Anthony’s Italian Kitchen

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Anthony’s Italian Kitchen and its founder Anthony Barrasso.

“I met (Videoport owner) Bill Duggan. He told me he had 38,000 customers in his computer,” Barrasso recalled, his eyes wide even now at the video store’s enormous customer base. “Then I asked him what he thought of having a pizza parlor next to him. He said it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.”

“What better combination than pizza and a movie? It was very lucrative back in the day,” said Fournier. “If you had a good snowstorm, there would be a line out both of our doors, up the stairs and to the street because everybody wanted to get pizza and movie and go home and hunker down. Those were good times.”

Bodega and Cabana

Today’s Press Herald includes an article about René Emilio Peña and the two business he runs: La Bodega Latina in Parkside and Cabana in the Old Port.

“When he speaks about either of his businesses, you can feel how passionate he is,” Cabana general manager Brigid Litster said.

The bodega has provided essential support for the Latino community in Portland for more than two decades and recently passed from Peña’s father to him. The restaurant opened last month and celebrates the diversity of Latin America – and Maine – that has always been visible on the bodega shelves.

Between the two, Peña works long days. But he focuses on the pride, not the struggle.

Portland HS Customers

The Press Herald reports on the relationship between downtown restaurants and their Portland HS customers.

“I feel every student should be able to eat,” said Trinh Le-Tran, owner of the Vietnamese kiosk Pho Huong and mother of a 2-year-old daughter. “If someone comes and they don’t have enough money, I’ll still go ahead and make them the meal. It feels better to know they’ve had something to eat during the day.”

Pho Huong’s entrees run between $8 and $14.50. But for the start of the school year, Le-Tran also offers a dozen $6 student specials, including banh mi sandwiches, burritos and pho. She said pad Thai and fried rice are usually the big specials sellers, and bubble tea with its chewy balls of tapioca is a must for the student set.

Tender Table

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Tender Table, an organization that “celebrates Black and Brown community by connecting and honoring our identities, traditions, joy, resilience, and fight for collective liberation through storytelling and food.”

“I knew this was a space I hadn’t seen or experienced in Portland before that I deeply knew I wanted to be a part of as a biracial person,” added Perez, who works as a sculptor and is now a Tender Table co-organizer with Tran. “Tender Table allowed me to embrace that part of my identity I thought was gone or missing.”

After being introduced to Tran and Tender Table, Perez grew motivated to cook traditional Puerto Rican dishes they remembered their father talking longingly about, like mofongo, a plantain-based dish with plenty of garlic and salt.

Brienne Allan, Sacred Profane

The Press Herald has published an article about Brienne Allan, a co-owner and the head brewer at the soon-to-open new Biddeford brewery Sacred Profane (more info).

The lagers she’s producing now are like the brewer’s equivalent of double-black diamond ski trails. They demand technical expertise, an intuitive feel for the brewing process that comes from years of experience, and a sophisticated, nuanced palate.

“Brienne is easily one of the most knowledgeable brewers I’ve ever encountered, especially when it comes to Czech- and German-style lagers,” said Robert Hughes, marketing manager of Notch Brewing. “No one is as fastidious, passionate, creative or knowledgeable as she is in that field, for sure.”

Interview with Martin Beavers

Mainebiz has published an interview with Martin Beavers, the chef/owner of Soul Food Paradise at the Maine Mall in South Portland.

Martin Beavers is a self-taught cook who started a food business out of his home before joining Portland’s Fork Food Lab. Later when a space opened up at the Maine Mall Food Court in South Portland, he jumped at the chance to stake a claim. The New York City native shares the story of Soul Food Paradise’s early success and his unexpected route to Maine’s biggest shopping mall.

My Kitchen Their Table: Nathaniel Meiklejohn

Welcome to the June 2022 edition of My Kitchen, Their Table, an interview series with the chefs and culinary professionals who work hard to satisfy our small city’s big appetite. This month we’re featuring an interview with Nathaniel Meiklejohn from The Jewel Box. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story on instagram, so stay tuned.

If the hardcore band Stormfront had made it big, no one would have ever tasted the exquisite cocktail creations of Nathaniel Meiklejohn — and that would have been a serious shame. Meiklejohn, who goes by Nan’l, was a member of the straight edge band throughout high school and continued to abstain from alcohol until he was twenty-one years old. He studied jazz guitar at the University of Maine in Augusta, but his career trajectory changed as he became more experienced in the restaurant industry.

During college, Nan’l bartended at The Liberal Cup in Hallowell and developed an appreciation for craft beer. In Portland, he bartended at Downtown Lounge on Congress Street, was the first male “cocktail waitress” at Fore Street, and spent five years at Local 188 learning how to make essential cocktails under the “legendary bar wizard,” John Myers. Although he mastered classic cocktails and the fundamentals of mixology, he felt his creativity was stifled in a restaurant setting.

An artist at heart, Nan’l found other avenues to develop his craft. In 2012, he teamed up with Joel Beauchamp and Katie and Josh Schier-Potocki from 158 Pickett Street Café (now closed) to launch a pop-up brunch series known as Pocket Brunch. The ticketed brunches were held at various locations, from restaurants and bars to sailboats and greenhouses, and featured multiple courses centered around a common theme.

Pocket Brunch encouraged Nan’l to take risks and think outside of the box. For the “Baller Brunch” at Broadturn Farm, he concocted a clear bloody mary made with horseradish-infused tomato water and poured it over a neatly chiseled ice sphere. He pushed cocktail boundaries at a dozen brunches, including one at his very own bar, The Jewel Box.

The Jewel Box debuted in September 2014 with widespread support from the community, and in 2022 earned a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Bar Program. His intriguing and ever-changing selection of cocktails drew clientele to a portion of Congress Street that had little going on at the time. Inspired by his former neo-victorian apartment on State Street, The Jewel Box glitters with chandeliers, brass fixtures, velvet curtains, and a floor-to-ceiling mural commissioned by local painter Elizabeth Kleene.

Despite its Victorian aesthetic, the vibe is far from stiff and pretentious. A glistening disco ball, eclectic music, and an all-inclusive atmosphere make The Jewel Box a lively and welcoming space. Continue reading to discover what Nan’l wants you to experience when you visit The Jewel Box, why he loves gin, where he goes in Portland for a great meal, and how he spends a day eating his way through Kittery.


AR: How does the experience at Jewel Box differ from your typical cocktail bar?
NM: It’s an intentional experience. I want people to focus on each other, not a TV or their phone. Bars usually cater to masculinity, and I wanted to do everything as feminine as I could. I wanted to make a bar for women and trans or underserved people. I definitely channeled both of my grandmother’s energies. I have some of their things on display — like that little deer on the top shelf.

AR: What is one of your favorite cocktails at The Jewel Box?
NM: The Shallow Grave is one of our go-to drinks. It’s definitely for adventurous types. It has Laphroaig Select single malt scotch whisky, Rothman & Winter creme de Violette, Regans’ orange bitters, housemade ginger honey syrup, and fresh-squeezed lime juice. It’s this wild mix of smokey, floral, fruity, and grayish-purple in color, like an ominous dark storm cloud.

AR: Do you have a favorite spirit?
NM: I gravitate towards gin. It has so many little secrets you can coax out with different ingredients. Every gin distillery has its proprietary blend. One of my favorites is Uncle Val’s. It’s super botanical and kind of sweet. You can just put it on the rocks and drink it. Back River Gin is made in Maine. That one is really nice; it’s super floral. Ransom is my favorite aged gin.

AR: What are your go-to restaurants in Portland?
NM: Cong Tu Bot is one of my favorites. I’ll try whatever is on special. The chicken pho is next level. They care about marginalized communities and other important issues. Vien and his partner Jessica also helped with some of the pocket brunches. I eat at Honey Paw a lot. They have several gluten-free options. I go there when I want a flavor party. I love Cong Tu Bot and Honey Paw because they’re not afraid of bold flavors.

AR: Where do you recommend going for a special occasion?
NM: I love the floor-to-ceiling aesthetics of Fore Street and the whole atmosphere there. It’s just really beautiful, and everything is so well-sourced. It’s fun to watch the chefs cook and listen to all the communication between the expo and kitchen.

AR: Where do you recommend for takeout?
NM: My staff and I order from Mi Sen a couple of days a week. It’s so good, and the staff is so sweet. I get the drunken noodle usually with tofu. The veggies in it are so fresh and crunchy. I also really like the satay chicken skewers, and the ginger noodles are amazing.

AR: Are there any restaurants you’re looking forward to trying for the first time?
NM: Generally, I don’t eat gluten, but occasionally I cheat. When I do cheat, I’m going to Leeward.

AR: What are your favorite restaurants outside of Portland?
NM: I recommend spending a day in Kittery — not the main strip, but right on the water. It’s like a little village within a one-block radius where you can get some of the best food in Maine. When I go to Kittery, I’m going to Lil’s Bakery first for a coffee and cruller. Then, I’ll go to lunch at Anju Noodle Bar. I usually go shopping at the strip mall and glassware hunting at the thrift stores. Then, I’ll have dinner at Black Birch. They always have a couple of salads on special, and I get whichever they recommend. I love their poutine and the deviled eggs. They always do something fun with them. Then, I’ll end the day with a drink at Wallingford Dram.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez, Bowman Brown, Brian Catapang, Kelly Nelson, Lee Farrington & Bryna Gootkind, Jake and Raquel Stevens, and Tina Cromwell.

The My Kitchen Their Table series is brought to life through the talent and hard work of food writer Angela Andre Roberts, and the generous sponsorship by Evergreen Credit Union and The Boulos Company.

Stephen Lanzalotta, 63

Baker Stephen Lanzalotta passed away this past Saturday after a battle with cancer.

Stephen Lanzalotta was best known as a baker – specifically, the one behind the Sicilian-style pizza that gained a following when he was the bakery manager at Micucci Grocery and became the basis for Portland restaurant Slab.

But the people who knew him well describe him as an artist.

Rosenthal on Palace Diner

Phil Rosenthal was interviewed by Forbes about the upcoming season of Somebody Feed Phil which is being released on Netflix tomorrow. In the interview Rosenthal calls out his meal at Palace Diner as his “happiest food experience” from the new season of the show.

Rosenthal: The Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine. It’s an old railroad dining car [built in 1927] with a counter for 15 people. That’s it! And a little kitchen. The young chefs there have worked at very good restaurants like Gramercy Tavern in New York City. What they’ve done [in Biddeford] is kept traditional diner foods on the menu, but upgraded all the ingredients and cooking techniques. So [customers] are getting idealized versions of omelettes, French toast, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches. I loved them all. [Eating at the diner] became one of the favorite things I’ve ever done on this show.