Chefs competition, tastings and more highlight events at several locations.

Highlighted by the Flavors of Freeport Chef’s Signature Series & Ice Bar, FreeportUSA has attractions in store for foodies throughout this weekend during its annual Flavors of Freeport celebration.

Local chefs and other purveyors of fine food and drink – 27 in all – will compete in the Freeport Chef’s Signature Series on Friday, Feb. 20, from 5-8 p.m. The food competition and the ice bar, a winter cocktail lounge, will be held, as always, at the Hilton Garden Inn on Park Street.

Kelly Edwards, executive director at FreeportUSA, said that Flavors of Freeport normally attracts local people. But with the help of a grant from the Maine Office of Tourism, it should have a longer reach this year.

“I think this year we’ll see an increase in people from the Boston area, and beyond,” Edwards said. “It’s a way to drive traffic to Freeport in the off season.”

Keith McBride, who heads the Freeport Economic Development Corp., said that Freeport is increasingly attracting specialty food makers and sellers.

“Maine is getting a ton of attention nationwide for quality food. People in Freeport want to showcase their craft on a small scale. We’ve noticed a lot of attention on the part of specialty foods producers. They want to produce in Freeport. ‘Made in Freeport’ means a lot to their product,’” McBride said.

FreeportUSA decided last time to take a year off from the Freeport Chef’s Signature Series competition – the chefs were there, indeed, but there was no contest. This year, the competition is back. Chris Basset, the executive chef at Azure Cafe, was the last winner.

“This year, local journalists and food bloggers will do the award for their favorite flavor, and for best display,” Edwards said. “It’s a big event, with lots to choose from. Wine purveyors and local craft brewers will also be competing.”

FreeportUSA works with Josh Cushing, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn, to coordinate the Freeport Chef’s Signature Series & Ice Bar.

“He’s a huge help getting this together for us,” Edwards said.

Participants include The Harraseeket Inn, Freeport Cafe, The Garden Grille & Bar, Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern, Bow Street Market, Azure Cafe, Lindt Chocolate, Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, Gritty McDuff’s and more.

At the same time people are tasting the offerings of the chefs, others will gather at the inn’s winter cocktail lounge for the ice bar, which features a roaring fire pit, a throne and ice luge. Bartenders pour martinis along the luge, built specially for this event every year, into a glass.

Matt Morrison, chief operating officer for Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern, said Flavors of Freeport is one of his favorites.

“If not the best event in Freeport,” he said, “it’s right up there. I would have a hard time going to Flavors of Freeport, and not having a great time.”

Linda Bean’s chefs will compete right alongside the others in the chef’s signature series. Morrison said that the chefs were debating what they would be serving, although lobster is a signature dish for Linda Bean’s.

“We’re going to do what we can to win it,” he said. “Everybody takes a lot of pride in outdoing the other person. It’s a friendly competition, but everybody wants to win it. We won for best display once. It’s a really fun night.”

Other events during the weekend include food, liquor and wine tastings in several locations throughout town.


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