Vegan/Vegetarian Dining Overview

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an overview of the vegan and vegetarian options in town.

Portland’s plant-based restaurant scene is booming, with at least 11 all-vegetarian eateries in the city. That number doesn’t include Portland’s veg-friendly spots, which according to Yelp.com number more than 200, and according to Rent.com’s recent calculations earned the city the No. 6 spot on its list of the Best American Cities for Vegans.

This scene went into overdrive at the end of 2019.

Swain to Speak at Trade Commission Hearing

Ned Swain, the owner of Devenish Wines, is in Washington DC today where he’ll be addressing a hearing at the federal government’s International Trade Commission.  Swain is there along with a range of other speakers from the wine and specialty food industry to speak against the proposal to apply 100% tariffs to European wines (as well as cheese and other products) imported into the United States.

Devenish along with other Maine wine distributors, food shops and restaurants have been very active getting the word out, making the case for the negative impact these tariffs would have on the wine and restaurant industries in the state.

For more perspective on the issue and the impact it will have, see this article in the New York Times written by Jenny Lefcourt, president and co-founder of Jenny & Francois Selections, a natural wine importer.

MST Best Meals and Vegan Progress

Maine Sunday Telegram Andrew Ross has looked back over 2019 and assembled his highlight reel of dining in Maine,

This year, our food businesses powered through the anticipation, interpreting new trends through the idiom of local ingredients, yet never failing to keep standards high.

So high, that choosing my year-end favorites was at once more difficult and more enjoyable than it has ever been before. I spent the last few weeks scrolling through photos of hundreds of dishes and rereading tableside notes taken surreptitiously on my smartphone. (“Somebody really needs to carve this bagel into Mount Rushmore” brought me back to a spectacular early summer breakfast …)

and vegan columnist Avery Yale Kamila has provided a 2019 review of the changes in the Maine vegan food scene.

Maine’s vegan landscape expanded significantly in 2019 with the arrival of the all-vegan Lovebirds Donuts in Kittery; the all-vegan Sticky Sweet ice cream shop in Portland; the mostly vegan hummus restaurant Nura in Portland’s Monument Square; and the all-vegan fast-food restaurant Copper Branch, which recently opened in Portland’s Old Port, making it the first national vegan chain to set up shop in the Pine Tree State.

Restaurant Bubble?

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram examines whether the Portland restaurant industry is a bubble about to burst.

“Portland was undergoing a little restaurant boom,” Guy Hernandez recalls, “and people were already saying that there were too many restaurants in the city.”

Things haven’t changed much in the past 13 years. Every year, it seems, locals have worried about a pending “restaurant bubble” that, when it bursts, will result in restaurants and bars furiously closing their doors like a stack of dominoes. This year was particularly troubling to city residents who saw a lot of favorites close – places like Silly’s, Lolita, Walter’s, Vignola Cinque Terre, Local Sprouts Cafe, the Irish pub Brian Boru and Andy’s Old Port Tavern. And yet, roughly twice as many other restaurants and bars have opened to take their place. This was the year we welcomed Flood’s, Gross Confection Bar, CBG, Other Side Diner, Royale Lunch Bar, Maiz, Bird & Co, two cider houses, a whiskey bar, a cocktail bar and several smaller eateries.

For a little historical perspective see this PFM post in 2010 about a 1977 Maine Times article. It’s so funny to think anyone would think Portland had reached a tipping in 1977. I suspect they’ll feel the same way about our 2019 concerns from the perspective of the mid 21st Century.

Dean’sSweets on NPR’s Marketplace

Dean’sSweets was interviewed for the NPR radio show Marketplace as part of a 3-part story highlighting holiday sales through the eyes of small retailers around the country.

The November 25th program was the first of three segments. Co-owner Kristin Bingham describes (start listening at the 10:43 mark) the preparation and pressures of making, marketing, and selling specialty chocolates for the holiday season. Dean’sSweets is scheduled to be featured again in the second and third parts of the series airing in mid-December, and then again just after the holidays.

The Seven Sisters

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram has an interesting article on the traditional crops grown by Maine’s Native Americans.

The seeds being grown at Motahkokmikuk include heirloom varieties of corn, beans and squash – the well-known Three Sisters, which are traditionally planted together in mounds. In addition, tribe members are growing ancestral sunflowers, sunchokes and ground cherries, which together with gourds used as vessels, form the culturally significant Seven Sisters.

Vibrant Food Scene

A new article on Medium explores “Why is the Whitest, Oldest State in the U.S. Home to Such a Vibrant Food Scene?

When I moved to Portland, Maine, I started a list of restaurants I wanted to try. But it’s been harder than I imagined to check off a pho dinner here and a Sunday bagel there. It’s no secret that Portland is a food destination, and I quickly realized I’m competing for a table with hundreds of locavore enthusiasts and hungry tourists.

Lack of Staff Keeps Toast Bar Closed

The BDN and Press Herald have posted reports on Scratch’s decision to keep their Toast Bar closed due to a lack of staff.

Here’s an excerpt of what Scratch wrote on Instagram,

Unfortunately with the current labor shortage we just can’t find the staff to provide the experience and service to our customers that is so important to us.

It is an extremely difficult decision and one that admittedly feels a bit like defeat because who likes to disappoint folks who want their toast!? But we‘re going to double down at the bakery on Willard Square where we, of course, will have all the bagels, breads, sweet treats, savory eats, coffee and good cheer you can handle.

We plan to revisit reopening sometime in the spring…