Cera Coming to Monument Square

A new cafe called Cera (website, instagram) is under construction in Monument Square. Cera will be offering a menu of “elevated sandwiches and salads” available 7-days a week from their ground floor space in 1 Monument Square.

The 22-seat 1,300 sq ft cafe will be open 11 am – 8 pm will have available corporate catering options to serve the needs of downtown businesses in addition to on site dining and to go meals for individual customers. During warmer months Cera plans to have a 24-seat patio in the square. Owners Steven Lacount, Jennifer Svendsen and Sean Doherty hope to open Cera in May.

Steven Lacount grew-up in the Waterville area and cites Big G’s in Winslow as one of his points of inspiration for Cera. He began is restaurant career working at Baldacci’s in Portland back in the late 1980s, and most recently worked with B.Good. Lacount has experience in helping restaurant be successful as they scale up, and hopes that Cera in Portland will be the first of what one day could be upwards of 10 locations.

Chef Sean Doherty will be leading the culinary team at Cera. Doherty has worked at Harding Smith’s Rooms restaurants. He also has strong interest in koji and fermentation, and was recently a presenter at the KojiCon online conference. At Cera, koji will be part of the process Dorherty uses to prepare their house-made pastrami.

The menu at Cera will include options like:

The Jaberwocky Sandwich
House roasted beef & our own pastrami, smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, BBQ, red onion, tomato
// choice: multigrain, rye, white

Peaches the Pig Sandwich
House Smoked ham, cheddar, peach-jalapeno chutney & lettuce
// choice: multigrain, rye, white

Super Mushroom Panini
Wood grilled mushrooms, garlic aioli, fontina cheese, spinach, roasted tomatoes
// Panini bread

Mercados Salad
Mixed greens with jicama, tri-colored grape tomatoes, fresh corn, black beans, avocado, cotija cheese, cucumber, red pepper & chili roasted pepitas
Dressing: Tomatillo vinaigrette

The owners are planning to get Cera certified as a B Corporation. In recognition of how central bee pollination is to the food system, Cera will focus some energy  on supporting bees and beekeeping, and are looking for organizations they will contribute to. Beekeepers with ideas should reach out to them with recommendations.

Volunteer at Preble Street

Preble Street is looking for volunteers with commercial kitchen experience to help meet the growing need for their meals:

Every day, Preble Street volunteers help prepare 1,000 meals for Mainers experiencing hunger. The vast majority of these meals are prepared in our Central Kitchen for delivery to area shelters and outdoor locations. As we work to meet a growing need for food assistance in our community, we welcome support from all who wish to help, and we are particularly interested in volunteers with professional kitchen experience. Kitchen volunteer duties include meal prep, packaging food for delivery, washing dishes, and other tasks assigned on an as-needed basis. Volunteer shifts at the Central Kitchen are offered three times daily:

    • Breakfast (7-10am)
    • Lunch (10am-1pm)
    • Dinner (2-5pm)

If you’re interested in volunteering you can sign-up online or email volunteer@preblestreet.org for more information.

The Maine Farm Table Cookbook

The Maine Farm Table Cookbook is scheduled to be released in early June. Authored by Ragged Coast co-owner Kate Shaffer with photography by Derek Bissonnette, the book “collects the stories of farmers, fisherman, foragers, and cooks who raise and celebrate Maine’s homegrown culinary bounty”.

The Maine Farm Table Cookbook delivers more than 100 recipes, assembled in chapters that take readers from the pasture and sea to the forest, creamery, and everywhere in between. Discover Autumn Harvest Roast Pork, Haddock and Corn Chowder, Carrot Zucchini Fritters, Blackberry and Almond Torte, and more. With profiles to spotlight Maine’s favorite farms and restaurants, and gorgeous professional photography, this is the perfect way for readers to bring New England’s charm to their own kitchen.

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.

Butcher Burger in the Old Port

A new restaurant called Butcher Burger (facebook, instagram) is under development and slated to be located at 7 Union Street in the space formerly occupied by the Royale Lunch Bar. As the name suggests the menu includes a wide array of burgers, plus sides and a few non-burger sandwiches.

This will be the third Butcher Burger. Owner Kevin McAllister operates branches of Butcher Burger in Bethel and Old Orchard Beach.

Launch of Truckalico

A new food truck tracking app called Food Truckalico (instagram) has launched just in time for warmer weather and the start of food truck season. Visit the Apple app store to download Truckalico.

The Food Truckalico app for iPhone provides the most accurate day and location info for the largest number of food trucks in Portland by curating instagram posts from each truck and organizing them for quick and easy reference. You can jump directly to the original posts for details and can share all the trucks at a location with friends to plan a meet up.

Vy Banh Mi launched earlier this week, and another 14 mobile food operations are expected to follow suit later this year. Truckalico will be a handy resource  to have when you’re hoping to check out one (or more) of Portland’s growing  number of food truck and carts this year.

Truckalico is a free service for food trucks and their customers. It is the creation of Portland-based app designer Justin Velgos and iOS developer Emily Cheroske. You can find more info on Velgos’ other iPhone apps (Hop Hound, The Uprising, etc) on www.justinvelgos.com.

Truckalico joins a field already served by three other food truck tracking services all of which launched in Portland last year: Food Truck Movement, Truckster and Food Trux (which had combined forces with Maine Food Truck Tracker).

Chowder King & Anticipated Eats

The Food & Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about the 1939 Maine Chowder King,

Lafayette chef George Miller had pitted his creamy New England clam chowder against the tomato-based, Manhattan-style chowder of Philadelphia chef Julius Savinese (or, according to some accounts, Savineur). The judges’ verdict on the Philadelphia chowder, according to the next day’s Boston Daily Globe: “Not a bad vegetable stew.”

“I’ve always known since I was born that my grandfather was the Clam Chowder King,” Michel told me when I reached out to her.

and the paper checks in with folks around the state about the dining experiences they’re most looking forward to once the pandemic is under control.

This month, I asked eight fellow food-and-drink-focused Mainers to share their own expectations of what’s to come. We might not all frequent the same neighborhood bars and restaurants, but we’ve got remarkably similar plans for the post-pandemic future.

Vy Banh Mi

Portland’s newest food truck, Vy Banh Mi (facebookinstagram) launched Thursday, and is located today at the Western Prom (10 am – 6 pm). They plan to be at Back Cove on Saturday and Sunday.

Owners Minh Nguyen and Vy Phan are originally from Vietnam and moved to Maine 10 years ago. Vy Banh Mi will be a way they can share their passion for food and perhaps be a first step in opening their own restaurant.

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.

BenReuben’s Knishery

Graeme and Caitlin Miller have leased space at 145 Ocean Street in South Portland where they plan to open BenReuben’s Knishery (website, instagram), a counter service knishery.

Knishes are a Jewish hand pie that use dough or pastry with a sweet or savory filling. At BenReuben’s the Millers plan to sell a the classic knish combinations as well explore creative ways to make use of the traditional form of this Eastern European snack food.

Open Sunday through Friday, at BenReuben’s the Millers plan to offer 5 – 7 varieties of knishes a day along with seasonally inspired side dishes, and all your favorite deli sides (sauerkraut, half sours and smears). The Millers also plan to offer Friday night dinner pick-ups. For drinks there will be coffee and tea plus “ice cold sodas in glass”.

It’s been the longtime dream of Graeme to open a knishery where he can share and celebrate his own  family’s and culture’s food traditions. The business name is an homage to Graeme’s father. The Millers have both been a part of the Big Tree Hospitality organization where Graeme worked previously as a chef and Caitlin works as the Director of Human Resources.

The Millers hope to open BenReuben’s sometime in April.

They’re also now taking pre-orders for a special knish delivery service on March 21st. Three different options are available:

  • Cinnamon Knish – cinnamon sugar and citrus icing (vegan upon request)
  • Everything Knish – cream cheese, scallion, potato
  • Hot Pastrami Knish with mustard and onions

The minimum order is a half dozen, and you can get two of each for a mixed sampler. Place your order by March 15th at 5 pm via direct message with BenReuben’s on instagram or by emailing BenReuben’s at hello@benreubensknishery.com for delivery to Portland, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Falmouth and Westbrook on March 21st. Payment is being processed by Venmo or cash upon delivery.