The Wrap: Little Giant backlash, Norimoto Bakery moving

The sale of Little Giant, announced last Wednesday, has been generating a not-so-little backlash from its former employees.

A representative of the restaurant’s staff of 25 confirms they are upset that they were not given advance notice about the sale, instead learning about it through Instagram, a story in the Press Herald, and a last-minute email from the owner. Ian Malin, owner of Little Giant, told the newspaper last week that he notified employees of the sale via email and offered them two weeks’ severance pay at the rate of $18 an hour.

Ada Bonnevie, a server and bartender who had worked at Little Giant since March, said even if the sale was negotiated under a non-disclosure agreement, “the staff still should have known. He still could have told us that that was something he was considering, and maybe we should look for other work.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up for former Little Giant employees. As of midday Tuesday, the fund had raised $4,253 of its $25,000 goal.

Maine restaurants are still desperate for workers, more than a year after the pandemic amplified an already-existing restaurant labor shortage. Wages and benefits have been rising as restaurants try to attract job applicants.

Bonnevie said many of her Little Giant co-workers are finding other jobs quickly. She said the restaurant’s manager put together a list of places that are hiring, “and the restaurant community has welcomed us all with open arms. But it still doesn’t take the sting away from losing an income during a pandemic, having worked really hard during a pandemic, and being repaid by getting fired out of nowhere via the internet. There was no meeting. There was no conversation face-to-face.”

Norimoto gets a home of its own

The new home of Norimoto Bakery at 469 Stevens Ave. in Portland. Photo courtesy of Atsuko Fujimoto

Atsuko Fujimoto announced over the weekend that she is moving Norimoto Bakery from South Portland to 469 Stevens Ave. in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood. The new space has been empty for months since Simply Scandinavian moved out.

Norimoto, a wholesale and takeout bakery, is now at 740 Broadway in South Portland, a space it shares with Two Fat Cats.

Fujimoto – who previously co-owned  Ten Ten Pié, a popular East End bakery that closed abruptly in 2019 – said she leased the 850-square-foot space on Stevens Avenue in June and has been renovating it. There will be no inside seating to start, she said.

“I’m planning to install a takeout window, similar to what we call Tabako-Ya in Japan, which is an old-time corner store/kiosk that sells cigarettes,” she wrote in an email. “You see something like this at coffee shops and sandwich shops in town as well. … Obviously I will not sell cigarettes!”

The window may not be ready by the time the new bakery opens – Fujimoto hopes to open by Thanksgiving – but in that case, she’ll have counter service by the front door.

Fujimoto is known for producing an eclectic range of treats, sometimes with Japanese touches, from French macrons to chocolate babka to heirloom tomato danishes she made this summer with local tomatoes. In late August, she paid tribute to the Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who died Aug. 24, with a “Let It Bleed” cake, named after one of the band’s albums. Fujimoto said that, in her new place, she may offer fewer items in larger quantities to start. “‘Less is More’ has been my mantra since the pandemic, and I plan to base my future decisions around the new project on this philosophy,” she said.

Saturday and Sunday will be the final opportunities to get takeout in Norimoto’s South Portland location. Preorder at
norimoto-bakery.square.site

Tokyo Sushi Ramen opens

Tokyo Sushi Ramen has opened at 11 Brown St. in Portland. In July, co-owner Gordon Yang told me the restaurant will have 72 seats indoors and patio seating for 16. Yang and his partners also own Eagle Sushi & Steakhouse in Windham. Takeout also is available on the restaurant’s website at tokyosushiramenme.com

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday hours are 11:50 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.

Food coming soon to Fermentory

A peek inside Sarah’s Farmstand Kitchen, including the owner’s prized portrait of the late Anthony Bourdain. Photo courtesy of Rachel Chiasson

Sarah’s Farmstand Kitchen is scheduled to open by the end of the month in the old apothecary space at Urban Farm Fermentory at 200 Anderson St., Portland.

Rachel Chiasson, the owner of Sarah’s, has worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years, mostly as a cook. She now works at The Barn at Smith Farm in Falmouth. Chiasson had been thinking about opening a food truck, but when UFF owner Eli Cayer offered her space in his business, she grabbed the opportunity.

Sarah’s will serve customers in the kombuchery’s tasting room. Chiasson will sell prepackaged meals, all gluten-free. Most of the meals also can be made vegan.

An example from the draft menu: The Three Bean bowl is made with garlic black beans, fried chick peas, edamame, roasted corn, charred peppers and spicy cilantro sauce. Customers can add their choice of four proteins: shredded chicken, sliced beef, chopped shrimp or sticky tofu.

“I’ll be pre-making a lot of ingredients and then assembling rice bowls, essentially,” Chiasson said. “It will branch out into salads and different fried rices, or maybe we can do brunch at some point. I’m also hoping to do events as well, as time goes on.”

Chiasson has been fixing up the space in recent weeks. One prized addition is a portrait of the late Anthony Bourdain that was given to her by the owner of Good Life Market in Raymond after Chiasson admired it.

“I brought it home, and then I decided that it was a really good fit (for the UFF space), just a little bit of inspiration for me as this is the first place that I’m opening on my own, the first time I’m going out on my own in this industry,” she said.

Why is the place called Sarah’s Farmstand Kitchen, when her name is Rachel? It’s a long – and very personal – story. The short version is that the name was inspired by a spiritual experience Chiasson had that led her on a path of self-discovery and personal growth. “Sarah is the strong and passionate part of me,” she explained.

Sarah’s will be open 3-9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Flowering of Salvadoran food

Flores, a restaurant at 863 Congress St. in Portland that serves Salvadoran food, is opening a second location Saturday at 437 Congress St., next to the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church. The restaurant had a soft opening last weekend, said Jennifer Hernandez, whose family owns Flores.

The original restaurant, in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood, has just nine seats and no bar. It’s mostly a lunch takeout spot, Hernandez said. The family has been renovating the new location at the top of the Old Port, in the former Mainely Wraps space, for about a year.

The new Flores is a dine-in restaurant that seats about 45 people and has a full bar. “The place looks completely different,” Hernandez said.

The Flores in Parkside will remain open for takeout, she said.

Hours at the new location will be 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays. For the first two weeks, Sunday hours will be 2-11 p.m. After that, the restaurant will open for Sunday brunch and the hours that day will change to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday hours will be 5-11 p.m. Flores will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Coffee, food trucks and more cool local stuff

Coveside Coffee at 28 Vannah Ave. in Portland is hosting a market Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to owners Zara Bohan and Andy Nesheim.

Stop by and grab a bite from three food trucks that will be on site: Crepe Elizabeth (sweet and savory crepes), Quanto Basta (Neapolitan pizza) and Paleta Guy (Mexican-style popsicles). The market also will sell products from local makers, including jewelry, plants and flowers, home goods, prints and ceramics. Coffee beans will play a role in a kids’ art activity with Love Lab Studio. And, of course, you can buy a good cup of coffee to enjoy while you shop.

Barbecue Showdown 

Rock Row in Westbrook is hosting a Barbecue Showdown from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday in the dirt parking lot behind the Market Basket building. The entrance is off Larrabee road, across from Terminal Street. Parking is free, and spaces will be available for the disabled.

Ticket holders can taste barbecue samples, play lawn games, dance to a country band, and vote for their favorite team to win the $500 cash prize. Beer and cocktails will be sold.

Tickets cost $5, with all proceeds going to Foundation4Love, a nonprofit that helps people battling cancer. Children under 5 get in free, but still must be registered for tickets. To buy tickets and register your kids, go to eventbrite.com.

Cheese shop takes a holiday

The Cheese Shop of Portland, 107 Washington Ave., closed Monday so its staff can take an 11-day break for rest and staff training. The store will reopen Sept. 24, just in time for the shop’s third anniversary.

High-achieving cheeses

York Hill Farm in Washington won Best in Show at last week’s inaugural Maine Cheese Awards for its green peppercorn and nutmeg roll. The awards were announced at the Maine Cheese Festival in Pittsfield.

Twenty of Maine’s 65 registered creameries entered 105 cheeses into the state’s first-ever such competition. Winners were chosen by a panel of six guest judges, who assessed the cheeses on their appearance, texture, consistency and taste. Here are the first place winners in each category:

Fresh Cheese: ChiGoBee Farm in Pownal for its plain chevre.

Flavored Fresh Cheese: York Hill Farm in Washington for its green peppercorn and nutmeg roll.

Soft Ripened Cheese (Bloomy): Winter Hill Farm in Freeport for its Tideline.

Washed rind cheese: Fuzzy Udder Creamery in Whitefiled for its Cyclone.

Aged natural rind cheese: Balfour Farm in Pittsfield for its Torrin Tomme.

Aged flavored cheese: Balfour Farm in Pittsfield for its Cotswold.

Blue cheese: Spring Day Creamery in Durham for its Fraffie.

Have a brewski, help a bird

Staghorn sumac feeds the chickadees and waxwings that hang out at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm in winter. Now it will sustain you as well, when you drink a glass of beer.

Banded Brewing Co. foraged local sumac (from fallen branches) on the farm in Falmouth to make a German-style Gose. Sales of the new beer will benefit Maine Audubon and its conservation efforts.

“Sumac berries, often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, have a pleasant tangy, lemony taste which we felt would be the perfect complement to a traditional German-Style Gose,” the brewery noted on social media.

Try it for yourself at a release party being held Thursday at the brewery’s Portland location, 82 Hanover St. The beer will be available from 4-9 p.m., and at 7:30 p.m. representatives of Maine Audubon will be on hand to answer questions.

During the party, Banded Brewing will donate $1 from all draft pours to Maine Audubon. Ten percent of all sales of Gilsland Farm Gose will go to the organization as well.

Harvest on the Harbor tickets on sale

Portland’s annual Harvest on the Harbor festival, which was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, will be a hybrid this year, with both in-person and virtual events held Nov. 4-7. Tickets have just gone on sale for two in-person events, both of which will be held at O’Maine Studios, 54 Danforth St.

A collaboration with the Maine Distillers Guild will kick off the food-and-drink festival at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 with “Meet Your Maker,” a tasting of Maine-made spirits paired with food. Tickets, available through harvestontheharbor.com, cost $60.

On Nov. 6, Maine OysterFest (pet peeve alert – don’t ask me why that’s one word) will feature Maine oysters, beer from Allagash Brewing Co. and Austin Street Brewery, and Los Dos Cava Spanish sparkling wine. Tickets are $80 for each session. The first session is scheduled for 12:30-3 p.m., and the second for 4-6:30 p.m.

Harvest on the Harbor will require proof of vaccination administered at least 14 days before an event, or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours, or a negative COVID-19 rapid (antigen) test taken within 12 hours.


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