Little Brother Chinese Food, a new Portland business, makes its own hot sauce for its dumplings. Photo courtesy of Richard Lee

Walk by the freezer case in the grocery store, and you might be tempted to grab a box of frozen dumplings to have on hand as a quick snack on a cold winter evening. But they are sure to disappoint since they are rarely as good as restaurant takeout. Now Portlanders can buy restaurant-quality dumplings that can be stored in the freezer for whenever the mood strikes them.

Last week Richard Lee and Claire Guyer launched the Portland-based Little Brother, a dumplings business that sells bags of 20 frozen handmade dumplings – choose from three varieties – for $20.

“We thought frozen would be the best thing because of COVID,” Lee said. “That’s so much where people are at, needing to prepare things at home. We thought maybe a frozen bag of some really delicious dumplings would feel like a real treat, but it would also be something people could just keep in the freezer and crack out anytime.”

Little Brother frozen Chinese dumplings are handmade at Fork Food Lab in Portland. Photo courtesy of Richard Lee

Lee and Guyer, a native Mainer, moved to Portland from Chicago last year. They’ve both worked in the restaurant industry – Guyer in Portland, Lee in Chicago. Lee has been making jiaozi, or dumplings, his whole life “because it’s something my family used to do as kind of a big gathering-around activity.”

One of the dumplings now on the menu is filled with pork and napa cabbage, “a real family favorite,” Lee said. “It’s an old family recipe, so we’re making it just the way my grandmother used to make it.” They’re also selling vegan roasted mushroom dumplings, and spicy beef and onion dumplings as a special, to celebrate the Year of the Ox.

Also on the menu: Chili oil with fried garlic and red onions, $8 for eight ounces. “It’s a really savory, crunchy hot sauce to have with the dumplings or really just on anything,” Lee said.

Lee and Guyer make the jiaozi at Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St. in Portland. Order online at littlebrotherchinesefood.com and pick up your dumplings from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays. The dumplings will soon be in Fork Food Lab’s online market, A Taste of Fork. Order from that site, and you can pick them up anytime during Fork Food Lab hours.

Butter + Salt takes a break

The Butter + Salt pop-ups in Brunswick are on hiatus. The pop-ups, most recently operating under the name Willie and Chet’s in the Dog Bar Jim coffee shop in Brunswick, have outgrown that space, according to chef Ali Waks Adams, who said she is looking for a new home. Adams said the pop-ups should resume sometime “before spring for sure.”

Mardi Gras is on hold – thanks, ice storm!

Eaux, the Louisiana-style Portland restaurant that’s closed until it can find a bigger space, planned to hold a pop-up Mardi Gras event yesterday in collaboration with Oxbow Blending and Bottling in Portland, but the storm got in the way. The event has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Oxbow, 49 Washington Ave.

Some of the items on the menu: Gumbo Yaya, Grilled Chicken Po’Boy, New Orleans BBQ Scallops with grits, and king cake. Preorder until Sunday at oxbowbeer.com/oxbow-to-go, then pick up your order between 5 and 9 p.m. Tuesday. Or just show up during those hours for takeout (until sold out) or patio seating.

Calling all sourdough fans

If there’s one food that will go down in the history books about the pandemic, our money is on sourdough bread. The Maine Grain Alliance has launched a “Make Your Own Sourdough Bread” kit. For $75, you’ll get a box filled with flour, sourdough starter, two sourdough cookies from The Bankery, Sourdough Skinnies Crackers from Brazen Baking, a banneton (which is a specialized basket for proofing bread), a tea towel, a bench scraper, a dough whisk, and a sourdough handbook. You’ll also get 50 percent off a March 13 virtual sourdough baking workshop led by Jim Amaral of Borealis Breads and 50 percent off a March (exact date to come) virtual cracker workshop taught by Jeff and Lisa Dec of Brazen Baking.

One of the sourdough kits will contain a golden ticket that entitles the holder to free registration to the 2021 Kneading Conference in July. Ordering deadline is Friday at kneadingconference.com. The kits can be shipped, or pick yours up in Portland from 9 to 11 a.m. or 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the O’Maine Studios parking lot, 54 Danforth St.

Warm up with chili and chowder

A quart of chili or chowder will keep your belly warm later this month, and it can also help keep your neighbors warm when you buy it through the town of Scarborough, which is holding its 9th annual Rally to Keep Our Neighbors Warm on Feb. 27. The goal is to raise $15,000 for fuel assistance.

Order a quart of chili con carne or haddock chowder prepared by SoPo catering by Feb. 24 – the suggested donation is $10 per quart – then pick it up from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 27 at the rally at the Oak Hill public safety building on Route 1 in Scarborough. Order online at fuelrally.weebly.com or call (207) 883-5111. Each quart comes with a side of cornbread.

Maine food for thought

Maine Food Convergence, a series of interactive, online discussions about Maine food, launched Monday, but you can still register and join in the conversation.

The first track, From Farm & Sea: Expanding Local Markets, meets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays through March 2. The second track, Farming & Fishing: Abundance, Equity & Resiliency, meets from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through March 3. And the third track, Healthy Food: Breaking Down the Barriers, meets from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays through March 4.

The cost to participate runs on a sliding scale from $20 to $100. Scholarships are available; email mainefoodconvergence @gmail.com. To register, go to mainefoodconvergence.org.

A jacuzzi in the woods

The Blair Hill Inn overlooking Moosehead Lake in Greenville has won the 2021 “Welcome Trophy” from Relais & Chateaux, an association of more than 580 ultra-deluxe hotels and restaurants. The inn, a former farm, now serves local farm-to-table cuisine. It is owned by Daniel and Ruth McLaughlin.

The Welcome Trophy is presented to the Relais & Chateaux property that “has distinguished itself through the quality of its welcome and service.” It is one of nine trophies awarded annually to properties all over the world in categories such as Ethical Cuisine, Sustainability, Rising Chef, and Woman of the Year. The Blair Hill Inn was the only U.S. property to win an award this year; the others went to Belgium, Japan, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Italy, France, Ecuador and Spain.

The announcement of the Welcome Trophy states: “At the heart of an estate that sprawls over 79 acres, you can go trout fishing, walk through the green countryside that stretches as far as the eye can see, relax in a jacuzzi nestled in the middle of the woods, and admire the sunset over the lake; however, everyone here agrees that it’s the infinite kindness of the owners that makes each one of these experiences unforgettable.”


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