Melissa Kelly, chef/owner of Primo in Rockland, is a big fan of  the movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” So when the 20th anniversary of Primo rolled around, she cooked up an idea with Kate McAleer, owner of Rockland-based Bixby & Co., maker of fine chocolates.

These custom chocolate bars mark Primo’s 20th anniversary. Five of the bars contain a golden ticket entitling the buyer to a prize. Photo courtesy of Bixby & Co.

The 20 Karat Bar (it’s got 20 cute little carrots on the label) went into production about two weeks ago, 500 bars per run, and will be made until Jan. 1. Inside five of those chocolate bars will be golden tickets, each of which comes with a prize, such as dinner for two at Primo. (Kelly is keeping most of the prizes a secret. “The prizes are listed on the golden ticket,” McAleer said. “Even I don’t know what the prizes are.”) One lucky ticket holder will get a grand prize, Kelly said. In the 1971 film, Willy Wonka’s prizes were a tour of his chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate; the grand prize – the chocolate factory itself – went to the child who showed the best moral character.

“I always loved Willy Wonka growing up, and I thought it would be really fun to do,” Kelly said.

The 2-ounce bars cost $12 each and are made with 70 percent single-origin Dominican Republic bean-to-bar chocolate, McAleer said. The back side of the bars are sprinkled with the spiced almonds that are a customer favorite at the Primo bar. The golden tickets were made out of gold mylar by an artist who works at Primo.

“I wasn’t sure how they would sell,” Kelly said, “but we sold the first 500 really fast.”

When Primo opened 20 years ago, it had one greenhouse on site and an acre of vegetables to supply the kitchen. Kelly’s dream was to have a “full-circle kitchen,” which would serve only food grown on the restaurant’s 4-acre property or from nearby farms. Another greenhouse and a James Beard award later, Kelly has a staff of 60 and raises chickens, ducks, guinea hens and pigs, as well as 3 acres of vegetables. In 2013, Bon Appetit named Primo one of the 20 most important restaurants in the United States, calling it “one of the country’s most sincere and exciting expressions of farm to table.”


To celebrate Primo’s 20 years, Kelly refinished the restaurant’s floors and added a new porch. She’s been holding monthly cooking classes, gardening classes and wine dinners. She’s planning one of her “diva dinners” for September or October, for which famous women chefs from across the country come to Rockland to cook dinner. Among the chefs she’s trying to schedule are her close friends Nancy Silverton, Carmen Gonzalez and Emily Luchetti. Proceeds will benefit a local charity, Kelly said.

Kelly is still trying to get all the women’s calendars coordinated, so stay tuned. Until then, well, there’s chocolate.

The first two runs of anniversary chocolate bars have sold out. They contained two golden tickets (one per run) personally placed in the bars by Kelly. That means two golden tickets are already in winners’ hands somewhere, prizes as yet unclaimed.

Buy the chocolate bars at Primo in Maine, Florida and Arizona; on the website and at the company’s retail store in Rockland; and in several midcoast retail stores, including Bleeker and Greer and the Rayr Wine Shop in Rockport; The Good Tern Coop in Rockland: Josephine in Camden. “The golden ticket could be anywhere, in any of the locations,” McAleer said.

In a yurt down by the river

Tops’L Farm in Waldoboro has hosted two “river dinners” so far this summer, but you still have time to catch the last one. The farm, located on the Medomak River, invites 36 diners to take a 10-minute hike down to the river, where on Aug. 22 Jordan Rubin of Mr. Tuna and Austin Street Brewery, both from Portland, will be creating a five-course meal for $75 per person.


The price includes a welcome cocktail and beer sampling. The event takes place rain or shine. In the event of rain, diners are seated in a yurt.

If this sounds intriguing but you can’t make this date, the farm plans to host some wild game dinners in the fall. For more information, go to

And a few more events to put on your plate

Hope you’re hungry in August, because it’s a big food festival month. The Maine Lobster Festival runs through Sunday, and the towns of Wilton, Machias and Union all host blueberry festivals in August.

The town of Norway will celebrate western Maine’s local foods movement at the 4th Annual Foothills Food Festival from noon until 6 p.m. on Aug. 10. Local farms will be selling vegetables, fruit, dairy products, meats, wild edibles, honey and maple syrup. Also look for baked goods, cheese, ice cream, and specialty foods and snacks. Get early bird tickets online to the beer garden, which opens at 1 p.m. and costs $25; the price includes a tasting from all the brewers.

Or take a drive up to Fort Kent Aug. 9-11 for the Ploye Festival, which includes the making of the world’s largest ploye. The record for the huge buckwheat pancake is 12 feet across. Enter the ploye-eating contest or the ploye wrestling contest. (It’s unclear if you’re actually wrestling ployes or people dressed like them.) The festival is held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

On Aug. 10, check out the Maine Red Hot Dog Festival in Dexter from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The hot dog-eating contest is practically a requirement here, but there’s also a pie-eating contest for the kids.

Finally, professional barbecue teams from all over the country will be firing up their grills and smokers in Saco on Aug. 11 for the Maine State Champion BBQ Festival. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Aquaboggan Water Park, 980 Portland Road. Vendors will be selling barbecue plates, kettle corn and cotton candy.


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