The curtain finally goes up Halloween night on The Perfect Spell, a pop-up “theatrical restaurant” in Freeport where dinner is accompanied by a show filled with wizardry and magic.

The Perfect Spell, which will close on Halloween night 2020, was created by two central Maine restaurateurs, Joseph Richards and Marcus Verrill, who say they have nearly sold out for the entire year before they’ve even opened. They planned to open in Pownal in September, but permitting issues forced them to change locations. The restaurant’s new home is 9 Mechanic St. in Freeport.

Diners pay $15 for the entertainment portion of the evening and food and drinks are ordered separately. A sample menu includes dishes such as truffled mac and cheese; beef burgundy tips; a cranberry-glazed, smoked turkey leg; lobster stew; and curry mussels. Entree prices range from $15 to $25. Smoked cocktails and mocktails should add to the atmosphere, although the owners haven’t yet received their liquor license.

In a message sent while they were getting ready for their opening, Richards and Verrill said they created the menu “to be unique in our own little way. We did some research and we use herbs that combined with witchcraft and wizardry.”

The dinner theater will include a “witchcraft gift shop” on the first floor.

Blue Spoon Café owners put more on their plate

Interior of The Blue Spoon Cafe in Portland’s West End. Aimsel Ponti/Staff Writer

The Blue Spoon Café, which in May opened in the former Aurora Provisions space in Portland’s West End, has transitioned from a counter service-only place where customers could grab a coffee and sandwich into a full-service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch.

The change took place about two weeks ago, according to Will Lavey, executive chef and co-owner of the café with his wife, Liz Koenigsberg, who serves as general manager. The couple also own the Blue Spoon restaurant in Portland’s East End, and they run a catering business out of the Pine Street location.

Lavey said they initially kept the counter-service style, along with a small market and selection of prepared foods, because of the neighborhood’s desire to have a business similar to Aurora Provisions take over the space when that business closed. “Our experience really doesn’t lie too much in doing a market-type business involving counter service,” Lavey said. “We gave it six months and decided we needed to make a change.”

He said the owner of the building, local developer Tom Landry, agreed to a short-term trial of the new style, and the change is now permanent. Breakfast and lunch is served from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Lavey said he expects to start offering brunch on Saturdays sometime in the next few weeks. The café is closed on Sundays.

Lavey added that customers can still call in to-go orders. The café will soon be listed on the food delivery service 2DineIn as well.

Vegetarians rejoice

The owners of the Falafel Mafia food truck plan to open Portland’s first hummusiya – a restaurant that focuses on hummus and mezze plates – in November.

The restaurant will be located in the former Scattoloni Bakery at One Monument Way in downtown Portland and will be called Nura, which is Persian for “light,” said Dylan Gardner, who is co-owner with his brother Cameron.

Nura will serve breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. The restaurant will probably stay open until 7 p.m., when the building closes for the day, but will offer no separate dinner menu, Gardner said. The space will seat about 30 customers, including at a new bar.

The Gardners hope to open Nura before the end of November.

Maine’s Pantry for sale

Elena Morrow-Spitzer, owner of Maine’s Pantry, says she’s ready to sell the business, which focuses on Maine-made foods. Photo by John Ewing

Attention Maine food lovers: Your dream job has just become available. Maine’s Pantry, the Commercial Street store in Portland that sells only Maine products – from blueberry jams to craft beers – is for sale.

Owner Elena Morrow-Spitzer, who founded the store in 1999, is ready to move on. “I don’t have a silly story,” she said. “I don’t hate people or anything. I’ve loved being in Portland.”

Morrow-Spitzer says that now that her children are grown, she’s ready to retire and move on. She and her husband would like to do more traveling, and she would like to devote more time to her other passion – coaching ice skaters. “I’m really married to the store, a lot of times seven days a week, and it’s a lot,” she said. “I’d like to be able to slow down a little.”

According to the online listing from commercial broker Craig Church, the asking price for the business is $99,000. Maine’s Pantry leases space at 250 Commercial St. and even has a few free parking spaces for customers – unusual for the Old Port. While there has been some interest from people who simply want to lease that space, Morrow-Spitzer said she “would love to have somebody take (the business) over and keep it going.” She said she’s willing to stay on a bit to help with the transition.

The business already includes a café (with both indoor and outdoor seating) that serves breakfast sandwiches and an espresso bar, but Morrow-Spitzer believes that could be expanded to include lunch.

Morrow-Spitzer said her favorite thing about owning Maine’s Pantry has been the people she’s met, from cruise ship passengers to locals sending gift baskets of Maine foods. She’s also proud of the number of Maine food producers she’s been able to help support. “It really makes me happy,” she said. “There’s really hundreds, and that’s kind of a cool thing.”

Sur Lie searching for new chef
Sur Lie, the tapas-style restaurant at 11 Free St. in Portland, is looking for a new chef, according to a recent Facebook post. Chef Emil Rivera, who put the restaurant on the map, is moving on after five-and-a-half years, “focusing on a career that will allow him to be home with his family.”

Gorgeous Gelato moving production

Mariagrazia and Donato Giovine, owners of Gorgeous Gelato in Portland, have announced they’re moving production of their gelato to Union Wharf, just a few steps from their flagship store at 434 Fore St. The move means more space for gelato machines and a better, more efficient layout.

Terra Cotta Pasta Co. moving – but just down the street

Sicilian-style pizza slab slice at Terra Cotta Pasta Co. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Terra Cotta Pasta Co., 501 Cottage Road in South Portland, home of take-out pastas, raviolis, sauces and other Italian-inspired foods, will close Monday so the business can move down the road to 435b Cottage Road, next door to Thai Taste.

Bill Boutwell, a Terra Cotta manager, said he expects the new location to open Nov. 7. “The goal was to get in there before Thanksgiving because that’s a busy time for us,” he said.

Boutwell said the new space is about 1,000 square feet larger, making it possible to expand the menu and upgrade the business. “The kitchen is totally tricked out with everything you can imagine, from the simplest things like floor drains to brand new equipment and a state-of-the-art hood system,” Boutwell said.

The new restaurant will have 10 indoor bar seats, as well as some outdoor seating. Customers will be able to order their favorite pasta, sauce and vegetables from a pasta bar and watch it be prepared in an open kitchen. Terra Cotta also plans to expand its Sicilian slab, flatbread and sandwich options, and the soup station will have more choices as well.

Boutwell said Terra Cotta is also looking into offering more retail items, including packaged herbs and spices sold under the Terra Cotta logo.

The (new) Cheese Shop of Portland opens Friday

The Cheese Shop of Portland has moved from its Black Box business incubator space on Washington Avenue into a nearby location that is more than triple the size. The doors are scheduled to open Friday.

The new, 950-square-foot space at 107 Washington Ave. will allow the owners to offer in-store tastings and classes, expand its sandwich menu and add more products to the shelves, including staples such as milk, eggs and yogurt. The new store has cafe seating.


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