Maine lawmakers on Monday held a hearing on a bill that would extend sales of beer, wine and cocktails-to-go from restaurants and bars until April 15, 2022.
The bill, which was before the Maine Joint Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, would also allow licensed Maine distilleries and small distilleries that operate tasting rooms to continue to sell spirits through takeout and delivery services until that same date.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States testified in favor of the bill. In his testimony, Jay Hibbard, senior vice president of government relations for the council, said that during the pandemic, cocktails-to-go have “provided a meaningful source of revenue to the many struggling hospitality businesses across the state of Maine, and extending those privileges will help these businesses recover while providing increased consumer convenience.”
Greg Dugal of Hospitality Maine also testified for the bill, saying that he would like to see growlers added to the list of approved sales.
During the pandemic, 30 states and the District of Columbia have allowed bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to go, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Iowa and Ohio have made such sales permanent.
Thoroughfare, a new casual restaurant in Yarmouth from Christian Hayes, had a soft launch last weekend – a quiet opening chefs use to identify and work out problems – and reopened as of 7 a.m. today.
The restaurant, at 367 Main St., serves breakfast sandwiches from 7 to 11 a.m. The rest of the day the menu is full of pandemic-friendly takeout foods: burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, and malted milkshakes made with Gifford’s ice cream. Ordering is online or at a take-out window. (Otto Pizza is still operating out of that building as well, according to their spokesman, but primarily for delivery and pick-up.)
Regular hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Hayes also owns The Garrison, which temporarily closed in mid-January because of the pandemic, and Dandelion Catering.
New restaurant for Portland waterfront
Helm Oyster Bar & Bistro, at 60 Thames St. in Portland (in the WEX building overlooking the waterfront), is holding a grand opening Thursday, offering a prix fixe takeout-only menu that will change weekly.
Its first menu: chicory salad with horseradish dressing and fried onions; glazed short rib with Swiss chard, braised beans and rolls; and parsnip cake with cream cheese frosting. Cost: $50 per person. Order online for pick-up only, either inside the restaurant or curbside.
The same prix fixe meal (with a chocolate tart substituting for the parsnip cake) will be available on Valentine’s Day (pre-orders and live ordering on Sunday until sell-out). Add-ons include a dozen Love Point oysters ($24) and caviar ($65 per ounce, served with johnny cakes, crème fraîche, cultured butter and chives). See more Valentine’s options at the end of this column.
Helm’s hours this week are 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Next week, the restaurant will begin opening on Wednesdays, as well.
Tallyho! Tally’s Kitchen expands
Tally’s Kitchen in Portland is expanding, adding a second location at Stevens Square Community Center, 631 Stevens Ave. – the same location as the Portland Winter Farmers’ Market – sometime later this year. The original Tally’s Kitchen, at 84 Marginal Way, sells sandwiches, salads, wraps and baked goods.
Owner Julie Taliento Walsh is, funnily enough, a graduate of Catherine McAuley High School, the Catholic girls school that used to occupy the same building complex. Her family has been in the food business in Portland for decades.
Cooking for diabetics
Doreen Colondres, author of the cookbook “La Cocina No Muerde” and the website of the same name – The Kitchen Doesn’t Bite – will lead a free webinar on healthy cooking, geared toward people living with diabetes, at noon March 17. Colondres will discuss the importance of nutrition in controlling the disease and share diabetes-friendly recipes. The webinar is sponsored by the Healthcare Purchaser Alliance of Maine, a nonprofit group based in Topsham. To register, go to Eventbrite.com and enter Colondres in the search box.
SeedMoney, a Scarborough-based nonprofit that provides grants to public food garden projects around the country, will be handing out $5,000 grants to 16 cities this year – including, for the first time, Portland. The grants are the largest the organization has ever offered and can be used for a new project or for operating support. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. Feb. 28. To apply, go to bit.ly/spring-planting-grants-2021.
Food waste talk
Two University of Maine researchers will talk about food waste during a free webinar from 3 to 4 p.m. Feb. 22. The Zoom talk, hosted by the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, will focus on potential contaminants in food waste, how food waste processors view the risks associated with them, and how to make a food system more circular, safe and sustainable. To register, and for details, go to bit.ly/3p1QdZK.
Food is love
I listed a few options for Valentine’s Day dining and takeout in my Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 columns. Now the holiday is just four days away. Though ordering deadlines for some restaurants have passed, and other places – like Gross Confection Bar – are sold out, there are still plenty of choices, with many restaurants offering special Valentine’s menus all weekend.
In normal times, Valentine’s is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, and in Maine the revenue they take in that day often helps them survive the winter. In this year of COVID, your order would be a great way to show love to your favorite restaurant. And the feelings will be mutual: You’ll get dishes like Venison Wellington, local beef bourguignon, and lots of chocolate desserts in return.
Bao Bao Dumpling House at 133 Spring St. in Portland is offering two special February menus, one for Chinese New Year this Friday (the year of the Ox), and one for Valentine’s Day on Sunday.
The Chinese New Year menu, $33.88 per person, features a selection of regional dumplings (I waited too long to order their December New Year’s Eve dumpling special and they sold out, so if you’re interested in this option, don’t delay.) The Valentine’s menu, a six-course dinner for two that costs $68, includes beef tataki with buckwheat somen noodles, fried tonkatsu oyster sandwich, and Hainanese chicken rice.
Pickup times for both specials are between 4:30 and 8 p.m.
BlueFin, the seafood restaurant at the Portland Harbor Hotel at 468 Fore St., has an extensive Valentine’s menu, but if you want to eat there, you’ll have to go before the 14th, which is booked up. As of Tuesday there was still very limited availability for dining in on Friday and Saturday night. Menu options include lobster bisque, “lobster scargot,” duck, stuffed haddock, salmon, and “Filet Colorado” (bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin with lobster tail, béarnaise sauce, whipped potatoes, and asparagus). Call (207) 775-9090 for reservations, or go online to bluefinportland.com.
Broken Arrow, 545 Congress St. in Portland, is offering a six-course tasting menu Thursday through Sunday for $69 per person. Beer, wine and cocktail pairings are extra. On Thursday and Friday, the regular menu will be available as well; on Saturday and Sunday, only the six-course dinner. Also available: One dozen oysters for two, with champagne included, for $22 per person. Go to brokenarrowmaine.com to book a table or place a pre-order for takeout.
As of Tuesday, Chaval, at 58 Pine St. in Portland, still had spots left for dining at the restaurant, but if they’re taken by the time you read this, you can still order takeout by calling (207) 772-1110 or going to chavalmaine.com. Valentine’s takeout menu options include Maine dayboat scallop crudo; Arctic char with roasted golden beets, spinach-brown butter puree, winter citrus and shallots; local beef short ribs with potato and parsnip gratin, wild mushroom fricassee and red wine jus; and house Malfadine “Princessa” pasta. You can count on pastry chef and Chaval co-owner Ilma Lopez’s desserts to please your Valentine; the options include lots of chocolate as well as passion fruit mousse and coconut sorbet. The restaurant is also selling chocolate-dipped strawberries, $13 for a half-dozen.
The full menu is posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, or go to the website and click on the “Place Pickup Order Here” button.
Fore Street, 288 Fore St. in Portland, will serve an extensive Valentine’s menu from Friday through Sunday. The entrees look really special and include venison Wellington with a brandied cherry sauce for $40 and Maine sea scallop and haddock pie for $30. Desserts include a chocolate torte and French vanilla custard pie. To see the full menu, go to forestreet.biz. Call (207) 775-2717 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to pre-order.
Isa Bistro at 79 Portland St. in Portland is offering a menu of appetizers (options include lobster tostada and duck liver mousse) and entrees such as local beef bourguignon and herbed cod loin stew. Desserts are strawberry cheesecake, triple chocolate pie, and coconut cream pie. Call (207) 808-8533 any day after 3 p.m. to pre-order. On Valentine’s Day, pick up your order curbside between 3 and 8 p.m. Pick-up times will be scheduled in 15-minute increments.
Go to Izakaya Minato at 54 Washington Ave. for a special Valentine’s Day omakase (meaning “chef’s choice”), available for takeout or at an outside table, weather permitting. The four-course omakase (plus Dear Dairy ice cream for dessert) costs $50 per person and must be pre-ordered. Call (207) 613-9939 or go to izakayaminato.com to order online.
The Knotted Apron, 496 Woodford St. in Portland, is serving a four-course dinner-to-go that includes lobster bisque, Chateaubriand and wine pairings for $75 per person. Go to knottedapron.com to see the full menu. Call (207) 805-1523 to place an order. Orders close on Thursday.
Maine Oyster Co. at 38 Portland St. in Portland is selling tickets for Valentine’s seatings spread out over three days. Spaces are available on the hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The Valentine’s menu, which costs $130 per couple, includes 18 oysters, a bottle of Prosecco, 10 grams of caviar, two servings of house-cured salmon and crème fraîche blinis, and two desserts from Benlu Bakery. The experience comes with an oyster-shucking lesson. Go to themaineoystercompany.com.
The raw bar will also, of course, sell oysters for shipping or pickup.
Ribollita, at 41 Middle St. in Portland, is running two Valentine’s weekend specials: Scallops with Moscato cream and fresh fettucine, and ricotta ravioli Bolognese. The restaurant’s menu is available for curbside pickup only beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Call (207) 774-2972.