It’s been a great few weeks for the Midcoast culinary scene. Paolina’s Way in Camden was named one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the United States. Anne Marie Ahearn, a chef who runs cooking classes out of Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville, was described in late December as one of the young chefs changing America’s palate. Chef Geoffroy Deconinck of Natalie’s in Camden made the cut for Food and Wine magazine’s people’s choice best new chef (one of only 100 chefs and the only one from Maine). Local restaurant doyens Brian Hill (Francine, Shepherd’s Pie) and Melissa Kelly (Primo) were nominated for James Beard Awards.
Then, flicking through Maine magazine’s food issue, I noticed no less than a third of featured chefs from across the entire state came from Camden, Rockport or Rockland. Not bad for a small, rural county. (Although, of course, we all have known for ages that just about everything in these parts — from a humble hot dog to four-diamond elegance — tastes better for being grown, made or cooked in this neck of the woods).
Local diners as well as visitors from close to home and distant parts currently have an added incentive to get out and get noshing. We are in the midst of the third annual Maine Restaurant Week, which runs through March 12 — an elastic definition of ‘week,’ but if dessert is involved, who cares? Restaurants around Maine will participate in the event by featuring special three-course dinners ranging in price from $20 to $40. Some restaurants also will offer three-course prix-fixe lunches from $15.
Restaurant Week celebrates the vibrancy and richness of Maine’s culinary traditions while giving restaurants a much-needed boost during the slowest time of the year.
More than 70 restaurants are registered for the March 2011 Maine Restaurant Week, from Eliot to Bangor to Rockland. A list of participating restaurants and featured menus is available at www.mainerestaurantweek.com.
Locally, Maine Restaurant Week features chamber members Cappy’s Chowder House, Hartstone Inn, Natalie’s and Paolina’s Way. Diners can learn about the Midcoast participants at www.mainerestaurantweek.com/midcoast.htm.
Maine Restaurant Week is sponsored by Down East Magazine, Maine Today Media, Citadel Broadcasting, Shipyard Brewing Company and Native Maine Produce, with additional support from the Maine Office of Tourism.
Those interested in staying up-to-date on all aspects of the event may visit www.mainerestaurantweek.com and join the e-mail group or call 775-2126 and ask to be added to the group.
In addition to Maine Restaurant Week, if you are looking for something to do to complete the phrase “dinner and …” I’d like to suggest combining a meal out with a little comedy basketball — at least on Monday, March 7, when the Harlem Rockets are in town to play a hand-picked team of local stars at Camden Hills Regional High School.
The evening promises laughs, athleticism and fun for the whole family for an affordable price.
For more information, contact Alicia Bagnall at the CRL Chamber at 236-4404 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.visitcamden.com and scroll down for more information.
Dan Bookham is the executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce. Call 236-4404, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.visitcamden.com for more information.