Pointer, the first non-alcoholic beer brewed in Maine, was released last Thursday. Photo courtesy of Woodland Farms Brewery

When I spoke with Patrick Rowan on Monday, he was just finishing packaging up another 100 cases of Pointer, Maine’s first non-alcoholic craft beer. Woodland Farms Brewery in Kittery, where Rowan is the managing partner, offered Pointer for sale for the first time on Thursday. By Saturday, it was sold out.

“It’s really exciting to see that people are taking non-alcoholic beer seriously,” Rowan said. “There was a long time where everybody just sort of thought it was garbage and didn’t see any value in it.”

Pointer, Rowan said, is a true Maine-style New England IPA. “It is hazy and juicy and all the key buzzwords associated with new England IPAs,” he said. “It just doesn’t have the alcohol.”

Pointer – so named because Rowan grew up at Kittery Point – is made with Maine-grown malt. It contains 80 calories per serving and has an ABV of less than 0.5 percent. A four-pack of 16-ounce cans costs $10.99. Rowan said all major beer retailers in Portland should have Pointer in stock. He said other non-alcoholic brews are in the works, including a Belgian-style wheat beer and a Mexican-style lager.

These sandwiches will “bee” good

Cera, a fast casual restaurant serving upscale, from-scratch sandwiches and salads, will open in May on the ground floor of One Monument Square in Portland. If things work out as the owners hope, it could be one of many more to come.

“These are like restaurant meals put into two pieces of bread,” said Steven Lacount, one of the owners. “We’re definitely a different sort of sandwich company.”

Lacount has been in the restaurant business for 30 years, working mostly with casual, full-service chains – most recently B.Good. His business partners are Jennifer Svendsen and Sean Doherty, who has worked as a chef in Harding Smith’s Rooms restaurants. Doherty will be both chef and part owner of Cera.

Cera will use clean ingredients and be as environmentally friendly as possible, Lacount said. In addition to minimizing its use of plastics, Cera – Latin for honeycomb – will focus on raising awareness of the role of honeybees in the food chain. “They’re responsible for a third of all of the food that we eat,” Lacount said. “Without the bees, there isn’t food and without food there isn’t a restaurant.”

The restaurant will donate a portion of its proceeds to organizations that are working to save honeybees.

Cera will have 24 seats inside and about the same number outside on the patio, Lacount said. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and takeout, delivery and corporate catering will be available. As for the menu, look for sandwiches such as the portabella mushroom schnitzel on a scali roll, served with housemade pickled beets, vegan miso mayo and spicy greens.

Lacount hopes that Cera will become its own fast casual restaurant brand, “the first of at least a few, but we’ll see. We’ve got to get the first one going.”

“Everybody out there is doing grain bowls, rice bowls, noodle bowls, poke bowls,” Lacount said. “There are tons of people in the bowl space, but there are frankly not as many great sandwich options around.”

Find the restaurant at eatcera.com or on Instagram @eatcera.

Not enough dough

When Mount Desserts Pie Company moved out of its new Portland location on Exchange Street – the former Holy Donut shop – in late February, the plan was to move into a newly renovated space on Wharf Street. But those plans have been put on hold indefinitely, thanks to the pandemic and the uncertainty of the COVID economy, according to Brit Babcock, who owns the business with her sister Hannah.

Mount Desserts began as a seasonal pie shop on Mount Desert Island, but the Portland location was supposed to be open year round and offer an expanded menu. Babcock said they haven’t ruled out opening again in Portland, but it won’t be right now. “We didn’t lose money (in the Old Port), but we really didn’t make any money,” she said, “so we just decided we were not going to sign a five-year lease at another place.”

Knives out

Evan Atwell sharpens a Nakiri Japanese vegetable knife at his Portland shop Strata. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Strata, the culinary knife store that has been operating out of a shipping container retail space on Washington Avenue, announced on social media last week that it will be moving to larger digs just down the street in the former Nissen Bakery building at 67 Washington Ave. Owner Evan Atwell indicated in the post that the move is expected to happen in May or June. Look for a larger variety of products, and a dedicated classroom space for hands-on sharpening classes and “knife skills tutorials, as well as other lessons taught by talented locals,” the post on Instagram said.

Cook-off is on

The 2021 Maine Farm to School Cook-off is on, although in part online. The annual statewide culinary competition encourages Maine schools to serve local foods. Both students and school nutrition professionals participate.

The school districts competing this year are RSU 12 (Whitefield), RSU 14 (Windham-Raymond), RSU 54 (Skowhegan) and South Portland. The teams must use local eggs and parsnips in breakfast and lunch dishes. The two winners of the Round 1 advance to Round 2, which will be held in person in Augusta on May 5.

Online voting for Round 1 – judged by menus, photos, and demonstration videos – began Monday and runs through April 2. Winners of Round 1 will be announced April 5. To watch the videos and get the link to voting, go to bit.ly/317yJBO

Easter feasts

Restaurants have put away their green cocktails and corned beef and cabbage, and are looking forward to Easter. Here are a few options for Easter eating:

The Westin Portland Harborview is offering a locally sourced, take-and-bake Easter brunch that comes with reheating instructions. The brunch boxes are available for parties of two to six (brunch for two costs $70), with the option to add beverages and pastries. The boxes include house-made hot cross buns, smoked salmon dip, Maine blueberry waffles, glazed ham and asparagus. To see the full menu, go to congresssquared.com/easter-brunch-2021. Ordering deadline is noon Sunday.

The Black Tie Co. in Portland has a large Easter menu featuring precooked and packaged dishes that come with reheating instructions. Appetizers include a charcuterie board (sold per person) and bacon-wrapped scallops with Maine maple glaze. Mains and sides include Maine maple mustard-glazed ham, pan-seared salmon with orange-ginger glaze, and roasted shallot and gruyere scalloped Yukon gold potatoes. And from the bakery, a variety of breakfast breads, quiche, cheesecake and carrot cake. Check out the full menu on the Facebook page. The ordering deadline is 5 p.m. March 31, with pick-up at Union Kitchen at 1 Union Wharf between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 3. To order, call 207-761-6665 or go online, bit.ly/2Pfk30I.

The Easter-to-go menu at Union Restaurant inside the Press Hotel in Portland bundles brunch and dinner for $85 (serves two). Brunch includes lemon poppy seed and strawberry muffins, and broccoli and Swiss cheese quiche. Dinner is honey-glazed ham with buttermilk biscuits and two sides, and dessert is carrot cake. For full descriptions of menu items, go to the restaurant’s website or click here. Pick up is between 1 and 5 p.m. April 3.

Rosemont Market is selling Easter meal kits ($85 each) that serve two to four people. Choose among crusted rack of pork with scalloped potatoes; lamb kebabs with za’atar-roasted carrots and tzatziki; and roasted salmon with an asparagus tart. Go to preorders.rosemontmarket.com to order or see other specialty Easter foods.

Lake & Co. is offering family-style meals that serve two, four, or six, for pickup or delivery between 10 a.m. and noon April 3. Entree choices are maple-glazed, spiral-cut ham; rack of lamb with mint salsa verde; and lemon roast chicken with artichokes and thyme. See snacks, sides, entrees and desserts at lakeandco.me. Ordering deadline is Tuesday.


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