The James Beard Foundation Awards are the Oscars of the food world. They’re a really big deal. For a state with just 1 million people, Maine is heavily represented on the list of the 2010 semifinalists for all the nationwide and regional awards, which was released last week — last year’s Best Chef Northeast winner was Rob Evans of Hugo’s in Portland. This year, Portland’s Sam Hayward, chef at Fore Street, was nominated for Outstanding Chef, nationwide, pitting him against heavy hitters in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Fore Street also was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. For Best Chef Northeast, Maine nominees include Krista Kern Desjarlais of Portland eatery Bresca, Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of perennially acclaimed Ogunquit restaurant Arrows, Brian Hill of Francine Bistro in Camden, and Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, Megan Chase, and Ted Lafage of Chase’s Daily in Belfast. A potential foodie goal for this summer: eat at each place by Labor Day. The mind and palate marvel at what an experience that could be. For more information on the awards, now in its 20th year, visit www.jamesbeard.org.
Is there a more versatile food than pasta? Perhaps, but it probably doesn’t taste as good. Enjoy your fill of starchy goodness next week, with Waterfall Arts’ second annual Pastabilities benefit dinner. Local “celebrity” chefs Ted LaFage, Joe Ascrizzi, Blaine Richardson, Karen MacDonald and Frank Carozza, with the help of Waldo County Technical Center Culinary students, will cook up a fabulous, pasta-centric meal with salad, breadsticks, beverages and dessert. If you read the Tidbit above about the James Beard awards, you’ll note that Ted Lafage is one of this year’s nominees — so not only do you get to sample food from an acclaimed chef, but you also will get to help local arts. The event, being held 5:30-7 p.m. Monday, March 1, will benefit Waterfall Arts, including its upcoming Rangeways sculptural installations at Belfast’s public bay access points. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for kids under 12. Musical entertainment, a raffle and a silent auction are all part of the evening. The event will be held at Chase’s Daily, 96 Main St. in Belfast. For more information, visit www.waterfallarts.org.
It is certainly not too early to start thinking about Maine-grown foods — with the weather we’ve had these past few weeks, we might be eating our first sweet peas by the end of April. Get a jump on your local meat, seafood and produce this year, with the first-ever Bangor Community Supported Agriculture Fair, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, at Beth El Synagogue at 183 French St. in Bangor. Parker Produce, Fisher Farm Organic Produce, Happy Town Farm, Milky Way Organic Farm & Farm Stand and Post Family Farm will all be on hand to take on new customers for their seasonal farm share, as will the Community Supporter Fisheries Port Clyde Fresh Catch and Penobscot East Resource Center. Farm shares are among the most cost-friendly ways to keep fresh, local, organic foods on your table all summer and fall long. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Ryan Parker of Parker Produce at 356-6577.