February 20, 2013

Soup to Nuts: The table is set for Maine Restaurant Week

Expect the usual popular events, plus some interesting new wrinkles.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Lisa Kostopoulos of The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth has won the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off three years running with her creme brulee French toast.

Press Herald file/Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Bottom’s up. Sera Dayton of Wells gets ready for a shot of Kennebunk Inn bartender Adrian Trudeau’s Put Up Your Cukes cocktail at last year’s Signature Event. This year's event will be held at the Prime Mercedez-Benz dealership in Scarborough, which will be transformed into a nightclub with lights, decorations and music.

Press Herald file / Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


THIS 10-DAY dining fest features restaurants offering discounted meals. It’s a good way for diners to try new restaurants, make an extra visit to one of their favorites or just grab a bargain.

LAST YEAR, more than half the restaurants that participated reported an increase in business of 30 to 60 percent.

MORE THAN 75 Maine restaurants have registered to participate. Starting March 1, each restaurant will offer, alongside their regular menus, special three-course dinner menus for $22, $32 or $42 and three-course lunches for $15. Beverages, tips and taxes are not included.

MENUS and more information about the restaurants are available online at mainerestaurantweek.com/restaurants.


NEW THIS YEAR is a Maine Restaurant Week mobile app for iPhone, available for free download in the iTunes app store. The app informs you which Restaurant Week restaurants are closest to you, and includes a map that gives details on each location – address, phone number, website and a description of the food. It also provides much of the same information that’s found on the Maine Restaurant Week website, including hotel information and descriptions of events.


SAMPLE COCKTAILS and desserts at the most decadent event of Maine Restaurant Week. Local bartenders and pastry chefs will do their best to wow your taste buds, and you get to vote on the winners.

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. March 10

WHERE: Prime Mercedes Benz, 137 U.S. Route 1, Scarborough

HOW MUCH: $45 single; two tickets, $42.50 each; four tickets, $40 each

INFO: mainerestaurantweek.com/events or brownpapertickets.com


IN ADDITION TO SAMPLING corned-beef hash, doughnuts, eggs Benedict and more, you can belly up to the Bloody Mary bar.

WHEN: March 1. Breakfast served 7 to 8:30 a.m.; winner and two runners-up announced at 8:45 a.m.

WHERE: Sea Dog Brewing Co., 125 Western Ave., South Portland


INFO: mainerestaurantweek.com/events or brownpapertickets.com


CAN’T GET ENOUGH of restaurant weeks? Just wait until April 4-13, when Portsmouth &
The Seacoast Restaurant Week takes place. Restaurants will be preparing three course, prix fixe meals for $16.95 and $29.95.

MORE THAN 45 restaurants have signed up for the event, including four restaurants in Kittery: Anneke Jans, Robert’s Maine Grill, Tulsi Indian Restaurant and Stage Neck Inn. Well-known Portsmouth restaurants such as Black Birch, Black Trumpet Bistro and Moxy are on the list as well.

INFO: restaurantweekportsmouth.com

If March is on our doorstep, that means it's almost time for creme brulee French toast.

On March 1, Lisa Kostopoulos of The Good Table restaurant in Cape Elizabeth will defend her title as reigning champion of the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, which will launch this year's Maine Restaurant Week. Her decadent creme brulee French toast, piled high with fresh fruit, has taken the prize three years in a row.

Can you say "dynasty"?

This is the fifth year of Maine Restaurant Week, and while there are some interesting changes in store, its basic structure will stay the same. The breakfast cook-off and the other major event of the week, a cocktail-and-dessert competition called the Signature Event, are extremely popular and usually sell out. These parties haven't changed much because the basic formats have not yet gotten (pardon the expression) stale.

But they are evolving, especially the Signature Event.

This year, the Signature Event will be held at a luxury auto dealership and have a sushi bar.

I know: Huh?

Apparently, holding parties at auto dealerships is a thing. At least, it is in the rest of the country – as usual, Maine is playing catch-up.

Jim Britt of event organizer/publicist gBritt PR said he first saw the concept in Atlanta a few years ago. The Signature Event will be held at the Prime Mercedes-Benz dealership in Scarborough, which will be transformed into a nightclub with lights, decorations and music.

Yes, it's a bummer that the party won't be in Portland this year, but Jim and Gillian Britt have had a tough time finding a space large enough in town to hold all the people who want to come – 600 attended last year – without the guests feeling like they're packed in like sardines or standing in a summertime line at Duckfat.

The dealership space will give everyone some breathing room, not to mention valet parking. And sushi: Whole Foods Market will be sponsoring a sushi bar at the event.

"We're going to be in the showroom and in the garage where the maintenance gets done," Britt said. "Because it's a luxury dealership, it's spotless. It's incredibly clean and fun and fresh. The tables for the bartenders and the dessert contestants are going to be literally right over the jacks that lift the cars into the air. It's going to be really cool in there."

Insert your own clever comment about not drinking and driving here.

The cocktail judges this year are impressive, and all local. John Myers of The Grill Room, one of Portland's favorite bartenders and a nationally known talent, will be joined by Forrest Butler, owner of Royal Rose, a cocktail syrup company in Biddeford (you can read about their syrups in my January column here ) and Andrew Volk, the force behind Portland's first craft cocktail bar opening this spring, the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club.

Dessert judges have not yet been announced. Last year, Portland's Standard Baking Co. won the Peoples' Choice award in the dessert competition with its Gateau Noisette, a chocolate and hazelnut cake.

"This year, Standard Baking is coming back to defend their crown, but Two Fat Cats and Scratch are both coming to compete against them," Britt said. "So it's like we've got this all-star trio of the best bakers in town matching up against great restaurants who have amazing pastry chefs."

Proceeds from the culinary competitions will benefit the United Way of Greater Portland.

As for the restaurants participating, there are more than 75 locations that have signed up so far. Britt said 10 or 15 restaurants typically wait until the last minute to come on board, so the participation rate looks similar to last year's.

Restaurants will be offering three-course, prix fixe menus at special prices – $15 for lunch and $22, $32 or $42 for dinner. The prices have been raised by $2 this year, the first price increase since Maine Restaurant Week began.

New places include David's Opus 10 (which will be offering its seven-course dinner for $42) and Buck's Naked BBQ in Portland, Fromviandoux in Camden and the Lucerne Inn in Dedham.

Another first: The Cumberland Club, a members-only club in Portland, will open its doors to the public during Restaurant Week so people can sample its food and see what the club has to offer. 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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New this year is a Maine Restaurant Week mobile app for iPhone, available for free download in the iTunes app store.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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David Boger, a bartender at The Armory Lounge in Portland, pours a shot of pumpkin-spiced butter rum that would eventually be topped with Grand Marnier whipped cream at last year’s Signature Event at the Portland Harbor Hotel.

Press Herald file/Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


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