A happy (and generous) customer at Bird & Co. in Portland left a $1,400 tip for the staff last Wednesday.
The family who left the tip also left a heartfelt note. They discovered Bird & Co. at 539 Deering Ave. last spring, they explained, during the early days of the pandemic, at a time when they were trying to support local businesses. (They love street tacos, they said.) They soon became curbside regulars, picking up food weekly to enjoy during their Friday night trivia routine.
But it wasn’t just a penchant for good tacos that led to the huge tip. They learned about two initiatives Bird & Co. had launched to help Portlanders struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic. One was a free school lunch program for hungry children attending kindergarten through the eighth grade. The restaurant doesn’t open until 4 p.m., but chef/co-owner Wills Dowd comes in early to make the lunches, which students accompanied by a parent pick up. “People call ahead, and I make them a couple of tacos and a side salad,” Dowd said.
The other program that impressed the tipper offered 50 percent off the bill when a customer in need used the code phrase, “I wish the weather was nicer.” That program ran until July, when Dowd had to end it because, unfortunately, too many people used the phrase too many times, including many who clearly were not hurting financially. (Who does that???)
“I know humans are good by nature,” Dowd said, “but there were people taking advantage.”
The chef had his faith restored somewhat when he saw the $1,400 tip along with the note, which read: “It’s people like you that give us hope! You’re inspiring!! It’s truly amazing how a single, selfless act of community can inspire and motivate people to just be decent, and do the right thing. Now more than ever, we sure need that!”
Dowd knows that the family of tippers are regulars, but doesn’t know exactly who they are. “They had masks on,” he said. “We’ve never even seen their faces before.”
Dowd split the money among his staff. Everyone got about $150, “so that was a nice little Christmas bonus for everybody.”
Of the benevolent family who made it possible, he said: “It’s those people who make the hospitality business worth it.”
Christmas spirit hits New Hampshire, too
Chef Matt Louis, owner of the popular Portsmouth restaurants Moxy and The Franklin, announced last week that he will close both for the winter on Saturday because of slow business. He plans to re-open in early spring.
The day after he made the announcement, an anonymous customer at Moxy tipped $1,000 at dinner, and members of the Portsmouth Rotary Club came into both restaurants and bought “hundreds of dollars worth” of gift cards, Louis shared on Facebook.
“Maybe in the most trying times, our true selves show,” the chef wrote. “Maybe when the weight of world weighs heavy on us all equally, we ease that burden by holding it up with kindness.”
Chowder to go
Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room, at 86 Commercial Street in Portland, opened a fish shack last week for passersby who would like to pick up a cup of clam chowder or a hot chocolate with peppermint whipped cream.
The shack opened Dec. 22, according to Chris O’Neil, whose wife Darcy Smith-O’Neil owns Boone’s, and the hours are generally the same as the restaurant, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The menu includes lobster rolls, chowder, oysters and, since it’s the holidays, boozy eggnog and spiced hot cider (spiked or not).
The fish shack is located at the entrance to the restaurant’s parking lot.
Toast, waffles and kombucha
Urban Farm Fermentory, at 200 Anderson Street in Portland, plans to launch brunch service at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
The fermentory received a restaurant license Monday, which will allow it to serve a menu of toast and waffles featuring the seasonal flavors used to brew its kombucha, ciders and beers, according to owner Eli Cayer. When foragers gather dandelions to use in UFF’s gruits, for example, look for dandelion petals in your waffles. After strawberries are pressed for strawberry kombucha, the leftover pulp might be used to make a topping for toast. The “leftovers” in the brewery’s waste stream have previously been composted, Cayer said, but he hopes to use many of them now to make sweet and savory sauces and other products in-house.
The waffles and toast menu will be offered in UFF’s 50-seat, socially distanced tasting room (in normal times, the space seats 185, Cayer said) Thursday through Monday until 6 p.m. Cayer said he hopes to add soups and other items to the menu.
New scallop cookbook for new scallop season
Scallop lovers know the shellfish are perfectly delicious when they are simply pan-seared in butter. But sometimes we crave something a little different. What else can you do with these luscious, meaty jewels of the sea?一脱到底丶一脱到底丶,污污污ot污污污ot
Stonington fisherman Marsden Brewer and natural history writer Marnie Reed Crowell have partnered on a new cookbook called “Recipe Ideas for Farmed Maine Sea Scallops: The Whole Story.” The book, published by Maine Authors Publishing in Thomaston, is part of a three-year initiative funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to develop scallop farming in Maine.
Marsden and his son, Bob, were part of a Maine contingent of fishermen and sea farmers who were sent to the Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan in 2016 by the Coastal Enterprises Institute to learn more about raising scallops. They launched their business, PenBay Farmed Scallops, in 2017.
The cookbook contains scallop preparations from all over the world, such as Manchego Scallops from Spain, Venetian Crudo Style Scallops from Italy, Scallop-Stuffed Artichokes from Lebanon, and Scallops in Champagne Butter Sauce from (where else?) France. And yes, the book also includes traditional New England recipes, including a scallop pie with Ritz cracker crumbs.
Freeport chef Barton Seaver wrote the introduction, and chef Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland wrote a blurb for the book jacket.
The cookbook costs $24.95 (plus shipping) and has a limited run of 200 copies. Order online at .
Snacker casting call
Are you one of those people who walk around with Cheetos dust on your fingers? Do you keep your pantry stocked with chocolate chip cookies and candy bars? Or is beef jerky more your speed? Erika Brekke wants to hear from you.
Brekke is a Portland-based freelance producer who is working on a film project for a Chicago consultant called Dig. The agency makes short ethnographic films that study people’s habits and what makes them tick. In this case, the culture they are profiling for their client, a food manufacturer, is American snackers. Who has a sweet tooth, and who prefers salty snacks? What sort of snacks are they eating, and why? The film is for the company’s internal use only.
“They picked Portland because it has a low COVID rate in comparison with other cities across the country,” Brekke said. “We want people to feel safe if they want to participate.”
Brekke is looking for a diverse group of snackers of all ages, from all cultural backgrounds and family make-ups, but no vegans, vegetarians, or people with dietary restrictions.
Potential participants will be pre-interviewed over Zoom in early January for a $100 stipend. If they move on to filming, in February, they’ll be paid an additional $800.
If you’re interested in talking about your love affair with potato chips, contact Brekke asap at [email protected]
Help for farmers
Thirty-eight Maine farms that have been hurt by the pandemic have been awarded funds ranging from $500 to $2,000 through the Maine Farm Emergency Grants program, administered by the Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
This is the second round of funding. Last spring, 79 farms received grants totaling $141,000.
Josh Girard of Girard Farm in Lyman plans to use his grant to expand on-farm sales year round. Lisa Reilich of Painted Pepper Farm in Steuben said she’ll use the funds to invest in infrastructure that will help streamline online ordering for on-farm pick-up.
Estes Lobster House for sale
Estes Lobster House in Harpswell has been put on the market for $1.3 million, according to a commercial listing by Harpswell Realty Group.
The 9,741-square foot seasonal restaurant at 1906 Harpswell Neck Road has a large bar and stunning ocean views.
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