The interior of Pacifico, a new Latin American restaurant opening soon in Saco. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Herrera

We’re all feeling the need to get away, but travel is still tricky. Carlos Guzman and Alejandra Herrera to the rescue. The couple, who own the Quiero cafes in Saco and Portland, are opening a restaurant and cocktail bar serving “Pan-Latin American food in a casual fine dining atmosphere” sometime later this month in Saco. The stylish space will transport you – mentally at least – to tropical climes. The owners call the look “Havana-esque,” and indeed, you can imagine sharing a drink with Ernest Hemingway there.

Pacifico, located in an old mill building at 120 Main St., will draw inspiration from all over Central and South America, the owners say. Chefs Geoff Briggs and Shane Walsh will be in charge of the kitchen, and LyAnna Sanabria will craft the cocktails.

Eaux is moving

The owner of Eaux, the New Orleans-style restaurant at 90 Exchange St. in Portland, announced last week that the business will be moving soon.

Evan Richardson wrote in a social media post that as he was preparing the restaurant for “some type of safe indoor dining” he realized that “we’ve flat outgrown our space on Exchange Street.” Eaux will offer outdoor dining through Nov. 22 and will continue doing takeout. He hopes to reopen the restaurant sometime next spring in a location still to be announced.

From Andy’s Handy to Dandy’s Handy

Chef Christian Hayes, owner of The Garrison in Yarmouth, on Friday announced a major change to his business, one that he said will keep him and his staff “pushing forward, and carving our own path during these brutal times.”

Hayes is renovating the Andy’s Handy Store space on Main Street and plans to relocate his takeout operation – Thoroughfare, which he launched during the pandemic – there this winter. (The building has a kitchen and takeout window.) In spring, he’ll move the online market he’s been running through his catering business into the building as well. He is calling the brick-and-mortar operation Dandy’s Handy Store. Otto Pizza, which shares the building, will remain open, Hayes said.

These moves, Hayes explained, will allow him to start planning the reopening of The Garrison’s dining room in some form. “Out of pressure comes diamonds – and our incredible team is slaying it,” Hayes said.

Big Babe’s is back

Big Babe’s Tavern at 60 Ocean St. in South Portland plans to reopen for takeout Nov. 19, with a simple menu that includes burgers, wings, some vegetarian dishes, and beer and wine.

Big Babe’s – a music venue, restaurant and inn – opened in January but had to shut down two months later because of the pandemic. At that time, owner Ginger Cote put the building, but not the business, on the market. “It’s still on the market but that was kind of a pandemic panic months ago,” she said. “I’m planning on staying here.”

Cote, who recently had a new HVAC system installed in the building, said she hopes to reopen indoors sometime early next year.

J’s Oyster closes temporarily

J’s Oyster Bar on Portland Pier announced late last week that it is closing temporarily after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

All employees are being tested and are quarantining while the restaurant is cleaned and sanitized. No reopening date has been set.

Tiqa and DiMillo’s, both in Portland, also had one employee each test positive recently but are both now open. The Maine CDC announced Monday it is investigating outbreaks at Ruby’s in York, where there have been nine cases, and Portland Pie in Windham, which has had three cases. An outbreak at Pat’s Pizza in Portland has reached 32 cases, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said during his Monday update.

Chopped comes to Maine

Comfort food has been king during this pandemic, and the folks behind the Food Network show “Chopped” know it. The show’s new five-part tournament, “Chopped: Comfort Food Feud” was filmed at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport earlier this year, and local chefs are among the contestants.

The show, which comes with a $25,000 prize, premiered Tuesday night with an episode focusing on bacon and featuring Ashley DeSilva, executive chef at The Odd Duck in Brunswick. (Her appetizer basket contained bacon beer cheese, Romanesco cauliflower, yuzu kosho, and uncured bacon.) That episode will air again tonight at midnight, and next Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Judges Maneet Chauhan, Chris Santos and Tiffani Faison sample a mac and cheese bread pakora during the filming of “Chopped: Comfort Food Feud” at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport. Photo courtesy of Food Network

The burger episode premieres at 9 p.m. on Nov. 17 and includes Danny Rassi, chef and co-owner of Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers and FIRE by Wicked Fresh, a pizza restaurant in North Conway, N.H.

Melissa Chaiken, owner and executive chef of The Fiddlehead Restaurant in Bangor, is featured in the episode that celebrates mac and cheese. It premieres at 9 p.m. Nov. 24.

The winners of these three episodes will move on to the grand finale. The show is hosted by Ted Allen, as usual, and the judges are chefs Maneet Chauhan, Tiffani Faison and Chris Santos.

More eats coming to Rock Row development

Big Fin Poke will open its third Maine location at the new Rock Row development in Westbrook, Waterstone Properties announced Tuesday.

Firehouse Subs, a nationwide chain with five locations in Maine, will also become a part of the 100-acre, $600 million project. Both restaurants will be located in a 20,000-square-foot retail building under construction in front of the new Market Basket on Main Street. They are scheduled to open in late 2021.

Other food businesses expected to be a part of Rock Row include Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and a Brew and Food Hall.

Tina Nop of Westbrook is the first recipient of Fork Food Lab’s Entrepreneurial Empowerment Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Fork Food Lab

New Cambodian food truck

Tina Nop of Westbrook, a first-generation American who is the daughter of Cambodian refugees, is the first recipient of Fork Food Lab’s Entrepreneurial Empowerment Scholarship. She plans to use the money to start a food truck.

The scholarship was created to address the economic issues that keep indigenous people and people of color from starting food businesses in Maine. The $4,300 award covers the cost of membership at Fork Food Lab, a shared commercial kitchen and business incubator, for up to six months, as well as licensing costs. Nop will also receive access to free legal, tax and business planning, and marketing and brand support from iBec Creative in Portland. Atlantic Federal Credit Union contributed $2,500 toward the scholarship.

Nop plans to call her business Sok Sabai, which means “peace and happiness” in Khmer. The menu will feature Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese comfort foods such as beef and chicken skewers, egg rolls, noodle bowls and wings. Nop, whose mother will work with her on the venture, hopes to be in business by early 2021.

Seasonal change at Earth at Hidden Pond

Earth at Hidden Pond, a restaurant at the Hidden Pond luxury resort in Kennebunkport, has announced it will extend its season this year and reopen for the winter on Dec. 31.

The seasonal restaurant, which closed as usual on Nov. 1, will now reopen for New Year’s Eve dinner and remain open through the winter. Winter hours will be 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Luke’s Lobster launches Sunday brunch

For the first time, Luke’s Lobster in Portland is offering Sunday brunch. Yes, there’s plenty of lobster and other seafood on the menu, but it also includes standbys such as blueberry pancakes, a breakfast sandwich and a pig in a blanket (sausage wrapped in pancakes). Lobster-centric dishes include a Lobster Benny and a Lobster Frittata. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Veg Fest goes virtual

The 16th annual Veg Fest, sponsored by the Maine Animal Coalition, will be held online this year. The event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. Speakers will cover topics such as running a vegan business, navigating the holidays as a vegan, and how to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 with lifestyle choices. Find more information at mainevegfest.com.

Rigby Yard adapts

Rigby Yard at 50 Wharf St. in Portland, owned by the folks behind Independent Ice Co., reopened in late October with large spaced tables with seating for up to eight people, a lounge area and a private tasting room, in order to make the business more pandemic-friendly. The beer, wine and cocktail hall (which also serves food) is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Bipartisan election night eats

Like most other Americans, Wrap reader David McKee, who lives in Brunswick, was feeling stressed out on Election Day. So he decided to do what a lot of Americans did that night – eat his feelings – by treating himself to dinner at Enoteca Athena. What he saw on the menu gave him a big stress-relieving chuckle, so he shared it with me.

Diners on Nov. 3 could start their meal with arancini described by chef/owner Tim O’Brien as “fried risotto balls stuffed with a bad tan and hot air (orange cheese puffs) and a leek hay coiffeur; served with covfefe aioli.” Or the “I’m Better Than Caesar” salad, described as “the best Caesar and I can say that because I’m good friends with him, w/ some of the best lettuce from Romaine that’s the best you can get and good for you so don’t listen to what Tony Fauci says …”

The chef’s sarcastic take was bipartisan. He also poked fun at Joe Biden, with an “overcooked” Sloppy Joe Bolo and an acorn squash dish “generously covering Hunter’s sketchy deals w/ farro, sausage, ricotta, spinach and herbs.” The dish was finished with “walnut cream and malarky sauce.”

Cocktails that evening came in red, blue and purple.

O’Brien said he later received several emails from diners who told him the humorous menu was “almost alike a community service.”

“It allowed people to relax for a little bit and stop being so uptight,” he said.

O’Brien also held a contest in which diners were asked to guess the final electoral vote count. The eventual winner will receive a $50 gift certificate. Maybe they can use it on Inauguration Day – O’Brien says he’s considering putting together another special menu for that night.

Coverage for turkey tragedies

If you’re inclined to have poultry mishaps on Thanksgiving Day – a burned bird, an undercooked disaster, or maybe you’re one of those people who have been known to unintentionally leave the giblets in the turkey cavity – you’d better take extra precautions this year. Because, you know, it’s 2020.

Whole Foods Market and Progressive Insurance have teamed up to offer a tongue-in-beak Thanksgiving Turkey Protection Plan. Buy your turkey early, between now and Nov. 22, to qualify for this new “turkey insurance.” (It only applies to a Whole Foods brand bird.) If you mess up in the kitchen, you can submit your claim at TurkeyProtectionPlan.com Thursday or Friday of Thanksgiving week and be eligible for a $35 Whole Foods gift card. But you’ll have to prove you really deserve it. You must submit a receipt with the claim, a photo of your turkey fail, and a brief explanation of what went wrong.

A correction

One event’s date got mixed up with another in last week’s column. The Cooperative Extension’s “Recipe to Market” workshop will be held on Nov. 20, so there is still time to sign up.


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