Ragged Coast Chocolates

Kate and Steve Shaffer, co-owners of Black Dinah Chocolate, have announced the new name for their Westbrook-based business.

Ragged Coast Chocolates (website) “pays homage to our hardy island roots while also celebrating Maine’s unique beauty and traditions which we work hard to reflect in our handmade chocolates,” shared Kate Shaffer in a release issued this morning.

Ms. Shaffer announced the intent to change the company’s name to their newsletter subscribers and in a public statement on the their social media pages on June 9th. In the statement, Shaffer explained that the timing was in response to and support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the nationwide protests for racial justice. The Shaffers named the company for Black Dinah Mountain on the island of Isle au Haut, Maine. However, the name “Black Dinah” can also refer to a generic term for Black female slaves. There is no recorded history as to why the Isle au Haut landmark bears the name Black Dinah (also spelled Black Dina on some maps).

In a public statement on her social media pages on June 19th, Shaffer wrote, “I have always imagined that if Black Dinah Mountain was named for an actual person or persons, she was strong and powerful and wise. But I’m beginning to understand that it is not my place, nor the place of my brand – perceived or actual – to use her name…for profit or to push my own unrelated agenda.”

Tin Pan Bakery & Managing the Front Lines

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Tin Pan Bakery owner Elise Richter,

Like many other small, independent business people in this pandemic year, Elise Richer is tired.

She has been forced to rethink many aspects of her homey Tin Pan Bakery in the Nasons Corner neighborhood of Portland, from its packaging and pricing, retail sales and recipes to its menu options and online ordering system.

and an article about managing front of house customer relations during a pandemic.

Four years later, owners and managers across Maine find themselves getting involved in their businesses in a more visible way. They still pitch in behind the scenes, but these days, their skills (and authority) are being marshaled to help waitstaff, bartenders, bussers and hosts (collectively called the “front of house”) navigate the choppy waters of pandemic-era customer service.

Survival & Making Something Special

The Food & Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram talks with business owners about the current state of the restaurant industry, and explores the need for federal and state programs to help them survive.

In Maine, especially in Greater Portland, small, independent restaurants are a huge part of both the economy and culture, drawing visitors from all over the country who come here to explore the city’s food scene, named the best in the nation in 2018 by Bon Appetit. Many of these restaurants, often owned by the chef, have suffered enormously during the pandemic, and say that efforts to help them so far have not been enough. The state shut down restaurants in mid-March and allowed them to reopen in June, initially only to outdoor dining in Maine’s more populated counties, then two weeks later to indoor dining with requirements for capacity, spacing, mask-wearing and sanitization – measures that cost money to implement and reduced the number of customers that could be served, on top of those unwilling to dine out because of the health risks.

Restaurant critic Andrew Ross tries to identify “what made Drifters Wife and Piccolo so special“.

Both restaurants shut their doors permanently last month – Portland’s first high-profile casualties of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But it’s only now, after weeks of thinking about their absence, that I’ve started to see why the two restaurants were so important, and how their example can become a model for whatever sprouts from the fallow of the city’s locked-down food scene.

Pandemic Tipping & 1975 Vegetarian Conference

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram include a look back at the effect the 1975 World Vegetarian Congress had on the development of meat-free eating in Maine (where the conference was held) and the US.

Exactly 45 years ago today, on Aug. 16, 1975, the World Vegetarian Congress opened at the University of Maine in Orono. Historians have called the two-week long event “the most important gathering of vegetarians in the United States of the 20th century.” The significance of the 1975 congress comes from the publicity it generated for meat-free eating, the alliances it forged between vegetarian activists, and the organizations its attendees went on to create.

and an article that looks at how the pandemic is/should impact how we tip staff in the hospitality industry.

Mainers may be known for their Yankee thrift, but when someone is in trouble they have no problem opening their wallets wide. Just look at how they’re tipping during a pandemic that has put restaurant servers’ livelihoods – and very lives – at stake.

Local restaurants report that diners generally have been tipping more generously, especially on takeout at the start of the pandemic.

Shaved Ice is Hot

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article on options for shaved ice treats available this summer.

When the temperature rises in Maine, Mainers typically turn to ice cream for a little cold comfort. This unusually sweaty summer, though, when so many people are working from home without air conditioning, calls for bigger ammunition to fight the heat and humidity – icy treats such as shave ice, snoballs, and boozy ice pops.

Featured in the article are: Belfast Shaved Ice, Brrrr! Harbor, Haole Ice, Hawaiian Jim’s, Little Easy Snoballs, Snowology 207, and Vena’s.

Changing Nature of the Restaurant Industry

The Food & Dining section today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes articles on:

Restaurants Act

Leigh Habegger, executive director of Seafood Harvesters of America, and Andrew Taylor, Arlin Smith and Mike Wiley, the co-owners of Eventide, Hugo’s and The Honey Paw have co-written an article for the Press Herald advocating for passage of the Restaurants Act and funds to support the seafood industry.

The connection couldn’t be clearer: Without restaurants, many fishermen have nowhere to sell their catch. Without fishermen, many restaurants have nothing to offer. We’re proud to harvest and serve the best-managed, most sustainable seafood in the world, especially when it comes on a steamed bun or slurped down with a squeeze of lemon. By passing the RESTAURANTS Act and providing additional assistance to the commercial fishing industry, Congress would make sure fresh oysters, lobster tails and haddock filets continue to make it to consumers, returning hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs in the process.

For more information on the challenges faced by restaurant during the pandemic visit the Independent Restaurant Coalition website.

Alcohol To Go

A bill has been proposed for the Maine Legislature which would enable restaurants to sell alcohol to go through 2022, according to a report in the Press Heraldi.

But Sen. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth, who sponsored the bill to extend the to-go law until April 2022, said it has helped prevent many restaurants from going out of business during the pandemic.

Edible Maine

The latest issue of Edible Maine is now online. The summer 2020 issue focuses on women in the Maine food community and includes articles about:

  • Cara Stadler from Canopy Farms
  • Mary Allen Linderman from Coffee by Design
  • Sarah Jackson, a bartender from Hunt & Alpine
  • State Apiarist Jennifer Lund
  • State Senator Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide Brewery
  • and several other articles

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.