The heart of Maine Restaurant Week, which runs from March 1-12 this year, is in the juicy details. And we have some of them for you, starting with the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with a dozen competitors and – as usual – lots of pork belly, lobster and eggs. If you love breakfast and have never been to this event, you’re missing out.

The cook-off is scheduled for 7 to 9 a.m. Feb. 28 at Sea Dog Brewing in South Portland. Buy tickets, $25, at mainerestaurantweek.com/events.

Here’s a preview: Chef Gil Plaster of BlueFin, the restaurant in the Portland Harbor Hotel, will be making a pork belly Benedict with a cheddar–Old Bay biscuit, chipotle hollandaise and crispy pork belly.

Can’t get enough pork belly? Kenneth MacDonald, chef at Congress Squared in the Westin Harborview Hotel, plans to bring pork belly and lobster spring rolls.

The most interesting item (at least from this Southern transplant’s perspective): a Maine Breakfast Tot from chef Melanie Houston at the Sebasco Harbor Resort. It’s made with Aroostook Maine potatoes, Pineland Farm cheddar, eggs, red eye gravy and Bisson Farm spicy sausage. Red eye gravy, for you Yankees who may not know it, is a Southern thing, made from the drippings of country ham mixed with black coffee – in this case, coffee from Coffee By Design.

A few restaurants are planning their own special events to coincide with Restaurant Week. To mark its 20th year as “Portland’s original small plates restaurant,” Local 188 plans to launch its celebration with “A Trip Through Spain,” a 10-course tapas menu with wine pairings for $55.

Up the coast in Camden, Natalie’s Restaurant is planning a March 3 Turkish-themed dinner helmed by the restaurant’s executive sous chef, who is from Istanbul. On March 9, the restaurant will hold a Venezuelan dinner, with all proceeds going to non-profit Caritas de Venezuela. For more details, contact the restaurant.

GETTING YOUR KELP ON

The day-long Maine Seaweed Festival drew thousands of seaweed lovers to South Portland in 2014 and 2015 before it was canceled because of a rift between organizers and seaweed harvesters. Now a new and longer celebration of seaweed is in the works.

Josh Rogers, owner of Heritage Seaweed on India Street in Portland, is organizing Seaweed Week: A Food and Drink Celebration of Maine’s Kelp Harvest, to be held April 26-May 4. About 25 businesses have signed up to participate so far, from seaweed retailers to restaurants and craft breweries.

Find more details at Seaweed Week promotional tables located at Fork Food Lab March 8 and at Maine Craft Distilling March 15.

UMM, NOT THIS YEAR

Taste of the Nation update: A couple of weeks ago I wrote that the Taste of the Nation dinner benefiting the fight to end childhood hunger would be returning to Portland March 15 after a three-year hiatus. I hope this news doesn’t give any of you whiplash, but I heard from the director of Taste of the Nation, Jessie Niewold, that this year’s event has also been canceled “in order to focus on our programmatic work in the state. For now, we are working with terrific local partners to connect hungry kids in Maine to the food they need, like school breakfast.”

Another factor may have been lack of interest. As of a couple of weeks ago, the only restaurants committed to the event were Big Tree Hospitality, which owns restaurants in Portland and Boston; Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport; and Raleigh in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

A bad storm in 2015 forced the cancellation of the event, which typically raised $150,000 to $200,000 for the national Share Our Strength program as well as local hunger prevention programs.

Niewold said that while the March 15 event has been canceled, “we look forward to bringing Taste of the Nation back to Portland in the coming years.”

REVENUES ON TAP

The owners of the Maine Brew Bus looked in the rear view mirror recently and came up with some interesting stats about their business last year.

In 2018, the bus drove 17,883 miles, carrying 7,331 customers to breweries and distilleries around the state. Those customers hailed from 44 states, four Canadian provinces and 11 countries (12 if you count the United States). Brew Bus guests spent a total of $62,942 at their tour stops, on top of the $109,162 paid by the business in tasting and food fees.

That’s a lot of beer.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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