As we all adjust to this new – hopefully, temporary – normal, take comfort in the fact that plenty of creative, imaginative people are searching for ways to make our lives a little better while we wait out this pandemic.

One of those is Brunswick chef Ali Waks Adams, who (along with friends Jenn Legnini of Turtle Rock Farm and Emily Butters, co-founder and former owner of Royal Rose Syrups) has come up with a whack-a-doodle idea that just might wash a little of that social distancing stress away.

Adams has hosted a lot of pop-up dinners, which by their very nature require rubbing elbows with others at the table. Now she’s come up with Virtual Pop-Ups – her way, she says, of bringing “some joy into the mix.” A virtual pop-up is a ready-made, themed dinner, prepaid and packed “to go along with a suggested movie, play list, costume, and other things we haven’t thought of yet,” Adams wrote in a recent email about the idea. Everyone who participates will eat the same dinner and do the same thing. The idea is to make them feel less isolated.

Bartenders around the country are trying something similar – virtual happy hours, where the bartender shows you how to make a drink online and you tip him or her via a mobile pay app.

The first Virtual Pop-Up is scheduled for March 27 and will focus on noodles. The menu includes a half-dozen options, such as Tonkatsu Ramen with Pork Belly and soy sauce egg and greens for $15 or a Pork Belly Sandwich with black garlic butter, plum sauce and pickles for $12. Order at Eventbrite.com, and the food will be available for pick up at Dog Bar Jim, 90 Union St. in Brunswick from 2 to 6 p.m. Each order comes with heating instructions, a suggested play list, and a movie watch list.

Help hungry students

After Portland Public Schools announced Sunday that it was closing schools for two weeks, local restaurants stepped up to help feed children who rely on school programs for healthy meals until the schools can put an alternative program in place.

Among the restaurants quickly preparing 1,700 meals for delivery to the schools were Chaval, Piccolo, Little Giant, Tipo, Central Provisions, Mr. Tuna and LB Kitchen. They did this at a time when their own businesses are in trouble because of coronavirus restrictions.

Now Full Plates Full Potential, the nonprofit that coordinated the meal prep and delivery, is asking the public to chip in as well. It’s created an emergency fund to be sure that such programs continue statewide. As many as 43 percent of Maine’s 184,000 students rely on school meals each day. Full Plates is contributing $10,000 to the fund, and invites the public to contribute. Go to fullplates.org and hit the green button.

Beard Awards indefinitely postponed

Fore Street in Portland is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurant category. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

This time of year is normally really exciting for the restaurant industry. The finalists for James Beard Awards are always announced in March; this year’s announcement was scheduled for next Wednesday. (A dozen Mainers are semifinalists.)

But the foundation, which had already postponed the awards ceremony, usually held in May, until summer because of coronavirus, has decided to postpone the finalists announcement as well. When new dates are chosen, they will be posted on both the foundation’s website and on social media.

Ordering in

Uber Eats has announced it will try to give a boost to the struggling restaurant industry by offering free delivery and promoting independent restaurants during the coronavirus crisis.


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