PORTLAND — Jeff Landry threw some sweet potatoes and onions into a pan in his kitchen at The Farmer’s Table and described the dish he’s making for the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off on Friday, one of the signature events of Maine Restaurant Week.

Landry’s sweet potato corned beef hash, topped with an egg and served with Hollandaise sauce and homemade potato bread, has been on the menu at his Commercial Street restaurant, and he’ll be serving a smaller version of it – topped with a quail egg – at the cook-off.

“The beef we use is all Maine-raised, all natural, and we do everything,” Landry said. “It’s not your traditional corned beef where it’s cured for several weeks and then cooked. It’s braised with corning spices and Shipyard beer with a little brown sugar. So it’s kind of unique the way we do it.”

Landry is one of a dozen restaurateurs who will be wooing the breakfast-loving public with their best creations Friday morning starting at 7 a.m., when the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off gets underway at Sea Dog Brewing Co. in South Portland.

Last year’s cook-off sold out, and some folks drove from a couple of hours away just to sample dishes such as the Creme Brulee French Toast from The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth. The “bring you to your knees delicious” French toast, smothered in fruit, took top honors and will be back this year to defend its title.

(Interestingly, a couple of other competitors are making French toast for this year’s contest. Coincidence? Or cunning like a fox?)


The cook-off is one of the signature events of Maine Restaurant Week, which kicked off Monday night with a cocktail and dessert competition. Through March 12, almost 90 Maine restaurants will offer three-course meals for $20, $30 or $40. About a dozen of the restaurants will also offer multi-course lunch specials.

A link to a complete list of participating restaurants and their special menus can be found in the box at right.

The deals provide a good way for diners to squeeze in an extra meal or two at their favorite restaurants, or to try a few new places without completely emptying their bank accounts. For restaurants, it’s a great way to attract new customers and get a financial shot in the arm during a traditionally tough season.

“Right now we have fewer restaurants than we had last year, but we have some different restaurants,” said Gillian Britt of gBritt PR, the organizer of the event.

Anneke Jans in Kittery, for one, has been added to the list this year. And new restaurants, such as Portland newcomers East Ender and District, are participating as well.

Britt said she’s not sure why fewer restaurants are participating this year. Some places may already have winter specials going that make Restaurant Week redundant, she said.


“Some of them are just really struggling, so maybe it’s partly related to that too,” she said. “I know that the feedback we got last year was good, and people were very pleased with the results. I didn’t get anybody who said that they thought it didn’t work for them. But it’s not a fit for every restaurant, either.”

Restaurants pay a $375 fee to participate in Restaurant Week, which helps cover the cost of advertising and the Web site.

Landry said he’s on board this year because “the exposure’s great, and quite honestly after this winter, people are just looking to get out, and it would be foolish not to participate. You’re guaranteed business every single night, and good business every night.”

This year’s snowy weather has been “horrible” for Maine restaurants, Landry said. “It’s been a very, very tough winter.”

Mary Ledue Paine, co-owner of the Pepperclub/Good Egg Cafe in Portland, said she felt it would be “kind of ridiculous” for her not to participate. The last Restaurant Week event was held in October 2010, and it turned out to be the Pepperclub’s biggest month in its 22-year history.

“The most sales tax I’ve ever paid to the state was for October, and that was directly related to Restaurant Week,” she said. “And the same with March. Last March was a close second because March isn’t usually as busy as October year in and year out. It doesn’t quite double our business. I would say we probably get 80 percent more people.”


Paine will have Friday night staffing every night for Restaurant Week, and her wait staff is looking forward to the extra tips.

She said the Pepperclub – once known for being the only really vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Portland – has just “mustered through” the last three years, and business in local restaurants has seemed slow to pick up.

“I can’t really tell if there’s more restaurants and that’s why things have leveled off a bit, or if it’s because we’ve been here a while,” she said. “We’re Pepperclub, we’ve been here 22 years, maybe people are tired of us. There are lot of people who just want to go to the new, hip place, and we’re not that hip any more. We used to be more hip when vegetarian was cool. Now it’s more mainstream.”

Paine will be also at the Breakfast Cook-off on Friday. She’s bringing a savory danish with 81 layers of butter incorporated in the dough. The danish will be filled with spinach, red onion, feta, dill and black pepper.

“I do these all the time for parties,” she said, “and people love them.”

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

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