Yulia Stolkner hoists squeeze bottles of chocolate and caramel at her cafe Sip of Europe at 229 Congress St. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Yulia Stolkner, who opened her Portland café “Sip of Europe” at 229 Congress St. four years ago, has closed it down and will be moving her food business to Fork Food Lab on Parris Street.

Stolkner announced the closure in a video on Instagram, explaining that her lease was up at the end of July and it seemed the perfect time to make the transition. She said she plans to focus on growing her brand, and will make crepe cakes and honey cakes in her new commercial kitchen space. Stolkner, an economist by training, also plans to expand the consulting part of her business.

The café opened on Easter Sunday in 2016, an expansion of a coffee cart Stolkner ran in Old Orchard Beach for three years. “I always wanted to have a sit-down place where you could sit and talk to your friends and read a book,” she told the Press Herald in a 2016 interview.

Stolkner sold a variety of coffee and tea drinks, along with sweet and savory crepes, and her beautiful crepe cakes, including the popular lemon crepe cake with lemon curd.

Welcome back, Back Bay Grill 

Back Bay Grill at 65 Portland St., one of Portland’s best-known and longest-running restaurants, reopened last weekend for indoor dining with “very limited” capacity and a limited dinner menu. The restaurant will be open Thursdays through Saturdays, and reservations are required. To reserve, call 207-772-8833.

Fried chicken comes to Washington Avenue

New York Fried Chicken has quietly opened in the former Bob’s Clam Hut location on the corner of Cumberland and Washington avenues in Portland.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to midnight every day, and its menu is similar to that at Crown Fried Chicken on Forest Avenue. In addition to fried chicken (sold by the piece and by the bucket) and wings, the menu includes burgers, gyros, seafood (especially shrimp), Philly cheesesteaks, kababs and desserts.

Bruno’s closes temporarily 

Kitchen workers at Bruno’s Restaurant & Tavern glimpsed last year through a window that opens into the dining room. Ben McCanna/Staff photographer

Bruno’s Restaurant & Tavern on Allen Avenue in Portland has closed for two weeks “out of an abundance of caution,” after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Danny Napolitano, whose family owns the restaurant, said the employee, who worked in the restaurant’s prep kitchen and never had contact with the public, went home ill recently and was tested for COVID-19. The test came back positive on Monday. “We didn’t really have to close, but we wanted to make sure we nipped it in the bud,” he said.

Napolitano said employees had been following strict protocols, including wearing masks and gloves, sanitizing, and keeping daily temperature logs, and now they will all be tested.

Bruno’s plans to reopen on Aug. 17.

A handful of other restaurants in Maine have temporarily closed after positive cases were detected, including Moe’s Original BBQ in South Portland, Salvage BBQ and Smokehouse in Portland, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw in Portland, and Corsetti’s, a pizza and sandwich shop in Westbrook.

I’ll take that quarantini to go

Mainers have gotten used to grabbing a beer or bottle of wine with their takeout during the pandemic, and restaurants have come up with attractive packaging for their signature cocktails. When it comes to alcohol to go, the genie is already out of the bottle — and it may stay out if the Legislature decides to extend to-go alcohol sales.

In March, Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order allowing struggling restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine and cocktails to go, to help them stay open during the pandemic. On Friday, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee approved a bill extending to-go alcohol sales through April 2022. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth, and is scheduled to go before the full Legislature if a special session is held later this year.

Alcohol to go can only be sold with food, and in closed, sealed containers placed in the trunk or otherwise out of reach of passengers. Drinking and driving is still illegal in Maine.

More than 30 states have approved similar laws, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, and many are considering extensions. Michigan already has approved an extension of its law until Dec. 31, 2025.

Rare fruit for sale at Two Fat Cats 

Two Fat Cats in Portland and South Portland has partnered with the Goronson Farm in Scarborough to create a “Baker’s Market.” Produce is delivered to both bakery locations from the certified organic farm on Wednesdays. Bakery hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

According to Maureen Goronson, in addition to bee-friendly flowers and free-range chicken and duck eggs, the 6-acre farm is selling a line of fruit and spices that are rarely – if ever – grown in Maine. Available now at Two Fat Cats are Shui Mi Tao peaches (pronounced shway mee dow), or the “juicy honey peach,” prized in the markets of Beijing and Shanghai, Goronson says. She also is growing and selling sumac, a Middle Eastern spice used in hummus and on salads and meats, at the request of local chefs.

Coming later this month? Lars Anderson peaches and Mirabelle plums. Lars Anderson peaches are an antique variety of yellow peach from Maine, and Mirabelle plums are commonly grown in France. And in mid-September, Goronson said she’ll be harvesting figs for the Two Fat Cats market.

The farm is also growing Russian plumcots and apricots from Iran, but those trees are not fruiting yet so won’t be available this year.

Goranson calls her family “fruit geeks,” and says that once they get their kitchen ready, their next project is to make ice cream with the unusual varieties of fruit they grow.

Dealing with server stress

There’s no question it’s harder to be a server in a restaurant these days. It’s inherently stressful because of the pandemic, and servers and other restaurant employees have to deal with, to put it politely, difficult customers.

Hospitality Maine, in conjunction with the the Opportunity Alliance in South Portland, has launched new online training to help the hospitality industry’s frontline workers deal with stress and handle challenging situations before they escalate. The training is free.

Both courses – one for de-stressing and one for de-escalation – can be found at hospitalitymaine.com.

Survey subjects sought

A University of Maine graduate student in food science and human nutrition is looking for Mainers to take part in a fermented pickles study.

If you are at least 18 years old and already make fermented pickles, or you want to learn how, grad student Jacob Rich would like you to take a 25-minute online survey and watch a short video on safe fermentation practices. Find the survey online, or contact Rich at [email protected], or 781-475-3862.

The Maine Food and Agriculture Center is sponsoring the research.


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