Matt James is best known for those delectable morning buns, flavorful baguettes and other delicious baked goods produced at Standard Baking Co., the Portland bakery he and his wife, Alison Pray, founded in 1995.

If those breads and pastries don’t fit in with your diet, you can now eat them with your eyes because James also likes to paint what the bakery makes in its kitchen at 75 Commercial St. Feast on, for example, an oil-on-canvas still life called “Brioche & Galettes” that he painted and is now on display at Casco Bay Artisans, just down the street from the bakery.

James is the gallery’s artist-in-residence, and has an exhibition of new food-related paintings on display there. There’s an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. And yes, there will be baked goods.

The “Art is Food & Food is Art” program is for artists who are also part of the food industry. Gallery owner Jennifer Swarts explained that James will have 24-hour access to work in the gallery throughout the winter.

“You have to find somebody who likes to paint in front of other people, and he really does,” she said. “He’s quiet, but he speaks through his art.”

According to Swarts, James received his Bachelor of Arts degree from MassArt, and his influences include George Nick, Edwin Dickinson, Walter Murch, Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent.

FARM TO COAST CAFE

Chef Brian Grossman is holding a soft opening of his new cafe this week before celebrating its grand opening in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill on Monday.

Grossman, owner of the Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen food truck, said the cafe will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. After the new year, he’ll start offering once-a-week pop-up dinners.

The chef ran his food truck business out of Fork Food Lab in Portland for the first two years, but after the community commercial kitchen announced it was closing at the end of September, he started looking around for a new base of operations. Fork Food Lab has since been rescued and re-opened, but Grossman decided he liked the idea of moving outside of the city, where it’s cheaper to run a business. And he liked the idea of joining the growing food scene in Biddeford. “I think there’s a lot of potential and there’s a lot of stuff going on right here,” he said from his new kitchen on Monday.

The big draw to Biddeford was the opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar version of Farm to Coast, as so many other food truck operators have in southern Maine in recent years. Grossman said he’ll serve breakfast and lunch, and the food will be similar to what he sells on the truck – a local, seasonal “chalkboard menu” that changes frequently but still includes customer favorites such as steamed buns and tofu banh mi. Grossman is also bringing in items from other food businesses, such as baked goods from Boulangerie in Kennebunk and Portland-based Suga Suga. Coffee and espresso will be provided by Maine Coast Roast, and teas will come from Nellie’s in South Portland.

The cafe has seating for about 30 people in the adjacent lobby, Grossman said.

YOU GET A RAMEKIN! AND YOU GET A RAMEKIN!

Oprah may have retired from her wildly popular TV show in 2011, but the Big O’s influence carries on through her annual list of “Favorite Things,” now published in her magazine and meant to be used as a holiday shopping guide.

One Maine item that made the list this year was the Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese from Hancock Gourmet Lobster in Cundy’s Harbor and Topsham. Orders of the product have tripled (and website traffic has doubled) since it appeared on Oprah’s list, according to the folks at Hancock Gourmet.

This is the seventh time Hancock Gourmet products have been in O magazine, but it’s the first time the company has had something in the holiday issue.

Each pack of Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese contains four reuseable, ceramic ramekins filled with 8 ounces of knuckle and claw lobster meat, mascarpone-cheddar sauce and white truffle oil. Most orders, according to Cal Hancock, president of the company, are coming from Amazon, where the product sells for $62.45 plus $20 shipping (it’s not eligible for Amazon Prime). That’s about $20.60 per serving.

Each pack of Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese contains four reuseable, ceramic ramekins filled with 8 ounces of knuckle and claw lobster meat, mascarpone-cheddar sauce and white truffle oil.

Adding the truffle was actually the magazine’s idea. Hancock Gourmet already makes a Lobster Mac & Cheese, but the creative staff who comes up with the annual Favorite Things list asked Hancock if she could tweak it a bit. The truffle flavor comes from organic white truffle oil, which most chefs hate with a passion. Hancock doesn’t care for it either – it can overwhelm the other flavors in a dish – but using real truffles would be impossible, so she and her staff started experimenting. They ended up putting just a tiny bit of the oil in the mac and cheese, and then also added a touch to the lemon herb panko bread crumb topping.

“We sent a sample and they loved it,” Hancock said. “They wanted it in ramekins, which we can easily do.”

The Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese was one of several food items on the famous list this year that contained truffles. Others included Truff hot sauce, which contains black truffles and a truffle burger kit. “Oprah apparently loves truffles,” Hancock said.

Hancock got to go to the “reveal” party for the list in New York City, which she said was “a blast.” The party was only for media “influencers” and bloggers, but when the magazine asked Hancock to send her Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese as a passed hors d’oeurve – she put it into a mini tartlet – for the party, “I said, can I come?”

She still didn’t get to meet one of the world’s most famous women.

“I thought maybe this is the time I’ll meet Oprah, but she wasn’t there,” Hancock said. “But I had my photo taken with her cutout. That’s the closest I’ve gotten.”

She did, however, get to meet “OprahsBestFriendGayle.”

I tried the Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese when the company sent me two ramekins for taste testing. I, too, had trepidations about the truffle oil, but have to give credit where it’s due: They did an excellent job of balancing the flavors so that the oil didn’t overwhelm the lobster or other ingredients. That first ramekin was so delicious I envisioned myself, a notorious penny-pincher, buying it as a gift for a special occasion. Then I opened the second one, and it had perhaps two tiny pieces of lobster in it. Maybe. We’re talking the very tip of the claw, and no trace of lobster flavor. If I had been a paying customer, I would have been furious.

When I told Hancock about my experience, she was, of course, not happy, but glad I told her about it so she could tell her production department. She said the dish is made in “fairly small batches” to ensure an equal amount of lobster meat goes into each ramekin, and she had no idea how it could have happened. “I think that’s kind of an aberration,” she said.

No worries – given how delicious that first sample was, I was more than happy to contribute to the company’s quality control.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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