My Kitchen Your Table: Lee Farrington and Bryna Gootkind

Welcome to the November 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 Lee Farrington and Bryna Gootkind from LB Kitchen. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.


Lunch and breakfast. Life and business. Lee and Bryna. The ‘LB’ in LB Kitchen has many meanings. Lee Farrington and Bryna Gootkind, partners in both life and business, opened the daytime eatery in 2017. The two met five years prior, just before Lee closed her former restaurant Figa. She listed the space for rent, but there was a part of her that wasn’t ready to let it go. On the way to the third meeting with a potential tenant, she looked at Bryna and said, “If they’re not going to take the space, I want you to shake my hand, and then let’s open something.” Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.

The partnership was a recipe for success. Bryna had the business experience while Lee had the kitchen experience. Lee went to culinary school at The International Culinary Center (ICC), formerly The French Culinary Institute, and then spent a decade cooking in prestigious kitchens throughout New York City. She perfected her craft at Balthazar, Tabla, and al di la Trattoria. Bryna also lived in New York City, though the two didn’t know each other then. She was a band manager for ten years before a career change to the natural foods industry. Bryna’s knowledge of single-origin superfoods largely influenced LB Kitchen’s “healthy-ish” menu — think blue-hued chai lattes made with spirulina and gluten-free pancakes laced with turmeric, cardamom, and ginger topped with grass-fed butter and real maple syrup.

On February 21, 2020, LB Kitchen turned three — right before the city went on lockdown. Lee and Bryna didn’t waste time though. They quickly transitioned to takeout and even launched a special menu called LB x Home. The new menu was a deconstructed version of their best dishes and offered everything from pints of bone broth and miso slaw to smoothie kits and raw cookie dough.

However, LB’s second location remained empty for months. In May 2020, Lee and Bryna announced the permanent closure of the West End location only ten months after its debut. What appeared to be a huge setback at first turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “We were back in our original location with our core group of people and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more secure. The pandemic was eye-opening in terms of the direction we wanted to go,” Lee explains.

With a clear vision of their business model and brand, LB Kitchen introduced a fresh new logo in November. The new logo is more graphic, less bowl-centric, as they transition away from a traditional restaurant model and into a lifestyle brand. “It feels like we’re going somewhere, even if we continue operating this way for years to come. It feels like our brand has progressed,” Bryna explains. LB Kitchen is currently open for takeout, limited patio dining, and delivery via CarHop, 2DineIn, and DoorDash. You can order online from the regular menu as well as “market” items like house made ferments, sauces, spreads, and other prepared items.

Continue reading to learn more about how Lee and Bryna’s food philosophies clashed at first, the secret ingredient in Lee’s famous wild boar dish, which Scarborough restaurant they’re ordering takeout from nearly every week, and where they go in Portland to celebrate special occasions.

THE INTERVIEW

AA: Lee, what was it like being the daughter of a Pan American airline pilot?
LF: I grew up in Kentucky, but was well-traveled starting at a young age. I was exposed to things that most people still aren’t even exposed to. I got to travel and taste other cuisines. The trip that changed my life was to France and Spain when I was fifteen years old. Having Mediterranean seafood on the coast of Spain was completely mind-blowing and being in Paris trying escargot for the first time was a game-changer. I knew then that I wanted to do something with food.

AA: How did your food philosophies differ prior to your partnership?
LF: It took a couple of years for us to get on the same page. (Before our relationship), I had a lot of meat and potatoes in my life. Then I dropped red meat and got rid of gluten. We started eating a ton of seafood, which is now my favorite food. It was different and enjoyable, but I also lost a lot of weight and just felt better.

AA: How did you come up with the concept for LB Kitchen?
BG: I don’t think either of us ever had this pipe dream of opening a health food restaurant. We didn’t want to put ourselves in a box or category that was limiting. The concept was born out of Lee and I as a couple and at a time and place in our lives. It’s something we are still so grateful for and oftentimes even still surprised by how much people are into it.

AA: How is LB Kitchen transitioning away from the traditional restaurant model?
BG: We decided to take the banquettes out of the dining area because they take up a lot of space. The difference between having twenty-one seats versus limitless pick-up is significant. The next phase includes constructional changes like redoing the facade, moving the door, adding sliding windows, and refining our operations inside.

AA: What are your favorite dishes at LB Kitchen?
LF: I used to do a wild boar dish at Figa that I carried over to LB Kitchen. It’s wild boar shoulder braised in a tomato-based sauce made with over twenty spices and served with coconut rice. My hidden weapon is jaggery. It’s concentrated sugar cane. It has a citrusy sweetness that is completely different from, say, brown sugar.
BG: Hands down for me it would be the avocado toast with our smoked African spice blend and truffle oil on Standard Baking Co. five-grain sourdough bread. It’s been on the menu since we opened. We’d eat it at home and be like, “We need to put this on the menu.” No one was serving avocado toast back then. You can also have it on our homemade gluten-free bread.

AA: Do you ever indulge in sweets?
LF: I have a big sweet tooth. One of my all-time favorite desserts is the chocolate tofu pie at Green Elephant. It’s absolutely freaking incredible!

AA: What are your go-to restaurants?
LF: Evo is in my top three. The chickpea fries and hummus are phenomenal. We’ve gone to a bunch of wine dinners there too. Kelly Nelson did an incredible job (selecting the wines). Also, Pai Men Miyake. When we first got together, we must have eaten there at least two times a week because we had to have the daikon carrot salad, Brussels sprouts, and tofu buns.

AA: Where do you go for takeout?
LF: Sushi is our weekly treat. We live in Scarborough now and there’s an amazing place on Route 1 called Kirin.
BG: Takeout is hard! A lot of food is meant to be experienced at a restaurant, but sushi is always good. Kirin’s tuna tataki is incredible. It’s seared, smoky, and spicy. It feels decadent for Scarborough. Also, the ratio of fish to rice is perfect. You don’t want too much of either.
LF: If we’re in Portland, we’re going to Mr. Tuna. Jordan Rubin is so talented. I’ve honestly contemplated asking him if I can see how he butchers fish just to hone my own skills.

AA: Where have you had an exceptional dining experience?
BG: We love David’s Opus Ten. They do an incredible job with small bites and pairings. That’s how I love to dine; a long meal, lots of bites, and lots of wine. We went there the day we got engaged.
LF: And Back Bay Grill! We did our baby’s gender reveal there. Larry Matthews is the salt of the earth. He is a very warm and genuine person. I always get the foie gras. Bryna loves the salmon dish and their Caesar salad.
BG: Also, Drifter’s Wife was another one of our favorite special occasions spots.

AA: Why do you think Portland is such a great restaurant city?
BG: The amazing thing about Portland, and Maine in general, is that there is someone nailing every category of food or cuisine. For example, Krista Desjarlais makes an incredible bagel — and a number of other things.
LF: There are a lot of talented people here. And the camaraderie of chefs in this town surpasses anything I’ve ever known in my life and I’ve worked in kitchens all over the place.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: the Back Bay Grill is open for on site dining, Green Elephant, Evo Kitchen + Bar, Mr. Tuna, Kirin, and Pai Men Miyake are open for on site and takeout. David’s Opus Ten is closed indefinitely and Drifters Wife is no longer in business.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez, Bowman Brown, Brian Catapang, and Kelly Nelson.

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.

Butcher Burger Now Open

A new restaurant called Butcher Burger (instagram) has opened at 7 Union Street in the space formerly occupied by the Royale Lunch Bar. You can see from the menu below (click to enlarge) that they serve a wide assortment of burgers, plus sandwiches, lobster rolls, salads and fries by the pound or half pound.

Butcher Burger plans to be open Monday 11:30 – 9, Tuesday through Thursday 4 – 9, Friday and Saturday 11:30 – 10 and Sunday 11:30 – 9. This is  the third Butcher Burger location. Owner Kevin McAllister operates a location in Bethel and the original Butcher Burger in Old Orchard Beach.

10 Maine Good Food Awards Finalists

Congratulations to the 10 Maine food producers that are  finalists in the 2022 Good Food Awards in these 9 categories:

  • Beer – Wolfe’s Neck IPA from Maine Beer Co.
  • Chocolate – Vanilla Crème Brûlée from Bixby Chocolate
  • Coffee – Ethiopia Duromina from Bard Coffee, Kenya Nyeri Kiandu AA from Coffee by Design
  • Elixirs – Elderberry Syrup from Timberwolves BBQ
  • Fish – Ready-Cut Kelp from Atlantic Sea Farms
  • Grains – Liberation Farms Cornmeal from Maine Grains
  • Preserves – Strawberry Preserves from Josh Pond
  • Snacks – Cran-Raisin Orange Cookie with Walnuts from My 3 Sisters Italian Cookies
  • Spirits – Barren’s Sugar Kelp Vodka from Blue Barren Distillery

This year’s finalists were “selected from 1,966 entries to the 12th annual Good Food Awards, these 351 products represent 42 states plus D.C. and have passed vetting for category-specific sustainability standards”.

The winners will be announced on January 14th.

Upcoming Events: Pasilla, Harvest on the Harbor, MOFGA, Wine Dinners, Thanksgiving List

Monday – Chef Ryan Nielsen is holding the first of his Pasilla (instagram) pop-up series. He’ll be serving a menu of tacos, tortas, tostadas, agua frescas and desserts. The pop-up will be taking place at the Mr. Tuna space in the Public Market House with takeout and limited seating. Quanto Basta, Devenish Wines and Maps are collaborating on a Italian wine, pizza and pop music event at Maps on Market Street. The kitchen at the Washington Baths is kicking off their monthly Bread Soup Cake dinner series (7-10 pm) serving “heaps of bread, soup, and cake” for $20 per person and as an optional addition wine.

WednesdayHarvest on the Harbor is taking November 3 -6.

Thursday – the launch party for MOFGA’s new book The Organic Farming Revolution is taking place at the Art Museum, and North 43 Bistro is holding a wine dinner featuring wines from Roederer Vineyard.

FridayRuby’s West End and sommelier Coco O’Neil are collaborating on a 5-course wine dinner.

SaturdayKalamata’s Kitchen will be holding a reading and book signing at Oxbow Brewing 2-3 pm with snacks from Chaval and Duckfat.

SundayMaillard Kitchen will be holding a taco pop-up at Foundation Brewing.

November 7/8 – Chef Cara Stadler has launched a pair of event series that run through June. The Science Cafe series “feature a local aquaculture producer or two who will share their story and answer our questions” and the cooking class series will be taught the subsequent evenings focusing on the product highlighted in the previous night’s Science Cafe.

November 8 – Natalie DiBenedetto closed up her West End fried chicken restaurant Figgy’s back in July. She’s now doing a Figgy’s pop-up dinner out of Fork Food Lab next Monday. Fork has a full calendar of November pop-ups by Niyat (6th, 7th, 13th, 20th, 21st), Milk Bottle and Port Box Co (10th, 24th), Little Brother (19th). Maine Beer Company will be releasing Little Whaleboat IPA, a new beer to highlight their support of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust efforts to conserve three in islands Casco Bay.

November 10Evo and Liquid Riot are collaborating on a beer dinner.

November 13the grand opening of The Maker’s Gallery.

November 21 – Lorne Wine is holding a Fete du Beaujolais at Broadturn Farm.

Thanksgiving – a small but quickly growing number of vendors are starting to announce their Thanksgiving offerings. This list will be updated as new info becomes available:

  • Ada’s – boards, baked pasta and desserts; order by the 20th for pick-up on the 24th.
  • Bam Bam Bakery – has a range of gluten-free baked good; order deadline November 19th for pick-up on the 23rd and 24th.
  • BenReuben’s Knishery –  roast chicken, sides, dessert for pick-up on the 24th.
  • Big Tree – Thanksgiving online ordering goes live November 11th and closes on the 19th for pick-up on the 24th in Portland, Biddeford, or shipped out on Casco Bay Ferry.
  • Black Betty Bistro – is offering a roast half turkey with green beans, mashed potato, corn bread, cranberry sauce, gravy to serve six people for $175. Order deadline in November 17th for pick-up on the 23rd or 24th.
  • BlueFin – 4-course dinner for $75 per person.
  • Cakes for All Seasons – order by 21st for pickup in Biddeford on the 23rd or 24th.
  • Coquette – Details are forthcoming.
  • Dandelion Catering – turkeys, sides and desserts; deadline on the 17th for pick-up on the 24th.
  • Friends & Family – appetizer kits; deadline on the 21st for pick-up on the 24th.
  • Lake & Co. – dinner for two, sides, and desserts; order deadline November 15th for pick-up on November 24th and 25th.
  • Monte’s – is taking orders for turkeys; deadline on the 10th for pick-up on 22nd – 24th.
  • North 43 Bistro – a ready to roast turkey along with sides and pie, feeds 6, $235.
  • Other Side – is taking pre-orders for turkeys, sides and dessert.
  • Petite Jacqueline – 3-course dinner for $75 per person.
  • Portland Co-op – is starting to take turkey pre-orders on November 1st.
  • Prairie Baking Co. – has a cake and coffee cake available for pre-order.
  • Rosemont Market – is taking pre-orders for turkeys, sides and baked goods for pick-up on the 23rd or 24th.
  • Ruby’s West End – turkeys, sides, desserts and wine.
  • Salt Yard – dinner for 2, $120; for pick-up on the 24th.
  • Solo Cucina Market – on November 23rd or 24th is a pick-up location for turkey orders from Farmers’ Gate.
  • Sur Lie – turkey, sides, and/or wine for four; ordering deadline November 18th, for pick-up on November 24th.
  • Sweet Woodruff Provisions – ordering starts on the 7th for pick-up on the 23rd or 24th.
  • Tandem Coffee – order deadline 19th, pick-up on 23rd or 24th.
  • Two Fat Cats – has a wide array of baked goods available for pre-order with pick-up on November 23-25th.
  • Wayside – will be serving a prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu for $85 per person, 1-5 pm. Call or go on Resy to make a reservation.
  • Westin – offering a 2-person ‘take and bake’ meal for $80 for pick-up on the 24th, and a 3-course dinner on Thanksgiving day at the Westin for $85 per person (reservations open on October 27th).
  • Yardie Ting – Thanksgiving meals for families of 4-, 6- and 12 and sides; for pickup on the 25th.

Harvest on the Harbor 2021

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an overview of the 2021 edition of Harvest on the Harbor which is taking place this week November 3-6.

The festival, which once drew people from all over the country for such popular events as the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition, was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. It’s back this year, shorter and later in the season, a hybrid of live and virtual events. Gillian Britt, one of the producers of the festival, said each event is limited to 250 people, and festivalgoers will be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Ticket sales so far have been steady.

Tickets are on sale at harvestontheharbor.com.

New Taco Trio in South Portland

Taco Trio (website, facebook, instagram) quietly opened their new South Portland location yesterday. The new 90-seat Taco Trio is located at 60 Ocean Street just a few blocks away from the original location at the Knightville rotary.

The restaurant initially will serve the same menu (tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, sopes, tamales, etc) and will expand over time. They also hope to eventually hold food events to showcase the food and drink culture of Mexico.

New to this location will be a 15-seat bar and cocktail program. The bar will showcase agave-based spirits. The house cocktail list includes items like Sunset in Mexico (Azteca Azul Reposado tequila with butterfly peaflower and lemonade, and the Matador Norteña (Pizcadores Sotol, pineapple and lemon juice with agave and habenero). Flights of agave spirits are also available.

Taco Trio expects to open today at 4 pm. Their regular hours will be Tuesday through Saturday 11 am to 9 pm. The owners also have a second Taco Trio location under construction in Saco—stay tuned for more info on when that location will open.

 

Forest Ave

Today’s Press Herald takes a look at the growing restaurant community on outer Forest Avenue, specifically the stretch from Woodfords to Morrill’s Corner.

On, or just off, the indistinguishable 1.4-mile stretch of outer Forest Avenue that lies between Woodfords Corner and Morrill’s Corner – amid the hair salons and nail salons; the car washes and dog washes; the Asian, Arab and African markets; the storefront churches; the tattoo parlors; and the modest eateries – a small cluster of new food businesses have opened, or are set to open, perhaps signaling a shift for a pocket of Portland that is more often seen as a thruway than as a destination.

Vena’s Fizz House 2.0

Vena’s Fizz House has announced plans (facebook, instagram) for their new expanded location at 867 Congress Street across the street from La Bodega Latina in a former church constructed in 1889.

“Our long term goal was to eventually scale and grow into a bigger space but the pandemic definitely forced our hand to make that decision earlier than we had planned.” said Vena’s co-owner, Johanna Corman. “The new Vena’s 2.0 will hold all the nostalgic charm and passion for beverages and flavors that we are known for. Additionally, the venue lends itself to events and we plan to offer a unique space for specialty occasions, and mixology classes.” explained Corman. Plans for the reopening will happen in spring 2022.

The mixology shop and cocktail/mocktail bar was founded in 2013 and until last year had been located on the corner of Silver and Fore Streets in the Old Port.

Falafel Time on Forest Ave

The Portland Phoenix has published an article about the new Forest Ave restaurant Falafel Time and its owner Qutaiba Hassoon and the growing restaurant community along Forest Ave.

To observe the operations at Falafel Time feels like a trip into their family’s kitchen. Hassoon’s mother, Anaam Jabbir, helps run the operation with Hassoon and Saeed. Other family members are among the employees, and they speak mainly in Arabic, working quickly to fill orders.

“I’m proud of him,” Saeed said of his son moments after tossing a pizza in the oven. “He’s always worked under someone and now he’s in charge. Owning a restaurant is hard work, but he’s good at customer service and wants to take care of the customers.”

The Portland Board Launching Thursday

The Portland Board (websitefacebookinstagram) is planning to launch this Thursday. Portland’s newest food truck—a 1979 Volkswagon bus—will be located in the parking lot at Root Wild Kombucha weekly Thursday through Sunday, noon to 7 or 8 pm.

Owner Graham Young will be serving a opening week menu with three options: a traditional board, a spicy version and a vegan board.

The boards include a mix of charcuterie meats and cheeses along with bread, crackers, savory spreads, jams, pickled veggies, dried fruit and nuts, fresh fruit, fresh veggies. The vegan board include items like cashew ricotta, mushroom pate, cashew hard cheese and beet hummus in place of the meats and cheeses.