Friday, August 31

Coffee fog

The Phoenix gives the skinny on lattes, recommending Arabica, whose crema is from Western Mass roastery Esselon. Aurora Provisions, not mentioned, also makes a suave iced americano. Portland Food Map calls Coffee By Design the best, except the lack of Wi-Fi, while the Phoenix calls CBD "the Microsoft of Portland coffees."

The North Star Cafe has burnt Boston burb beanery Jim's Organic. There's also Others, Portland Coffee Roasters, Zarra's Monumental and The Udder Place, along with chains JavaNet, Dunkin' Donuts and Tim Hortons? McDonald's, with its organic Newman's Own, was a favorite for Consumer Reports. Starbucks' iced coffee won the praise of the Chronicle. If you opt for national, "Starbucks is a company with a profound disrespect for workers' rights,'' said a union organizer, via NYT. It's not just the 'buckzilla, the USDA has simultaneously tightened inspection rules on organic coffees. "A recent ruling could wipe out the organic coffee market in the U.S," said a fair trade certifier, via Fromartz.

With phony organic labels that mean as much as "guaranteed electronics" and "all-natural 7-Up," the best bet might be dining in - on homebrew. Those good cups of coffee might not be as organic, free-trade, shade-grown, or local as advertiser might want you to think. Like Local Coffee at the very Crooked Mile.

The iPress Herald recommends a percolator/Neopolitan. If you're too cheap for a stovetop espresso maker or a French press, cold brew coffee requires only a Mason jar and a seive. The Times calls it "the kind of thing a gentleman might spend five days in hot-coffee solitary confinement for."Grind about a 1/3 cup beans at a medium grind, cover with 1 and 1/2 cups water, leave out overnight at room temperature for 12 hours. The low-acid brew should should be chilled. Strain it, or let the grounds sink upon refrigerated. Some tend to filter it again. Dilute one to one with ice cubes or water.

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Thursday, August 30

Week in Review, Aug. 30

A nutty squirrel in New York predicted a Red Sox victory (1), nuts were banned from a Bangor high school (2), and dozens of lunchladies cooked up organic ginger carrot soup (3). "I am just absolutely fascinated by these little creatures," said a beekeeper (4).

A live goat appeared on Middle Street (5), Bonobo had "delectable" crust (6), and a man had a "truly unusual texture, not quite chewy but sort of dense" fish at Miyake (7). Another reviewer had a "curious incident" with a funnel cake (8). The Fish Exchange continued to flounder
(9) and fisherman reported an upsurge in flukes (10).

Milk prices might stabilize (11). Campers, sitting on milk crates, were evicted from behind the vounty jail (12), and an organic farm volunteer, camping out, was struck by lightning (13).

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Dreaded Flatbread

Q: Are you a hippie?

Q: Do you seem somewhat stoned all the time?

Q: Do you promise to forget at least one person's drink, preferably the crying baby's milk, plus possibly the birthday celebrant's beer?

Q: Do you like to disappear partly through service?

Q: Are you physically incapable of hurrying or speaking quickly?

Congratulations! You are hired! Only people who answer yes to the previous five questions are incompetent enough to be hired in service roles at Flatbread!

All this and more, via AV.

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Powerbars & pad thai

Two days outdoors biking and kayaking in the city, via Outside. West End Outsider recommends stops at Long Island's Boat House, the Porthole, Bubba's Sulky Lounge, Bankok Thai and Uffa!.

Wednesday, August 29

Urbanlocavore

The stuff of urban lore, "city locavores," via NYer. This post follows the "Wildman" Steve Brill trajectory, with a freegan twist, in Portland.

These crabapples - tart, crisp, tasting incredibly of apple and slightly of exhaust - found on Preble Street, across from a very large empty Public Parket.

Post any other hot tips for other urban forages: Sparrows? Chanterelles in Evergreen Cemetery? Wild persimmons? Eggs? Malt liquors on Portland Street?

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Charantais

In this week's hot Portland chef of the week, not sponsored by Glad, courtesy of the Press Herald, via Link, Krista Kern reflects on moist cavernous interior of cantaloupe. Like gorgeous Chef Rob Evans last week, the paper opts to run the Bresca beauty's headshot over a pornographic take on her special sweet salmon melon speck. [8/31: Delected comments].

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Humping with Humbert

Down East joins the Humbert Humbert ranks. The magazine's recent dining piece, "In Love with Lola," pg. 39, missses the whole Bandolita episode. Josh Potocki, who reclaimed a drifting One Fifty-Ate - the SoPo bagelry - with a new lunch menu last month, works at Bar Lola's kitchen, says the Down East piece. This might have been true in June. Not in September.

Not that the review says anything we haven't heard about the "glorious views" and the "wonderful food." Wait, it does offer one criticism: "Crepes with Pernod cream and vegetables are light and delicate, if a bit bland."

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Monday, August 27

Hairy chef

"I been cleaning up. You like it?"

"You look good."

"I went from Crazy Harry to F. Scott Fitzgerald."

"What happened? Grease fire?"

"Oh no."

- Jay "F. Scott" Villani, of Local 188, overheard by "tj."

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Fishwatch

The Feds give the skinny on bycatch, overfishing and "sustainable" fish, via NOAA.

Sunday, August 26

Terroirist

Radicalized French wine growers dynamite grocery stores and hijack foreign wines, via NYT.

Saturday, August 25

Bot rakers

Mechanical blueberry rakers, via BDN and PPH.

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Friday, August 24

Plywood Report

Morrison's opened on Temple Street, via PFM. Espans Quick Lunch, 5 Veranda Street, will close at the end of August, via tB. Rumormongers say Blackstones, on Pine Street, may be trying to open in the space where Uffa! plans to vacate when it moves to Westbrook - possibly a lesbian bar.

Loco Pollo, not to be confused with El Pollo Loco, planned to open in July on Washington Ave. "Hopefully," said a sign there. Hilltop's Fat Baxter's continued planning work for a market and relocated Hilltop Coffee [addendum 8/30: The shop is planned for an opening in one month]. Jim Amaral's Borealis Bread may be moving a bakery and retail location to Ocean Avenue, a place El Camino had been eyeing earlier this year. Maple's Organic hopes to move into Casco Bay Books within a week.

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Bee

The Press Herald reports a SoPo neighbor complained about bees in his bonnet, via PPH. The beekeepers most likely "offense": He's Iranian.

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Locavore

More on food miles, via Grist. And the Farm Bill, via Dan Barber at Slate.

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Thursday, August 23

Busy Billy

"How are things going?"

"Busier than a cucumber in a women's penitentiary."

- Jonathan St. Laurent, overheard at Uncle Billy's.

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Delicious

“The thing about food writing is that there are only about fifteen adjectives you can use—‘delicious,’ ‘delectable,’ ‘unctuous’—so that is why I moved to the disgusting side,” Tom Parker Bowles explained over lunch recently, via NYer.

Week in Review, Aug. 23

A crackdown on caffeinated alcoholic energy drink, or alco-crack, was launched (1), and sales of peanuts and Cracker jacks declined at baseball stadiums (2). A baker said he learned his skills making crack (3, 4). Berryjacking, the theft of expensive low-bush blueberry crops, led to a $5,000 reward (5, 5).

A 18-year old waitress won the blueberry queen contest (6), and another Maine waitress reported that her boss hired a stalker to bus tables (7). Lobstermen protested in Cutler (8, 9) and animal rights activists planned to protest a shark fishing event in Saco (10). “We need to get the guys on the docks fired up,” said a state regulator (10).

Chicago's ban on foie gras began its second year (11). A burger showdown was held on a New York beach (12), and deer heart, pierogis, scorched watermelon and cocoa butter brioche french toast were served at a South Portland foie gras death match. A columnist ate cake (13).

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Goats

What really gets my goat? The lack of reviews about places that serve goat. Psst looked at Hamdi. The small Somali place on Washington Avenue remains open and remains overlooked by Goad & Co. Elsewhere, El-Amin Halaal serves up spicy stewed meat that are at once cheap, filling and savory, via Chowhound. If only Mark's suddenly became trendy, and the hot doggery went halal, via NYM.

Goats may be getting some more attention with The Year of the Goat, a goat cheese tasting and book-signing event at Rabelais, via PPH. Let's hope it includes some fresh goat, halal-style. If you want to know where your halal meats are coming from, photos of slaughtering are also currently on display at the Salt gallery on Exchange Street.

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Wednesday, August 22

Blondkopfchen

He didn't get the James Beard. It doesn't look like he'll win any essay contests on tomatoes, but Chef Rob Evans continues to be the handsomest chef in town. His food is pretty good-looking too. His tasting menu has a roasted hanger steak & crépinette with smoked tomato. Chef Evens also serves up a "tomato salad" constructed out of tomato water and gelatin blooms, via PPH (so glad the paper printed his headshot over some ugly Brandywine panna cotta).

Tomatoes may not be here long. Freezes were reported in Maine last week. Tomatoes are selling for between $4.50 (organic Sungold variety) to $2 (damaged/seconds) per pound at market. This is tomato tasting week, via BDN and PPH, so pick up the hierloom Green Zebras, striped German and hybrid supersweets. For those of us with smaller staffs than Chef Evans, tomato salads can be simpler, via the Globe.

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Gastro-mapping

The Portland Food Map is a new website with flowcharts for food, with categories like "ethnic" or "food carts," and an amazing set of links. It's generated by a very techno-saavy West Ender by the name of Anestes Fotiades. The site's been called "a graphical interpretation of Portland's food scene," via RB.

The restaurant mapping on PFM still needs some work and user-generated content is next to none, but the map may best a recent "wiki"-mapping effort at Food & Wine. Don't ask F&W how the Portland Harbor Hotel ended up in SoPo. Just ask Anestes Fotiades why hotel fodder is under his Portland gastro-radar.

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Historic cocktails

Victoria Mansion hosts a cocktail party with King Memphis, tomorrow at 6 p.m., $20, via VM. The event precedes an annual cigar and scotch tasting for historic gents on September 6, $50, and an estate jewelry and champagne party for historic ladies on Sept 18, $40.

Tuesday, August 21

Bandolesca

"There was a fois gras party on Sunday. Krista Kern and Erik Desjarlais were joined at the hip all night. Then caught in the act of being joined at the face!"

-Pure gossip, overheard by anon. at Street & Co. bar

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Pub Dounder at Andy's

The undercover bar snitch, Bud Pounder, in his latest conquest on Commercial Street, via The Bollard.

Parlez-vous Ital?

Last week's Phoenix "review" took a real Italian to four "Italian" restaurants. Was Mr. Italy cold-pressed, extra-virgin? If olive oil is any indication, via NYer, probably not. What's next for the alt-weakly? Real queens to gay bars? Real fistfighters to Wharf Street dumps?

Besides some obvious shortcomings, the reviewer misses some serious places: The Village Cafe. The Roma. Off-peninsula faves, aka snores, like Espo's, Bruno's and Rachel's L'Osteria. And how can one talk about Italian without mentioning the submarines of Maine, the "Italians," of Fasulo's, Anania's, Amatos, Colucci's et al., and Mekot Pech*. There's also Anthony's Italian Kitchen and the upscale Italian restaurants: Bresca, Cinque Terra and Vignola. And, of course, Maine's most popular restaurant, Applebee's.

*This only counts if you think Banh Mi, the post-colonial French baguette sandwich of Vietnam, resembles a Maine "Italian," via Switch.

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Monday, August 20

Rake

Two-handled ergonomic blueberry rakes distributed to migrant workers by nurses in Winnebagos, via MaineBiz.

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Sunday, August 19

USDA "Organic"

Despite recent growth of Big Organic, national regulators in charge of rule changes, like "organic" salmon, remain woefully underfunded, via NYT. That's saying nothing about labels that have gone unregulated like "cage-free," via NYT. Even Burger King, which shunned "chick food," is into "cage-free."

Saturday, August 18

The Way Life Should Be

Food is sensual and beautiful and subjective, but not every eater needs their salt cod coddled - even in the lovely seaside mecca of Portland, where everything is exquisite and tranquil, at least according to the provincial dining bunch dishing out the local refuse.

This blog is a critical digest of indigestible material, much of it from other sources. If you don't like the fishy authoritativeness here, local bloggers update infrequently. It's kind of like menus designed for tourists. If you only go once, why bother updating, right? See also, Portland Breakfast Club, From Away, Bastard Donuts, blogBandol and Thistin' Howl. Events are listed at Chow, Rabelais and Slow Food.

Regional forums include Chowhound (sample: "I don't think Portland area has any real good chinese restaurants"; "La Bodega Latina has some very tasty stews - I really like the goat and the oxtail") and eGullet ("johnnyd" on Cap't Newicks: "Prices aside, the classic fried seafood set-up is clearly in place: bored teenagers working the fryolaters, sea kitsch on the walls and tables, predictable menu.") For bar binges, ramen reviews and the breakfast serial, head to The Bollard.

Mainetakeout.com and the Downtown Directory list phone numbers. The Press Herald posts its reviews and its futureless features, and its tabloid SWITCH gets the vegan take on sushi. Alt-weaklies Brian Duff and Todd Richard talk good about mediocre food and run strong critiques of the Bush agenda. The Boston Globe runs Maine food features in the summer. Whatever you do: If you don't have anything nice to say, say it here.

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Locavore

In case you've missed everything written about food in the last 5 years... "Now the hot eco-food trend is eating local, as in meats and vegetables produced within 100 miles of your kitchen," via PPH.

"Local has become the new organic, helped in large part by a growing concern over the environmental impact of transporting food thousands of miles. A few years ago, the term food miles moved into the lexicon. Dedicated people calling themselves locavores began limiting their diets to food that came from a radius of a couple hundred miles," via NYT.

Hangover tea

Hair of the Khan, an herbal remedy with some scientific basis, at Homegrown Herb & Tea, via Bye Bye Karen.

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Friday, August 17

Agenda

Tonight, Bibo's Madd Apple Cafe, on Forest Ave., hosts a wine and Spanish dinner, $50. 774-9694.

Local 188, serving food until 10:30, has John Myers, reputed barhand known for mixing at Oolong on deck, via eG.

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What I Ate for Breakfast

This is not a What I Ate For Breakfast Blog (see a list here). It does not offer sensuous photographs like Stephen Cooks or Beyond Salmon. It is not the Good Life version 2.0. If Psstaff had Web 2.0 skills, this site might resemble Yelp. For underdeveloped google map mashups of food in Portland, there's Food & Wine.

Glowing reviews are everywhere. The latest in What I Ate For Dinner blogs, coming from a Falmouthian with a prediliction for goodness, with some loose change, is Type A. Sample: "Oh, it was good! I'm not sure how good because I have nothing to compare it to. But it was melt in your mouth good."

Bresca, revisited

Thank you for firing that guy who shredded my experience with a cheese grater, via Psst. It's really made a big difference. I've been back, per your suggestion. The menu hasn't really changed much - a little seafood here, a portion change there - but the precision has paid off: The dishes are consistent and consistently worth it. Spring and summer financiers, incredible gifts from a pastry goddess. Fresh pasta. Derivative, yet delicious, shaved brussels. Helpful wine suggestions. And honeycomb. If Bresca were in a neighborhood, this would be the city's best neighborhood restaurant - small, chef-owned, without pretense.

Are those days over? With the mention from the Sunday Telegram and The Globe, the inevitable influx of Bay Staters, the question may soon be Hugo's, 555, or Bresca? I'll wait until October for reservations.

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Thursday, August 16

Bonobo

Pine Street's pizzeria, named for a quirky African mammal, is finally open. In captivity, bonobos sometimes celebrate good food finds with indiscriminate communal sex. The first time I visited Bonobo, I wasn't bananas about their "wood fire pizza." In fact, if I were a primate, I probably would have kept my pants on.

Oliver Outerbridge, dough boy and owner, has attempted a "wet dough method" pizza crust. (File with no knead). Wet dough means steam. Steam on hot stones means crispy crust. But his staff admitted the method wasn't really working, via Switch. The parchment paper stuck to some crusts and the dough had a yeasty taste, like bread that hadn't been given enough time. Outerbridge should be given more time for tossing slow-rise dough like a crazy baboon.

Seeing any chef-owner on the floor is good and if he's pointing out the weaknesses of his product, I admire his humility. His crazy chicken sausage topping comes from Sunset Acres farm, and the portions are admirable. Toppings also include pepperoni, roasted peppers and tomatoes. At about $14 apiece, the 13-inch pies don't come cheap.

Inside, it's design is a far cry from Flatbread, the hippy Disney of pizza on the waterfront, which has achieved a remarkable consistency. It's a little closer to home, a little quirkier in a good way. I'll be back for beer and wine. Don't say you weren't warned.

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Week in Review, Aug. 16

President Bush's wife served hot dogs, hamburgers, corn and blueberry pie to the French president (1, 2), while Sarkozy's wife feigned sickness (3). Blueberry beer was the best fruity beer (4), blueberry land was wild (5) and taffy transported tourists (6). "We stopped for blueberries," one vacationer said, "but I have a whoopie pie addiction" (7).

Oyster farms were bad for waterfront developers (8), and dairy farms had burping cows, which contributed to global warming (9). The farm bill aided Maine's organic farmers for the first time (10), but the farm bill was said to leave Mainers in the dust (11).

Seattle's public market turned 100 (12); Portland's vacant Public Market remained unsold. Whole Foods, which launched plans to overtake Wild Oats, also wanted to raise prices at Wal-Mart (13). The smell of dead herring overtook India Street, Newbury Street smelled of fried dough, and a foie gras feast was planned by a chef at an undisclosed location (14).

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Wednesday, August 15

Food miles

Some say a hundred miles is local. Others say two. Local Arthur Harvey blueberries travel about 60 miles. Aroostook County potatoes go 350 miles to Portland. A South Portland man means backyard when he says local, via CSM. It's old news that some local is Big Illusory Local, via Psst.

How far dinner travels from source to stomach is still a foodie hot potato. High mileage generally adds to the carbon footprint of, say, a cheeseburger, via OTF.

Last week, a professor in Austin said in a New York paper that low food miles didn't add up to big carbon savings, via NYT. James McWilliams, author of the credibility-plagued A Revolution in Eating, said that buying local was not better for the environment: If you live in England, it's ecologically better to buy imported New Zealand lamb chops.

Readers disagreed, via NYT. A Maine foodie said it was still better to know your farmer, via MFN. The study McWilliams cited was manufactured by the Kiwi lamb industry. In short, McWilliam's relied on a wolf in sheep's clothing, via ethicurian.

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Thursday, August 9

Week in Review, Aug. 9

Jerk chicken was served (0) and Fake Steve Jobs, on vacation in Maine, was still not the head of Apple (1). Two Big Apple restaurants imitating the Maine coast fought over authenticity (2). Supermarkets added mangosteens and cherimoyas alongside apples, oranges and bananas (3). Israeli youth launched a bombardment of vegetables at Palestinians (4).

Corn appeared at the Farmers' Market (5, 5.1). The farm bill, which helped large farmers, also recognized vegetable growers (6). Increased corn-based ethanol production led to expensive land (7) and expensive steak (8). Steak tips enhanced personal ads (9) and a Maine dairy farmer performed professional pedicures (10).

"Texas Freedom Toast" was a suggested menu item for a lunch planned between President George Bush and France's Nicolas Sarkozy (11). "Clammy" weather was reported Monday (12), lobsters were poisoned in Nova Scotia (13), a woman who attacked her mother with a hatchet ate a hot fudge sundae (14), and a patron at Bonobo sneezed (15).

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Chefs prefer blogs that are fun reading!

Chefs prefer blogs that are fun reading! With a little help from the folks that edit reviews for movie posters (Two thumbs up! Exhilerating!), a recent story by Brian Duff had a comment about the foodie blogosphere and films from two "real life" chefs who keep very neat kitchens. Here's the actual quote:

Most chefs would prefer some straightforward complaints, on-site with the plate in front of them as evidence, to people who go home and write blogs that are nasty for the sake of fun reading.
Number of comments, so far, on that story: 0.

Nasty or not, Jessica Tomlinson gave a nod to Psst in a DownEast roundup of big city news:

"This blog is fantastic for keeping up with eating out in Portland. If a chef across town sneezes, this blogger knows it and writes about it. "
Now, let's hope DownEast can expand its online dining listings in Portland beyond a senior living center. God bless them.

Wednesday, August 8

Potatoe

Maine's new potatoes, "feshly" dug via The Globe.

Q & A

Here's a paraphrased version of a question posed to New York Times Dining editor Pete Wells:
Like so much popular food writing, the Dining section often opts for chatty, fairly insubstantial content. What the fuck?
That was a question asked by the Times' Dan Okrent years ago, a foundational question for Psst, and a question that seems to plague Maine, where travelers and diners say everything is beautiful and tranquil and just The Way Life Should Be.

Tuesday, August 7

Cumberland Farms

It was late and I was hungry. I didn't want to spend money at Bonobo, Vignola or Local 188. So I decided to try some late night pad thai, a la Todd "Cumbie Pad Thai" Richard.

I went to Cumberland Fams and didn't find a single box of pasta. No rice noodles. No Prince spaghetti. Nada. The place doesn't have olive oil. Your options are motor oil or vegetable oil. No garlic. No red pepper. No soy sauce. Nothing. The only thing at Cumbies on Pine Street (and the Cumbies on Washington Avenue) has that is in Richard's recipe is peanut butter. Try to be a frugal gourmand and end up eating peanut butter. That's not bad dorm food. That's just bullshit.

Next time, I'll settle for ketchup-braised tofu and reconstituted Fritos.

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Thursday, August 2

Week in Review, Aug 2

Ice cream costs soared because of rising milk prices (1), which did not sustain home delivery service (2). Crops dried up (3) and dried Maine beef fueled hikers in Montana (4). Beef jerky went upscale (5), and lobster ice cream, which disgusted most, was called the "perfect PMS ice cream" (6). An ice cream shop treated celebrities like the "average Joe" (7).

"I'd rather have five gallons of oil dumped on me, than the flies crawling on me," said a man whose land was covered with chicken shit (8). Four people, who ate mussels harvested off a floating barrel, suffered from paralytic shellfish poisoning (9). The head chef of Demillo's died (10).

Kiwi vegans said they struggled with consuming meaty bodily fluids (11), and bananas were linked to paramilitaries (12). An illiterate dog named for a North Carolina city greeted patrons at a foodie book store (13).

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Wednesday, August 1

Openings

Local 188 moves into new digs Wednesday in Longfellow Square. The new lounge includes an expanded menu, a parking lot, a/c and late-night tapas fare.

Chaba Thai
II, the Portland branch of a successful Scarborough restaurant, opens Thursday on Forest Avenue.

Pine Street's brick-oven pizzeria Bonobo said it would open Friday Aug. 3 at 5 p.m.

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Lobster fest



Welcome to Maine, via ML.
Rockland's Lobster Festival, the quintessense of extravagent, somewhat useless summer festivals in Maine, begins today.

The essay "Consider the Lobster," a sensational, possibly inaccurate Gourmet article, pirated by Lobster Liberation, documents the festival from the perspective of an arrogant snob.

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