There’s lots of exciting food news in Maine today. We’ve got celebrity chefs, a restaurant that has been named one of the best in the country, and new cuisine coming to Bangor.
— Rob Evans of Portland’s Duckfat competed Tuesday night in the grand finale of Food Network’s “Chopped Champions,” which pitted 16 former “Chopped” winners against each other to win $50,000. Sadly, Evans lost to Chef Jun Tanaka — though he did make it to the final round, beating out chefs Kenneth Johnson and Vinson Petrillo in the appetizer and entree rounds. As the Food Network website stated, “[Evans and Tanaka] went head-to-head to create the dessert of their lives with such mandatory ingredients as carrot juice, almond flour, candied ginger and honeycomb … Chef Rob took a contemporary approach, choosing to make a carrot-and-ginger gelee with cinnamon-dusted French toast and almond foam. Chef Jun, however, embraced both classic French desserts and his mother’s at-home baking tips to prepare a frangipane with mascarpone and yogurt chantilly.”
— In other big restaurant news, Bon Appetit magazine unveiled its list of the 20 most important restaurants in the United States, which is in the March issue of the publication. Coming in at No. 19 on the list is none other than Rockland’s Primo, the farm to table eatery owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Melissa Kelly. Bon Appetit praised Primo’s “wide-ranging charcuterie program” and “greenhouses filled with tomatoes and fields of Padron peppers, lolla rossa lettuce, and other of-the-moment ingredients,” and said that while Primo “started as a humble country restaurant [it] has grown to be one of the country’s most sincere and exciting expressions of farm to table.” Primo reopens for the season in May; it is located in a converted Victorian barn at 2 South Main St. in Rockland.
— Finally, Bangor-area fans of pho and banh mi can jump for joy — a Vietnamese restaurant is set to open in the Maine Square Mall off Hogan Road. Little Vietnam Restaurant & Bar, which according to its Facebook page is run by Xavier Nguyen, promises to offer the popular soup dish pho, Vietnamese barbecue and other favorite Vietnamese dishes, as well as Thai cuisine, vegetarian and vegan dishes and a full bar. Nguyen plans on being open for business in February, so expect news about an opening in the coming weeks.