress Square Park.

Friends & Family situated in the center of the Arts District with the Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage, Space Gallery, and State Theater all within easy walking distance. Being a go to casual space to gather pre/post a show or visit to a gallery is a key part of the vision for Friends & Family.

Founders Cecily Upton and Michael Malyniwsky hope to open Friends & Family in July.

Upton grew up in Maine. Early in her career she worked at former Portland restaurants Natasha’s and Pepperclub, as well as Space Gallery and the PMA. In New York she was part of the front of house staff at Gabrielle Hamilton’s restaurant Prune. She worked as the youth programs director at Slow Food USA before co-founding FoodCorps. Upton returned to Maine in 2015.

Malyniwsky grew up in Ottawa and moved to the US in 2001. The last 7 years he’s worked in California where most recently he was the founding chef of Cellarmaker House of Pizza in San Francisco.  Malyniwsky was on the opening teams of Birch & Barley in DC, and was the sous chef at CityZen working with Michelin-starred chef Eric Ziebold.

Follow Friends & Family on instagram to stay in the loop as they work towards an opening day this summer.

Pandemic Series: Identity and Resilience

The Press Herald has published the final article in their 5-part series on the pandemic’s impact on the Portland restaurant industry. Today’s article looks back at the factors that contributed to the success of the hospitality industry pre-pandemic and shares confidence that the restaurant scene will rebound albeit changed by the experience of the past year plus.

For more than a decade, Portland has enjoyed a national reputation as a food town, a place to go for its impressive restaurants, expansive craft beer scene and independent groceries trading in local food sourced from nearby farms and the adjacent sea. Looking for a cider house, an upscale knife store, a well-stocked cheese shop, an Eritrean restaurant or a hummusiya? Portland’s got those and much more. Its status as a bustling, walkable food town may be hardly a blip in the city’s almost 400-year-old history, but to many of its residents today, its intertwined food, drinks and restaurant scene is a source of pride, jobs, community, entertainment – even a reason they moved here.

Pandemic Series: Labor Shortage

Today’s Press Herald includes the fourth article in a 5-part series on the pandemic’s impact on the Portland restaurant industry. Today’s article reports on the tight labor market for restaurant staff and the factors contributing to it.

Over the last year plus, you’ve lost much of your staff through furloughs and layoffs. Some you’ve hired back. Some have left the industry for good; real data is hard to come by, but estimates predict as much as 25 percent of the workforce may never return. At the same time, restaurant staffers still overseeing their children’s schooling and care may not be able to work their usual hours. And federal unemployment assistance – that extra $300 a week – has been extended through early September, the beating heart of Maine’s tourism season, providing a disincentive to work, some employers say.

RAS Wine: Arkadia

RAS Wines (website, instagram) is just about to release their first vintage of Arkadia, a sparkling wine produced from organically raised wild Maine blueberries. RAS is a Maine-based winery that will be focusing on sparkling and aromatized wines produced from organically raised Maine fruit.

The winery was founded by Dan Roche, Joe Appel and Emily Smith. All three are former Rosemont Market staff, and Joe Appel was Rosemont’s wine buyer and a former Press Herald wine columnist.

Arkadia (product sheet) is a spontaneously fermented with native yeasts, produced without added sulfur and with no fining or filtering. A secondary in-bottle fermentation is used to bottle condition the wine. Appel describes Arkadia as “dry, snappy, super bright, with a lot of dark fruit and savory character” which “sits at a new nexus point where artisanal wine, cider and beer intersect.”

In addition to Arkadia RAS is currently developing a vermouth which should come to market later this year—other wild-blueberry-based wines are in the works with plans to also expand into grape-based wines as well.

The first bottles of Arkadia are getting delivered later this week and will begin appearing on the shelves and menus around April 28th.

Look for it on the shelves at Bow Street Beverage, Higgins Beach Market, Leroux Kitchen, Lorne Wine, Maine & Loire, Old Port Wine Merchants, Rosemont Market, Speckled Ax (Thames Street), The Cheese Shop, and Vessel and Vine in Brunswick.

It’s also set to be on the takeout bottle lists and menus at Central Provisions, Chaval, Hunt + Alpine, Magnus on Water and The Honey Paw.

Check in with your favorite bottle shops and restaurants to find out if they’ll also be stocking Arkadia.

Pandemic Series: Ripple Effect

Today’s Press Herald includes the third article in a 5-part series on the pandemic’s impact on the Portland restaurant industry. Today’s article reports on the ripple effect to suppliers, farmers and fishermen.

The impact of the momentary collapse and stunted recovery of Portland’s restaurants has reverberated across an ecosystem of businesses. Many of those are still in survival mode, grabbing whatever federal and state aid they can and changing business models and practices to earn new revenue and hang on for better times.

Pandemic Series: Microcosm

Today’s Press Herald has published the second article in a 5-part series on the pandemic’s impact on the Portland restaurant industry. Today’s article takes a close look at the path taken by 7 establishments along Middle Street, examining them “a microcosm of an industry that has been roiled by the pandemic”.

Some have closed permanently, all at least temporarily. They’ve had to reinvent themselves continually, switching to takeout, meal kits and groceries and sending lobster rolls winging around the U.S. They’ve laid off staff and brought them back, or in some cases not; coped with constant uncertainty, positive COVID tests, maddening unemployment applications, and onerous paperwork for loans and grants.

Pandemic Series: Perseverance

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram has published the first article in a 5-part series on the pandemic’s impact on the Portland restaurant industry. Today’s article is titled Threatened by Coronavirus, City’s Restaurants Turn Tables.

Over the summer, Portland lost restaurants like the critically acclaimed Drifters Wife, the tiny modern Italian bistro Piccolo, and the all-local Vinland that were among those responsible for its national reputation as a culinary destination. The devastating early predictions of closures – that 85 percent of independent restaurants nationwide might not survive until the end of 2020 – seemed to be playing out. Then government aid began to flow, putting out immediate financial fires, saving jobs and giving restaurants breathing room. Portland appears to be faring better than bigger restaurant cities like New York and Portland, Oregon, where an estimated one in six and one in seven restaurants, respectively – including national chain restaurants – had closed by the end of 2020. By comparison, a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram survey of the more than 300 independent restaurants and cafes in Portland with on-premise dining shows that about 1 in 14 have permanently shuttered.

Also in today’s paper, restaurant critic Andrew Ross interviews some of his predecessors about their time in the critics chair and their take on the food scene of today.

For some historical perspective and future-facing insight, I reached out to the four long-serving Dine Out alumni to help me look back at Maine’s culinary landscape from the decade (and a bit) covering 2005-2016. In two weeks, I’ll offer some of my own reflections on the past five years and speculate about what’s to come.