A new business venture that began at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland aims to put more money in fishermen’s pockets and spread the love for high-quality-but-under-harvested Gulf of Maine fish to retailers and chefs in high-end restaurants.

Gulf of Maine Sashimi, the first project of GMRI’s Ocean Business Accelerator, already is selling under-used, sustainably harvested fish such as flounder, monkfish, haddock, hake, whiting, redfish, mackerel and squid directly to 25 restaurants, mostly in Maine, according to Jen Levin, president and CEO of the company. The fish also are being sold to a distributor, which in turn sells to restaurants in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C.

By focusing on quality, Gulf of Maine Sashimi is able to sell its fish at a 20 to 400 percent premium over auction prices, Levi said.

Fishermen who sell to Gulf of Maine Sashimi are trained in best-handling practices inspired by the Japanese method called ikejime, which means “to kill with purpose.” The fish are killed with a brain spike, Levin said.

“It actually reduces the stress, and the chemicals that go into the flesh,” she said. “The flesh doesn’t break down as quickly, the taste and the texture are more complex.”

The fishermen then bleed the fish and quickly chill them.

“This handling then enables chefs to actually hold onto the fish longer,” Levin said. “It’s almost like aging it, like you would age meat or cheese.”

Take a road trip for seasonal treats

Pie pops from Sugar Spell Photo courtesy of Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery

Looking for goodies for Grandma? Wine for Aunt Wilma? Chocolates for cousin Cal? Shop seasonal cheeses and chocolates at the 10th annual Holiday Open House Dec. 14-15 at Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery in Union. The popular event will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the winery, located at 347 Carroll Road. In addition to sampling wines and spirits from Sweetgrass, you’ll find cheeses from Appleton Creamery, sweets (pie on a stick!) from Sugar Spell Sweets in New Harbor, and chocolates from The Chocolate Pan in Palermo.

Bottoms up, then read a book

Have a little whiskey with your white Christmas. Aaron Goldfarb, author of “Hacking Whiskey” and “Gather Around Cocktails,” is coming to Portland Dec. 11 for a book signing. Goldfarb writes about drinking culture for Esquire, Punch and Whiskey Advocate, among other publications. He’ll appear from 6-8 p.m. at Vena’s Fizz House, 345 Fore St. Vena’s will offer half off any drink on the menu with the purchase of a book.

Take a baking class, then sip tea in style

Relieve the stress of holiday shopping by pampering yourself with a baking class followed by (insert proper British accent here) high tea. Cas Wolters, a Dutch celebrity baker who was on the Dutch version of the Great British Baking Show, is scheduled to teach a holiday treats baking class at Natalie’s in the Camden Harbour Inn, 83 Bay View St., at 11 a.m. Dec. 14. The class costs $55.

Then from noon until 4 p.m., indulge in finger sandwiches, savory snacks, scones and cream at high tea. The menu includes a selection of teas and a glass of Champagne or Prosecco. The cost is $49 before tax and tip.

For reservations to either or both of these events, call 207-236-7008.

Gardens Aglow dining deals

Lights reflect on the pond in the Children’s Garden at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Photo by Derek Davis/staff photographer

If you have plans to attend Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay (it runs through Dec. 31), you can expect to work up an appetite walking around looking at the more than 650,000 lights on display. The garden’s market and snack shack will have some grab-and-go food for sale, but there will be no sit-down dinner service at the Kitchen Garden Café this year. What to do? Turns out several area restaurants are offering specials and discounts for people who bring in their Gardens Aglow tickets.

What would warm you up after a couple of hours walking around in the cold and dark? How about a four-course, candlelit meal by a roaring fire? The Boothbay Craft Brewery and Watershed Tavern, 301 Adams Pond Road in Boothbay, is offering fixed price “Taverns Aglow Dinners” limited to 45 people each night. Start by dipping apple wedges and artisanal bread into wood-fired Raclette cheese. The second course is a “Snow Globe Salad” – cute idea – served in a Mason jar. For the third course, choose from North Atlantic salmon ($97 per person), filet mignon ($97), or roasted acorn squash ($90). Dessert is your choice of a hot flourless chocolate torte or a Meyer lemon bar. The price includes all beverages (beer, wine or cocktails), tax and tip. For reservations, call 207-633-3411.

If you want a little something to warm you up before you go to the gardens, Brady’s, 25 Union St., Boothbay Harbor, will have an outdoor Hot Toddy Bar opening at 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Outdoor heaters and entertainment included.

Show the folks at Footbridge Brewery your Gardens Aglow ticket and get a 10 percent discount. The brewery is located at 25 Granary Way, Boothbay Harbor.

Taka Mediterranean Bar and Grill, 16B Wharf St., Boothbay Harbor, will give a 15 percent discount when you show your Gardens Aglow ticket.

The Boat House Bistro, 12 By-Way, Boothbay Harbor, has a special 4-6 p.m. happy hour for all Gardens Aglow visitors. (Show your ticket to your server.)

Cameron Clan Snack Co., 798 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay, makers of kettle corn and fudge, is hosting a Food Truck Alley during Gardens Aglow.

Noble Kitchen + Bar, 4 Noble St., Brunswick, will give a 15 percent discount to road trippers on their way home. (Alcohol not included.)

Sarah’s in Wiscasset is offering a special menu for Gardens Aglow diners, including soups and sandwiches, crab cakes, lobster, meatloaf, and roasted vegetable lasagna.


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