Erin French, Reviews Return

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about Erin French, the chef/owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom,

Longtime Freedom resident Wilson Hess said that French’s passion for her multifaceted role at The Lost Kitchen and her charming hospitality is the restaurant’s secret sauce. “She’s a gracious personality and a wonderful storyteller,” said Hess, who has dined at The Lost Kitchen. “Everyone in the room feels like they’re at home when they’re there.”

and an announcement by restaurant critic Andrew Ross about the upcoming return of restaurant reviews to the newspaper and insight into the ways his approach will differ from pre-pandemic days.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, be patient, reader: Please remain seated and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times – we’re about to start reviewing again.

As I gear up for a return to thinking critically about restaurant dining, I’ve also been realizing how different writing a full review will be. It’s pure denial to insist that our world is normal again, so why should we expect our food writing to be the same as it once was?

2022 Beard Awards Nominees

The James Beard Foundation has announced the nominees for this year’s Beard Awards. 10 semifinalists were from Maine this year, of those 5 are nominees and contenders for an award when the winners are announced in June:

  • Best New Restaurant – Leeward
  • Outstanding Baker – Atsuko Fujimoto, Norimoto Bakery
  • Best Chef: Northeast – Vien Dobui, Công Tử Bột; Courtney Loreg, Woodford Food & Beverage; Damian Sansonetti, Chaval

The award winners will be announced on Monday June 13th at an event taking place in Chicago.

Related information:

F&W: Best Coffee Shops

Food & Wine has recognized Little Woodfords in their list of the Best Coffee Shops in Every State.

Opened elsewhere in 2017 but now very much at home on this busy corner, the pint-sized, fiercely queer Little Woodfords has had an outsized impact in coffee-mad Portland; owned by city council member Andrew Zarro and husband TJ, the shop features coffees from some of the best roasters in New England, keeps a rotating menu of astrology sign-themed drinks, and isn’t afraid to stick its neck out for their workers, for their beliefs, and for Portland. There are a lot of coffee shops in town, this feels like the one where you’re most likely to find someone organizing a revolution.

Down East: Maine Pizza

The February issue of Down East magazine includes a list of the 30 Maine Pizzas You Have To Try.

Maine, she says, was “ripe for the mouthwatering version versus the same old version,” as a decade-plus of proliferating pizzerias has proven. These days, Mainers can find authentic Neapolitan on the midcoast and Jersey-style thin crust down east and arugula on the toppings menu from Portland to Augusta to Fort Kent, not to mention plenty of throwback parlors that have withstood the test of time. Maine’s pizza scene is booming. Here’s where to get a slice of the action.

The list includes several Portland pizzerias: Radici, Lazzari, Monte’s, Portland Pie, Slab, Micucci’s, and Coals.

2022 Beard Awards Semifinalists

The 2022 list of semifinalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards has been released. There are 10 semifinal nominees from Maine:

  • Best New Restaurant – Leeward
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef – Kate Fisher Hamm from Leeward
  • Outstanding Baker – Atsuko Fujimoto, Norimoto Bakery
  • Outstanding Hospitality – Bao Bao Dumpling House
  • Outstanding Bar Program – The Jewel Box
  • Best Chef: Northeast – Bowman Brown, Elda/Jackrabbit; Vien Dobui, Công Tử Bột; Ben Jackson, Magnus on Water; Courtney Loreg, Woodford Food and Beverage; Damian Sansonetti, Chaval

The final list of nominees will be released March 16th, and the awards ceremony will take place on Monday June 13th in Chicago.

Related information:

First Look: Regards

The Blueberry Files has published a first look at Regards.

The menu was described to us during the Friday night preview as “L.A.-meets-Maine” and has a strong seafood focus with a big selection of tequila and mezcal. The menu definitely belies the cold temperatures we’ve had in Maine lately, but still felt hearty enough to enjoy on a January evening.

Regards is set to open Tuesday night at 5 pm.

2022 Good Food Award Winners

Congratulations to the four Maine food producers that are 2022 Good Food Awards winners:

  • Beer – Wolfe’s Neck IPA from Maine Beer Co.
  • Chocolate – Vanilla Crème Brûlée from Bixby Chocolate
  • Fish – Ready-Cut Kelp from Atlantic Sea Farms
  • Preserves – Strawberry Preserves from Josh Pond

Ten Maine food producers were finalists in the 2022 awards program. They were selected from 1,966 entries from 42 states plus D.C. .

Good Beer Hunting Portland Visit

Good Beer Hunting has published a report on a recent visit to Portland.

If I have a problem, it’s time: There’s not enough of it, and I can’t eat and drink everywhere I want to. On the drive up to the city, soundtracked by Taylor Swift’s “Folklore,” I kept doing mental Tetris, unsure of how I would fit everything in. And so I stand on the corner of a crowded street, the smell of Thai-style fried chicken in the air, my feet angled in the direction of my last stop—one of the best beer bars in the world. In an alternate reality, this is how I would spend every Friday night. “I could live here,” I think, for perhaps the thousandth time.

The article highlights: Allagash, Eventide, Bissell Brothers, Crispy Gai, and Novare Res.

The 2021 Year In Review: Pandemic, Food Trucks, Openings, Closings, Etc.

It’s been another busy and challenging year. Here’s an attempt to provide a high level overview of the 2021 year in food:

  • Covid-19 – the pandemic continued to have a big impact on all our lives. With surge in cases that bookended the year in Maine and a peak in the spring Covid-19 continued to have a ripple effect across the industry from outdoor dining in the depths of winter to supply chain issues to a challenging labor market. Vaccines improved conditions during the summer but the delta and omicron variants have driven up case numbers and hospitalizations resulting in customers becoming more cautious and less numerous as we head into winter. A small number of restaurants have implemented their own proof of vaccination policies and in late December a petition is began circulating among Portland restaurants that calls on the City Council to make that a city-wide approach for indoor dining. Despite all the headwinds, new food business projects continue to get launched—a sign that food entrepreneurs feel a sense  of hope and optimism about what’s to come in 2022.
  • Food Truck Boom – Food truck launches continued to surge in 2021. The Press Herald, Mainebiz, Maine Public, Bangor Daily News all wrote and discussed this trend. At one point this past summer there were almost 50 trucks on the streets or under development in Portland. Over the past decade, many businesses that started as food trucks have transitioned into brick and mortar businesses. It will be interesting to see if that’s also the case with this new set of mobile food entrepreneurs.
  • Knightville – There always seems to be some section of town which is a focal point for new restaurant development. In 2021 that new bright spot has been the Knightville neighborhood in South Portland. SoPo Seafood, BenReuben’s Knishery, Cafe Louis opened and Taco Trio moved to new digs. They all joined the Knightville veterans like Smaha’s Legion square Market, The Bridgeway, The Snow Squall, Verbena’s, Cia Coffee and relatively recent opening by Solo Cucina, Judy Gibson, and Foulmouthed Brewing. The former Taco Trio space is now vacant and there are other store fronts that may come on the market so we’re likely to see more growth here into 2022.
  • John Woods – John Woods passed away at the age of 57. Woods was a co-founder of Full Plates Full Potential and was tireless fighter in the battle against childhood hunger in Maine. His work touched the lives of so many people and made Maine a better place. In his memory Full Plates established the John T. Woods Innovation Fund.
  • Upcoming in 2022 – For the full list of new food businesses under development see PFM Under Construction list. Here are some of the current highlights:
    • Bread and Friends – a brick and mortar bakery/cafe being launched by a pair of couples who moved here from the Bay Area. In 2021 they started selling wholesale and at some local farmers’ markets. B&F will be located at 505 Fore Street and is slated to open in late summer.
    • Dila’s Kitchen – a Turkish eatery located on the second floor of the Public Market House. Watch for them to launch in early 2022.
    • Hi-Fidelity Beer – a low ABV brewery  and community space in East Bayside.
    • Lenora – a taco bar focusing on Mexican-inspired street food being launched by partners from from Lone Star Taco Bar and Deep Ellum in Boston. Watch for them to launch in early summer.
    • Twelve – located in the reconstructed Pattern Storehouse from the Portland Company Complex, Twelve will feature the culinary talents of Matt Ginn and Colin Wyatt.
    • TBD – Gin & Luck (the parent company of Death & Co.) is opening an as yet unnamed restaurant and bar in the Danforth Street location formerly occupied by Little Giant.
    • Wicked Fresco – a food truck that was originally slated to open this past summer. Wicked Fresco co-owners Camila Sohm and Eric Mendoza plan to tap into their Colombian and Salvadoran food cultures and Maine seasonal ingredients to serve a menu of sweet and savory salads as well as sides and hand-crafted sodas.
    • Zu Baker – a neighborhood boulangerie in the West End being launched by Barak Olins this spring.

There are also several other exciting new projects that are currently under wraps but will go public soon. Check back later this year for details.

Top 10 Articles

The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.

  1. Valentine’s Day List (February 6th)
  2. Vy Banh Mi food truck (January 20th)
  3. Stacks Pancake Company (April 19th)
  4. Lucky Pigeon gluten-free brewery (January 21st)
  5. Apres in East Bayside (April 19th)
  6. Luna and Salt Yard (March 11th)
  7. Jackrabbit Cafe (March 31st)
  8. BenReuben’s Knishery (March 11th)
  9. Wayside Tavern (April 22nd)
  10. Launch of Truckalico (March 14th)

Notable Events of 2021


For additional perspectives on the past year in food see the Maine Sunday Telegram A to Z annual round-up, and their restaurant critic’s list of the Best of 2021.

This is the 12th year running that Portland Food Map has published a year in review article. Take a walk down memory lane by checking out these past editions that covered 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.