Changes at Tiqa

Emil Rivera is taking over as the executive chef at Tiqa, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant in the Courtyard restaurant on Commercial Street. Chef Siddharta Rumma has also joined the culinary team at Tiqa.

Tiqa was opened in 2015 by husband and wife team Deen Haleem and Carol Mitchell. It’s currently closed but is expected to re-open in May.

Rivera was founding chef at Sur Lie until late 2019. Rumma was the chef at Ada’s Portland and late last year launched his takeout pasta business Fusillo.

Restaurant Staff Vaccinations

For today’s paper the Bangor Daily News talked with restaurant owners about what being able to get their staff vaccinated means for the industry.

“I think there was a little fear that we wouldn’t be fully vaccinated before the summer season hit,” [Blue Spoon owner Liz] Koenigsberg said. “Now that we know that we are going to be, there’s a lot of positivity. Maybe there’s some light at the end of this crazy 13-month tunnel.”

Interview with Josh Potocki

Food Coma has published a podcast interview with Josh Potocki.

In this episode, chef and entrepreneur Josh Potocki begins with describing his personal journey, before we start waxing nostalgic about the golden age of decadence. Well, for us anyway. It was our scene, different from now – not that there is anything wrong with the current state of affairs. I think it’s part of getting old when terms like “Pop-Up” can’t help but solicit a huge eye roll. Also if you can take away anything from this episode, it’s that your event will inevitably be a lot less cool once you lose control of the guest list. Plus the world started going downhill once “Everyone” was now considered a “Winner.” Lastly, we kill some deer. For a good cause. 

New Chef at Sur Lie

Sur Lie has announced the hire Jordan Slocum (instagram) as their new chef de cuisine. Slocum will take the place of Jef Wright.

Native to the Northern Panhandle of Texas, Jordan started his culinary journey in Seattle, Washington. After attending a curated dinner held by his brother Joel he began pursuing a career in the professional kitchen. Attending National Culinary Institute in San Diego, California while simultaneously serving as an apprentice through a classic French tutelage at Penfolds in Temecula, he embraced his new career with fervor and eagerness. Focusing his passion and craft in the Industry for 13 years working in all aspects of service. From craft bartending, private estates & yachts, to running his own events company with Forage & Fir he found himself on the shores of Maine in 2017 and instantly fell in love. The bountiful resources and the romanticism of the seasons only fuels his drive for a focus on international technique through hyper local ingredients. Those diversely abundant treasures of our bountiful coasts, hearty seasonal produce, and mystic forests. With the goal to translate nostalgia and draw lines to cuisine all over the world in his dishes, while still remaining acutely, and respectfully… Maine.

Pugh & Evans: The Early Days

This month’s edition of Mainer News includes a feature on Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh as they made their way through the early days on their Portland careers with Hugo’s and the founding of Duckfat.

When Evans and Pugh bought Hugo’s in the fall of 2000, all they had was trust in each other’s strength and ability. They certainly didn’t have any money, and though Chef Rob went on to earn many accolades, including a James Beard Foundation award in 2009, it took a decade to attain financial security. Only in the past year or two has the couple — who sold Hugo’s to a group of its employees in 2012 — felt that Duckfat Culture had evolved to the point where they can rely on the team to run the perpetually busy restaurant without them being in the building.

The March issue also includes a report on a visit to Panda Market in Buxton and an article about using cocktail bitters with beer.

Terlingua BBQ Cooking Demo

Co-owner Pliny Reynolds and chef Wilson Rothschild from Terlingua are the focus of a video interview published on Eater.

“Maine has world class ingredients, whether we’re talking about lobsters, or shellfish like scallops and mussels. Exploring that with barbecue was something we felt like we had to do”, Reynolds explains as he pulls a tray of mussels covered in seaweed from the smoker. He drizzles them with chile oil and tops them on a classic barbecue side: deviled eggs. Other combo dishes like this can be found throughout the menu, from smoked lobster tostadas to classic pit-smoked brisket, to smoked mackerel dip with homemade tortilla chips, and more.

John Woods, 1963 – 2021

John Woods passed away at the age of 57 after a battle with cancer. Woods played a pivotal roll in the fight against childhood hunger in Maine. Through the organization he co-founded, Full Plates Full Potential, and work stretching back nearly two decades he has an enormous positive impact on the lives of countless Mainers. He will be sorely missed.

John was dogged in his quest to identify his calling; to identify what God had intended as his greater purpose.  He sought opportunities to leverage his gifts, skills and faith in service of others; to make a lasting impact, to find a better way… to lift people up.  Full Plates Full Potential is the culmination of many things that made John who he was, and one that will have lasting impact on the lives of thousands of children who are being fed, and will have a chance of living a healthier, more fulfilled lives.  However, Full Plates is just, but one example… John really put the “human” in human being.  He was so interested in each person and their story.  He was an innovator and a problem solver; bringing people together and questioning the status-quo.  He was always looking for the “opportunity” within the problem.  Then he would flip the problem on its head and offer fresh solutions and a positive outlook.

My Kitchen Their Table: Ilma Lopez

Welcome to the March 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 Ilma Lopez, co-owner and pastry chef of Chaval. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.

Ilma Lopez had been attending medical school for two years when she decided she wanted to go to culinary school instead. Her mother made her a deal. She could drop out, but only if she kept her grades up for another year while also working at a restaurant. Sure enough, Lopez excelled both in the classroom and the kitchen, winning her mother’s approval to trade stethoscopes and lab coats for whisks and aprons.

In 2004, Lopez graduated from the pastry program at Stratford University in Virginia. Her next stop was New York City where she met her future husband and business partner, Damian Sansonetti, while working as the pastry cook at DB Bistro. At first, they didn’t get along. “I thought he was a total jerk. He was so bossy. Plus, he played rock music while we prepped,” she recalls. Needless to say, it wasn’t love at first sight, but one trip to Long Island Beach with mutual friends would forever change their relationship. “We started talking and I realized he wasn’t so bad. Fourteen years later, here we are,” she jokes.

Lopez honed her pastry skills at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in New York City and beyond. She perfected French technique at Le Bernadin, embraced new disciplines while staging at El Bulli in Spain, and experimented with exotic ingredients gathered from the ports of Greece, India, and China while working at sea on a luxury cruise ship.

After her world travels, Lopez and Sansonetti were ready to leave the Big Apple in pursuit of a place with restaurant potential, direct access to farmers, and somewhere their future children would always want to come home to. That place, they decided, was Portland, Maine.

Their first restaurant, Piccolo, was an instant hit. The intimate Italian restaurant earned Lopez a StarChefs Rising Star award in 2014 and two James Beard Award nominations for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2017 and 2018. Sadly, after seven celebrated years, Piccolo joined the pandemic casualty list this past July.

Lopez and Sansonetti’s second restaurant, Chaval, continues to thrive and evolve under these challenging times. The West End brasserie was named Best New Restaurant in 2017 by Portland Press Herald and has been featured in several other publications including Bon Appetit and Down East.

Check out the full interview with Chef Ilma Lopez to learn where she goes in Portland for takeout and great cocktails, how she became a leader behind the grassroots organization, Cooking for Community, and what it was like cooking beside one of the world’s greatest chefs, Ferran Adriá!


AA: How have your parents been crucial to your success as a chef and restaurant owner?
IL: I owe it to my mom. She’s always pushed me to be the best at whatever I choose to do. When I moved away from home, twenty years ago, my mom would call me every day, even when I was in Europe and Asia. She moved to Maine three years ago. She made the curtains at Chaval and my grandmother made the pillows. My dad is also fantastic. They’ve both supported me everywhere I go and in everything that I do.

AA: What was it like staging at El Bulli for the renowned chef, Ferran Adriá?
IL: It was awesome. I’ve never seen a kitchen run that way before. When I was in New York I would show up for my shift at 4 or 5 in the morning even though I was scheduled for 7 am — because being your best meant showing up early and working harder than anyone else. So, on my first day at El Bulli, I showed up two hours early and Chef Ferran asked me what I was doing. He didn’t allow anyone to start early. At first, it blew my mind because there I was working for free trying to give him even more of my time. Then, I understood; everyone started at the same time so that everyone had the same opportunities. We were all equal.

AA: How did you become one of the founding restaurants behind Cooking for Community?
IL: Lesley Oster, the general manager of Aurora Provisions, and Ellie Linen Low were looking for chef partners. They contacted me because they knew I was a big advocate for Full Plates Full Potential and Ian Malin, owner of Little Giant. Chaval was doing 500 meals per week at the beginning of the pandemic. As more restaurants have joined the cause, we are doing closer to 100 meals per week.

AA: What is your favorite dessert that you’ve ever made?
IL: Hands down, it’s my raspberry sorbet with caviar. It was on Chaval’s menu in the summer of 2019. I love caviar! You can use it in anything. I made the sorbet with seawater and fromage blanc with goat cheese from Sunset Acres. His cheese is delicious, but what really sold me was that he brings the baby goats with him on deliveries.

AA: What are some of your favorite restaurants in Portland?
IL: We tend to go to places where we adore the people, like Chris and Paige at Tipo and Central Provisions. If I want crudo, I go to Central Provisions and every Fall, I have to go to Tipo for the local pear and ricotta crostini. It’s sourdough bread with ricotta, sliced pear, olive oil, sea salt, and dried chile. It’s so simple but so good.

AA: Where else do you go for a consistently delicious meal?
IL: Sur Lie has great service and solid food and Krista and Tony are such good people. The pimento cheese and fried chicken is really tasty. I also really like Schulte and Herr. I love how non-pretentious and hospitable Steffi and Brian are. It’s one of those places you go because you feel welcome. Their zwiebelkuchen is the best onion tart I’ve ever had. Just perfect.

AA: Where do you go for a great cocktail?
IL: I love Cocktail Mary. In the fall, Isaac MacDougal makes a frozen cocktail inspired by a pumpkin spice latte. It’s made with Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy. You don’t usually see that liquor on menus because it’s not high-end, but I like it and that drink is fantastic!

AA: What are some of your go-to takeout spots?
IL: We love the eggplant parmesan at Isa Bistro and the crab cakes at Woodford F&B. Oh, and the banana pudding at Figgy’s! I have a weakness for custard.

AA: Is there anywhere around here with food that reminds you of home?
IL: The pan de bono at Maiz is just like I had it growing up in Venezuela. My family is Columbian, so that’s the kind of food we ate. Pan de bono is cheese bread, but gluten-free because it’s made with yucca flour. They sell it freshly-baked or frozen. I like to get it frozen, so I can bake it at home antid have it with hot chocolate — just like my grandmother used to make.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: Central Provisions has temporarily transformed into Central Sandwich and Provisions, Tipo’s patio is open for outdoor seating, Takeout is available from Isa, Sur Lie and Schulte and Herr. Cocktail Mary expects to restart their cocktails to go program in April, Woodford F&B has takeout and (weather permitting) outdoor seating. Figgy’s re-opened for takeout on March 9th.

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

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.

How Restaurants Have Adapted

Yesterday’s episode of Maine Calling talked to members of the restaurant community about how restaurants have adapted during the pandemic.

Winter is traditionally the toughest season for Maine restaurants — but this year, because of the pandemic, it’s even more challenging. Local restaurant owners say revenue this winter so far has been about half of what it usually is. Several Maine restaurants have closed during the pandemic, others have changed the way they operate, setting up to-go windows, outdoor seating options and food trucks. A few new restaurants have even opened. Maine Restaurant Week is different this year, too, hoping to underscore how creative solutions might keep the restaurant industry afloat.