A new effort to help Maine bartenders who are out of work because of COVID-19 will help them create, then pay them for, online videos demonstrating their craft. Save Our Shifts is the brainchild of Biddeford-based Round Turn Distilling, makers of Bimini Gin; Might & Main, a Portland-based brand design firm; Zack Bowen, a photographer and videographer; and the Portland chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.

Bartenders apply to Save Our Shifts online at saveourshifts.com (or find the group on Instagram or Facebook) to create highly produced 5- to 10-minute videos, to be called Night Shifts; or longer videos of live-streamed content, Day Shifts, paying $500 and $200 respectively. The first video is already posted on the site, starring Hawaiian-shirt-clad Patrick MacDonald, bar manager at Chaval in Portland, making a drink with freeze-dried strawberries, lime and a technique called fat-washing. Four more videos are “in the hopper,” said Sean Wilkinson of Might & Maine.

People or companies can donate money – the group hopes to raise $25,000 – to help pay for the videos, earning bartenders a little cash until they can get back to work. The group will take donations in any amount and is hoping for corporate sponsors, too. So far, donations have ranged from $10 to $1,000, Wilkinson said.

Chowder for a cause

Every doughnut-loving Mainer knows Congdon’s Family Restaurant & Bakery on Route 1 in Wells. But expect something new on the menu if you stop by later Wednesday.

Starting at 4 p.m., the doughnut shop will offer fish chowder, clam chowder and lobster bisque, with a side of charity. All money raised – donate whatever you can for the chowder – goes to Good Shepherd Food Bank.

“Times are tough right now, people are hurting, and there are huge demands on local and state food pantries,” Congdon’s owner Gary Leech said in a news release about the event. “We just wanted to help in some way.”

Chowder orders will be taken at Congdon’s drive-thru or takeout window, where customers can also drop off dry food items for donation; cereal is in high demand. The chowder will be served cold, for people to take home to heat up, ensuring fast lines and preserving safe social distancing. Email [email protected] to request delivery, if you cannot safely leave home to get the chowder. The Drive-thru Chowderfest will end when the chowder runs out.

Several other groups and businesses donated money, supplies and ingredients to make the event possible. Find more details on Congdon’s Facebook page.

Sweet news

Two Fat Cats Bakery in South Portland is now open for curbside pickup. Order online at twofatcatsbakery.com or call (207) 536-7713, then pick up your order Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu is limited but with wild blueberry pies, chocolate chip cookie dough, whoopie pies and more, we don’t think you’ll run out of options.

News we’ve been waiting for: Tandem Coffee + Bakery on Congress Street is now open for curbside pickup. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

If you’ve tired of baking Tandem Bakery’s famously wonderful biscuits yourself – at the start of the pandemic, the bakery sold the recipe as a fundraiser for its staff – you’ll be happy to hear that the beloved Portland bakery is starting curbside pickup. But you need to act fast. Pre-orders for this Friday and Saturday, of biscuit breakfast sandwiches, sticky buns and cookies, have already sold out. To order for coming weeks, go to tandemcoffee.com.

Big Sky Bread Company’s bakery, at 536 Deering Ave., has re-opened with reduced hours. It is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Physical distancing and face masks are the rules of the day. Customers can call ahead for pre-order, (207) 761-5623, or just walk in, but quantities will be limited. Items for sale include breads, scones and cookies. No sandwiches for now.

Takeout keeps getting better

A sign on the door at Tipo, at 182 Ocean Ave., announces the restaurant has re-opened for curbside pickup. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

“Oh Hey!! We have missed you all so very much,” Tipo says on its website, announcing that the restaurant has opened for curbside pickup. Order Monday through Wednesday for scheduled pickups on Fridays and Saturdays. Tipo’s curbside menu includes its trademark upscale pizzas and pastas, as well as snacks, desserts and alcohol. Its protocol for pickup is explained on its website, tiporestaurant.com.

It’s strange to think of Back Bay Grill, a stalwart of special occasion nights out, as a takeout joint. But these are strange times. Back Bay Grill offers a curbside menu that changes every day and could include its beloved burger on a house-made brioche bun or its equally popular crab cakes. Pre-order on Tuesday or Wednesday by phone, (207) 772-8833, and pay by credit card, for scheduled pickup on Thursday, Friday or Saturday late afternoon to early evening. “Thank you for your patience as we work through a process that is new to us,” an email from the restaurant says.

Virtual food tours

In normal times, Maine Food for Thought tours lead visitors around Portland to learn about the state’s farm-to-table and sea-to-table traditions, with stops for tastings at local restaurants to make these food-system talks deliciously real. In these far-from-normal times, the company is offering Maine Food for Thought Conversations, 90-minute virtual tours on Zoom. The virtual tours cost $24, which includes a free ticket for an eventual walk-around tour, which are, for now, scheduled to resume in July. The first virtual tour is Thursday; it begins at 6 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to eat and drink local goodies while they participate. Find details and buy tickets at mainefoodforthought.com.

Our daily bread

The Portland Food Co-op is now selling Vesper Bread, made by the Co-op’s “very own ‘Bread Man Danny Savage,’ ” according to its newsletter. The bread uses Maine-grown organic grains and a slow fermentation process. Varieties include Danadama (its variation on the New England cornmeal-molasses classic), the multigrain Orion’s Belt, and Honey-Spelt. For all you newly minted DIY bread heads out there, the co-op is also selling Vesper Bread sourdough starter in its grab-and-go cooler. So what if the supermarkets haven’t had instant yeast in weeks?

This year, Red’s Eats, a lobster roll landmark in Wiscasset, will open for business on May 30. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Lobster with a bib and a mask

Wiscasset’s iconic lobster shack Red’s Eats plans to open on May 30, with CDC and social distancing guidelines in place; it usually opens in mid-April. This will be the seasonal restaurant’s 82nd summer. “We care about our employees, our customers and everyone,” the restaurant says on its website announcing its pandemic-delayed 2020 first day. We wonder, given the usual length of the lines of people waiting for the spot’s celebrated lobster rolls – with six-foot distancing, will the line snake to Damariscotta?


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