The Wrap: Maine food companies win Golden Fork Awards, new restaurant-brewery opens in Wells

·4 min read

Jun. 15—Beard awards be damned (until next year, anyway), Maine will celebrate its own food, thanks. Winners of the first Maine Golden Fork Awards, showcasing the best of the state's prepared food and beverage companies, were announced last Thursday before an audience of about 300 at Brick South on Thompson's Point in Portland.

Twenty-eight Maine food products were entered in the competition, put on by the nonprofit groups Maine Center for Entrepreneurs and Coastal Enterprises, along with Focus Maine, and three emerged triumphant. Original Coconola by Grandy Organics of Hiram won Retail Best in Show; Alder Smoked American Eel by American Unagi of Waldoboro took Foodservice Best in Show, and Middle East Coast Labneh by Shovel and Spoon of Limington received the Best New Product award.

Product entries represented a variety of food categories, including grains, produce, proteins, pasta, sauces, seafood, sweets, snacks and beverages, produced throughout the state. The new awards program is part of a larger effort by the three sponsoring groups to boost job creation in the Maine food industry.

(Full disclosure: Reporter Tim Cebula was among the panel of judges who participated in the blind tasting last month for the awards.)

BATSON RIVER OPENS NEW BREWERY, RESTAURANT IN WELLS

Batson River Brewing & Distilling opened its new tasting room, restaurant and brewing facility, called Batson River Fish Camp, in Wells this week with a soft opening for family and friends Monday night.

Batson River's new 15-barrel, 7,600-square-foot brewing facility more than triples the company's current brewing, bottling and canning abilities, according to Batson River spokespeople. The venue will offer guest tours of the brewing facility, along with limited and special release beers, cans and bottles.

The tasting room and restaurant are a renovation of the former Hidden Cove Brewing Co., located at 73 Miles Road Batson River Fish Camp joins the company's three existing locations in Kennebunk, Portland and Southwest Harbor (also a Batson River Fish Camp). The company expects to add a fifth location later this year in Biddeford.

"We're delighted that Wells will be our first facility with an on-site brewery," said Kevin Lord, co-founder of Batson River. "Having a dedicated barrel-aging room will allow us to create more world-class saisons, sours and barrel-aged stouts in a climate-controlled environment and give us the capability to make a wider variety of ABV percent beers."

Batson River co-founder Tim Harrington, co-founder of Batson River, said that compared with the company's other properties, the Wells venue will deliver "a more potent dose of creative energy that customers will feel the instant they walk through the door."

Batson River Fish Camp will be open six days a week from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m.

NEW ASIAN TAKEOUT OPENS IN WEST END

Tobi, an Asian-fusion takeout restaurant from the owner of Yordprom Coffee, opened earlier this month in Portland's West End.

Located on Walker Street in the former site of Figgy's, the new venue's name is derived from the first names of co-owners Tom Yordprom and Bird Phunsawat. Yordprom owned Siam Grill on Fore Street from 2000-08, now the site of the Japanese restaurant Mami.

"We're not yet running at full speed," said Yordprom. "We're still struggling to get staffing help."

Once the Tobi staff gets fleshed out, Yordprom said he expects the venue will expand its hours and offerings. For now, Tobi sells more than a dozen starters and entrees from its takeout window, including crispy tofu, pork buns, pot stickers, panang curry and pad pik pao. Yordprom said he's using some of his recipes from the former Siam Grill at Tobi.

For now, Tobi is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. for window service only.

WILD BLUEBERRY WEEKEND SLATED FOR AUGUST

The second annual Wild Blueberry Weekend has been set for Aug. 6-7.

The event will feature 14 wild blueberry farms and dozens of restaurants, bars and wineries, according to the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission. Farm visitors can pick their own wild blueberries, view hand-raking demonstrations, sample the fruit and camp out near select fields. Additionally, fresh and frozen wild blueberries, as well as a number of value-add products like dried wild blueberry powder, jams, syrups, honey and spirits will be available for purchase.

More details on the farms and participating venues are available online.