Maine Mid-Winter Round Up
Restaurant Week, Chef Awards, Comfort Food, Local Eating & Maine Food Producers
Why spend time in 2011 celebrating our state’s edible bounty? The answer is obvious. Between good food, talented chefs, indigenous food harvesters and innovative food producers, the state is rich with opportunities to enliven your plate and palate. Sure, it’s winter, but no month of the year is an exception. This month, a best chef nominee, the best blueberry cake recipe (ever) and a late winter culinary pick-me-up known as Restaurant Week is making Maine praiseworthy in the culinary arena.
Restaurant Week & The Art of the Dessert
A two-week celebration of Maine’s restaurant scene is underway. For a town teeming with opportunities to eat out, it might seem every week is Restaurant Week. But this one’s official, and it continues through March 12 with events, specially priced three-course menus, and a showcase of Maine food in every corner of the state’s own foodiest town. There are approximately 80 participating restaurants to try out this year, making it as difficult as always to choose where to hang your napkin for the evening.
As part of this auspicious food occasion, Maine’s pastry chefs, confectionery makers and bakers are invited to participate in Maine Restaurant Week’s The Signature Event™ How Sweet It Is Dessert Competition. The contest is open to professionals currently employed in Maine as a baker, pastry chef or confectioner. Act fast—it’s tonight from 5-8 pm in Portland. Wild blueberry grunt, anyone?
In March, all Mainers desire a little comfort, and the March issue of Down East magazine has a timely spread devoted to comfort food. Maine reigns when it comes to those foods that make us feel like we’re back in grandma’s kitchen and allow us to partake of the best of the state at the same time. This month, they spark ideas for adding Maine lobster to your morning eggs. They’ve also sourced the state’s heartiest pub food, (again, a Maine area of expertise) and given special attention to the quintessential comfort food (and wild blueberry delivery system), pie. Also highlighted, along with the coveted recipe, is a Melt-in-Your-Mouth Blueberry Cake from Maine’s own Marjorie Standish (ask your mother), arguably as the best known to man or woman.
Eating Local – A Maine Mission
Further up the coast in Belfast, the Eat Local Challenge is in full force during the month of March. If you’re local, you’d know it as the semi-annual challenge that is sponsored by the Belfast Co-op and its co-sponsors. It was created to encourage Maine residents to buy and eat Maine-grown, raised and harvested food. Make a purchase at the co-op and check your receipt to see what you’ve spent on local food. (Spend at least $15 on locally grown food, and be eligible to enter a drawing for a basket of local food worth $100.)
If you are looking for more local food information, get it at Eat Local Foods. They are working to change the way we eat and what we buy by urging a shift toward locally-based food systems. Find food events, classes and winter markets.
There is a long history of excellence when it comes to chefs in Maine. This year, count Chef Geoffroy Deconinck of Natalie’s at the Camden Harbour Inn as going for the culinary gold. The Camden chef has been selected to compete for the title of 2011 People’s Best New Chef, a new national award from Food & Wine magazine in partnership with CNN’s food blog Eatocracy.
According to press, he was recognized for his “innovative approach to traditional French cuisine, honoring the principles of local and seasonal availability.” Deconinck would be one of 100 fab chefs across the US taking the honor. There’s still time to vote, if you’ve got first-hand knowledge of his expertise: vote at Food & Wine through March 1.
Support from Kitchen to Grocery Store Shelf
Maine food production is a robust arena of gourmet malt balls and lobster dog treats. Luckily, there’s The Maine Food Producers Alliance, a resource for those seeking great food products from the state and for food producers seeking support by way of member workshops, networking opportunities, marketing channels and strategic partnerships. Sure, they help provide visibility for dried wild blueberries manufacturers and wild blueberry chutney producers but we’re not biased. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Members are currently preparing for nation-wide trade shows such as The 27th Annual New England Products Trade Show is taking place in March, a gathering of manufacturers and specialty food producers. Be a member, find a member, and sponsor or attend their spring Summit — it’s all on the MFPA website.
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