The Wrap: Crispy Gai and Strata open in larger spaces

Crispy Gai, which has been operating out of the Public Market House in Portland, will open in its new location on Wednesday, June 30.

Crispy Gai fried chicken, now available at 90 Exchange St. in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

The restaurant – which sells take-out Thai-spiced fried chicken, chicken sandwiches and Thai-inspired salads – has moved to 90 Exchange St., the former home of Eaux. Jordan Rubin, who co-owns the business with Cyle Reynolds, said Crispy Gai will be open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays to start. Eventually, they plan to add lunch and late-night hours.

Rubin also owns the popular sushi bar Mr. Tuna in the Public Market House.

Knife store relocates, a wee bit

Strata, the culinary knife store on Washington Avenue in Portland, has opened in its new, expanded location.

Owner Evan Atwell moved Strata from its original spot in one of the pocket-size shipping containers used by budding entrepreneurs to start small businesses, into a nearby storefront at 67 Washington Ave., the former Nissan Bakery building. The new location includes an impressive-looking knife display on one wall.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The store is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Presto chango

When Peter and Orenda Hale made a surprise announcement earlier this month that they would be closing their new Portland restaurant, Pigeons, at 59 Washington Ave., they said they’d use the space instead to expand Maine & Loire, their adjacent wine shop. The shop/wine bar reopened this week with the new layout, and on Wednesday, June 30 the Hales will host their first tasting in 17 months. The tasting, which features French picnic wines and runs from from 4 to 6 p.m., is free.

Regular summer hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In their announcement, the Hales said they plan to keep things simple by offering a small glass pour list, draft and bottled beer, and vermouth on ice.

Bam Bam, one of these days

I’ve received a few emails from readers who are wondering when Bam Bam, a gluten-free bakery in Portland, will return. Owner Tina Cromwell closed the Commercial Street bakery last year, with plans to open in a larger space in East Bayside this spring. Cromwell recently told me that the East Bayside location has fallen through. She has her eye on another location but didn’t want to divulge it just yet.

File photo

Limbo

Morse’s Sauerkraut in Waldoboro closed its small restaurant during the pandemic, and it seems unlikely it will open again anytime soon – at least not in the same form.

Chef and co-owner Cody LaMontagne told me she wasn’t yet ready to discuss her new plans because they are still a long way down the road. Meanwhile, if you are craving, say, a pastrami and swiss on rye (with kraut, of course), the popular Maine store is still selling grab-and-go sandwiches and prepared foods, as well as an expansive selection of European groceries, cheese and charcuterie, to take home. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

New Tiqa team

Tiqa, at 327 Commercial St. in Portland, has a new team in the kitchen: Emil Rivera, formerly of Sur Lie, is executive chef; Siddharta Rumma is chef de cuisine; and Seth Pelletier is sous chef. Look for the restaurant’s new summer menu at tiqa.net.

Raise a glass to Hayley

Hayley Wilson, a bartender at Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, has been named to Punch Magazine’s Bartender in Residence Class of 2021, a designation that honors bartenders who are considered to be a force in the future of the industry. In an article about Wilson, Briana Volk, co-owner of Hunt & Alpine, is quoted describing Wilson’s style as “pulling from the classics but adding a kind of punk-meets-tropical edge.”

In an accompanying Q&A, Wilson says the best drink she ever had was a turmeric-mezcal cocktail with golden beet juice, lemon and cardamom bitters.

The article includes links to three of Wilson’s recipes – for Blueberry Spritz; Coppertone, made with coconut gin and Aperol; and Stars & Satellites, a nightcap.

Left to right: Dylan Winslow, Gil Stewart and Takuma Suzuki Steinberger at their new yakisoba stand in Rockland. Photo by Glen Birbeck

Following in mom’s footsteps?

Just think of it as the hipper version of a lemonade stand. Three 14-year-olds have launched a yakisoba stand behind Suzuki’s Sushi Bar at 419 Main St. in Rockland to earn money for college.

Dylan Winslow, Gil Stewart and Takuma Suzuki Steinberger – who will be freshmen at Oceanside High School in the fall – got permission from the Rockland City Council to sell Japanese street food in the small park behind the sushi bar, which is owned by Steinberger’s mother, Keiko Suzuki Steinberger. They’ll be selling their take on yakisoba – noodles cooked on a griddle with pork or tofu, cabbage, onions, bean sprouts and carrots – to customers relaxing at picnic tables in the park on weekend evenings. Dishes will cost $10. Iced green tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade will also be on the menu.

Stewart, who hopes to own his own business one day, is the treasurer for the group, and Winslow is the “team captain.” Steinberger has been studying Japanese food for years, with the help of his mother and visits to family in Sendai, Japan.

The food stand will open at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this summer. Access is from the parking lot on the water side of Main Street.

Persian nights

Louisa Shafia, author of “The New Persian Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press, $24.99), will teach two hands-on cooking classes in August at Nina June in Rockport.

Shafia will talk about Iranian cuisine and show participants how to make one of the country’s most famous dishes – tahdig, the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pot. The class will create a tableful of dishes in Nina June’s large open kitchen, then sit down with Shafia to eat in the dining room. Copies of Shafia’s book will be available, along with her Persian Spice Set, made up of 11 spices essential for Iranian cooking. The classes will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 15 and 16.

Shafia will also be the guest chef for dinner, One Night in Persia, at Nina June on Aug. 18. To reserve a table or a spot in the cooking class, go to exploretock.com/ninajune. The cooking class costs $250 per person, and the dinner is $150 per person.

Help with hiring

Hospitality Maine has handed out $23,000 in grants this month to help restaurants and inns hire staff during this season of worker shortages. Forty-six businesses were chosen at random from participants of the Great Maine Comeback and ReUp ME campaigns that the association developed with O’Maine Studios last year to help struggling hospitality businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. Each grant is $500.

Help the hungry

The St. Hildegard Food Pantry Recipe Challenge has begun accepting recipes for this year’s contest.

The challenge, sponsored by Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry, supports parish food pantries, soup kitchens and other food-based ministries. Winners get a cash donation for their parish’s food programs.

This year’s challenge is based on the Food Network show “Chopped.” The theme is Food Box + 1. What does that mean? To create a recipe, entrants can only use ingredients that would be found in a food pantry box destined for a family of four: cereal, crackers, powdered milk, canned soup, dried fruit, nuts, chickpeas, beans, instant potatoes, bread, canned vegetables, canned fruit, pork, chicken, beef, whole milk, butter, yogurt, sour cream, seasonal fresh vegetables and basic fruits. (Presumably that means no kiwi or star fruit.) One additional ingredient is allowed, but it must be something that’s available at a local food pantry. Recipes must be main dishes or side dishes, and will be judged on nutritional value and ease of cooking.

Entries will be accepted through Aug. 22, and winners announced on Sept. 17, the Feast Day of St. Hildegard. Email recipes to [email protected] with “Recipe Contest” in the subject line, or send them via snail mail to Recipe Contest, Catholic Charities Maine, P.O. Box 10660, Portland, ME 04104.

The Deering Center Community Church Food Pantry needs re-stocking. Items needed include peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, baked beans, cereal, juice, tuna and snacks. No canned vegetables, please. Pastor Don Drake tells me they use the peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches for the homeless. Call (207) 773-2423 or email [email protected] with any questions.


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