2012 Year in Review: Eventide, Food Trucks, Pop-ups, Coffee, Distilling, Under Construction

It’s once again been a very busy year for the food and dining industry in Portland. I’ve scanned through the news and events for the past year and here’s my summary of the 2012 Portland Year in Food:

  • arlinmikeandrewEventideEventide was the best new restaurant of 2012. The extensive selection of oysters, an inspired menu of small plate options and casual atmosphere have made a real hit that’s earned this Hugo’s spin-off rave reviews and a packed house. Visitors to our city have also discovered Eventide. The Wall Street Journal called it one of the nation’s most outstanding oyster bars, the James Beard Foundation named the Arctic Char at Eventide to their shortlist of favorite dishes for the year, and Food & Wine Executive Editor Dana Cowin included it on her list of the best restaurants of 2012.
  • greatfoodtruckrace2012Food Trucks – after months of subcommittee meetings, debate and review the City finally approved an ordinance making food trucks legal in Portland. We were treated to a foretaste of food truck culture when the Great American Food Truck Race routed through Maine. By the end of the year 2 food trucks, Love Cupcakes and Esposito’s Food on the Go, were in operation. Deux Cochon is working on bringing their “southern food hooliganism” back to life in a food truck format, and a few other entrepreneurs are planning to launch food trucks in 2013. In October, several mobile food vendors banded together to kick-off Flea Bites which takes place in the Flea-for-All parking lot.
  • nathanielandcarolinePop-ups – pop-up dinners and supper clubs came to life in 2012. David Levi ran Vinland, and Erika Joyce launched Cloak & Dagger. Damian Sansonetti moved to Maine and started running his series of Sonnet pop-ups, and visitors like CRUX and Outstanding in a Field  ran pop-ups in Maine. In 2013, we can look forward to the launch of Chinese Laundry which “will be popping up all over town, 3-5 times a week.  Find us at galleries, coffee shops, residences, First Fridays, and street corners.  We’ll be equipped with warm buns and steamy dumplings.” Last but certainly not least there’s Pocket Brunch, a full immersion monthly eating experience that collaborating with guest chefs to offer 5-course Sunday brunches. Pocket Brunch has quickly become the hottest event in the city—tickets for the December edition sold out in less than 2 hours.
  • tandemsignCoffee – 2012 was a great year for the Portland coffee scene. Speckled Ax launched in May and Tandem Coffee Roasters launched in July. Both bring new perspectives on coffee and coffee service to our city. Speckled Ax, Tandem, and Bard have raised the bar for what we should expect from a great coffee shop. This year also saw the opening of Arabica’s new venue, Crema, the closure of Udder Place, a visit by the owners of Blue Bottle Coffee, and several collaborations between the city’s roasters and brewers: Tandem and Bunker, Bard and Rising Tide, Speckled Ax and Allagash. In December, Down East magazine published a survey of the Maine coffee industry.
  • stillsignCraft Distilling –  the micro-distilling industry got its start in Portland this year when New England Distilling’s first batch of Ingenium Gin appeared on store shelves. Novare Res is soon to launch In’Finiti, a distillery/brewpub, on Commercial Street and Maine Craft Distilling in East Bayside is just a few months away from selling their first batch of carrot gin. Three Sheets Mfg. is working on launching a locally made bitters. Hopefully, 2013 will see the continued expansion of this new segment of the Portland food scene.
  • forleaseUnder Construction – by the end of 2011 the Under Construction list had shrunk down to a handful of business, but during the year there was a renewed confidence and not only did we see the launch of 34 new eateries/bars/coffee houses/etc but the UC List has grown to include nearly 20 new ventures under development. Some notables for 2013 are the aforementioned In’Finiti and Maine Craft Distilling as well as Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, the Little Tap House, Salvage, Sonnet, the new old Miyake, and Harding Smith’s new Room on Custom House Wharf.

Notable Events of 2012

25 Restaurants Looked-up Most Often on PFM

  1. Schulte & Herr (4)
  2. Spread (-)
  3. Petite Jacqueline (1)
  4. Bar Lola (6)
  5. Blue Spoon (24)
  6. Bresca (5)
  7. Five Fifty-Five (10)
  8. Caiola’s (9)
  9. Eventide Oyster Company (-)
  10. Back Bay Grill (28)
  11. Zapoteca (2)
  12. Emilitsa (19)
  13. Local 188 (11)
  14. Grace (13)
  15. LFK (-)
  16. The Salt Exchange (17)
  17. Fore Street (25)
  18. Pai Men Miyake (23)
  19. El Rayo Cantina (-)
  20. Hot Suppa (31)
  21. Figa (8)
  22. Paciarino (18)
  23. Hugo’s (15)
  24. Zen Chinese Bistro (-)
  25. David’s (33)

The numbers in parentheses indicate their rank last year.

Passings

  • Theresa Ciampi – her family owned Commercial Fruit and she was featured in Amato’s signature advertisement from the 1970s.
  • Tyler Curtis Cole – a Portland chef who had worked at The Front Room and other restaurants.
  • Joseph L. Discatio – the founder of Joe’s Smoke Shop.
  • Dorothy Larsen – ran Moran’s Market with her husband Bernard.
  • Ruth G. Leadbetter – the founded the Lobster Shack with her husband Jim.
  • Russell Libby – the longtime Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
  • Stavros Elias Shamos – owner of the Quality Shop on Stevens Ave.

For some other perspectives on the past year see Edible Obsessions, the Portland PhoenixMap & Menu, Maine Eater, The Golden Dish and the Portland Daily Sun.

For more information on Portland’s food past see the 2011 Year in Review and 2010 Year in Review, as well as PFM blog posts from 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the Portland Food Timeline.

2011 Year in Review

It’s once again been a very busy year for the food and dining industry in Portland. I’ve scanned through the news and events for the past year and here’s my summary of the 2011 Portland Year in Food:

  • Whoopie Pies – whoopie pies were a hot topic in early 2011. In order to further establish Maine as the true home of the whoopie pie, the state Legislature considered naming it the State Dessert but ran head on into the powerful Blueberry Lobby. Compromise was struck in April with the whoopie pies being named the State Treat and ceding the title of State Dessert to blueberry pie. Whicked Whoopies contributed to the hoopla by building a 1067 pound pie beating out the prior title in Pennsylvania by more than 800 lbs.
  • Food Trucks – The city’s ban on food trucks stopped Bite into Maine from operating their lobster roll truck in the Old Port. Inspired by their story, Creative Portland Corporation took up the challenge and been very active in raising the issue for review by the City Council. The Press Herald has issued an editorial in favor food trucks and a volunteer committee assembled by CPC has proposed a set of guidelines that will hopefully get review and approval by the City Council in the new year.
  • Schulte & Herr – Petite Jacqueline, The Holy Donut and Zapoteca all generated a lot excitement in 2011, but the most unexpected and talked about new businesses to emerge last year was Schulte & Herr. The small German restaurant run by Steffi and Brian Davin has received raves reviews from almost the first day they opened. Who could have imagined that a small German Cafe on Cumberland Ave would have opened at all, much less generated so much enthusiasm in 2011?
  • Dessert – many of the new openings this year are focused on satisfying Portland’s sweet tooth. Gorgeous Gelato, Foley’s, Bakery on the Hill, The Holy Donut, and Bam Bam Bakery to name just a few. The fascination with cupcakes continued into early 2011. East End Cupcake opened a retail store on Fore Street, several other cupcake vendors entered the fray. A group of 5 food bloggers convened for round 2 of a comparative cupcake tasting. My sense is that restaurants have been investing more effort in their dessert menus in 2011 as well.
  • Make Mine a Double, Again – Last year’s trend of restaurateur’s doubling up continued into 2011: Five Fifty-Five opened Petite Jacqueline, Nosh opened Taco Escobarr, Slainte opened Gogi, Walter’s opened Gingko Blue, Aurora Provisions opened the Museum Cafe. The trend doesn’t show any signs of weakening in 2012. Already on the books we have El Rayo’s plans to open the El Rayo Cantina and the Riverhouse, Silly’s plans to open Silly’s with a Twist, and Arabica’s plans to open Crema.
  • South of the Border – Portland restaurateurs continued to try to answer the demand for Latin food. Gogi, Taco Trio, Hella Good Tacos, Taco Escobarr and Zapoteca all opened in 2011, The Wine Bar got into the act with a summertime taco lunch option, and both the El Rayo Cantina and Sabor Latino are slated to open this year. Now if only we could see an equal focus this year on addressing the dearth of great Chinese food in Portland…
  • Expansion Fervor – while a lot of new establishments opened in 2011, the number business under construction went through a steady decline all year. At the start of 2012 there were 20+ eateries in the works and by December the Under Construction list dropped to as low as 6. A few additions late in the year have tempered the decline but it still looks like the growth rate has tapered off.

Notable Events of 2011

25 Most Popular Restaurants of 2011

  1. Petite Jacqueline (-)
  2. Zapoteca (-)
  3. District (>25)
  4. Schulte & Herr (-)
  5. Bresca (1)
  6. Bar Lola (2)
  7. Miyake (19)
  8. Figa (>25)
  9. Caiola’s (9)
  10. Five Fifty-Five (4)
  11. Local 188 (10)
  12. Boda (3)
  13. Grace (15)
  14. East Ender (-)
  15. Hugo’s (>25)
  16. Walter’s (11)
  17. The Salt Exchange (6)
  18. Paciarino (14)
  19. Emilitsa (17)
  20. Gogi (-)
  21. The Thirsty Pig (-)
  22. Taco Escobarr (-)
  23. Pai Men Miyake (23)
  24. Blue Spoon (16)
  25. Fore Street (24)

The numbers in parentheses indicate their rank last year.

Passings

  • Michael Barriault – photographer and food blogger who published PortlandTown died of cancer at the age of 64.
  • Stanley T. Bennet II – the President of Oakhurst Dairy passed away at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer.
  • Frederick P. Dyer – founder of Dyer’s Variety on Portland Street passed away at the age of 90.
  • Taylor Griffin – President of The Rogers Collection died in a car crash at the age of 40.
  • Bob Mathews – the longtime owner of Botto’s Bakery on Washington Ave died at the age of 78.
  • John Palanza – owner of Uncle Andy’s Bakery in South Portland died at the age of 89. He ran the bakery for 45 years starting in 1951.

For some other perspectives on the past year see From Away, Edible Obsessions, The Golden Dish and the Portland Phoenix.

For more information on Portland’s food past see the 2010 Year in Review, PFM blog posts from 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the Portland Food Timeline.

2010 Year in Review

A lot happened the past year in our little culinary paradise: restaurants opened and closed, major trends and minor ones emerged and lots of wonderful food was crafted and gratefully consumed. I’ve scanned through the news and events for the past year and here’s my summary of the 2010 Portland Year in Food:

  • Trader Joe’s –Easily the biggest food story of the year was the opening of Trader Joe’s. Each step in the process was widely covered in print and online: the late 2009 leaks from Trader Joe’s store clerks in Massachusetts, steps in the FTC approved sale of the old Wild Oats property, breathless articles in the week leading up to opening day and  coverage of the Grand Opening itself. Once the market opened there were reviews of their beer and wine selection, reports on the lack of gate access to the Bayside trail, commentary on crazy appeal of the place, the gridlock in the parking lot, and so on. In late December, the West End News even published a commentary on the commentary.
  • Cupcakemania – cupcakes have turned into a full blown product segment in 2010 with at least 4 bakeries (Tulips, Cha Cha, Cakeface, Buttercup) devoted to the little snacks and many others producing them on the side. There’s even a Portland blog who’s sole focus is to seek out the best cupcake in Portland and three other bloggers banded together to review 12 cupcakes from 7 different bakeries. Even Google’s new Book Ngram Viewer seems to concur that cupcakes are hot.
  • Longfellow Square – there’s been a lot of change in the area in and around Longfellow Square: Pai Men Miyake, Boda, Yordprom Coffee all opened in or near the square. Local Sprouts opened in the renovated Portland Hall. King of the Roll underwent a facelift during the summer and in November Hot Suppa started dinner service. An Asian fusion restaurant named Gogi is under construction where Barava used to be and the Corry’s are starting up a casual dining restaurant in what had been Evangeline. A little further down Congress Street Quimby Colony set up shop in the old Roma Cafe. The former restaurant has been the location for a number of food events including the Rabelais cookie swap with Joanne Chang from Flour. There are still a few vacant store fronts in Longfellow Square available for anyone who wants to join in on the fun. Perhaps in 2011 a cupcakery could fill the spot left vacant by Tropa Wine Co.
  • Pizza, Pizza Pizza – the city saw an uptick in the number of pizzerias in 2010. Pat’s Pizza returned to Portland, Siano’s opened a third location, Pie in the Sky opened at the Public Market House and Otto’s expanded their original location and went on to open a much larger pizzeria at the foot of Munjoy Hill. Maple’s even got in on the act by opening Pizza Magnolia in South Portland.
  • Korean Anyone? – Korean cuisine emerged from the long shadow of Portland’s Thai and Sushi restaurants. Happy Teriyaki transformed into Korea House to become Portland’s first restaurant to focus exclusively on Korean Cuisine, and both Soju and Little Seoul opened their doors. For a time, until the close of Soju, Portlanders hungry for Korean had 3 venues to choose from.
  • Moving Chiang Mai and Katahdin moved from their longtime homes. Local Sprouts graduated from the basement of the Public Market House to the steel clad building at 645 Congress Street and Spartan Grill moved next door to the Public Market House through a buyout of Zarra’s Monumental Coffee. Lastly, Rosemont Market expanded operations with a move across Brighton Ave.
  • Farming – a mild Winter and unseasonably warm Spring lead to what one farmer referred to as the “best growing year I have had for 30 years“. There were additional vendors at the Farmers Markets, an effort to start a 3rd market day on Monday, Cultivating Community started a set of neighborhood farmers markets, the Winter Market found a new home and is returning for a second season, there was an heirloom tomato CSA during the Summer, and a rare apple CSA this Fall.
  • Ice Cream – MDI Ice Cream and Catbird Creamery joined longtime Old Port favorite Beal’s this Summer, Spartan Grill owner Mike Roylos opened Harbor Scoop Shop at the corner of Cumberland and Washington, Bonobo re-opened their ice cream window, Maple’s opened a gelato scoop shop in South Portland, and in December Gorgeous Gelato opened on Fore Street in the Old Port.
  • Make mine a double – the trend of restaurateurs owning more than one restaurant continued in 2010. Jay Villani who owns Local 188 opened Sonny’s, the owners of Green Elephant converted Bangkok Thai into Boda, Michael Boland and Deirdre Swords who own Havana in Bar Harbor opened Havana South on Wharf Street, Big Sky opened Pie in the Sky Pizzeria, Bar Lola bought Hilltop Coffee Shop, Masa Miyake opened Pai Men Miyake, and several of the restaurants under construction will continue the trend. This isn’t a recent phenomena. Back in the 1980’s Steve and Rose Harris bought Ruski’s and opened Rosie’s. In the 1990’s Dana Street owned Street & Co. and co-founded Fore Street; he also went on to open a pizzeria on Forest Ave and a casual seafood restaurant called Scales in the Public Market.

Calendar of Notable Events

  • JanuaryDual Site Dinner Theater took place at Whitney Art Works, both Nosh and Sonny’s (see photos of the opening from PortlandTown) opened their doors.
  • February– Boda opened and Katahdin moved to Forest Avenue.
  • March– the 2nd Annual Maine Restaurant Week took place, Skinny Cart BBQ begin service on Washington Ave, Yordprom Coffee opened in the West End, and Otto gave birth to Enzo.
  • April– Kamasoutra opened on the second floor of the Public Market House, Cranberry Island Kitchen moved into Portland, and Pat’s Pizza opened on Market Street.
  • May– Soju replaced Thai Chef Buffet, Siano’s opened their third pizzeria, South Portland landmark Red’s Dairy Freeze was severely damaged by a fire, and later in the month Cape Elizabeth landmark The Cookie Jar reopened after being knocked out of commission by a storm in 2006.
  • June– Local Sprouts, Bayside Bowl and  Havana South all opened.  New York chefs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo were in town for a book signing, Joe Appel started writing a weekly wine column for the Portland Press Herald.
  • July– Venue Music Bar and Whaddapita both opened on Forest Ave.
  • September– Pai Men Miyake and  Little Seoul opened for business, Norm Jabar shut down the East End Grill and the North Star Music Cafe closed.
  • October– the 3rd Annual Harvest on the Harbor and the 4th Annual 20 Mile Meal took place, Trader Joe’s and Figa opened, and Happy Teriyaki became Korea House.
  • November– Soju closed, District opened on Danforth Street, Rosemont Market on Brighton moved across the street, Evangeline closed, and wine expert Bob Kacher was in town for a dinner at Havana South.
  • December– Otto East and Gorgeous Gelato opened followed the next day by 15 Exchange, Mousse Cafe closed, and wine guru Terry Thiese and his wife, chef Odessa Piper, were in town for a book signing and wine dinner at Bar Lola.

The 25 Most Popular Restaurants of 2010

Every month I publish a list of the 10 restaurants looked up most often on Portland Food Map. Here’s the top 25 list for 2010.

  1. Bresca
  2. Bar Lola
  3. Boda
  4. Five Fifty-Five
  5. Nosh
  6. The Salt Exchange
  7. Otto’s
  8. Sonny’s
  9. Caiola’s
  10. Local 188
  11. Walter’s
  12. Katahdin
  13. Evangeline
  14. Paciarino
  15. Grace
  16. Blue Spoon
  17. Emilitsa
  18. Po’Boy’s & Pickles
  19. Miyake
  20. Back Bay Grill
  21. Hot Suppa!
  22. Havana South
  23. Pai Men Miyake
  24. Fore Street
  25. Vignola

Passings

  • Bob Smith died unexpectedly in December at the age of 49. Bob was a chef, a cheesemaker and a friend to many people throughout the Portland food community.
  • Jack Rosen passed away at the age of 76. He worked the counter at Full Belly Deli which was started in 1987 by his son David.
  • The co-founder and longtime owner of the Sportsmen’s Grill, John Severino died at the age of 80 in late September. The Sportsmen’s Grill operated on Congress Street near the intersection of Saint John from 1952 until 1999 when it was damaged by a fire.
  • Eric Hartglass, Mister Bagel himself, passed away at the age of 64. He started the Mister Bagel chain on Forest Ave in 1977.
  • Amedeo Reali died at the age of 83 after a lifetime working at and running the family restaurant. His father, Vincenzo Reali,  opened The Village Cafe in 1936. Amedeo Reali oversaw the expansion of the 20 seat cafe into a restaurant that could serve 500. The Village Cafe closed in 2007.