June 9, 2010

Natural Foodie: New cafe and bakery lets local food speak for itself

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

Meara Smith, front left, the kitchen coordinator, and Jonah Fertig, front right, a founder of Local Sprouts, stand in the new cafe with fellow workers and worker-owners Barry Manson, Jazz Aden-Wood, David Ladd, Tim Powers-Wilson, Queena Lo and Heather Blersch.

Avery Yale Kamila photo

IF YOU GO

LOCAL SPROUTS CAFE & BOMB DIGGITY BAKERY

WHERE: 649 Congress St., Portland

CONTACT: www.localsprouts cooperative.com; 899-3529

HOURS: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

In a town that can't get enough of Maine-grown eats, the new Local Sprouts Cafe & Bomb Diggity Bakery is sure to garner numerous fans.

Thanks to the efforts of more than 200 volunteers, the restaurant opened on Friday in the former University of Southern Maine dorm on Congress Street, and has been serving locally sourced breakfast, lunch and dinner every day since.

"It's a combination of food that's easy to take with you and go and also food that you can sit down and enjoy," said Jonah Fertig, a founder of Local Sprouts and one of the worker-owners of the cooperative enterprise.

Fertig started the Local Sprouts community-supported kitchen and catering business three years ago with other partners who have since moved on to different projects. Without a dedicated retail spot, the community-supported kitchen (which functions like a prepared foods CSA) never really took off, but the catering business thrived.

The counter service restaurant is sure to give both ventures a boost. While anyone can walk in and purchase off the menu, those who plan to be regulars may want to consider investing in a community-supported kitchen membership. When members dine at the cafe, their meals are deducted from the paid-in-advance balance, and they receive a 10 percent discount.

Local Sprouts is joined in this space by the Bomb Diggity Bakery, which offers a full-service bakery and training program for adults with intellectual disabilities. Chef George Gilfoil (who many may remember from Geo's Patisserie) is doing the baking.

"The bakery will wholesale baked goods to Local Sprouts and others in the community," said Lindsay DeCsipkes, Bomb Diggity's program administrator.

Like the cafe, the bakery focuses on using local ingredients and catering to people with special diets while also producing traditional foods.

Some of the treats coming out of the bakery include English muffins, gluten-free brownies, chocolate-coconut-almond vegan cookies and raw desserts. Special-occasion and wedding cakes are available upon request.

We can expect equal amounts of creativity from the Local Sprouts kitchen, because the numerous chefs have experience that ranges from preparing sushi to crafting nut burgers. The menu will change often as the available local foods shift with the season.

Some dishes to look for include hamburgers made from locally raised beef, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and pesto, and a house-made veggie burger.

Breakfast brings sandwiches, featuring Maine-sourced eggs, cheese, meat, flour and salt, a vegetarian hash (made with locally produced black bean tempeh) and the Bouchard Family Farms popular Ployes pancakes.

The menu won't feature kids-only food, but it will have offerings billed as "all ages friendly." Depending on what's in season, these could include English muffin pizzas and local fish sticks.

To wash it down, choose from Allagash or Peak Organic beer, Bartlett wines (plus a smattering from out of state), house-made kombucha, Matt's Wood Roasted Organic Coffee and Crow Medicine herbal teas.

Breakfast items are priced around $5, lunch dishes around $7, and dinner offerings around $10.

"Cooking through the lens of local foods is a fun challenge," Fertig said. "It makes you look at food differently."

Essentially, it involves working in reverse from the way most of us were taught to cook. Instead of starting with a recipe, local foods cooking requires starting with the ingredients and improvising a recipe.

"I remember the winter we were stumped trying to figure out how to make rutabaga more interesting," said Meara Smith, the kitchen coordinator.

Rutabaga, a member of the cabbage family, is notoriously unsexy, but it's cultivated in abundance locally, stores well through the winter and packs a nutritious punch.

As many of us would do when confronted with rutabaga, the Local Sprouts folks tossed it into a roasted root vegetable mix. But they didn't stop there. They also added it to apple crisp and created a frittata-like dish called rutabaga puff.

"The great thing about using local food is you don't have to do much to it," Smith said. "It really speaks for itself."

I have a feeling the same will hold true for the cafe and bakery.

 

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

akamila@pressherald.com

 

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