Thursday, April 17, 2014
Eater Maine, the local version of the popular Eater.com national restaurant blog, will launch at noon on Tuesday.
The Maine site is Eater National’s first statewide blog, but most of its coverage will center on the greater Portland area, according to Lockhart Steele, founder of Eater.com and a part-time summer resident of Maine.
“Part of why we decided to call it Eater Maine is we already have a site called Eater Portland out of Oregon,” Steele said in an exclusive interview with the Portland Press Herald. “I think when you look at what’s going on down in Kennebunkport or up on the midcoast or further up, there’s just exciting food happening up and down the Maine coast. I think by calling the site Eater Maine it will let us talk about the areas outside of Portland when they’re really important, but the focus will be the Portland metro area.”
Eater Maine will be the 19th local spot featured on the Eater National website, which gives readers an insider's look at restaurant culture.
Food and travel writer Susan Axelrod, who currently lives in New Jersey but comes to Maine about one weekend a month, will be the writer for Eater Maine. Axelrod is food editor of The Record in Bergen, N.J.
Steele, who is also the founder of the real estate site Curbed.com and the fashion site Racked.com, said Eater Maine is part of a new experiment that Eater.com started last month, identifying foodie havens that are smaller than places like New York City or Chicago but are “food scenes that are really special, important parts of the national food conversation.”
“We launched a site down in Charleston, S.C. last month, which is by far the smallest city we’ve ever done an Eater in,” Steele said. “And yet the Charleston food scene is really important. I’ve been coming and spending my summers in Maine my whole life, and so expanding to Maine is a bit of a passion project for me personally. I’m very familiar with how the food scene in Portland has grown in the last 10 years. “
Eater focuses on restaurant news, everything from openings and closings to the gossip of the day in local kitchens. The question is, can Eater Maine cover these smaller locations as well as it does larger cities that are chock full of news items every day?
Steele thinks so.
“A part of it is just my own personal experience,” he said, “but it feels like Portland’s restaurant scene has really come into its own, where it’s not just Fore Street anymore, it’s Fore Street and Miyake and 16 other places that are spectacular, and that’s exciting.”
Steele’s family has a home on Prouts Neck in Scarborough. He estimates that he spends about four weeks every summer there.
“It’s my favorite place in the world, to be honest,” he said.
Asked about his favorite restaurants in Maine, Steele replied: “I’m such a restaurant guy in New York, I’ll be honest, so when I come to Maine I almost always cook for myself. We generally do a trip to Fore Street. Last year I tried out that new little French bistro, um...”
“Yes, which I thought was terrific. I loved, loved the meal I had there last summer. Down on the docks, I love the (Harbor) Fish Market.”
Steele said he chooses writers for his site who have “a deep obsession for dining out.” He hired Axelrod to write for Eater Maine because she “just seemed to have the right instinct for the job.”
“We’re looking for people who especially love these stories and want to get right on top of them,” Steele said. “There’s a certain urgency to what we do. I like to think when you’re reading Eater, the news of a new restaurant is the greatest news in the world. That’s our A-1, and you need to find people to write for us who feel that way, who have that passion for this topic already.
“What I got from her right off the bat was just she knew everything about the Maine dining scene and just wanted to talk and talk and talk about it, and that’s a pretty good sign.”
Axelrod owned a restaurant for 10 years and was a restaurant reviewer for five years. She and her husband, food photgrapher Ted Axelrod, also have a personal food blog at spoonandshutter.com.
Axelrod said she wanted the Eater Maine job "because I’ve been wanting very much to move to Portland, and when I heard about the opportunity to do some of the things I love in the city I love and the state I love, I jumped on it."
Axelrod said she hopes to post three to five items daily during the busy summer season, often linking to material from other websites, but also producing original material. During the rest of the year, she anticipates posting one to three times a day.
"I’m going to be trying to spotlight all the wonderful things restaurants do," she said, "but also if somebody gets into trouble or there’s some scandal, Eater talks about that stuff too.”
In other words, watch those tantrums, chefs. Your line cook might just be videotaping it to post on Eater Maine.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.