The biggest news in the restaurant world this week was Tuesday’s announcement that Steve and Michelle Corry are closing Five Fifty-Five.

One of the first restaurants to bring Portland’s food scene national recognition, Five Fifty-Five, located at that address on Congress Street, will close in mid-April. The Corrys said in a statement that they are waiting a few weeks before closing to give their employees time to find other positions.

The couple’s other restaurant, Petite Jacqueline at 46 Market St. in Portland, will remain open, they said, and several of their signature dishes –including their popular lobster mac-and-cheese – will be added to its menu.

The Clam Shack ventures out

The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport – one of the best-known seafood shacks in the state – closed two weeks ago on the property next door, 4 Western Ave., which had been the home of the Ports of Italy Italian restaurant since 2015. Owner Steve Kingston tells me he plans to open a sit-down seafood restaurant there, and promises more details as they are finalized.

Meanwhile, Sante Calandri, owner of the Ports of Italy, plans to open a new location this spring at 141 Commercial St. in Rockport. The original Ports of Italy in Boothbay Harbor is still open.

Full sit-down service at Huot’s ends

Huot’s Seafood Restaurant at 29 Eastern Ave. in Saco (at Camp Ellis) announced Monday that when it re-opens in April, it will be abandoning sit-down service in favor of take-out and counter service. The 85-year-old business will still have both indoor and outdoor seating, and full bar service. “When the weather warms up, we will have more outdoor activities and seating with sunshade protection,” the owners wrote on their Facebook page.

Say Aloha 

Don and Julie Martin fell in love with shave ice on a trip to Hawaii last year, and now plan to open a Hawaiian shave ice food cart in Portland. Photo courtesy of Julie Martin

Julie and Don Martin traveled to Hawaii last summer to attend a friend’s wedding. While there, they enjoyed some Hawaiian shave ice and “we kind of fell in love with it,” Julie Martin said.

When they came home, Don dug out an old ice cream maker from his mom’s garage and tried to replicate the macadamia nut ice cream that formed the base of the shave ice they’d tasted, “and it came out really good,” he said. He also bought a shave ice machine so the couple could make shave ice at home, “and I didn’t complain,” Julie Martin said.

Now the Martins, who both work at Scales restaurant in Portland (he as a bartender, she as a server), plan to launch a shave ice food cart in Portland this spring. (They plan to stay on at Scales at least through summer.) Their cart will be called Haole Ice; haole is a Hawaiian term for people who are not native Hawaiian, especially a white person.

Shave ice often starts with a base of ice cream, which is loaded with shaved ice, syrups of various flavors and toppings such as condensed milk, mochi balls or adzuki beans.

Don Martin, who has plenty of experience making syrups on the job, will develop his own flavors, from the traditional pineapple, strawberry, lychee and mango to macha tea, sage and passion fruit, basil, sweet corn, and – in tribute to Maine – blueberry and maple. “We’d like to get funky with some flavors, too, and see how they sell,” he said.

A regular Haole Ice will cost  $3-$4 (depending on the number of  syrups and toppings) and a large will cost $4-$7.

Watch this space, as well as the @haoleice Instagram account, for updates and details on a free pop-up the couple is planning. They want to hand out free samples so they can get the rest of Portland as enthused about shave ice as they are. “It changed my life,” Don Martin said, “and I want to give that to everybody as well.”

Portland bartenders kill it

Monday night, for the second year in a row, a bartender from Portland Hunt & Alpine Club won the regional Speed Rack competition at the Royale Nightclub in Boston. Speed Rack is a competition created by and for women that raises money to fight breast cancer. Bartenders from all over New England duke it out round-robin style to see who can make the best cocktail from a list of 50 classics, and who can do it fastest.

Sarah Jackson, a bartender at Hunt & Alpine, took first place and will now advance to the May 3 finals in Chicago. I’m happy to report that second place also went to a Portland bartender, LyAnna Sanabria from Chaval. (I’m told that Jackson and Sanabria were only five seconds apart.) Cheers to you, ladies!

Coffee and Coronavirus

Just before Earth Day last year, Tandem Coffee Roasters started charging 25 cents for single-use cups, as a way to encourage customers to bring in re-usable mugs when they wanted a cup of coffee. (At the same time, they lowered the price of a cup of coffee by a quarter.) Their “Give Up the Cup” initiative attracted the attention of other local businesses, with places like Belleville, Little Woodfords and Rose Foods planning to launch their own programs in April. Even a cafe in Massachusetts signed on, and the ultimate goal is to take the idea national, according to the group’s spokesperson, Georgina Rose.

But the concern over coronavirus has temporarily postponed those efforts, as waste reduction takes a back seat to public health concerns. Last week, Coffee By Design announced that it was switching to disposable cups and plates until further notice. Now the group of local cafes looking to expand Tandem’s policy has decided to pause the program until the situation with the virus is more clear. Likewise, Chris Deutsch, owner of Belleville, a bakery on Portland’s East End, said the bakery “will most likely be using disposables only for the foreseeable future.”

Sam Sifton live

You can still buy tickets to see Sam Sifton, the New York Times food editor, a cookbook author, the founder of NYT Cooking – and a summer resident of Maine – interviewed before a live audience at the State Theater in Portland. Sifton’s talk, part of the Portland Press Herald’s Maine Voices Live series, is on Monday. Tickets cost $10 for subscribers and $20 for non-subscribers. Seating is general admission, and the event starts at 7 p.m.

Sifton has spent summers on Bailey and Ragged Islands in Casco Bay since childhood. He will be interviewed by Kate Simmons Tillotson, director of strategic partnerships at Masthead Maine, who once worked as a chef on charter yachts and credits Sifton with helping her sharpen her skills. Listen in as they talk about how cooking can change your life.

Nominate an environmental hero

Over the five-year life (so far) of the Press Herald’s annual Source awards, I’ve always found it enlightening to learn about efforts across Maine to promote environmentally friendly practices in a wide array of fields, from agriculture to education to all kinds of businesses – even prisons. In that time, we’ve had a few nominees – and winners – from the food-and-beverage arena, but if you ask me, not nearly enough of them. In my day-to-day reporting, I see plenty of chefs, farmers, suppliers, restaurants and breweries that have instituted impressive environmental practices, but they seldom nominate themselves or their peers for a Source award. (Two exceptions come to mind: Luke Truman, a leader of Allagash Brewing Co.’s sustainability effort; and the team at Rosemont Markets.) So I’m asking you to put your hand in the game and nominate worthy Mainers for our 2020 awards. You have until April 10; winners will be announced May 24; and we’ll celebrate on June 10 at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm.

To nominate, go to pressherald.com/2020/03/08/source-awards-nominations-are-open/

Ocean diet regime

Are you interested in edible seaweed or the benefits of farmed versus wild-caught seafood? Consider attending the Maine Nutrition Council’s annual meeting, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 8 at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center in Bar Harbor. This year’s theme: Nutrition from the Sea. The keynote speaker will be Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. Chef Barton Seaver of Freeport, who has written several seafood cookbooks, is also on the agenda. Find tickets and a full schedule on eventbrite.com.

Even if you don’t like math, you’ll like Pi Day

Pies for National Pi Day, from Two Fat Cats. Photo courtesy of Stacy Begin

Saturday is Pi Day, the day that math geeks around the world celebrate the symbol that represents the most widely known mathematical constant – the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, or 3.1415926535 … and so on. (It goes on forever.) Pi Day is March 14, also known as 3/14. Our favorite way to observe the day is with the other kind of pie. Two Fat Cats bakery plans to sell pies decorated with the Greek symbol for pi in both its Portland and South Portland locations. Have a slice while you ponder the mathematical nature of the universe.

 

 

 

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