Pandemic creativity is fueling a new wave of plant-based foods, while some existing vegan businesses struggle to keep up with sky-high demand.

Lovebirds in Kittery is so swamped by vegan doughnut orders, it now no longer accepts calls; ordering is online only. Similarly, vegan ice cream shop Sticky Sweet in Portland has faced more demand than supply and as a result is offering limited windows of time to purchase pints online. Meanwhile, the pandemic-induced desire for classic comfort foods is causing a mini-spike in vegan mac and cheese, with it newly added to the menus at Yeto’s in Biddeford and Copper Branch in Portland; at the latter, it comes in a family-sized pan.

Here’s a look at a handful of other new vegan foods from Maine:

Photo courtesy of Nut Meat

Nut Meat

Laura Satkowski works as a soil conservationist, not a typical path to product invention, but she has recently launched Nut Meat to sell her product of the same name, which is minimally processed, and made from only eight ingredients, including walnuts, lentils and zucchini. Made at Fork Food Lab in Portland, Nut Meat is sold either frozen or in the refrigerated vegan meat section. Once thawed, it is ready to be added to dishes such as bolognese, shepherd’s pie and tacos as is, or formed into burgers or meatballs.

Satkowski said she’s been making Nut Meat for herself and family and friends for years. She likes to flavor it with fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and then use it as a pizza topping or in lasagna.

Satkowski, who became a vegetarian because of her concern for the environment, said her background in soil science allowed her to connect the dots among animal-based agriculture, topsoil loss and climate change. “I noticed a trend over time of how much land we attribute to animal production and the increasing amounts of land going to corn for animal feed,” she said. “Diet can play a huge part in climate emissions.”

To help conserve the soil and lower emissions, Satkowski decided to market her plant-based meat to a wider circle. Now anyone can buy Nut Meat at local stores including Monte’s in Portland, Lois’ Natural Marketplace in Scarborough, Royal River Natural Foods in Freeport, Rising Tide Co-op in Damariscotta and Golden Harvest Produce in Kittery.

The Seared Tofu Ramen from S+P Plant-Based Foods Photo courtesy of S+P Plant-Based Foods

S+P Plant-Based Foods

Frustrated by the lack of gourmet vegan meals in their neighborhood, sisters-in-law Shelby Faux and Payson Cunningham began hosting private, plant-based dinners in Round Pond last summer. Despite COVID, social distancing and everything else, the dinners quickly sold out.

Now the pair are ready to start S+P Plant-Based Foods out of Fork Food Lab in Portland, where they’ll offer elevated take-out. Faux and Cunningham say the meals are designed to go from box to plate in 20 minutes. Most require simple reheating (including soups such as butternut squash ginger miso and red lentil with lemon and mint); items like pasta are cooked at home.

“The main thing for us is that everything tastes fantastic,” Cunningham said. “We’re aiming for something a little bit higher end.”

That translates to truffle mushroom raviolis, banh mi kits, charcuterie boards and flourless chocolate tortes. Expect other interesting menu offerings since Cunningham and Faux are enrolled virtually in the Food Future Institute, run by vegan celebrity chef and Maine native Matthew Kenney.

“We’re also doing catering and a bit of delivery to Damariscotta, where we live,” Cunningham said. Pickup is at Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St. Order online at sp-foods.com; they expect March 5 to be the first day for pickup.

Gaia’s Plant-Based Kitchen

In a trial that’s been up-and-running since December, Gaia’s Plant-Based Kitchen has been delivering three-course, vegan meals within one hour of Wiscasset, which stretches to Portland.

Ready for delivery, dinner and cake from Gaia’s Plant-Based Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Gaia’s Plant-Based Kitchen

“We’ve had an incredible response in a short amount of time,” said Jeanette Richelson, co-owner of the former Roost House of Juice in Portland, who partnered with her wife, chef T. Love Smith, to launch the business. “We’re approaching a place where we need to expand our resources or our storage capacity.”

The business was born of the pandemic, after both partners lost their jobs in the restaurant industry. Meals are available once a week, with Richelson, who also runs a vegan bakery business called Barbara’s Bundts, handling dessert while Smith makes the weekly soups and entrees; savory menu items include cashew cheddar meatballs, sweet potato risotto bowls, eggplant parmesan, stuffed mushrooms, and miso-roasted tofu bowls.

“The meals are for one person, but with leftovers,” Smith said. “We like to put a lot of accoutrements on our food, like cheeses, sauces, chutneys, cranberry sauce, quick pickles with local root veggies. We usually give out samples with every order.”

Dessert comes as four mini Bundts or one larger Bundt cake, in flavors such as coffee cake, red velvet, lemon blueberry, and gingerbread. The meals are made in the commercial kitchen at the nonprofit Morris Farm in Wiscasset for reheating once customers get them home.

Gaia’s meals cost $45 for one weekly meal with dessert, or $35 per week for people who sign up on a monthly basis. Smith and Richelson deliver to the midcoast on Mondays and to the Portland area on Wednesdays. To order, email [email protected]

Mosaic’s new North African Veggies & Couscous Cheyenne M. Cohen/Photo courtesy of Mosaic Foods

Mosaic Foods’ new bowl

Maine native Matt Davis launched New York City-based vegetarian bowl delivery company Mosaic Foods in 2019 with friend Sam McIntire. This month, the company announced a partnership with New York chef Einat Admony to add a North African vegetables and couscous bowl to their offerings.

Described by Mosaic as a “medley of tender parsnips, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower florets stewed with Persian lime, orange, preserved lemon, and spices,” the dish comes with Swiss chard and couscous along with a dollop of chirashi – a Yemenite butternut squash and carrot spread – and a sprinkle of ja’ala, a roasted and spiced nut mix.

Davis, who grew up in Saco and attended Thornton Academy, calls Admony “an amazing chef” and points to the success of her fine dining restaurant Balaboosta and her fast-casual falafel chain Taïm. Admony, who has also written two cookbooks, grew up in Tel Aviv before eventually moving to the United States. Mosaic is working on partnerships with other New York chefs. “With so many restaurants in New York City closed or at reduced capacity, we’re proud to help get the amazing cuisines of these chefs to thousands of people’s homes,” Davis said.

All of Mosaic’s meals ship overnight and arrive frozen, ready to be heated and served, and include veggie bowls, breakfast bowls (both sweet and savory) and soups. Many of the dishes are vegan, including harissa jackfruit, the red curry noodles and the jerk lentils and plantain. Find ordering details at mosaicfoods.com.

R.E.D.D.’s new Elixirs

One of two new Elixirs. Photo courtesy of R.E.D.D.

The Brunswick-based vegan company R.E.D.D., known for its plant-based protein bars, recently launched a line of ready-to-mix, vegan protein drinks called Elixirs. Available in two flavors, cold brew latte (7 grams of protein) and chocolate milk (9 grams of protein), the mixes are made from such nutrient-dense ingredients as cassava fiber, maca root, cordyceps and probiotics.

The directions say to combine with water, but some online reviewers say they prefer to mix the Elixirs with plant milk.

“My vision has always been to provide better tasting, plant-based nourishment for radiant health,” said R.E.D.D.’s founder Alden Blease, who developed the drinks in the company’s new innovation lab. The Elixirs sell for $14.99 and can be found at health food retailers and online at reddbar.com.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at [email protected]
Twitter: @AveryYaleKamila


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