The five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are typically packed with a whirlwind of activities that can leave you as exhausted, thirsty and hungry as Santa’s reindeer after they get back to the North Pole.

There’s lots of food-related events on the horizon that can help you de-stress and put a little joy back into the season. Here’s a sampling of some fun foodie diversions that will help take your mind off the fact that a horde of hungry relatives are about to descend upon your house:


DO GOOD WHILE YOU WINE: Get into the spirit of the season by giving back. And taste some good wines while you’re at it.

Five Fifty-Five, chef Steve Corry’s restaurant at 555 Congress St. in Portland, will host a benefit wine tasting on Sunday for Partners for Rural Health in the Dominican Republic, a group that provides health care to people in need and education to student nurses at the University of Southern Maine.

Stop in between 2 and 4 p.m. and sample 15 to 20 wines. Your $20 admission fee – all of it – will be used to buy medical supplies.


YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT: It’s the time of year when gingerbread porn starts popping up everywhere.

Trish Moroz, also known as “the Gingerbread Lady,” will bring more than 100 gingerbread houses Saturday to the Holly Berry Fair at the Rockport Opera House, located on Central Street. The fair (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is free, and you can buy one of the gingerbread houses. They start at $35, depending on the size.

If you’re the type to salivate over non-traditional gingerbread constructions, check out the cabins, castles, wharves, fishing boats and barnyards at the 2011 Gingerbread Spectacular at the Opera House, 86 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10-11). The exhibit is free, as is the hot cocoa.

Or check out the Seventh Annual Festival of Gingerbread Houses at the York Public Library, 15 Long Sands Road, Sunday to Dec. 17 and vote for your favorite. The library is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Michele Howard of “Measuring Up! Cooking for Kids” in Scarborough is holding her popular Gingerbread Lighthouse workshops again this year. It costs $50 per child, but they go home with a bakery-worthy gingerbread lighthouse (10 inches long, 6 inches wide and 10 inches high) that they decorated themselves.

The classes are generally for children ages 5 years and older. “Families are more than welcome,” Howard said. “Some kids don’t want their parents to be here.” Children under 5 are allowed, but must be accompanied by parents.

The lighthouses are completely edible, and everything is homemade except the candy used to decorate it. Most classes consist of two nights – one to learn how to make the dough and assemble the house, and a second class for decorating.

For a schedule of classes, go to


HAVE A PINT, HIT THE SLOPES: Planning to squeeze in a little skiing over the holidays? Visit one of Sebago Brewing Company’s pubs in Portland, Scarborough, Kennebunk or Gorham on Thursday and get a free lift ticket for Saddleback Mountain.

Sebago’s “Powder Keg” party will be held from 4 to 8 p.m., and the first 3,000 people who register when they arrive will get a free early-season lift ticket valid from Dec. 17 through Christmas Day, and from Jan. 2-13.


GO UNDERGROUND: Jeff Kingman, a former Portland chef who moved out to that other Portland a few years ago, came back to Maine in August. One of the things he noticed upon his return was that underground dining hasn’t yet taken hold here. Kingman, who once worked as executive chef at Bintliff’s American Cafe, has decided to try to change that.

Kingman now lives on Peaks Island, and is director of sales for a Florida-based social media company. But he is still a chef at heart. He’s launching a monthly “dining experience” called the Peaks Island Gastro Society (PIGS) that will “bring people together to enjoy some good food and beverage and talk about pressing issues of the day.”

The first event is a free holiday launch party and open house Dec. 10 for 16 or so guests. The menu consists of fine cheeses; roast pumpkin soup; bacon lobster pops; oysters; two-day marinated and slow-smoked prime rib; Atlantic salmon pave; accoutrements and side dishes; chocolate pieces and Bard coffees.

Kingman says 12 spots are already filled, but he can take another four to six people. If you’re interested, email him at [email protected] Kingman promises to get you to the dock in time for the last ferry back to Portland.

If you miss this event, Kingman will be holding the private dinners monthly beginning in January and continuing at least through May, but they will be limited to eight people each. The suggested contribution for those dinners is $100.

“About Dec. 17 or so, I’ll kick out a six-course menu for eight people through social media and through the blog and whatever email addresses locally I have,” Kingman said. “The first eight people that say they’re coming and put down their ‘suggested contribution’ are the guests for that night.”

The blog can be found at:


GET COOKIN’: Want to learn how to make holiday almond macarons? How about some treats to put in Fido’s stocking? The Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York has a lot of holiday-themed classes this year.

See one you like? Register by calling (877) 899-8363, or email [email protected]

Thursday: Les Petits Macarons, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., $50. Learn how to make holiday almond macarons, cocoa macarons with pumpkin-bourbon buttercream, peppermint-ganache macarons and coconut macarons with key lime curd.

Friday: Buche de Noel, 6 to 7:30 p.m., $40. Learn how to make a classic French yule log.

Dec. 8: Holiday Antipasto Party, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., $40. Learn how to make asparagus fritters, mini arancini with beef and mozzarella, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp stuffed with fontina, and roasted tomatoes and fresh mozzarella crostini.

Dec. 9: Making Holiday Treats, 4 to 5:30 p.m., $40. Meg Swoboda of Sweet Marguerites will show you how to temper chocolate and make holiday treats.

Dec. 15: Taking the Stress Out of Holiday Cooking, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., $40. A session with chef David Martin, who will prepare five dishes for your holiday table.

Dec. 15: Holiday Treats for Your Furry Best Friend, 6 to 7:30 p.m., $40. Doesn’t your dog want a snowman-shaped biscuit? Learn how to make holiday-shaped treats including vegetarian dog biscuits, wheat-free biscuits and beef-flavored biscuits.

Dec. 22: Not Your Traditional Holiday Dinner, 6 to 7:30 p.m., $50. How about serving those roasted chestnuts with black pepper and honey?

Dec. 29: Ringing in the New Year, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., $45. A menu of “lucky” foods from around the world that includes a Cuban-style roast pork with grapes and a New Year’s orange and brandy cake.


FEAST ON FISH: Every year on Christmas Eve, Cinque Terre in Portland hosts a traditional “Feast of 7 Fishes” dinner.

This year’s menu will be a seafood trio of tuna tartare, codfish and chilled Maine crab meat; bay scallops with spicy tomato basil fonduta; pasta of clams and mussels with garlic and black olives; grilled octopus and shrimp with potatoes, capers and winter spinach; and a trio of desserts.

The fixed-price dinner will be served from 3 to 8 p.m. and cost $50 per person. (A limited a la carte menu will also be available.) For reservations, call 347-6154. Cinque Terre is located at 36 Wharf St.


COOO-KIES! If you think your Christmas cookies would make a certain blue monster drool and Martha Stewart turn green with envy, fire up those mixers, light those ovens and make a couple of batches for Rabelais’ annual cookie swap.

Rabelais, a culinary book store at 86 Middle St. in Portland, asks that you bring three to four dozen cookies to share at this fun event, which will be held 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. You should also bring along a container to tote your cookie stash home after all the trading is done.

For more information, call 774-1044.


EGG(NOG) AND TOAST: After hours of scouring downtown Portland for all the goodies you’ll put under the tree, rest your aching feet at an Old Port restaurant and sample one of the many holiday cocktails that local bartenders are cooking up to help you take that “if I hear one more round of ‘Santa Baby,’ I’m going to scream” edge off your day.

At David’s in Monument Square, for example, bartender Patrick Morang will be serving an eggnog martini made with vanilla-flavored vodka and low-fat eggnog, and sprinkled with nutmeg. A small candy cane in the glass completes the festive feel.

Also on David’s new seasonal drink menu: The Jimmy B, made with Jim Beam bourbon, black cherry-ginger balsamic vinegar, and a dash of plum bitters. This one is garnished with a piece of candied ginger.


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad