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In Portland’s (Maine) Restaurants, a Down East Banquet

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Renew Deal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 07:30 AM
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In Portland’s (Maine) Restaurants, a Down East Banquet
THE overnight temperature is dropping toward frost this week and probably won’t rise above it until May. Most of the cruise ships are gone, and with them the fudge buyers, the lobster seekers and the chowderheads who clog the Old Port neighborhood in the summer.

But the quiet and the chill are deceptive. Portland’s many chefs and bakers, its turnip farmers and cookbook sellers and assorted mad food geniuses are gearing up for another lively winter.

“I wouldn’t call it a competition, I’d call it a collective,” Josh Potocki, the chef and owner of 158 Pickett St. Café in South Portland, said of the city’s food scene. “We are all trying to raise the level of food in Portland to insanely high.”

It’s working. With a simmering sense of injustice, I recently ate my way across some of the city’s new and offbeat restaurants. Why doesn’t my neighborhood have an all-day restaurant that makes its own spicy sausage, or one that produces house-made crackers and hot sauce for oysters? When will my market organize a ratatouille contest?
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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/dining/16chefs.html?_...

This is a very interesting article about Portland, Maine food culture and farming.
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japple Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 08:16 AM
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1. Thanks for posting this article, RD. I'm cross-posting it to the
Cooking & Baking group. Makes my mouth water...
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BREMPRO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 08:53 AM
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2. as the motto goes "maine, the way life should be"
fresh farm to table, sustainable, creative, non-corporate, and fun!

Portland ME has more restauraunts per capita than any other US city. This article describes the cities culinary climate well. If you go over the border to the more conservative NH, you find more corporate chain restauraunts in malls. Maine is more small business, home grown and DIY. Great place to live- as long as you don't mind a bit of cold and snow from January to March.
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 10:21 PM
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3. Portland's always been a good food place. Now it's got a fine dining scene as well.
For a small city Portland has long had a diverse and interesting food culture. Long before Scratch Bakery reintroduced water bagels (and they are very good bagels) Portland had Rice bakery making bagels and other Jewish breads. Kosher groceries were available too because beginning at the end of the 19th century Portland was a settlement area for Orthodox Jews, mostly from Russia. There's also a long history of Italian food in the Federal and India St areas, with the mentioned Micucci Grocery being one of the businesses and the recently shuttered Village Cafe.

In addition to the ethnic markets and groceries, most neighborhoods sustained a green grocer/grocery store like the mentioned Rosemont Market.

Even back in the 1960s Portland hosted a seasonal farmer's market. Most of the farmers came from Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth, and Cumberland -- places where there are still some farms today amid the subdivisions.

And of course, Portland has always been an easy place to enjoy the fruits of the sea. Not only is a large fishing fleet based in the area but there are/were fish processing plants on the waterfront prepping the catch for frozen fish to be shipped around the country.

It's been an economic boon for the food purveyors to have the young chefs creating a fine dining scene. Every mention in the Globe or NY Times helps.

And a PSA for anyone traveling to Portland for food: stop at K. Horton foods. The owner, Kris Horton, is a Portland native and she really knows cheese.
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