2023 Beard Awards Nominees

This year’s James Beard Foundation Awards list of restaurant and chef nominees were announced this morning.

Of the 11 Maine semifinalistsThe Quarry in Monson has earned a spot as a final nominee in the Outstanding Hospitality category. Congratulations to chef/owner Marilou Ranta and her team!

After a final round of evaluation and voting, this year’s Beard Awards winners will be announced on Monday June 5th in Chicago.

Related information:

Tandem’s Buttermilk Biscuits

The New York Times has published an article about baker Briana Holt’s buttermilk biscuits at Tandem Coffee entitled “The Best Biscuits Outside of the South“.

Whenever Briana Holt is baking at home, her rescue dog, Gravy, is usually close by waiting for a treat. She named him after Wavy Gravy, the Woodstock-era peace activist and the former official clown of the Grateful Dead, one of Holt’s favorite bands. Her dog’s name, she says, has nothing to do with the fact that she happens to make the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted outside the South. Holt is an owner and the head baker at Tandem Coffee + Bakery in Portland, Maine, which has a line out the door more often than not. I met her for the first time at the front of that line. As I was ordering my third biscuit of the week, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. “Eric?”


Evolving Business Models for Breweries

Today’s Press Herald reports on how a maturing craft brewing industry is adding food service to evolve their business model and better address their customer’s needs.

“What we’re seeing at the highest level is the next move in a maturing marketplace,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, a trade group.

Tasting rooms still draw visitors who want to try the latest beers. But the market has changed since the heyday of specialty can releases, when people would line up outside breweries to get the newest creation before it sold out.

The beer makers have also changed. Craft breweries are outgrowing their first tasting rooms, adding second or third locations in new towns, building in-house kitchens and expanding their food menus.

For a recent example read about Battery Steele’s plans to open a pub in Wells.

An Anniversary for the Date Night Raffle

The Instagram post of the January ‘Date Night’ raffle marked a big milestone—it was the 50th raffle since the Date Night Raffle launched in 2018. Over the last few years, it’s become a really popular program for readers and a fun feature for us to produce.

Since the first raffle went live, the Instagram posts have collectively been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and thousands more continue every month to tag a friend and get a chance to win.  Our thanks to Evergreen Credit Union who initially proposed the idea for the raffle and have supported ever since.

In addition to the fun for followers that take part, the raffle provides a great vehicle for us to shine love and attention on Maine’s wonderful restaurants. We feature a mix of businesses from seafood shacks to fine dining restaurants, and everything in between. Thanks to Evergreen’s support, the restaurants don’t pay to participate or for the gift cards the raffle winners receive.

Shown below are some photos pulled from the past few years of raffles. Maine restaurants continue to create great spaces and dining experiences for us all to enjoy.  With the industry growing by leaps and bounds, there’s going to be plenty of great restaurants to showcase in the coming years.

In order of appearance these photos are from: Izakays Minato, Terlingua, Pacifico, Gilbert’s, Sichuan Kitchen, Baharat, Asmara, Cheevitdee, Schulte & Herr, and Helm.


Michelin in Maine?

The Michelin Guide recently launched in Florida, and in an article in the Wall Street Journal they asked a panel of food writers to predict where the guide should expand to next. Guess which state made the list?

Restaurateur and author Michael Cecchi-Azzolina predicts Maine,

“There are the lobster shacks, but also amazing chefs like off-the-grid genius Erin French at the Lost Kitchen in Freedom; Melissa Kelly at Primo in Rockland; and Sara Jenkins, who was behind Porchetta in New York City and opened Nina June in Rockport. Everyone talks about Noma and foraging, but the simplicity of what these chefs do is also steeped in originality and a homage to Maine’s culinary origins.”

Michelin currently covers 6 geographies in the US: New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Florida and California. They expanded into California in 2019 when the state’s tourism board agreed to underwrite the annual operational costs.

Continued Growth & Development

MaineBiz reports on the ongoing development of the Portland restaurant scene.

Today, as survivors seek to put pandemic setbacks behind them while grappling with industry-wide staffing and supply-chain shortages, Portland’s culinary cachet is on the rebound. Driving that momentum is a host of new investments in the 68,000-population southern coastal city that’s home to more than 500 licensed eating and drinking establishments.

Legion Square Market Closing

The Press Herald reports that the Legion Square Market in South Portland will be closing.

A South Portland market that has touched the lives of countless city residents, employees and customers since it opened more than 80 years ago is closing.

Legion Square Market, also known as Smaha’s market, will soon close after it sells off its remaining inventory.

Vegan/Vegetarian Roundup

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a roundup of changes in the V/v restaurant landscape in Maine.

Last year’s most significant news was the opening of three vegetarian restaurants: Curbside Comforts in Gorham, S+P Social in Newcastle and Vickie’s Veggie Table in Biddeford. However, we lost Chase’s Daily in Belfast (which opened in 2000), Taste of Eden in Norway (which opened in 2002 at its original location in Bethel), and the state’s first international vegan franchise, Copper Branch, which opened in Portland in late 2019, just months before the pandemic lockdown. Its closure reflects a changed commercial landscape in the city.

$1M for Preble Street

The Press Herald reports that Preble Street has received $1M to fund their South Portland food security hub.

The money means Preble Street is about halfway toward its goal of raising to $12 million to renovate the facility on Darling Avenue – work it hopes to start this year.

“Sadly, food insecurity isn’t going to go away anytime soon,” said Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street, a nonprofit social services provider that addresses homelessness, hunger, and poverty. “This facility will have such flexibility with space and capacity that when the population shifts or emergencies happen or agencies close … this place will be here and be able to pivot and grow.”