Outdoor Dining & Covid Sensory Impact

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a rundown  of some outdoor dining options in Portland, and

Many Portlanders, especially those of us with vulnerable friends and family, are still holding off on dining indoors. For the past ten weeks or so, that’s been easy, but as the leaves begin to fall, our options seem to dwindle by the day. Don’t despair just yet – Greater Portland still offers plenty of local al fresco dining and drinking opportunities. Here are a dozen of my favorites.

a report on how Covid has impacted the sense of taste and smell in the food community.

The same day Diane Hudson’s doctor expressed concern about her cough – a cough Hudson assumed was just a symptom of hay fever – and had her tested for COVID-19, Hudson stopped by the store and bought feta cheese.

That night, she made a beautiful Greek salad and poured a glass of her favorite Greek wine to go with it.

“I sat down to eat it,” the Portland photographer recalled, “and everything tasted like cardboard.” The wine, she added, smelled and tasted “like motor oil.”

Ruby’s in the NY Times

Ruby’s West End is featured in a New York Times article about changing pay practices in the restaurant industry.

So last spring, when the couple opened Ruby’s West End, a cafe in Portland, Maine, they decided that every aspect of their restaurant would diverge from business as usual. Ms. [Corrinna] Stum, 30, spurned pricey subscriptions for reservation and scheduling software, and instead used that money to help pay every member of her small team $12.15 per hour, Maine’s full minimum wage. She also added a 20 percent service charge to every check, to be shared with the kitchen staff, which traditionally doesn’t benefit from tips.

Restaurant Design, Olfactory Portland

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article on the changing olfactory nature of Portland, and

The smorgasbord of scents Lausier recounted hasn’t existed since the late 1990s, when the J.J. Nissen Bakery on Washington Avenue shut down. Jordan’s Meats, on India Street in the East End, stopped cooking up hot dogs and deli meats in 2005. The B&M Baked Beans plant, where Lausier worked for 42 years, will stop production by the end of this year, the owners announced in late August.

an article about contemporary restaurant design in our city.

The 1920s glam bar at the Time & Temperature will be the latest in a slew of restaurants and bar/lounges in the city that have been amping up their interior design game. The city’s image as a down-to-earth, no-fuss, mostly rustic farm-to-table culinary scene is changing. Some attribute it, at least in part, to the Restaurant City of the Year accolade Bon Appétit magazine bestowed in 2018.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Today’s Press Herald includes an article about the challenges facing restaurants and an effort to refund the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

At first glance, Maine’s restaurant industry is healthy – a strong tourism season has led to packed patios and dining rooms, long lines for takeout and crowded beer gardens.

But just under the surface, industry insiders worry that a resurgent pandemic fueled by the delta variant, crippling staffing shortages and soaring business costs will hobble a fragile recovery. Lobbyists and restaurant owners are pushing Congress to pump more money into a relief fund that ran dry this summer after grants were awarded to just one-third of applicants nationwide.

The Fizz: Sean Turley on Apples and Cider

For this week’s edition of The Fizz Margot Mazur has an extensive conversation with Sean Turley about Maine’s history of apple agriculture, its budding cider industry and the challenges/opportunities for the industry as it moves forward.

Cider is a local product that reflects a place. You can get into a conversation around terroir and other parts of it that are really interesting, but you don’t get those conversations if everyone’s just taking dessert fruit and putting it in cans and selling it like a cool, goofy, mango habanero or something. Then people think oh “cider is only this thing you buy in cans and crush”. Cider can be a really interesting and conversation driving thing to drink. That’s what I’d like to see.

Public Shows Support for Accident Victims

A collision Saturday night put three catering employees from Lake & Co into the hospital emergency room.

On the way home from working a catering event, Jenn Marrone and two others were struck by a drunk driver going the wrong way on 295.   Jenn is in critical condition with a severely injured leg. Two other passengers, who will remain anonymous for the time being, have critical injuries as well.

A Go Fund Me campaign set-up Sunday night has seen an outpouring of support in the first 24 hours it’s been up. 300+ people have donated more than $30k to help with medical bills and other related expenses.

In separate news, Cameron Graf, the sous chef at FLUX Restaurant and Bar in Lisbon Falls, suffered serious burns Saturday night and is in the ICU at Maine Med.

Graf sustained severe burns to his hands, arms, torso and legs in a cooking fire early Saturday afternoon. He was preparing a dish with alcohol when the alcohol splashed onto his uniform, causing it to catch fire, Lisbon Fire Chief Nate LeClair said Saturday.

A Go Fund Me campaign set-up on Sunday for Graf has seen a similar response with more than $27k raised so far with donations from 350+ people.

Gather For Sale

Owner Matthew Chappell has put his Yarmouth restaurant, Gather, up for sale.

After nearly a decade of owning and operating Gather, I have begun the process to find a new buyer that will lead Gather for the next 10 years. I’m excited about new challenges ahead for me personally, and equally committed to finding a new owner who will carry the restaurant forward.

Rest assured, Gather will continue to operate as it has during this transition -bringing you Maine ingredients from all those amazing farmers, brewers, oyster growers, tortilla makers, and more.

Interested parties should contact Kirk Butterfield at kbutterfield@kw.com.

Proof of Vaccination

The Press Herald reports that the Hunt & Alpine Club is a “one week into enforcing its new vaccine requirement for indoor dining”.

“We’re a bar. We card people all the time. This is just another way of carding,” [co-owner Briana] Volk said. “It’s really not a big deal. No one in person has been upset about it.” She said the restaurant has taken some criticism online about the move, but most people are supportive.

Hunt & Alpine is the first food business in Portland to require proof of vaccination. Both Little Giant and Crown Jewel both have taken steps to discourage unvaccinated people from dining indoors at their restaurants but have not yet required proof of vaccination status.

‘Adult-Vaccination Restaurant’

Little Giant has announced a new policy for their West End restaurant,

We are now an “adult-vaccination restaurant.” This means that if you are an adult who has been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you are welcome to dine at Little Giant. If you have not been vaccinated, please make alternate dining arrangements.

Vaccine ineligible children and vaccinated adults are welcome to dine at Little Giant in our outdoor dining options only. If you are dining with children, please select outdoor dining when booking or call us at 207-747-5045 to discuss dining options.

Masks are required when not eating or drinking. Our bar seats are currently unavailable.

While this may be the first Portland restuarant to implement this approach, a growing number of restaurants in NYC are taking the additional step of requiring diners to show proof of vaccination to eat indoors.

Update: The Hunt + Alpine Club is also asking their customers to be fully vaccinated to be seated indoors at their bar, and Crown Jewel on Great Diamond Island has announced that indoor seating is only for vaccinated customers.

For more reporting on this subject read this article by the Press Herald.