The Blaine House in Augusta has just produced its first jars of honey. The honey will likely be given as gifts to visiting dignitaries in the future. Photo courtesy of Leslie Oster

Local seafood lovers were sad to learn in spring that Miller Brothers Seafood at 849 Forest Ave. was closing permanently. Now some good news: Another seafood place has taken its place.

Paella Seafood opened just last week, serving (as the name implies) seafood paella as well as seafood kebabs, seafood lasagna, salmon steak burgers, lobster rolls, lobster mac-n-cheese bites, crispy baby squid and “firecracker sea scallops.”

The restaurant is owned by Mohammad Jabrawi, who goes by the name Casey, and his brother-in-law. Seven years ago, Jabrawi emigrated from Jordan, where he’d worked in restaurants. After arriving in the United States, he lived in Tampa for a few years, cooking in a Greek restaurant, “but we used a lot of seafood there.” Jabrawi and his family moved to Portland to be near his wife’s family.

Paella Seafood is open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Food truck metamorphosis

Nick Yee, owner of the Kuno food truck, which serves Southeast Asian food, has leased 166 Cumberland Ave. in Portland, a space once destined to become a reincarnation of Uncle Billy’s BBQ.

Yee hopes to open the brick-and-mortar version of his food truck by the end of September. He said it will have limited seating indoors – when there’s no pandemic, the building can seat 30 diners – and lots of outdoor seating in the adjacent parking lot. Yee said the restaurant will still serve Southeast Asian food, but the menu will be “something completely different” from the food truck and include shareable plates. The restaurant will also have a full bar.

Until September, Yee will sell food from 5 to 11 p.m. from his food truck, parked in the restaurant’s small parking lot. He said he plans to keep the food truck for special events and catering.

Robyn Violette leaves Fore Street

Robyn Violette, the longtime general manager of Fore Street, has left her position.

It may seem odd for someone to voluntarily give up a job – and a prestigious one at that – during a pandemic that has resulted in economic chaos. But Violette says it was her decision, and that she gave the renowned restaurant a month’s notice. She even hired her successor shortly before she left, bringing him on initially as an assistant manager.

Violette says she’d been feeling burned out, and had been thinking about leaving for a while. She worked at Fore Street the first 11 years it was open, then left for six years. Dana Street, co-owner of Fore Street, lured her back in 2013.

Violette wants to continue her hospitality career – she’s already had one job offer that she turned down because the commute would have been too far – but is in no hurry. “This is the first summer I’ve had off in, like, 25 years,” she said. “I’m pretty excited about it, actually.”

She’s not been idle, or desperate to pay the bills, because she’s always had a small antique business on the side (“That’s always been my true love”) and she’s working part-time refinishing furniture. She said she’ll start job hunting more seriously in the fall.

Meanwhile, that replacement she hired? His name is Derek Miles, Violette said, and he previously worked in hotel management in Washington, D.C.

Honey has no political party

New honeybee hives at the Blaine House in Augusta have produced their first four gallons of honey. Photo courtesy of Leslie Oster

The Blaine House, the governor’s home in Augusta, has just harvested its first four gallons of honey.

The house installed two hives last year with the help of a beekeeper from the Portland-based Honey Exchange, which also takes care of the hives on the roof of The Press Hotel in downtown Portland.

The hives, said Leslie Oster, director of the Blaine House, are something normal “in this totally abnormal world. It’s nature going about its business.” The second harvest is expected to be five to eight gallons.

Oster said she and the Blaine House chef have been cooking with the honey every day. It’s been packaged in jars that, when things get back to normal, will most likely be given as gifts to visiting dignitaries, Oster said.

The hives are located close to highbush blueberries that have been at the Blaine House since the Baldacci administration, and this year the blueberry harvest has been “prolific,” Oster said. Thanks to the bees? “We have blueberries coming out of our ears,” she said.

Only one person has been stung so far – a groundskeeper who was using a weed whacker. Not surprising. Those things sound like scary, giant bees, right?

A spud challenge

Taking on a recipe challenge seems almost quaint during these trying times. But isn’t that the vibe we need right now? And this particular recipe challenge benefits a local food pantry, so you’ll be doing something to help, too.

The deadline for the 2020 St. Hildegard Food Pantry Recipe Challenge, sponsored by Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry, is Saturday. This year the theme is the potato. Ah yes, comforting carbohydrates.

The recipe can be for any main dish or side dish, but must use ingredients that would not be hard to find at a food pantry, and must contain potatoes. Recipes will be judged on nutritional value and ease of cooking.

The prizes will be cash donations to a parish’s food pantry, soup kitchen or other food-based ministry. Winners will be announced Sept. 17, which is the Feast Day of St. Hildegard, a medieval nun who developed a nutritional philosophy based on the healing properties of food. (Fennel, squashes and spelt good; peas, strawberries and blueberries bad.)

Email your recipes to [email protected] with “Recipe Contest” in the subject line, or mail them to: Recipe Contest, Catholic Charities Maine, P.O. Box 10660, Portland, ME 04104.

Gelato flavors that will make you groan – in a good way

In the summer of 2016, Gelato Fiasco created a new flavor, “Donut Cry for Me,” to celebrate the Maine State Music Theater’s production of Evita. Yes, the name sounds like the punch line to a Dad joke, but the gelato sounded sublime: chocolate-glazed doughnuts “in a sea of dulce le leche milky caramel.”

Now you can try it again, along with the other seven special show-themed flavors Gelato Fiasco has created over the six years it has sponsored the Maine State Music Theater. They include “I Fall to Reese’s” honoring the theater’s production of “Always … Patsy Cline” in 2017, and “Biddy Biddy Babka” from 2016’s “Fiddler on the Roof.” Each pint costs $12, and half the cost will be donated to the theater to help keep it alive until the pandemic is over.

Pre-order the gelato online at gelatofiasco.com for pickup this weekend at the company’s flagship store in Brunswick.

Jolly Woodsman is extra jolly after winning this award

Banded Brewing Co. in Biddeford won two awards at the New York International Beer Competition, part of a series of annual competitions in New York, Berlin, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

The brewery won a silver medal for its Jolly Woodsman coffee beer and the individual award for Maine Coffee Beer Brewery of the Year.

The competition, which took place Feb. 9, had 600-plus submissions from more than 14 countries. The judging panel was made up of “real trade buyers,” according to Adam Levy, founder of the competition series.

“These judges are buyers from the top New York area liquor stores, restaurants, hotels and more,” he said in an Aug. 5 news release.


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