The Clam Bar will offer food at TreeGull, a pop-up Christmas tree business that opens Friday. Photo by Meredith Goad

Going Christmas tree shopping this weekend? Stop by The Clam Bar at 199 West Commercial St. in Portland, and you can pick up something warm to eat and drink while you make that most difficult decision – balsam fir or white pine?

Garrett FitzGerald, owner of The Clam Bar, said his holiday side business, TreeGull, will open Friday and run through Christmas. About 500 Christmas trees were expected to arrive on the lot this week; TreeGull also plans to sell wreaths and holiday goods made by local crafters. Watch for two Christmas craft fairs on the lot later in the season, one on the weekend of Dec. 4-5, and the other Dec. 18-19.

TreeGull hours will be 3 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

The menu at the Clam Bar food trailer (the restaurant is still under construction) will include clam chowder, and brisket chili served with cornbread. FitzGerald promises plenty of hot chocolate and other “goodies for the kids.”

Cocktail Mary, a cocktail bar at 229 Congress St. in Portland, plans to set up shop on the site Thursdays through Sundays throughout the season, FitzGerald said. Smokey & Brines BBQ will participate Thursdays and Sundays.

Shoppers who’d like to help a family in need can either donate a tree or contribute to a fund that will buy trees and Christmas gifts. Customers are also welcome to nominate a family for help. “Anyone who needs a little help this Christmastime, we’ll try to provide it,” FitzGerald said.

Change of plans

Jordan Rubin, the owner of Mr. Tuna, no longer plans to open a new restaurant in the Freeport building where Goodfire Brewing Co. will have a new brewery and tasting room.

“It is bittersweet because we were really excited to be a part of the Freeport community, but we do have a new project in the works and we are in negotiations for a space in the Old Port,” Rubin said via email. “As they say, one door closes and another one opens.”

Rubin said he could not share any other details at this time.

The Freeport building, at 117 Route 1, is the former home of El Jefe Taco Bar and Conundrum Wine Bistro.

S’more of this, please

S’mores Nights begin at Congress Square Park on Dec. 16, and are scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. every Thursday through the winter.

The ingredients are free, although a suggested donation of $5 will go to Friends of Congress Square Park. To help keep you warm, a limited number of S’mores Night-themed fleece blankets will be available for a suggested donation of $10.

If you’re still hungry, the Pink Waffle food truck will be there selling waffles and hot beverages.

Pandemic-fueled self-sufficiency grew 

It’s official: Mainers grew more of their own food during the pandemic. They also fished, hunted and foraged more, and raised more animals for meat, fish and dairy.

That’s according to a new survey from the National Food Access and COVID Research Team, a national effort to track the impacts of COVID-19 on food access, food security and food systems. The study involved researchers at the University of Maine and the University of Vermont.

In June, Amanda and Rob Duquette sang a song they wrote, “Time to Grow,” while sitting in their Biddeford garden. The two started gardening in 2020 and expanded their garden in 2021. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Researchers found that nearly 60 percent of households in Maine and Vermont have produced food at home since the pandemic began. About half of those households either produced their own food for the first time, or stepped up their existing efforts.

“Our study shows there is a thriving interest among Vermonters and Mainers in growing their own food and purchasing from local producers,” Rachel Schattman, a University of Maine assistant professor of sustainable agriculture, said in a news release. “We should think carefully about how supporting our local food systems can help alleviate the negative consequences of disruptive national events like the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The level of food insecurity has fallen since the height of the pandemic, but the study shows that it is still above pre-pandemic levels. More than 27 percent of households in Maine and Vermont still struggle to find enough to eat.

Maine strong

In this season of excess, boosting the nutritional power of your morning smoothie sounds like smart thinking to us. Atlantic Sea Farms, which recently moved to Biddeford, has launched two kelp cubes that blend locally harvested kelp with berries.

The Wild Blueberry & Ginger Kelp Cubes are made from purees of wild blueberries and ginger, while the Cranberry Kelp Cubes combine cranberry puree and cranberry seeds, which contain 1.6 times more dietary fiber than chia or flax, according to Atlantic Sea Farms.

The cubes, which cost $7.99 per package of eight cubes, will be in Sprouts markets nationwide in January, as well as other large grocery stores and independent markets. Locally, find them at Harbor Fish Market in Portland. They are also available online at atlanticseafarms.com.

Rejoice in small businesses

Bloody Marys and mimosa flights at The Maker’s Galley. Courtesy of The Maker’s Galley

Celebrate Small Business Saturday this week with the food entrepreneurs who work out of Fork Food Lab, a commercial kitchen at 72 Parris St. in Portland. They will be selling their products, and offering free samples, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association will sell monkfish stew made with local catch; proceeds will go to the Fishermen Feeding Mainers program, which buys fish from local fishermen to donate to food banks, schools and community groups.

Let’s do brunch

The Maker’s Galley – a tasting lounge, café and gift shop featuring Maine-grown and Maine-made products that opened Nov. 13 at 5 Commercial St. in Portland – served its first brunch Sunday. Look for a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, flights of mimosas (made with different juices), and breakfast bites every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wild blueberries growing in Warren. AP photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Blueberries for all

A state program that distributes frozen wild blueberries to Downeast food pantries will continue next year, thanks to a renewed federal grant.

The nearly $38,000 grant from the USDA’s Farm to Food Bank Project, the second awarded to Maine, will fund the work of Healthy Acadia, an Ellsworth-based nonprofit that prepares family-sized packages of frozen wild blueberries from Washington and Hancock counties, using gleaned blueberries that otherwise would not be harvested.

The berries harvested and packaged next year will go to more than two dozen Downeast food pantries in the fall.


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