Raquel and Jake Stevens have leased 85 Free St. in Portland and hope to open their new 55-seat restaurant, Leeward, before the end of the year. It will focus on handmade pastas, but will also serve lots of vegetables and a few local meat and seafood entrees, according to Raquel Stevens.

Whole wheat Bigoli noodles with peach-braised pork, lobster mushrooms and pecorino, served at a Leeward pop-up dinner. Photo courtesy of Raquel Stevens

The couple, both longtime restaurant people, moved here in 2017 from the other Portland, where Jake Stevens worked as chef de cuisine at Beast. He is now at Eventide Oyster Co. on Middle Street, and Raquel Stevens, who grew up in New England, works at Drifters Wife on Washington Avenue. They’ve been testing out their new restaurant’s concept through a series of pop-up dinners held over the past year at The Honey Paw.

Raquel Stevens said they chose the name Leeward long before they landed in Maine because they “liked the implications of the word.”

“The leeward side of anything is that which is sheltered from the wind, and so a nice place to relax and spend some time,” she said.

Jake will run the kitchen at Leeward, and Raquel will manage the front of the house and the wine program, which will feature “wines made thoughtfully with minimum intervention,” she said. There also will be a full bar.

Raquel Stevens said it has been “incredibly fun and rewarding” testing the concept at Eventide, and “we find ourselves continually energized by the city and the many wonderful people we’ve met here in the last two years.”

Sidle up to a cider bar, or two

Michael Vassallo, former owner of Good News Coffee & Package at 28 Brackett St. on Portland’s West End, has transformed the business into what he calls “Portland’s first cider-centric bar” and is offering “a continuously rotating selection of hard cider from Maine and beyond.”

Sangria with Whaleback Farm Northern Native Elderberry cider. Photo courtesy of The Cider House

The Cider House, which opened last weekend, serves hard cider cocktails, sparkling cider, fresh apple cider and, during the winter, hot spiced cider. Food is on the menu as well, including “rustic small plates,” cheeses, cured meats and sandwiches.

Vassallo approached the city council last spring with his idea for the place, writing in his license application that he needed to change the concept so he could find his own niche and stay in business. Good News Coffee & Package sold breakfast, coffee, beer and wine.

Vassallo’s new cider bar is located next to Harborview Park and across from LB Kitchen West. Parking is available on the street. Hours are 4-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. The bar is closed Mondays.

Next up? Anoche, a new cider and spirits bar destined for 43 Washington Ave., will serve both local and imported ciders, with a focus on ciders and foods from the Basque region of Spain, says owner Erika Colby. Colby says she’s also changing her concept somewhat; she’s planning to serve a selection of cured meats and wants to have a “ham bar” complete with hanging legs of jamón. Colby was originally targeting late August for an opening, but now says it will likely be sometime in September.

Roots Café branching out

Roots Café in Westbrook announced on its Facebook page that it is about to open a second location in South Portland. Word is that it will be located at The Point in Clarks Pond, where Mainely Wraps used to be before it closed last year. The Point is a church and community center, so Roots Café, which has a spiritual bent, should fit in well there.

Emerging from Forest, Po’ Boys part deux

Po’ Boys & Pickles opened its new location on Federal Street in Portland last week. Photo courtesy of Chris Bettera

Po’ Boys & Pickles has finally opened its second sandwich shop, located at 225 Federal St. in Portland, the former location of Federal Spice.

The new restaurant opened Thursday, five months after owner Chris Bettera announced he was interested in bringing his New Orleans-style sandwiches to the Old Port. The original Po’ Boys & Pickles, which Bettera has owned since 2015, is located at 1124 Forest Ave.

The menu at the Federal Street location offers old favorites, such as the Dirty Bird sandwich, seafood baskets, gumbo, thick shakes, coconut macaroons and several types of fries. It also includes a line of biscuit sandwiches, such as the creole sausage, egg and cheese sandwich for $4.75.

Bettera told the Press Herald in March that customers have tried to convince him to open locations in Lewiston or Bangor, but he’s more interested in recapturing business on the Portland peninsula that he lost after the redevelopment of Woodfords Corner made it more difficult for customers from downtown Portland to make the trek out Forest Avenue. Heads up: Both shops will be closed Saturday for Bettera’s wedding.

Think of the children, drink a root beer float

Order a $7 root beer float at The Press Hotel this week and all proceeds will go to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy of The Press Hotel

The Marriott corporation, owner of The Press Hotel and its restaurant, Union, got its start – who knew? – as a root beer stand in the early 1900s. The company is celebrating its humble beginnings nationally this week with Root Beer Float Week at all of its hotels in the United States and Canada. All proceeds will go to the Children’s Miracle Network, so every $7 spent on a root beer float at Union and Inkwell (The Press Hotel’s lounge) will go to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital here in Portland. Union’s float is made with Maine Root root beer, frozen and shaved into a granita, plus a scoop of vanilla gelato. It’s topped with root beer-flavored whipped cream. Root Beer Float Week began on Monday and continues through Sunday.

Restaurants unite for feel-good feasts

Westbrook is celebrating the removal of the dam at Presumpscot Falls and the expansion of a favorite local restaurant, The Frog & Turtle, by hosting a summer supper called Feast at the Falls on the boardwalk at Saccarappa Falls, 13 Bridge St.

The five-course dinner, which will include live music and dancing, is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 22. Participating restaurants, each of which will prepare a course, are 33 Elmwood, Casa Novello, Lenny’s, the Frog & Turtle and Black Dinah Chocolatiers. Beer will be provided by Mast Landing and Sebago Brewing. Seats cost $75 per person and are available through eventbrite.com. All proceeds support Discover Downtown Westbrook, a downtown revitalization group.

Full Plates Full Potential, an organization fighting childhood hunger in Maine, is sponsoring its own family-style feast in Portland from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 26.

Tavolo Infinito, or The Infinite Table, will be held at Slab Sicilian Street Food, 25 Preble St. A stellar lineup of Portland restaurants will prepare a multi-course dinner, and the Portland band Armies will provide the entertainment. Tickets are $95 each and available at fullplates.org/events. Participating restaurants so far include Slab, David’s, Isa Bistro, Dutch’s and Portland Oyster Co.

For more information, call or text Emily Merrigan, events director at Full Plates Full Potential, at (207) 807-6426.

Spam lands in inbox

You know it’s August when you start hearing about pumpkin spice-flavored products. Well, here’s one I thought I’d never see: Spam Pumpkin Spice. An emailed news release, the first of the pumpkin spice season, landed in my inbox Monday, complete with two recipes: Spam Pumpkin Spice and Fall Vegetable Hash, and Spam Pumpkin Spice Topped Waffles. (Yeah, who needs sausage or bacon with their waffles when there’s pumpkin spice-flavored Spam?)

The special edition Spam will be available beginning Sept. 23, online only at Walmart.com or Spam.com.


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