Ben Jackson, the chef at Drifters Wife in Portland, is a finalist for a James Beard Award in the Best Chef: Northeast category this year and earned 4 1/2 stars from the Portland Press Herald in 2018, but it may be a long time before you can taste his food again.

The owners of the restaurant announced on social media Saturday that they are shutting down their curbside-to-go program, which wasn’t profitable even with the help of a PPP loan, and are closing the restaurant indefinitely.

“It’s hard to write this: the world right now does not need Drifters Wife,” owners Peter and Orenda Hale wrote. “We fully understand that the magic of what we’ve built is not transferable to food in take-out boxes dropped in your trunk by someone smiling behind a mask. The magic is indeed within these four walls. It is our team. It is the music, perhaps too loud at times. It is the lively conversations buzzing through the open, airy dining room. It is the beauty of seeing Ben’s food before you eat it. It is drinking wine with friends. It is hugs and handshakes and kisses.”

Drifters Wife in happier days. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Hales had presumed they would re-open Drifters Wife on June 1, the date Maine restaurants in the four counties where they remain closed (Cumberland, York, Androscoggin and Penobscot) will be allowed to open again, but as that date drew closer, the Hales said, “it became clear that every single person on our staff, including ourselves, did not feel safe” re-opening on that day.

Maine & Loire, the wine shop affiliated with Drifters Wife, remains open for curbside pickup and delivery, and the Hales say if fans of Drifters Wife want to support the eventual re-opening of the restaurant, they should consider shopping there. Call the shop at (207) 805-1336, or order through its new online shop at maineandloire.com.

Win local foods and feed Maine

A group of local food manufacturers has organized a fundraiser for Good Shepherd Food Bank to fight food insecurity, which has been on the rise in Maine since the pandemic started.

The Maine Food Collaborative – made up of companies such as Ocean’s Balance, Luke’s Lobster, GrandyOats, Stonewall Kitchen and Gelato Fiasco – has put together a virtual food drive for Good Shepherd called “Mainers Helping Mainers: Naturally Good.” Each donor to the drive, which is expected to go live online May 28, will be eligible for a grand prize of donated goods worth more than $1,500. A $10 donation is good for one virtual raffle ticket and buys 12 meals for Mainers in need. A $90 donation gets you 10 virtual tickets.

The fundraiser will run through June 3, and a winner will be chosen on June 5.

According to the food bank, the state will need $6.3 million to address an expected 39 percent increase in food insecurity in Maine over the next six months.

To donate beginning May 28, go to gsfb.org/donate/vfd/?id=4636.

The latest take-out options

Tandem Bakery has tweaked its take-out service since everything has been selling out fast. Photo by Greta Rybus

Tandem Bakery in Portland is tweaking its new to-go program, which was so popular when it opened last weekend that it sold out well in advance. The bakery will now take orders Saturday through noon Tuesday for food to be picked up the following weekend.

They may have to tweak the system again, if another popular bakery’s experience is any indication. Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland often sells out of items online very quickly. About three weeks ago, I tried to order a cinnamon bun, along with a couple of other items (some of the best pimento cheese in Maine, for one), and by the time I clicked the button to check out – just a few seconds later – the bun had vanished from my cart, and was marked “sold out.” Never underestimate the power of sugar during a pandemic.

Sea Dog Broadway in South Portland has started curbside pickup and delivery. Hours vary for each service, so go to broadway.seadogbrewing.com or the restaurant’s Facebook page for details. The menu is wide ranging, and on some days there are specials, such as the Saturday special of two (one-topping) pizzas plus a six-pack of Sea Dog beer or soda for $30.

Leeward, a new Portland restaurant that had to close almost as soon as it opened thanks to the pandemic, has launched a pre-order take-out service. Order by 9 p.m. Sunday for pick-up on Thursday. The restaurant is selling fresh pasta dinner kits that you finish at home, along with gelato, cookies, bottled cocktails and wines. View the menu and place orders at leewardmaine.com.

This year, stuck-at-home Mainers are thinking about exploring parts of the state usually overrun with summer tourists. Should you visit Mount Desert Island, rest assured at least two popular restaurants can feed you.

Havana in Bar Harbor does not yet have a date for re-opening its dining room, but on Friday the restaurant will start offering curbside pickup Tuesdays through Sundays. Watch for the new take-out menu at havanamaine.com.

Abel’s Lobster in Bar Harbor will open in June with take-out and outdoor dining. Photo courtesy of Bar Harbor Catering Co.

Abel’s Lobster, a new oceanside restaurant located in the Henry R. Abel & Co. boatyard, plans to open in June with take-out and outdoor dining at 20 socially-distanced picnic tables. Watch for the menu and additional details at bhcaterco.com/abelslobster; on Facebook at facebook.com/AbelsLobster; and on Instagram at @abelslobstermdi

Restaurants making it work

Join several Maine restaurant owners online at 1 p.m. today for Making It Work: Restaurants in Flux.

Carol Coultas, business projects editor at the Portland Press Herald, will moderate a panel of restaurant industry professionals: Krista Cole, owner of Sur Lie; Vanessa Santarelli, owner of Your Maine Concierge; and Andrew Volk, owner of the Hunt & Alpine Club in Portland. The panelists will discuss how they and other Maine restaurant owners are finding new ways to generate revenue. To register, go to pressherald.com/2020/05/15/making-it-work-restaurants-in-flux/

Thank You, the beer, has special meaning this year

Every year Maine Beer Co. releases an IPA with a different recipe but the same name – Thank You.

This year’s version, released Tuesday, was made with Maine-grown grains and experimental hop varietals, and according to the Freeport-based brewery has aromas of mango, grapefruit and lemon, with notes of grass, flowers and bread.


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