About 500 people left the Maine Restaurant Week Signature Event at Prime-Mercedes Benz in Scarborough last Sunday night with a sugar high, if not a buzz as well.

The auto center-turned-event hall hosted more than a dozen cocktail competitors and 10 dessert competitors, each of whom served up samples for two hours in hopes of winning the most vote tokens.

“It’s good to see everyone bringing in the different flavors,” said Bill West of Portland. “It gets you amped up to go out to the restaurants.”

“I can’t say any favorites,” said Scott Hagan of Portland. “Most of them did a good job on the mix.”

“This is definitely creative,” said Rick Farrar of Saco as he sampled Zapoteca’s Fung Shui Martini, a mix of vodka, simple syrup and wasabi paste with cucumber and lemon.

“I have a cold and it helps clear the nostrils,” said Nathan O’Leary of Portland after sipping the martini.


First-time competitor Top of the East won the People’s Choice award in the cocktail competition for Snow White’s Poison, a mix of Double Cross vodka, pear, lemon juice and cider. Bartender Joshua Miranda mixed up the winning concoction, which was served dramatically by Jessica Candage in the guise of an edgy Snow White.

Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn got rave reviews from several tasters who couldn’t describe its dessert at all. The tiny treat developed by Jason Sturdivant packed a lot of flavor punch, with lemongrass mousse, fennel pollen macaron, blueberry compote and sweet picked fennel.

But it was a more traditional combination of flavors that won the most votes.

David’s Opus Ten took the People’s Choice award in the dessert competition for the second year in a row, this time with rum flambeed banana with chocolate brownie and ice cream – an intriguing mix of flavors, textures and temperatures. David Turin, Maine Chef of the Year 2012, was the man behind the recipe, assisted by Bo Byrne, who flambeed with flair.

All cocktail competitors were eligible to have their creation named the Down East Best of Maine Cocktail by the editors at Down East Magazine. That first-time award went to the Maine Pinetini by executive chef Shelby Stevens at Natalie’s in Camden, a mix of Double Cross, ginger liqueur, cardamom simple syrup, clementine and lime juice and zest, topped with a ginger and pine tea foam.

With Double Cross as an event sponsor, most of the cocktail competitors included the brand-name vodka. But 40 Paper, another restaurant based in Camden, used Ilegal Mezcal Reposado as a base in a complicated mix with lime, brown simple syrup, beet-ginger shrub, grapefruit bitters, Angostura and Maine Root Ginger Brew.


And it was 40 Paper that won the cocktail competition judged by the professionals, Andrew Volk of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club; Greg Bell, bartender at The Spotted Pig and John Dory Oyster Bar in New York; and Susan Axelrod, who writes about food for the Portland Press Herald. With the criteria of appearance, creativity and taste, the judges narrowed the competitors to seven finalists before whittling down the prospects; there have been three finalists in previous years, indicating increasingly tight competition.

The event benefited Preble Street’s programs to address hunger and homelessness.

“We tried all the cocktails, and it was really impressive. Everyone brought their A game,” said John Hixson, prize-winning mixologist from 40 Paper. “So we’re really lucky.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. Email her at: amyedits@aol.com

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