2019 Beard Award Semifinalists

The list of semifinal nominees for the 2019 James Beard Foundation awards were released today. There are 9/10 semifinalist nominees from Maine:

  • Best Chef: Northeast – Vien Dobui, Cong Tu Bot; Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell, Palace Diner; Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House; Erin French, The Lost Kitchen; Keiko Suzuki Steinberger, Suzuki’s Sushi Bar.
  • Outstanding Restaurant – Fore Street
  • Outstanding Baker – Alison Pray, Standard Baking
  • Outstanding Wine Beer or Spirits Professional – Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Co.
  • Outstanding Service – Back Bay Grill

The final list of nominees will be released on March 27th, and the awards ceremony will take place on May 6th in Chicago.

Related information:

Review of Crunchy Poke

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed the Crunchy Poké.

Like most contemporary poké spots, Crunchy Poké takes inspiration from Asian cooking to inflect its menu. Here, owner/chef Tien Nguyen delivers a Japanese-inspired gloss on the dish, serving a few great bowls, like cubed salmon dressed in Kewpie-mayo and served over a sweet, brown-rice-and-quinoa blend, and a Maine lobster bowl that gets an acidic kick from a soy-and-vinegar-based sauce. Weirdly, tonkotsku (slow-cooked pork belly) ramen is among Crunchy Poké’s best dishes, and while it does not fit with the business’s focus on sustainability, local sourcing or healthy eating – or even poké, for that matter – it is a slurpable, savory-smoky treat.

Reviews: Hugo’s, Duckfat Frites Shack

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed the Hugo’s, and

Think of it as the Anne Brontë of the trio: It keeps the lowest profile, but it is almost certainly the most interesting of the bunch. An eclectic, New American restaurant that plays up both its Asian and Mediterranean influences, Hugo’s offers a menu of small (and slightly larger) plates that demonstrate new chef de cuisine Ben Christie’s mastery at equilibrating acid and umami, heat and sweetness, as well as textural contrasts. His best dishes include smoky, hand-rolled tortellini in a sparklingly clear pork consommé and a remarkable pairing of uni (sea urchin roe), pickled ginger and carrots.

the Press Herald has reviewed the Duckfat Frites Shack.

What the soup lacked in quantity, though, it made up for in quality. It was more like a duck chili – smoky, warm and satisfying. Bits of carrots and other veggies were mixed in with the duck and the fried duck skins. The tiny bits of fried duck skin were a little soggy by the time I ate them – my fault – but I picked a few out to taste separately and they were delicious, definitely adding to the layers of flavor.

Review of Evo

The Bollard has reviewed the Evo.

As vegan diners walking in off the street, this was the most delicious impromptu lunch we’ve experienced in Portland. While the difference in the welcome we received between night and day was stark, and the pacing of the vegan tasting menu too fast, outstanding food and service place Evo at the top of the list as a vegan foodie destination in Maine.

Review of Izakaya Minato

The Portland Phoenix has reviewed the Izakaya Minato, “one of the best dining experiences Portland has to offer”.

Choosing a standout dish at Izakaya Minato is challenging given the fact that nearly every menu item offers something unique and discussion-worthy, but the honors must go to the sublimely complex shiromi ankake. An almost gravy-like base of smoky amber dashi sets the scene for tender mushrooms and blisteringly hot fried white fish, topped with a flurry of cooling shaved daikon. It is, at its heart, the very definition of “comfort food,” yet distinctly different from the fat and salt-laden dishes typical of the Western usage of that same term.

Review of the Maine Oyster Company

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed the Maine Oyster Co.

While the local oysters it serves are indeed excellent – especially the Bar Harbor MDIs and Eros from Georgetown – much of the rest of the extremely limited menu is lackluster, and little of it homemade. If you visit, stick with the lemon-and-dill-dressed lobster roll and a plate of the pickled crudité. Then, if you’re still hungry, try the C. Love Cookie Project ice cream sandwich, or better yet: another dozen local oysters.

Reviews: Mathew’s, East Ender, Brickyard Hollow

The Press Herald has reviewed Mathew’s, and

Mathew’s is a cash-only establishment and doesn’t provide receipts, so you might not want to host a business meeting there (unless you’re in the Mob), but it’s a great place to hang out with old friends and make some new ones. The crowd tends to be a mix of locals and tourists, with a heavy contingent of grizzly retired guys who I have heard will happily cheer on anyone doing a Jello shot.

Peter Peter Portland Eater has published a review of East Ender.

There’s more to the East Ender than just food. It has a warm vibe that is comfortable, calm, and inviting. The dishes are relatively simple and on occasion might be missing a little something, but mostly, they’re a success. And while you could have part of a dish that isn’t quite your cup of tea, it’s highly unlikely you’ll walk out disappointed. I would encourage you to pay them a visit and try a healthy sampling of the menu to get the full experience.

And the Maine Sunday Telegram has posted a review of Brickyard Hollow in Yarmouth.

Reviews: Totally Tubers, Asian Soup

In lieu of a review the Maine Sunday Telegram has published a guide to the best Asian soups in Portland, and

So as we slide into the nippiest part of the year, I’ve been compiling another list. This one I’m sharing with you: a brief guide to some of Portland’s best Asian soups. Here’s hoping it helps you track down something soothing and restorative when you’re feeling bulldozed by the winter chill.

the Press Herald has reviewed Totally Tubers.

We went for the custom-designed taters, one Russet and one sweet potato, all with cute names, like I Yam What I Yam and Silence of the Yams. We chose the Bosemite Yam, a sweet potato with maple butter, applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese and candied maple pecans, for $9. It tasted as good as it sounds.