Cookin’ With Our Friend Chris Papagni

Spring has sprung in Portland! That means warm lingering days, outdoor dining and a whole new season of Maine Foodie Tours.

We’re thrilled to introduce you to a few brand new culinary experiences. This week we tagged along on a recipe shopping trip with Chris Papagni, a beloved Maine Foodie Tours guide, and Chef of our recently added “Cookin’ With Friends” classes.

Chris is one of those people that make you feel immediately comfortable. Within moments of greeting him (and his sidekick, a gregarious Maltipoo named Giorgio), we are laughing and swapping stories about our latest kitchen experiments. Our first stop is Portland’s Monument Square Farmers’ Market, open every Wednesday from 7am – 1pm. Chris and I are mesmerized by all of the beautiful produce and he reminisces about shopping for tomatoes with his father, sniffing them to test for ripeness. You can sense the deep connection Chris feels to his family when he prepares food, and it reminds you of your own childhood memories from the kitchen. He recently wrote a beautiful article about these foodie inspirations.

   Chris Sniffing Tomatoes

Greens at The Farmers' Market

Eighteen months ago Chris moved to Portland from Manhattan where he served as the Executive Vice President of The International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute) for sixteen years. Needless to say, Chris knows good food, but his spirit and love for food is about so much more than what’s on the plate – Chris in his Kitchenhe is all about highlighting the ingredients, telling a story and making everyone feel at home. And at home you will be; cooking classes are hosted in his downtown Portland loft. A well-appointed kitchen with lots of personal touches makes you comfortable and recipes approachable.

Today we’re making a frisée salad with warm red wine vinaigrette and crispy pancetta, topped with a fried egg. This is one of several recipes you’ll learn to prepare in this season’s classes. Inspired by the abundant produce at the farmers market, Chris is also preparing a little snack for us: Radishes, pan roasted until golden brown in his father’s cast iron pan and finished with a sprinkle of Maine sea salt.

Chris’ knife skills and organization are fascinating, you can learn so much watching an experienced cook move through their mise-en-place (a French term used in kitchens to indicate putting all things and ingredients ‘in place’). He sets to work preparing the components of the dish, including a perfectly cooked egg from K.Horton Specialty Foods (the city’s best kept secret for excellent and inexpensive farm fresh eggs, says Chris). Once the pancetta lardons have rendered, Chris prepares the warm vinaigrette using red wine vinegar home made by a long-time friend and colleague. The pungent smell of vinegar and crispy pork fills the kitchen and I’m suddenly ravenous.

A few moments later we sit down to enjoy our lunch. It is a simple feast, beautiful and balanced, and easily replicated in any home kitchen. While we eat we discuss the Portland food scene and how many incredible restaurants there are, but that sometimes the best meals are the ones like these…excellent ingredients shared in good company.

Frisee Salad with Pancetta and Egg

Chris’ cooking classes are offered twice a week, and private classes are available. Click here to reserve your spot or purchase a gift certificate for someone who might enjoy it!

And, click here if you’d like to sign up for updates on our latest news and offerings.

Portland First Friday Art Walk Dining Options

Empire dumplings, photo by www.brysstephens.com

Empire dumplings, photo by www.brysstephens.com

 

First Fridays are a great tradition in Portland, and fortunately, for those of us looking to avoid cabin fever, they continue through the winter. MaineToday recommends the exhibits at the Portland Public Library, Dathan Hunter Salon, and the Portland Museum of Art. Here’s our restaurant recommendations for after you’ve scoped some art and need to nosh:

  • Sur Lie, 11 Free St. This new(ish) small-plates restaurant is quietly gaining steam as the word gets out about their delicious international cuisine. We recommend the rabbit rillette, the milk-braised cauliflower and the spring pea hummus, paired with a craft cocktail from their creative list, of course.
  • Empire Chinese Kitchen, 575 Congress St. Borrow a page from Chinese New Year traditions and enjoy some savory dumplings at Empire. The wrapped purses signal good luck in Chinese culture. We love the pork shu mai and the spinach dumplings. The pastrami egg roll starter is not to be missed either.
  • Congress St. Bar & Grill, 617 Congress St. This comfortable restaurant frequently gets overlooked, but they serve some fantastic food. We love the steak salad, the huge hummus plate with grilled veggies, and their mouth-watering specials.
  • Slab, 25 Preble St. Carbs reign supreme at this casual Italian eatery. Head baker Stephen Lanzalotta churns out delightfully pillowy pieces of pizza, which Nosh King Jason Loring doesn’t disappoint with his over-the-top creations. Start with the slaw salad to prepare you for the decadent dishes to follow.

Should you need more restaurant recommendations or wish to sample Portland’s amazing food and drink scene in just a few hours, join us on a Maine Foodie Tour! Tours continue on weekends through the winter, weather permitting.

October Maine Foodie Tours

exchange snow

Photo by Corey Templeton

 

October is the last month of 2015 in which we offer tours 7 days a week in Portland, Bar Harbor, and Kennebunkport. As Maine’s high season begins to wind down, we relish in the cooler weather and slower pace as we show you all the fabulous food and drinks our towns have to offer.

Come November, we’ll be offering our Portland tours on the weekends only. We hope you can join us for a tour on your visit or when your company comes to town!

Eat Your Way Through Fall, Maine Edition

Fall is New England is one of the most beautiful seasons. The pace of summer begins to slow as kids go back to school and the weather cools. Of course, the onset of fall means that winter is right behind, but there’s plenty to enjoy before the inevitable snow fall. Here’s Maine Foodie Tours’ list of fall favorites, whether you’re visiting Maine for some leaf peeping or are a lifelong Mainer.

1. Shop the farmers’ market
Portland Maine Farmers' MarketThe farmers’ market in the fall is the best place to find the produce of both summer and fall seasons. There’s peaches and corn! Peppers and cherry tomatoes! But there’s also early-season apples, winter squash, brussel sprouts, and honey! Make the most of two seasons of produce by preparing these 4 easy fall meals from Bon Appetit.

2. Pick apples or attend an apple tasting
Maine has a rich variety of heirloom apples that go well beyond Red Delicious and Granny Smith. Local apple orchards offer pick-your-own apples, by-the-pound specials of Cortlands, Paula Reds, Ginger Golds, Macs, and Empires. Plus: donuts. We have it on good authority that Thompson’s Orchard in New Gloucester has the best apple cider donuts. Find apple orchards near you from the Maine State Pomological Society.

3. Hike and picnic
While hiking isn’t necessarily an activity centered around eating and drinking, if you pick a moderate to easy hike with views of the Maine countryside, there’s no reason you can’t also bring along a good picnic. Stock up on smoked salmon (and a bottle of wine for later) at Browne Trading Company. Get some prepared salads and cookies at Aurora Provisions and head to Freeport to hike Bradbury Mountain. In the midcoast area, snag sandwiches like bahn mi made with local meats at Maine Street Meats in Rockport.  Then head up Mt. Battie in Camden for beautiful views of  Penobscot Bay.

Maine farm

Photo by Greta Rybus

4. Dine in a farm field
Maine farms have hit their prime now that it’s September, and many offer the chance to dine amongst the kale and flowers. Look for on-the-farm dinners at Portland Food Map’s Events Calendar, but in particular, Graze series at Pineland Farms, Winter Hill Farm, and Flanagan’s Table.

5. Attend Harvest on the Harbor
Maine’s premiere food and drink scene is held on the Portland waterfront every October. Whether you attend the grand tasting, the lobster chef of the year competition or the blues, brews, and barbecues event, you’ll be sure to sample some of Maine’s finest fare from chefs using the best ingredients they can find.

Maine Foodie Tour guides6. Take a Maine Foodie Tour
Otherwise overwhelmed by all the great options for meals and snacks in Maine? Think there’s no way you can eat at all the great places you’ve been reading about? Let a Maine Foodie Tour entertain you this fall with behind-the-scene stories of Portland’s food and drink scene while you taste your way across Portland, Kennebunk, and Bar Harbor.

New 2014 Portland, Maine Foodie Tours

Women serving cheese in PortlandNow in it’s fifth year of operations, MFT has drawn people of all ages from across North America and Europe to enjoy the culinary talents of chefs, fancy food producers, chocolatiers, bakers, cheese makers, fishmongers and more in Portland, now widely recognized as the “foodiest small town in America [Bon Appetit, 2009].”

“It’s a real pleasure to live and work in Portland where the culinary world is so alive,” said Pamela Laskey, MFT owner and recent recipient of the SCORE award for a Successful, Women-Owned Small Business  “Portland continues to earn accolades for the culinary scene, and we create new tours every year to showcase as much local talent as possible. We offer tour guests a wide variety from which to chose and ensure that they see and taste why Portland deserves all the culinary recognition!”

New for 2014 and beyond:

Lunchtime Lobster Crawls-enjoying lobster and seafood while learning about the secret life of lobsters. An Afternoon Culinary Walking Tour – showcasing all that is fresh, local and creative. Happy 2-Hour with Wine, visiting some of Portland’s newest and long-standing restaurants. What’s brewing? Bikes and Brews – In partnership with Summer Feet Bicycling – peddling to brew masters of all sorts.

For a complete listing of all tours, visit www.mainefoodietours.com or subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates!

Summer Tour Schedule – New Tours Soon!

OnFootThe warm weather has hit Maine, and we’ve turned the corner away from a chilly spring into summer.

We’re well into our summer schedule at Maine Foodie Tours, still offering our classic Culinary Walking Tours in Kennebunkport, Portland, and Bar Harbor. We have “Happy 2-Hour” tours in Portland and Bar Harbor and several charity tours for dog and garden lovers in Kennebunkport. Maine Foodie Tours are offered every day in your hometown or your Maine vacation spot, so check out our calendar for our new schedule.

Best of all, we’re launching new tours for Summer 2014, so be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter to be the first to sign up for our new lobster and wine-themed tours!

Mother’s Day for Foodie Moms

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and if you have a foodie mom, we have some great gift ideas for her.

Dean's Sweets chocolate truffles, aprons for MomOur friends at Dean’s Sweets are offering an 8-pack of their delicious dark chocolate salted caramel truffles, plus a super stylish kitchen apron from Portland-based designer Angela Adams. You can order the special package online or purchase in their shop in Portland for $45.

Dean’s truffles will also be available at Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery‘s tasting room in Portland, at 324 Fore Street. Bring mom in for some dark chocolate paired with delicious fruit wines made in Maine.

For the foodie mom who wants to walk a little while learning about what makes Maine’s food scene so great, take her on a Culinary Walking Tour in Portland or Kennebunkport. If mom would rather ride, the Culinary Tour on Wheels in Portland is perfect for her.

Can’t be with mom on this Mother’s Day? We offer gift certificates for the next time she comes to visit you in Maine. Happy Mother’s Day to all the foodie moms out there!

 

Craft Beer on Portland’s Industrial Way

Industrial Way, in the Western suburbs of Portland, has always been an incubator for craft beer. D.L. Geary’s Brewing Co. set up shop on nearby Evergreen Drive in 1986 and has been serving their high-quality ales ever since. Allagash Brewing Company is located a block away, having recently renovated their brewing facilities to include an expanded brewhouse, a wild beer room, and an outdoor patio for guests.

Cans of Bissell Bros. beer

Cans of Bussell Brothers’ Substance IPA in Foundation Brewing’s tasting room

A large warehouse across the way from Allagash houses three new nanobreweries. One of the bays was previously home to Maine Beer Company which has expanded north to Freeport. Bissell Brothers Brewing, Austin Street Brewing, and Foundation Brewing now call the Industrial Way warehouse home.

Bissell Brothers Brewing was founded by, well, the Bissell Brothers, Peter and Noah. They consistently brew Substance, a crisp, hoppy IPA, as well as other speciality brews like the I-Lucky, a ginger IPA.

Foundation Brewing is next door, where they serve up the Eddy, a Saison; and the Blaze, a Farmhouse Saison-style IPA. They brewed several versions of the Blaze, each with a single varieties of hops, as well as with a blend, so you can taste the different flavors the hops add.

Austin Street Brewery consistently brews the Patina Pale and some speciality brews like a coffee stout, made with locally-roasted coffee beans.

All of the breweries are very small and have limited hours for their tasting room. But as the weather warms, you can expect a food truck at Allagash Brewing on Saturdays. Allagash offers free tastings and tours, while the other three breweries offer small tasting samples, so you can enjoy several without overindulging. Enjoy an afternoon on Industrial Way and taste some of the newest, most creative beers that Portland’s craft brewing scene has to offer.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of craft beer in Portland, check out our Sips, Smugglers, and Speakeasies tour. If you’d like a light workout with your beer, the Bikes and Brews tour, offered with our partners at Summer Feet Bicycle Tours, is for you.

Maine Chefs and Writers Awards

The new year means awards seasons for TV, film, and music, and the foodie world is no different. Here’s a review of the awards and nominations that several in the food industry are up for, further proving why Portland was voted “America’s Foodiest Small Town” in 2009 by Bon Appetit magazine.

Will and Kathleen Pratt of Tandem Coffee Roasters

Photo from StarChefs.com

StarChefs.com has nominated their “Coastal New England Rising Stars,” including eight food and drink professionals from Maine. Nominees include Chef Ravin “Bas” Nakjaroen of Long Grain in Camden, Chef Ilma Lopez of Piccolo in Portland, Chefs Andrew Taylor and Michael Wiley of Eventide Oyster Co. and Hugo’s in Portland, Eli Cayer of Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland, Nathan Sanborn of Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland, Will Pratt of Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland (pictured above with his wife and business partner Kathleen), and Andrew Volk of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club.

Congrats to all of those nominated! The awards take place mid-April in Providence, RI.

The James Beard Foundation Award nominees were announced last week, with Maine food writer Kathy Gunst receiving a nomination for her work on WBUR’s Here & Now. Unfortunately, all seven Maine chefs and brewers nominated for the semi-finalists did not become finalists. The JBF awards are announced in Chicago on May 2nd and 5th.

Last but not least, three Maine chefs have been nominated for Food & Wine magazine’s Best Chef New England, decided by popular vote. Cast your vote for Eventide Oyster Co.’ and Hugo’s chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley or Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick. Rob Evans of Duckfat was awarded Best Chef New England in 2004 for his work in the kitchen of Hugo’s. Voting continues through March 31st.

Join our Portland Culinary Walking Tour to learn about all the foodie accolades that talented Portland chefs have earned!