Ilma Lopez passes out plates at The Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off at Sea Dog Brewing in South Portland on Tuesday. Lopez, who took first prize, was representing her new West End bakeshop and luncheonette, Ugly Duckling. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Ugly Duckling, the West End’s brand-new bakeshop and luncheonette, took top honors in The Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off Tuesday.

About 200 people braved the snow to attend the event at Sea Dog Brewing Company in South Portland, according to event organizer Gillian Britt. The cook-off also serves as the kickoff to Maine Restaurant Week, now running in its 15th year from March 1-12.

A dozen area chefs prepared their entries for the contest, which was judged by the crowd. Chef Ilma Lopez, co-owner of Ugly Duckling, beat out competitors with her crème brûlée trocaderos, house-made brioche pastries filled with vanilla custard and topped with caramel and maple glaze.

The first-runner up prize went to Chef Isaac Aldrich of Bowdoin Dining Services for his Maine Crab Benedict featuring Maine rock crab meat, eggs, hollandaise, buttermilk biscuits, peppadew peppers and roasted heirloom tomatoes. Aldrich won the annual event in 2020 and 2016.

Second-runner up went to another cook-off veteran, Chef Avery Richter of the Black Tie Company caterers. Richter prepared breakfast empanadas with local sausage, eggs, spinach, smoked cheddar, pickled onions and maple chipotle sauce.

The breakfast cook-off was held for the first time since 2020, as the pandemic had caused it to be canceled for the last two years. Proceeds go to benefit Preble Street, and Britt estimated the event raised $6,000.


“The chefs really do take it seriously and work hard to come up with creative dishes. And everybody is excited to be there to benefit Preble Street,” Britt said. “The energy is always really good, and it’s a fun event because of that.”


A new Hulu series on paranormal activity includes an episode featuring some spooky stuff at Andy’s Old Port Pub on Commercial Street.

“Repossessed,” a Hulu series on paranormal activity, will feature an episode on a pool table at Andy’s Old Port Pub that co-owner John Lowell says “will make noises as if somebody’s playing when there’s nobody in the room.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The show, “Repossessed,” is hosted by paranormal investigator Moe Sargi and focuses on seemingly haunted objects around the country. A team from the show visited Andy’s about a year ago to investigate a pool table in the pub’s back room.

“The table has been here for a while, and it will make noises as if somebody’s playing when there’s nobody in the room,” said pub co-owner John Lowell, who bought Andy’s with his wife, Tanya, in 2020. “You’ll hear pool balls clacking when there are no balls in the table. You’ll hear the coin-drop mechanism operate when nobody’s playing.”

Lowell said employees and even customers from local walking tours have witnessed these strange incidents. While Repossessed focused on the pool table, Lowell said the pub’s security cameras have captured other hard-to-explain occurrences, like a 7-pound ketchup container suddenly flying off its shelf, or a coffee cup that flipped in the air spontaneously before smashing on the floor.


Maine-based paranormal expert Chris Sanders had made the show’s producers aware of Andy’s pool table, Lowell said, and also makes an appearance in the episode.

The first season of Repossessed includes eight episodes. Andy’s Old Port Pub is featured in episode four, along with some other locations around New England.


Soul Food Paradise owner Martin Beavers plans to open a second location this summer, this one on Preble Street.

Beavers recently signed a five-year lease on a 2,800-square-foot space at 24 Preble St. The location previously hosted Arcadia before its move to Congress Street.

Beavers opened Soul Food Paradise in the Maine Mall food court in the fall of 2021. He intends to expand the menu at the new location and offer some elevated versions of soul food classics, as well offering unique formats like meals served in cornbread bowls. The Preble Street location also will have a liquor license, and Beavers said he’s developing a line of daiquiri-style drinks.


Beavers hopes to be up and running at the new site by the end of May or sometime in June. The Maine Mall location of the Soul Food Paradise will stay open until its lease expires in 2024, he said.

“We want this to be a place where you want to take a picture,” Beavers said. “We want to make it colorful and fun, family-style. That’s what soul food is all about.”


Biddeford’s Sacred Profane Brewing made Punch magazine’s list of the country’s best craft beer breweries for 2023.

Sacred Profane was one of 10 breweries on the Punch list – released Feb. 21 – and the only location in New England. Punch compiles its roundup with input from brewers, beer writers and buyers around the country.

Titled “The Who’s Who of Beer Cool,” the Punch story cites Sacred Profane’s co-founders Michael Fava and Brienne Allan’s “unmatched dedication to Czech-style lagers. Both are preceded by their reputations for making excellent beer and eschewing fads.”


Sacred Profane opened last year, and sells two kinds of Czech-style lagers, pale and dark.

“I think beer had a big maximalism phase, and I love seeing folks pull it back and just focus on quality,” the writeup continues, quoting Brooklyn-based brew scribe Ash Croce. “I love that (Sacred Profane) is committed to these traditional lagers and just perfecting them.”


Cliff House Maine in Cape Neddick recently earned four stars from the Forbes Travel Guide for the first time.

“Situated on 70 acres atop majestic Bald Head Cliff, Cliff House Maine offers a dreamy, cozy respite overlooking the Atlantic,” the Forbes review states. “Opened in 1872 as a hotel and farm, the peaceful retreat has attracted some of New England’s top brass to its impressive shores. … A recent renovation has given this historic hotel new life, but it still makes the most of its spectacular location.”

Owned by hoteliers Marc Dugas and Peter Anastos and Rockbridge, an Ohio-based private investment firm, the property underwent major renovations about six years ago. The Cliff House has 226 rooms overlooking the ocean, a spa and wellness center, and two restaurants, The Tiller and Nubb’s Lobster Shack.

“While seafood is certainly the star at The Tiller,” the Forbes reviewer wrote, “land-based dishes like hanger steak with Bradbury Mountain blue cheese butter or a mushroom-packed plate of gnocchi shine bright, too.”

The only other Maine property to be recognized by Forbes in 2023 is The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, which received a five-star rating.

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