The Wrap: Portland students test African cuisine, Silly’s reinvents itself and raises funds for Ukraine

A taste test of a Central African dish served at Portland high schools for lunch last month was “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Portland Public Schools officials. Photo credit: Food Corps/Cultivating Community

Continuing a cultural initiative launched last fall at Westbrook Schools, Portland’s three public high schools hope to broaden students’ palates and broaden their worldview by giving them a taste of Central African cuisine.

On March 24, students from Deering, Casco Bay and Portland high schools had the opportunity to sample a Central African dish of mashed red beans, spiced beef and coleslaw prepared by the school’s kitchen staff. . June McLucas, director of food services at Portland Public Schools, said the special taste-testing event was an “overwhelming success,” with many students voting for “liking” the new dish.

The recipe was developed to meet federal school lunch nutrition guidelines by Maine chef and school nutrition consultant Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro and Kahadija Ahmed, owner-operator of Food For All African Mobile Market. As they did at Westbrook, the two trained the Portland High School cafeteria staff to cook the dish.

School officials noted that Portland hosts the largest and most diverse student body in the state, making the project particularly appropriate here. About a third of students come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.

“All of our students should have the opportunity to enjoy a greater variety of culturally diverse menu items,” Superintendent Xavier Botana said. Botana and his colleagues said they hoped students’ enthusiasm for African food would lead to their increased interest and participation in the school meals program.

The project is funded by Full Plates, Full Potential and led by McLucas and the local food justice nonprofit Cultivating Community. It is also supported by several community partners, including FoodCorps, the Cumberland County Food Safety Council, the Good Shepherd Food Bank, and the University of Southern Maine.

Silly’s closes again

After reopening at 68 Washington Ave. in October 2020, the longtime Portland restaurant closed last month, apparently leaving the brick-and-mortar business model behind.

In a statement on Silly’s website, owner Colleen Kelley said the lease had expired on the restaurant’s location on Washington Avenue. “I’m going to move Silly’s into a food truck, which I think suits me better at this point in my life,” Kelley wrote. No word is yet available on when Silly’s food truck will begin operating, and Kelley could not be reached for comment before press time.

Silly’s opened on Cumberland Avenue in 1988 under original owners Dierdre and Stephanie Nice. In 1997, the restaurant moved to 40 Washington Ave. Kelley bought Silly’s in 2002.

In August 2019, Kelley closed Silly’s, along with its pop-up branch, Simply Vegan by Silly’s, which opened at 68 Washington Ave. in 2018. At the time, Kelley gave numerous reasons for the closures, including the need to care for her father and “the new Washington Avenue hipster artisan I don’t really fit into anymore.”

Kelley reopened Silly’s in fall 2020 in the space occupied by the former Simply Vegan by Silly’s.

Sarada Krishnan, executive director of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance at her coffee plantation in Jamaica. Krishnan will be at Coffee By Design on Diamond Street on Tuesday, April 12 from 1-3 p.m. Picture ccourtesy of Sarada Krishnan

Coffee By Design hosts chat with coffee experts

On April 12, Coffee By Design welcomes female coffee farmers and authorities from coffee-growing regions around the world for a casual get-together at their East Bayside location at 1 Diamond St. in Portland from 1-3 p.m.

The visitors, all members of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, represent coffee growers, businesses and organizations in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Ethiopia, Rwanda, the Philippines and elsewhere, according to the spokeswoman for the event, Gillian Britt. Sirada Krishnan, executive director of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, and Stephany Davila, third-generation Guatemalan coffee farmer and founder of the Coffee Farmers Alliance, will be among the visitors available to speak to guests, Britt said.

Krishnan and his female coffee colleagues are attending the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston (April 8-10) before coming to Maine. Britt said representatives from US coffee organization Sustainable Harvest will also be present for the April 12 event.

Ukraine Strong Coffee from Coffee By Design, which is using the special blend to raise money for relief efforts in Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Coffee By Design

Fundraising for Ukraine

Coffee By Design is also selling a new special blend this month, Strong Ukraine, and donating $5 for every book sold to Partners for World Health, the Portland-based nonprofit that distributes medical supplies to places in need. The cafe describes its Ukraine Strong blend as a medium roast, with sweet notes of orange and chocolate. The mix is ​​available in one pound bags for $18.50 or two pound bags for $35.

Additionally, this Thursday, The Broken Arrow Restaurant at 545 Congress St. in Portland will host a charity dinner with 100% of proceeds going to World Central Kitchen, the international hunger relief effort that now focuses on food. food for Ukrainian war refugees. Yarmouth chef Christian Hayes traveled to Ukraine last month to help with the work of World Central Kitchen.

Broken Arrow is offering a $49 four-course menu for the event, featuring tuna crudo with herb aioli, winter vegetables, goulash and spaetzle and ending with a poached pear in mascarpone. Buy dinner tickets on the broken arrow website.

Lobster Shack will open for the season

Cape Elizabeth’s Lobster Shack at Two Lights reopens this Saturday for the 2022 season. The popular restaurant’s website says it plans to offer indoor and outdoor seating and its season runs until 23 October.

The Lobster Shack’s Facebook page announced the reopening on Tuesday, noting that it will be open seven days a week from noon to 7 p.m.

Owner Katie Porch said her restaurant usually reopens for the season in late March, but pushed it back a few weeks this year. “We wanted to give people the best chance to sit outside,” she said, noting that the lobster shack closed in late September last year instead of October due to COVID-19.

New brunch in Portland

A brunch-focused New England restaurant chain plans to open its first location in Maine as The Friendly Toast comes to Portland later this year.

The Friendly Toast will be located in the space at 211 Fore St. formerly occupied by Sebago Brewing Company. The New Hampshire-based chain was founded in 1994 and has eight other locations in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Yesterday, The Friendly Toast’s press relations manager could not provide further details on the new location, or when it will open.

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