Ahmed Abbas of Ameera Bread tosses naan flatbread in his kitchen in 2019. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

If you’re a fan of Ameera bread (or its hummus), you’ve probably noticed that the popular Middle Eastern bakery and restaurant at 845 Forest Ave. has been closed for about a month now. I’m sad to report that the business – at least as you have known it – has shut down indefinitely.

And no, the pandemic is not the culprit. Owner Ahmed Abbas says he is in a protracted legal battle with a family member over the business that may take months to resolve. Meanwhile, the conflict has left Abbas and his family shut out of the bakery and with a lot of bills to pay. “My life is like a disaster, suddenly,” Abbas said.

Abbas said he and his wife are hoping to find a small spot somewhere else in Portland to open a new shop so they can start baking bread again and get back on their feet.

Fight plastics pollution with cookies

I have a sneaking suspicion these cookies are going to be good.

Leigh Kellis, founder of The Holy Donut, has launched a vegan cookie business called The Sweet Sea Company that will also help fight the scourge of plastic pollution in the oceans. The company motto: “Hope is Sweet.”

Leigh Kellis, founder of Holy Donuts, has launched a cookie company with a social mission. Photo courtesy of Chris Kast

Kellis was inspired by her daughter Avery, a surfer who found herself surrounded by floating plastic when she was training in Hawaii. The doughnut maker has partnered with Chris Kast, a Portland brand strategist and creative director, who will serve as vice president and chief operating officer of the new company. Kast said they have teamed up with a contract baker, and cookies should be ready in a few weeks for sale online at thesweetsea.com. They hope to sell the cookies through local restaurants as well.

“There’s so much awfulness in the world and in the news right now, we want to do this with joy,” Kast said. “We want to do this with love.”

The first three cookie varieties will be sweet sea salt Belgian chocolate, oatmeal raisin and sunflower crunch. Initially, 10 percent of sales will be donated to The Ocean Conservancy, with a goal to increase that amount to 50 percent as the company grows.

Restaurants receive grants for looming winter

The Maine Restaurant Relief Fund has awarded its first two grants.

Smitty’s Cinema in Windham and Rustica Cucina Italiana in Rockland each received $5,000 Sunday during a live webcast from O’Maine Studios in Portland.

The relief fund has been hosting weekly online fundraisers called Re-Up ME, which include a cook-along with Maine chefs. Viewers can donate to the fund during the events, but much of the grant money is coming from corporate sponsorships by Hannaford, Bangor Savings Bank, Cross Insurance and Oakhurst.

Re-Up ME plans to distribute 100 grants by December to help struggling Maine restaurants make it through the winter, according to Rory Strunk, CEO of O’Maine Studios, who teamed up with Hospitality Maine for the project.

More recipients will be announced on the Sept. 20 Sunday Supper livecast, which will be held at 5 p.m. at TasteMaine.com.

Jenkins talks olive oil

Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a nationally known food writer, stirs soup in her Camden kitchen in this archive photo. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of “Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil,” will be the speaker at a virtual meeting of the Culinary Guild of New England from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday.

Jenkins will talk about how olive oil is made, why it’s so expensive, and the ways it benefits your health. She’ll also explain how to choose and use olive oil.

Jenkins, who lives in Camden, is the author of nine cookbooks; her latest is “The Four Seasons of Pasta,” which is a collaboration with her daughter, Sara Jenkins, chef/owner of Nina June in Rockport.

Admission is free for Culinary Guild members and $10 for non-members. To register, go to bit.ly/3lMTtYO.

Cocktail fundraiser

Briana Volk, co-owner of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, has collaborated on a digital cocktail recipe book that will raise money for political causes.

“Collins Against Collins: Drinks for a Revolution,” Volks says, “features BIPOC, LGBTQA+ and womxn hospitality pros from every state.” Isaac MacDougal, owner of Cocktail Mary in Portland, has contributed a recipe, and Carmen Harris, co-owner of Magnus on Water in Biddeford wrote an essay. The book is a collaboration among Volk; bar owner and hospitality consultant Alex Day, who has co-authored two other cocktail books; and Hayley Wilson, a Portland bartender.

“Collins Against Collins” is available for pre-sale for $35 at collinsagainstcollins.com. The book will come out Nov. 3, Election Day. A limited release of hard copies is also planned, with the help of a team of designers and photographers who are volunteering their time. All proceeds from the book’s sales will be donated to down-ballot Democratic races and Radicalxchange, a group that, according to its instagram account, is a “Consultancy serving hospitality & social justice based cultural events & resources.”

Briana Volk and her husband and business partner Andrew Volk have been active in local Democratic politics. Andrew Volk ran unsuccessfully for Portland City Council last year. Most recently, the couple appeared in an ad opposing the re-election of Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

Name change

The owners of Black Dinah Chocolatiers have chosen a new name: Ragged Coast Chocolates.

Kate Shaffer, who co-owns the Westbrook-based company with her husband, Steve Shaffer, changed the name in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Dinah is the name of a mountain on Isle au Haut, where the company was founded. But the name was also once used as a generic term for Black female slaves.

The company’s new logo features a puffin, a seabird that nests off the coast of Maine and is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. As part of its rebranding, Ragged Coast Chocolates has partnered with Friends of Maine Coastal Island National Wildlife Refuge to raise money to benefit the group’s work conserving seabird nesting sites in Maine. The chocolatier will produce a limited-edition gift set containing chocolates, a T-shirt and a map of Maine’s seabird nesting islands.


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