Old Port Outside, Maine Ginger, Vegan Eating

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a survey of sidewalk dining in the Old Port by restaurant critic Andrew Ross,

My plan on this sun-soaked Saturday afternoon is to take my new mask out for a spin on a walk through downtown Portland, starting where new, planter-topped concrete barricades fence in a pedestrian-friendly stretch of Exchange Street. The blockade offers restaurants and bars a bit more outdoor real estate to help rekindle business as customers begin their cautious return to dining out.

an article about Maine-grown ginger,

[Ian] Jerolmack, now in his seventh year of tending the young ginger rhizomes that sprout from mature ginger root he imports from Peru, has a reputation among local farmers as the best ginger grower in Maine. One flower farmer I spoke with grew it for a couple of years until the novelty wore off; the crop was too labor intensive and not always productive, he said. He told me to call Jerolmack.

and an overview of vegan/vegetarian ratings garnered by Portland.

Portland may be a small city, but it ranks alongside Chicago, Los Angeles and New York as a hot spot for vegans and vegetarians. Over the past five years, Portland has gained a national reputation as a top city for vegans, reflecting the city’s growing roster of vegetarian restaurants and residents’ easy access to locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Preble Street

The Bangor Daily News reports that Preble Street will be changing over to food delivery in order to increase social distancing among people who depend on the soup kitchen.

Preble Street Resource Center, one of the largest social service agencies in Maine, will shut down its to-go soup kitchen on Monday and shift to a mobile food distribution program that “brings food to people where they are.”

The initiative aims to provide basic food needs and dissuade crowds from gathering at its Bayside site during the pandemic, according to Ali Lovejoy, a program director at Preble Street.

Crowds on Wharf Street

Prompted by images of crowds on Wharf Street Friday night, the City of Portland is assigning code enforcement officers to monitor conditions on Wharf street and made clear that if “the regulations are not followed by businesses then the City will be forced to eliminate outdoor dining on Wharf Street and in other areas in which violations are found.”

For more information see reports in the Press Herald and from News Center Maine.

Devenish Raises Money for Restaurant Workers

Ned Swain from Devenish Wines has launched an effort to raise money for restaurant workers impacted by the pandemic. Inspired by the Depression Era WPA project arts initiative, he commissioned four artists to produce designs for t-shirts which are now on sale online.

The four artists are Kimberly Convery, Ryan Adams, Hannah Hirsch and Emma Lucille.

Devenish Wines will be donating profits by this initiative to the Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation, who are “working to provide resources and advocacy for the hospitality workers we know and love–along with the many who too often go unrecognized and for whom the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing quality of life crisis.”

You can see the designs and order a shirt now through July 1st at devenishwine.com/shop

Pandemic Outlook for Restaurants

The Forecaster has a report on the pandemic’s impact on restaurants in South Portland and more broadly in Maine.

“It’s been devastating.” That’s how Craig Dilger, owner of Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, described the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local restaurants. This week, Gov. Janet Mills issued new orders allowing restaurants in Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties to once again offer indoor dine-in seating, but since local restaurants haven’t been allowed to do so since March, the damage may already be done.

Reviewing and Retaining

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article by Andrew Ross on the factors impacting his decision on when to start reviewing restaurants again,

But I confess, I miss writing about restaurants … maybe even more than I miss eating in them. I miss pulling out my phone and scrolling through photos of the dishes I ate and zooming in to puzzle out what made them succeed (or not). I even miss deciphering the notes I took surreptitiously during a meal. These are typed under the table, so they frequently read as if they were tapped out by someone with 10 thumbs.

and an article about which of the changes brought about by the pandemic are likely to persist after things return to normal.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a whole menu of changes to Maine’s restaurant industry. Some innovations, like the temporary approval of cocktails to go, have excited both restaurant owners and diners. Others changes, they say, should be 86’d as soon as possible, restaurant lingo for “no longer available.” Here’s our look at some of the adjustments that have been made this spring, and the odds that they’ll stick around after the pandemic is over…

Black Dinah Chocolatiers to Change Name

Black Dinah Chocolates has announced plans to change the name of the company.

I’ve just plain been thinking a lot, period, these past two and a half weeks. About racism, antiracism, racial justice, and the powerful movement that is in play in our country at this moment. About what it takes for change to happen: murder, outrage, collective grief. And my place in it all. My company’s place in it all. And how it relates to you.

The company was named for Black Dinah Mountain on Isle au Haut where the company got its start before moving to Westbrook.

Several years after we moved our company to the mainland and south to the Greater Portland area, we noticed, to our dismay, that not everyone had the same good associations with our company name. And as our customer base grew, so did our perspective. Last fall, we began, as a team, to make a plan to transition to a new name.

The new name will be announced in July.

For additional information see articles in the Bangor Daily News and MaineBiz.

Streets to Dining Rooms

Two more streets in Portland have been turned into outdoor dining space for local restaurants.

  • The stretch of Middle Street from India to Franklin has been turned into a one way street with areas in front of Eventide and The Honey Paw, and in front of East Ender, Duckfat and Ribolita blocked off for tables.
  • Boothly Square businesses have gotten the approval to close off and use the streets and green space in the square for outdoor dining.

There’s a growing list of restaurants offering outdoor dining in addition to takeout and delivery.