Archive for the ‘Dining’ Category

Share our Strength Portland event a foodie must

June 2, 2010

Eat well and support a fine cause at Portland’s 2010 Taste of the Nation event on June 27, 4:30-8 p.m., at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. More than 25 of Maine’s top chefs will be dishing samples, wineries and breweries will be pouring wines and brews, and mixologists will be concocting cocktails all in a mission to help end childhood hunger. All ticket proceeds benefit Preble Street Teen Center, East End Kids Katering, Good Shepherd Food Bank, and Cultivating Communities.

General admissionickets are $95 advance /$125 at the door for  (yes it’s a splurge, but remember, this is a fund-raising event, and a chance to nibble your way through Maine’s best all under one tent). VIP tickets ($250 advance/$300 door) provide early access (3 p.m.), gift bag, and opportunity to participate in an auction.

Participating restaurants (Really, this is an amazing lineup, folks):

Back Bay Grill (Larry Matthews, Honorary Chef)
Bresca (Krista Desjarlais)
Cinque Terre/Vignola (Lee Skawinski/Chris Geer)
David’s (David Turin)
The Edge (Bryan Dame)
El Camino (Eloise Humphrey/Daphne Conaskey)
Evangeline (Erik Desjarlais)
Eve’s at the Garden (Earl Morse) Morse is no longer at Eve’s, and according to my source, Eve’s has canceled participating.
The Farmer’s Table (Jeff Landry)
Five Fifty Five (Steve Corry)
Fore Street (Sam Hayward, Honorary Chef)
Francine Bistro (Brian Hill)
The Front Room/Corner Room/Grill Room (Harding Lee Smith)
Hugo’s (Rob Evans, Honorary Chef)
Local 188/Sonny’s (Jay Vilani)
Lily Bistro (Lynette Mosher/Robert Krajewski)
Miyake (Karl Duber/Masa Miyake)
Natalie’s at The Camden Harbour Hotel (Lawrence Klang)
Primo (Melissa Kelly /Price Kushner)
The Salt Exchange (Charlie/Martha Bryon)
Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea (Mitch Kaldrovich)
Standard Baking Company (Matt James)
Stonewall Kitchen (Patty Roche)
Swan’s Way Catering (Stacey Glassman)

Dine out for a doggone good cause

May 30, 2010

Dine out Thursday and help Pete and his pals, Humane Society of Knox County photo.

If you’re in the Greater Camden/Rockland region on Thursday, June 3, consider dining out at a participating Dine Out for Pete’s Sake restaurant (see participating restaurants, below) to help the Humane Society of Knox County.

This is a great organization that not only places local strays and unwanteds, but also takes dogs in from overcrowded shelters around the country. Its policy: Animals are not euthanized unless severe physical or behavior problems exist that cannont be resolved, they’re never euthanized for time or space

It’s success in its mission, so successful that it takes in dogs from more challenged shelters. Recently, 13 chihuahuas arrived from Los Angeles Animal Services, which receives over 300 chihuahuas a month but it doesn’t have enough homes for them all. (Adoption fee for these special dogs is $325. See more on the website.)

To help support these and other animals being cared for by the shelter, have lunch, dinner, or both at one of these participating restaurants (There are some excellent choices). FYI: My guys, Bernie and Dooley, give this event four paws up.

LUNCH

Amalfi on the Water
Big Fish
Blue Sky Cantina
Brass Compass
Harbor View Tavern
Home Kitchen Cafe
Prism Restaurant and Gallery
Thomaston Cafe

DINNER

Amalfi on the Water
Athens Pizzeria
Atlantica
Badger Cafe and Pub
Big Fish
Blue Sky Cantina
Brevetto
Cafe Miranda
Ephemere
Harbor Gawker
The Haven Restaurant
In Good Company
Mc-Hales Restaurant & Pub
The Offshore Restaurant
Park Street Grille
Peter Otts
Pizza Hut
Primo
Prism Restaurant and Gallery
Rockland Cafe
Silver Lane Bistro

A Cold River night at Walter’s

May 29, 2010

I love the new Walter‘s, and I’m not alone. When I met a friend there on a Wednesday evening in early May, I didn’t expect to need reservations, but I should have made them. The place was mobbed. We were fortunate when a table opened in the lounge area, and we were able to snag it.

The old Walter’s feasted on the Old Port’s retro 1980s brick-walled  fern bar meets urban Victorian vibe; the new Walter’s redefines urban chic in Portland. It’s sleek, casual, comfortable, and decorated with contemporary flair; for once, brick is not the defining element.

What hasn’t changed is the food. Walter’s still turns out excellent fusion fare, melding Mediterranean, Asian, and Caribbean flavors with a Maine accent, and presenting them with flair.  (You nonfoodies need that translated? Damn good food crafted from eclectic ingredients you might not be familiar with but will come together in a happy dance on your tastebuds; not only that, but when it arrives, it looks too good to eat).

On Thursday, June 3, Walter’s is teaming with Cold River Vodka on a multi-course affair. It opens with a cocktail hour featuring Cold River drinks paired with passed appetizers, then continues with a four-course dinner ($75 per person, plus tax/gratuity).

Jeff Buerhaus, Walter’s owner and executive chef, is designing the evening’s menu to feature Cold River Vodka in select dishes, while Walter’s Bar Manager Steve Lovenguth will present attendees with a specially created array of Cold River cocktails.  One guest, drawn at random during the evening, will win a gift basket full of items from Maine Distilleries and Walter’s.

Menu highlights include:

• pastrami-cured duck breast appetizer

• roasted spring lamb chop

• vodka-based pasta dish with crumbled Greek farm cheese

• blueberry vodka cheesecake for dessert.

Cold River specialty cocktails include the Nor’easter, featuring Cold River’s Blueberry Vodka and HoneyMaker Blueberry Mead, and the Far East River, made with lemongrass-infused Cold River vodka and ginger liqueur.

In a nod to the evening’s culinary focus, Walter’s and Cold River Vodka will make a joint donation to the Maine Restaurant Association Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to deserving students pursuing post-secondary degrees in Culinary Arts or Hospitality Management programs. Nice touch.

And take it from me, when you go, whether for this event or on another night, do make a reservation.

White Barn Inn now managing Acadia’s Asticou

May 28, 2010

Big news for Acadia fans: US Hotels Group, owner of the haute, haute, haute White Barn Inn, in Kennebunkport, and the Windham Hill Inn, in Vermont, is now managing Northeast Harbor’s chi chi Asticou Inn. When I last spoke with White Barn Inn Executive Chef Jonathan Cartwright, he told me US Hotels was in an acquisition mode, and this management deal is testament to that. This should also help breath new life into a somewhat tired property that catered to the newly wed and nearly dead.

According to a press release, US Hotels plans to update the inn’s infrastructure and add its signature hospitality ethos and style to the Asticou while preserving the property’s classic charm.

The oceanfront inn, designed by prominent 19th-century architect Fred L. Savage, has been an area landmark since 1883, when the island became a seasonal retreat for wealthy vacationers, sailing enthusiasts, and summer residents from major urban centers.The inn overlooks well protected yacht-filled Northeast Harbor, which remains a tony summer destination (lots of Lilly Pulitzer, Docksiders, Chinos, and sherbet colors here). It is adjacent to the magnificent azalea gardens of the same name (which, by the way, are in bloom now).

Cartwright is overseeing the rejuvenation of the inn’s dining room’s menu. “Our plans include implementing an extended season for casual lunch service as well as the creation of new menus in the scenic cocktail lounge, which affords the perfect setting for enjoying harbor sunsets.”

US Hotels is a member of the Libra Group, which is privately owned by the Logothetis family and has hospitality interests in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It manages eight New England properties, of which it owns seven, divided into Signature and Elite Properties. Signature Properties represent the ‘best of breed’ across a number of service categories from an informal Italian bistro to a range of hotels, spas and banqueting facilities. Elite Properties represent exclusive hotels providing world class accommodation, cuisine, and service (think White Barn Inn and Windham Hill Inn).

“US Hotels is proud to add the Asticou Inn to our collection,” says Paul Hanley, group CEO. “As with our other New England properties, it offers guests traditional values in a historic setting and offers the same culinary excellence that has won our group numerous plaudits. We plan to wrap ourselves in the heritage of this special property. We believe the property will benefit from the rich experience of its new General Manager, Nicholas Squire, who was trained at our own White Barn Inn and other world class hotels. Furthermore the partnership with this hotel  exemplifies the type of growth one can expect from US Hotels in the coming months with expansion planned both through management arrangements, like the Asticou, as well as acquisitions.”

Love-it-or-leave-it Conte’s rises again

May 16, 2010

I don’t think any other restaurant in Maine (okay, maybe J’s Oyster, in Portland) inspires such love/hate as Conte’s. Those in the love-it camp were crushed when it closed earlier this year (this after Anthony Bourdain paid it a visit and filmed it last fall). Take heart, folks.

Innkeeper Cheryl Michaelsen, of the Berry Manor Inn, in Rockland, reports:

Just so you know Conte’s is alive and well at its new location on Rt. 73 – South Main Street.  Same funky decor, same funky cook and same great food.  A lot brighter (windows are still clean).  Just for fun he hasn’t decided if he will put a sign out front or not.  It is located immediately after Primrose Framing at 156 S. Main Street.  Just thought you would like to know. When I went last week he was serving a dessert that was 1/2 carrot cake (bottom layer) with a cheese cake on top!!

Uhm, okay, Cheryl. I’m going to give you a holler one of these days and meet you there.

Maine bits and pieces: news and chatter

May 3, 2010

Here’s a quick round-up of interesting news bits that have come across my desk:

Chebeague Island Inn reopening under new ownership

A favorite destination for travelers and day-trippers since the 1880s, the inn, restored in 2003-04, will re-open May 14 under the new ownership of the Prentice family of Yarmouth, Maine. With the May re-launch, the Prentices will be adding a more stylish, up-to-date ambiance.

One notable change is the inn’s restaurant, now under the direction of Executive Chef Justin Rowe, a veteran of 555 and Fore Street. The contemporary American menu, rooted in Maine and New England, will focus on locally/regionally sourced foods and beverages.

Here’s wishing the new owners success. I’m hoping to visit soon to see what’s happening.

• Unveiling of the Calves

You’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls, well Aldemere Farm, a 136-acres saltwater farm in Rockport, offers a far gentler experience. This Saturday, May 8, is its ninth annual Calf Unveiling Day. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. , you can  tour the Farm and visit with the newly born Belted Galloway calves (nicknamed the Oreo cookie cows for their distinctive white belt). Aldermere staff and volunteers will be on site speaking with visitors and providing information about the Farm and the herd.

Several other local farms will also be on site offering information regarding the goods they produce. These include:

• Sunnyside Farm with goats

• lueberry Farm and Blue Sky Farm with alpacas

• Ells Farm and Terra Optima will be selling meat

• Savage Oakes and Coastal Mountains Land Trust will have information about their operations

• Tanglewood 4-H Camp will present about their many agricultural offerings.

Other activities include the Rusty Hinges band performing (around 11 a.m.) and the Aldermere Achievers 4-H Club working throughout the day with their animals.

• Best Chef in the Northeast

Tonight, the James Beard Foundation will name the winner of the coveted Best Chef in the Northeast award. Chef/owners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, of Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, have been nominated seven times. Here’s hoping that these perennial bridesmaids finally win; they certainly deserve it.

No. 10 Water Street opens tonight

No. 10 Water Street, the new restaurant at Brunswick’s Capt. Daniel Stone Inn, opens tonight, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Brunswick is getting to be an increasingly interesting food town, with a nice choice of inexpensive to moderate restaurants.

• Zip-line adventure park opening in Wiscasset

Monkey C Monkey Do, a Zipline family adventure park, is under construction on Route 1 in Wiscasset.

Restaurant Week Maine starts today

March 1, 2010

No more procrastinating. Restaurant Week Maine has officially begun, with dozens of  restaurants from Kennebunk to Bangor, and inland to Auburn/Lewiston and Bethel, participating. This is the perfect opportunity to sample a new restaurant or try a new dish. Three course dinners  ($20.10 t0 $40.10) or lunches ($15.10) are available March 1-10. Restaurants can be searched alphabetically or by location or menu price, and menus are posted. This is a hugely popular event, so it’s wise to make reservations in advance, especially if you want to dine at one of the nationally recognized tables, such as Five Fifty-Five, Fore Street, or Hugo’s.

FYI: Both tonight’s Bartenders Bash and Friday’s Breakfast Cook-off are sold out. See? Ya snooze, ya lose.

Restaurant Week Maine lodging deals

February 19, 2010

Restaurant Week Maine is quickly approaching and this year, there are some decent lodging deals offered that complement the set-price dinners. For example, the Inn by the Sea is offering a $99 traditional room or garden suites (add $30 for a spa suite), Sun. through Thurs.; Camden’s Hartstone Inn has traditional rooms beginning at $175 including breakfast and dinner, and the Camden Harbour Inn has rates beginning at $87.50 pp including breakfast and dinner. Some Portland B&B’s are discounting rooms, other properties haven’t detailed the offerings, so you need to ask. In any case, it’s a great way to sample some fab properties at a fraction of the peak season costs.

Foodie news: Beard semifinalist nominees released; Maine chefs in the running

February 18, 2010

Maine chefs are no strangers to the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards, and the 2010 semifinalists include both familiar faces and new entries to the competition. Notably, Sam Hayward, a former Best Chef in the Northeast winner, is nominated for Outstanding Chef and his restaurant, Fore Street, is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Contenders for the Best Chef in the Northeast honor include Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, of Arrows (a talented duo who have been previously nominated). Nominees will be named on March 22; winners announced on May 3.Here’s the full Maine line-up:

Outstanding Chef:

• Sam Hayward, Fore Street, Portland

• Outstanding Restaurant:

• Fore Street, Portland

Best Chef Northeast:

• Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, Megan Chase, and Ted Lafage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast

Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland

• Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant, Ogunquit

• Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden

Robinhood Free Meetinghouse theme nights

February 15, 2010

Looking for a way to warm a winter’s evening with fine food in a gorgeous setting? The Robinhood Free Meetinghouse restaurant is off the beaten path, but Chef Michael Gagne has a devoted following, and for good reasons. The restaurant, housed in an beautiful 1855 former church, is tucked down a quiet road on the Georgetown peninsula, about 15 minutes, give or take, from Bath. The elegant, white-tablecloth setting is the perfect backdrop for Gagne’s creative cuisine. And at this time of year, Gagne offers reasonably priced theme nights ($32, for four courses), on Thursdays.

Upcoming theme nights:

• Feb. 18: Bistro

• Feb 25: New Orleans

• March 4: Italian

• March 11: French

• March 18: 10 Little Courses

• March 25: New Orleans

• April 1: Tapas

• April 8: Bistro

• April 15: Italian Classics

• April 22: Southwest

• April 29: Old Favorites

Friday nights are Pub Nights, and on Saturday, Gagne serves his regular menu.

Whatever you do, don’t miss his famous layered cream cheese biscuits, which won the 2006 Gold Award winner for Outstanding Baked Goods from the  National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (I’ve been to this trade show, trust me, this is a HUGE award-specialty food producers from around the globe compete for honors). And if you’re a chocoholic, save room for his obsession in three chocolates dessert. Oh. My!