The Forager

The Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Maine mushroom forager, Jean Yarbrough.

She set herself a goal of learning one edible mushroom a year, a timeline that has accelerated as her expertise has developed. She bought herself books. She joined the Maine Mycological Association and a Maine mushroom club on Facebook. (“It’s the only thing I do on Facebook,” she said.) She went on mushroom forays, learning from “really kind, helpful people who were generous with their knowledge.” She mastered spore prints; studied Latin names; taught herself gills, pores and smells. Early on, she hired David Spahr, author of “Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada: A Photographic Guidebook to Finding and Using Key Species,” to walk her land with her.

My Kitchen Your Table: Kelly Nelson

Welcome to the September 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 Kelly Nelson from Fore Street. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.


She is unmistakable, eccentric, and nothing short of fabulous. Her hair shifts from one vibrant shade to the next (it’s currently flamingo pink) and cephalopod tattoos wrap her arms and legs. On Instagram she’s @geeksquid, and if you follow her you are well aware of her fondness for hairless rats. After contributing to the Portland food scene in various ways for over a decade, she now revels in the role of wine coordinator at Fore Street. She is, of course, the one and only Kelly Nelson.

Kelly’s wine expertise has been years in the making. In fact, there was a time when she disliked red wine altogether. Long before she began curating thoughtful and intentional wine lists, Kelly attended College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. At the ripe age of nineteen, she became the kitchen manager at Reel Pizza, but her personality screamed front-of-the-house. Since then, she’s held nearly every front-facing restaurant role outside of the kitchen, from host to general manager.

In 2008, Kelly left Bar Harbor for Portland where she was persistent in her pursuit of working at Local 188. “Local 188 was a hotbed of creativity. It was one of those places that everyone wanted to be,” Kelly explains. She dropped her resume off multiple times, but it wasn’t until she bumped into chef-owner Jay Villani at Whole Foods that she finally got her foot in the door. She told him how much she wanted to work there and he responded with, “Yeah yeah kid, just show up at 4:30 pm.”

Kelly was a loyal employee of Local 188 and its sister restaurant, Sonny’s (now closed) for six years. She rose through the ranks, eventually running events and building wine lists. She continued to expand her wine knowledge at the beloved Italian restaurant, Piccolo (now closed), for more than five years. Then, in January 2019, Kelly became general manager and wine coordinator at Evo Kitchen + Bar where she also planned wildly popular monthly wine dinners. While most of her expertise is self-taught, she has a Level 2 Award in Wines from Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and is also a member of Maine Sommeliers Society, a blind tasting group run by Erica Archer of Wine Wise.

Since April 2021, Kelly has been breathing new life into Fore Street’s wine list. Vintage wines and Napa Cabernet Sauvignon are still plentiful but now you can also try something a little off the beaten path. Read on to learn her favorite wines on Fore Street’s expansive list, her go-to Portland restaurants, and where she ate her most memorable meal nearly ten years ago.

THE INTERVIEW

AA: How was Local 188 influential to your career in wine?
KN: When I started at Local 188, I knew nothing about wine. I didn’t even like red wine then. I drank Pinot Grigio because I knew how to pronounce it. I learned about wines from Gary Boycott, who is now the operations manager. He had an incredible way of translating what was washing over his tongue when he tasted wine. Without him, I wouldn’t be as passionate about wine as I am now or have had that kind of introduction that made this path possible.

AA: How do you pair wine with food?
KN: There are two ways of pairing wine with food; one is with a wine that cuts through the richness of the dish. It has that palette cleansing experience. The other is with a wine that becomes one with the dish. Each bite of the food and sip of the wine becomes a full-circle experience. You’re not quite sure where one begins and the other ends.

AA: What is your favorite winery or wine region?
KN: Chateau Musar in Lebanon is my favorite winery. It’s one of the most unique wineries in the world. It’s all French varietals grown in the Bekaa Valley. Every sip is layered with spice, acidity, fruit, and tannins. It fascinates me that it comes from such a war-torn country and a place of strife and pain, but also so much beauty. It’s all the things that I love in life trapped inside a bottle. Evo really gave me the opportunity to highlight that winery.

AA: How does your wine list at Fore Street differ from the one you created at Evo Kitchen + Bar?
KN: At Evo, I wanted to create an esoteric wine list that connected wine with food in the way that it is meant to be. Their food is more delicate and vegetarian-based. Because of that, you don’t need tannic, aggressive wines. You need wines that are more quaffable in nature. At Fore Street, I wanted to blow a little dust off of the wine list. I’ve been designing the wine list to make it all-inclusive. I have everything from the classics to a Gaglioppo from Calabria, which pairs well with grilled meats. Of course, that’s what Fore Street is known for. You need wines that balance all that smoke and char.

AA: What are some of your favorite white wines by the bottle at Fore Street?
KN: The Château Simone Palette Blanc (2014) is a beautiful expression of a varietal that you don’t hear about often. It has the right amount of oxidative notes and this really interesting full-body palette without being too cloying. It goes beautifully with our turnspit roasted chicken, which is next level. I also love the Dona Maria Amantis Reserva Viognier (2016) from Portugal. Viognier can be a very temperamental variety. With the right amount of care, it can either be very bright and light or rich and voluptuous. This one has nice spice and caramelized notes. It tastes like it’s from Portugal.

AA: What is one of your favorite red wines by the bottle at Fore Street?
KN: One bottle that I added to our list is the 2013 Movia from Slovenia. I actually priced it a little lower because I want to make it more accessible to the general public. It’s sultry with dark fruit, like blueberry and bramble. It has a lot of depth, but also a burst of acidity that opens up your palette. That’s what sets this one apart from pinot noir.

AA: Where do you go to eat in Portland?
KN: One of my favorite restaurants in town, and has been since they opened in 2011, is Schulte and Herr. Brian and Steffi are some of the most kind, generous, humble, hospitality-driven people that I know. Their restaurant has that hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop kind of feeling. It’s one of the only places in town that is BYOB. The potato pancakes are to die for and hopefully they will bring back the Sunday Brunch. For the Sunday roast, they do this beautiful big pan of roast beef or pork with gravy and potato dumplings. I’ve never been anywhere that’s as consistent as they are.

AA: Where else do you dine often in Portland?
KN: Izakaya Minato. I’m a huge fan of Thomas Cooke’s food and Elaine Alden does an incredible job with the wine and sake list. I love their warm cozy atmosphere and fine detailed food that’s also so comforting. Again, I’ve never had a bad meal there. My favorite dish is the age ochazuke. I usually get at least two servings.

AA: Where have you had an incredibly memorable meal?
KN: At Hugo’s on January 4th, 2012. It was my birthday. I still have the menu from that night on my refrigerator. Nicholas, my partner, planned this incredible meal with the then chef-owner, Rob Evans. He is wildly talented. He made twenty courses and it ran the gamut. The Fantasy of Lamb was one of my favorite dishes. It looked like a Salvador Dalí landscape of food. The whole meal was memorable beyond imagination.

AA: Are there any newer restaurants that you’re loving right now?
KN: Leeward is so good. Raquel Stevens is amazing. She put together a wine list that I’m obsessed with. It’s so unique that I get overwhelmed by how awesome it is. I just asked her to pick a wine for me. The chef, Jake Stevens, made a Nero pasta with squid that was awesome and a stuffed squash blossom with maple cream, mushrooms, and fried lemon. It was so interesting and really well done.

AA: We know you’re a big fan of Ruski’s. What is it that you love about the West End institution?
KN: I love Ruski’s for many reasons. The main one is comfort. Ruski’s is that old comfy robe that you’ve had for years that shows its age in the best ways — frayed and stained it keeps the importance of nostalgia at the forefront of your mind. I’ve literally walked from my house in my pj’s and robe to enjoy a beverage with some of my favorites both behind and at the bar.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: Local 188, Evo, Izakaya Minato, Leeward, and Ruski’s are open with indoor and outdoor seating. Schulte & Herr is open for takeout. Hugo’s has been closed during the pandemic. Fore Street is open for indoor seating—reservations are strongly recommended but if you don’t get one join the line that forms starting at around 4:30 to grab a seat at the bar or one of the seats held back for walk-ins each night.

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, and Brian Catapang.

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

Dylan Webber, 31

Dylan Webber, the co-founder of Definitive Brewing, has passed away at the age of 31.

We are deeply saddened to share the news that our co-founder, creative mastermind, and friend Dylan Webber has passed away suddenly. We join his girlfriend Laura, his mother Katie, father Chuck, and the rest of his family in mourning his loss, and celebrating his remarkable life.

See today’s article in the Press Herald for additional reporting.

Ben St. Jeanne

The Portland Phoenix has published an article about chef Ben St. Jeanne and his business the Big Bad Food Truck.

Five years ago, owner and chef Ben St. Jeanne woke up in a hospital bed to doctors telling him he would never work in a kitchen again. St. Jeanne and his girlfriend, Molly, who is now his wife, had been in a head-on motorcycle accident while on vacation in Canada.

Before the accident, St. Jeanne’s star was rising in the seacoast New Hampshire food scene. He had recently been hired as executive chef of the now-closed Mambo in Portsmouth.

The Lobstering Centenarian

The Boston Globe has published an article about 101 year old Maine lobsterwoman Virginia Oliver.

In the world of Maine lobstering, it’s a scene that is repeated countless times up and down the state’s rugged coast. But here’s the difference: No other boat has a 101-year-old lobsterwoman aboard, and a fully working one at that.

“I grew up with this,” said Virginia Oliver, a Rockland woman who began lobstering when she was 8, just before the Great Depression. “It’s not hard work for me. It might be for somebody else, but not me.”

Little Woodfords & BenReuben’s

BenReuben’s Knishery was recently featured in an article published by Beyondish,

Graeme shucked oysters at Big Tree Hospitality’s Eventide Oyster Bar in Portland and eventually became the chef de cuisine there and later the purchasing and distribution manager. Caitlin worked in the front of house and became the company’s HR director in 2016. Though they were surrounded by shellfish, the couple always dreamed of opening a Jewish deli.

Little Woodfords was featured in an article in Salon,

Little Woodfords opens everyday at 7 a.m. and closes at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. They don’t serve alcohol, but, as Zarro puts it, customers can have all the caffeine and housemade ice cream sandwiches they want. “When people think of gay spaces or queer spaces, they immediately think of a nightclub or bar — maybe a little hole in the wall,” he said. “They don’t necessarily think a bright coffee shop, but we’re happy to change that.”

My Kitchen Their Table: Brian Catapang

Welcome to the July 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 Brian Catapang from Magnus on Water in Biddeford. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.


Two women walk into a bar in Biddeford, Maine, and find themselves in a life-changing conversation with the bartender… No, this isn’t the first line of a joke. It’s a true story about how Brian Catapang, Carmen Harris, Julia Russell, and Brittany Saliwanchik went from strangers to friends to business partners in less than 24 hours.

Catapang was bartending at Elda when Harris and Russell stopped in for a drink. Impressed by his off-the-cuff cocktails, they asked if he had ever thought of opening his own bar. The DC-based women were interested in the rise of Biddeford’s food scene and looking for a way to get involved. Indeed, Catapang had given it some thought along with Saliwanchik, Elda’s general manager at the time. The next day, the four met for coffee and bonded over their shared vision of a cocktail bar rooted in community and hospitality. It was then and there that the team behind Magnus on Water was built.

Catapang first developed an interest in spirits when he was a brand ambassador for Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York. Fascinated by the distilling process and inspired by a liquor’s limitless possibilities, he started searching for bartending gigs to develop his own menu.

In the winter of 2017, he came across an ad on Craigslist for the opening bartending position at Elda. The description was vague and the restaurant was barely built out, but he knew the opportunity to work with Chef Bowman Brown wasn’t one to pass up. At Elda, he quickly developed his unique cocktail style, striking a balance between bold ingredients and nuanced spirits.

One year after that inspired conversation over coffee at Elements, Catapang and his team celebrated Magnus’ grand opening on January 18, 2020. The new cocktail bar and restaurant was drawing crowds to Biddeford, but the pandemic brought it to a sudden halt. After a temporary closure, Magnus reopened that summer for outdoor dining on the adjacent granite patio. Feeling limited by the challenges of the pandemic, the team made the difficult decision to close for the winter and spring of 2021.

As of June 8th, Magnus on Water has again welcomed patrons back to their spacious outdoor patio adorned with pink lawn flamingos. Unlike last year, there is full table service and non disposables. Indoor dining is available on a limited basis.

The food program is led by Ben Jackson, a 2020 James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef Northeast. The small menu is seasonally inspired, drawing from Maine’s diverse landscape and abundance. It is the perfect complement to Catapang’s intriguing and ever-changing cocktails.

Keep reading to learn more about how Catapang developed his craft, why the Crowd Surfer is one of his favorite cocktails on the menu, and where you can find him dining in Portland on his nights off.

THE INTERVIEW

AA: How did working with Bowman Brown influence your craft?
BC: I learned to really challenge myself and throw out the rule book. He’s continuously perfecting his dishes. It’s like the Kaizen approach where incremental improvements really add up over time. He would bring me different ingredients from the kitchen, like fermented butternut squash, and ask me if I could make it into a drink. Some of the best drinks that I’ve ever made have been crazy experiments, but not without a lot of trial and error.

AA: How would you describe your cocktail style?
BC: I’d say polished and a bit whimsical. I don’t like to use garnishes that don’t serve a purpose, even though it might make a drink look prettier. Sometimes my garnish is a spray, tincture, foam, or oil. It forces the drinker to be a bit more present and think about what they’re tasting. Ultimately, I try to make drinks that are complex yet approachable and familiar yet intriguing. When a guest is trying to figure out what they’re tasting, I consider that a win.

AA: What is one of your favorite cocktails that you’ve made?
BC: The Crowd Surfer was inspired by my love of surfing and the ocean. The drink has a margarita esque base made with fresh quality ingredients. I make it with your choice of Camarena tequila blanco or Banhez mezcal, lemon & lime juices, dry curaçao, and a touch of simple syrup. Instead of a traditional salt rim, I make a poblano and pineapple sea salt foam to top it off. The drink itself resembles a wave!

AA: How do you make the foam?
BC: I gather a five-gallon bucket of seawater from Fortunes Rocks, cook it down until it looks like wet sand, and dehydrate it until it’s just sea salt. Then, I add Ancho Reyes Verde and pineapple juice and charge it in a nitrous oxide canister. The first sip is airy and salty. It’s like when you’re swimming in the ocean and get smashed in the face with a white water wave.

AA: What are some of your favorite restaurants?
BC: I have to start in Biddeford. Palace Diner is a staple. I go there almost too often. Whether I’m there for breakfast or lunch, I always get the cheeseburger and a can of Coke. I also love Elda. I know I’m biased, but I truly believe Bowman Brown is one of the most talented chefs in Maine.

AA: What about in Portland?
BC: Sichuan Kitchen for sure. I love the Zhong dumplings, Yu-Xiang eggplant, spicy noodles with minced pork, and gong bao chicken! Everything is super flavorful and when you order takeout, the food is just as good as the day before because all the food sits in the aromatic oils and spices. I also really like Little Giant. Chef Neil uses creative and obscure ingredients. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m ordering, but that’s what I love. You can just trust him to drive.

AA: What does a typical meal out look like for you?
BC: I usually go to Izakaya Minato for a whiskey highball and a couple of small plates, like sashimi and the JFC (Japanese fried chicken). Then, I go across the street and get way too full at Cong Tu Bot. It reminds me of my childhood. My dad is Filipino and lived in Thailand for a while. He always took us to hole-in-the-wall places. Mom’s Fried Rice is great and I always get the pandan pancake no matter how full I am.

AA: Where have you been recently that really impressed you?
BC: I went to Ramona’s the other day. I had their breakfast hoagie and it was so good. Make sure you add the Calabrian chili spread. I was also very impressed with what they are doing over at Judy Gibson. The lamb tartare and gnocchi were delicious. And, Leeward. Jake and Raquel are so talented and Kate, the pastry chef, is unbelievable. I’m not a big dessert person, but everything she makes is wonderful. For savory dishes, I love the chicken liver mousse and mafaldine. The texture of the pasta is perfect and the meat sauce is so well balanced.

AA: Where do you go for a great cocktail?
BC: Hunt and Alpine is the institution. You’re going to get a really balanced drink there ten out of ten times. The Select Old-Fashioned is amazing. I’m jealous they have that barrel of Four Roses Bourbon. But honestly, when I go out I’m having a Budweiser or a Martini with a lemon twist. Woodford F&B is the bartender’s bar. Their drinks are great and you’ll always see other industry people there.

AA: Would you call yourself a “mixologist?”
BC: I prefer ‘bartender.’ Just because someone can make a fancy cocktail doesn’t make them a good bartender. It’s different. A mixologist might be able to make you the perfect negroni, but a great bartender knows how to handle their bar. They know their customers and what they drink. Mixologist is just a fancy word. A great bartender wears many hats, and they are always on stage. There’s nothing wrong with being called a bartender.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: Palace Diner is back to serving indoors and is cash-only, Elda has reopened in their new location with a multi-course tasting menu (reservations required), Sichuan Kitchen and Ramona’s are open for takeout, Judy Gibson, Little Giant, Izakaya Minato, Hunt & Alpine, Woodford F&B and Leeward have indoor and outdoor seating, Cong Tu Bot is not currently open.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, and Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez. and Bowman Brown.

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

158 & Hilltop

The new edition of Mainer includes articles about the longtime owners of 158 Cafe and Bread & Butter Catering, Josh Potocki and Katie Schier-Potocki.

It’s fitting that 158 became a local favorite by feeding people sourdough bagels. That’s the type of bread you get when dough is leavened with the wild yeast floating in the air around us, not the lab-cultured, mass-manufactured baker’s yeast sold in stores. Sourdough also has local flavor, which is why San Francisco’s is famous; the yeast there has a distinctly strong sourness. Wild yeast is free yeast, funky yeast, freaky yeast. The sourdough starter still used to make 158’s bagels is almost old enough to legally drink. “It started as Luis and now has morphed into Luisa,” Josh said of this primordial dough. “She is all natural South Portland hybrid.”

Like Luisa, 158 must be kept alive. “If nothing else, keeping [158] open for the community as a safe haven, as a free-thinking space to come in this world, I think is very important,” Josh said, “because those spaces are becoming less and less, where it’s not controlled by some bullshit.”

and the new owners of the Hilltop Superette, Radhika Shah Patel and Sam Patel.

Because Sam’s vision is of what Hilltop can become once he and the team fully enhance and expand the store’s selection of groceries and prepared food, remodel the interior, redo the exterior, and add outdoor seating, among many other, smaller projects. His goal is to have everything done in time for a grand reopening party next spring. He’s already set the date, of course: May 21, 2022.