BOSTON — Wines from around the world were uncorked at the Boston Wine Expo on Saturday despite a blizzard threatening the coast. In the corner of the hangarlike Seaport World Trade Center, a select handful of Maine chefs were cooking up their own storm at the Maine Stage.
Behind a Wolf cooking range, chefs including Stephen Richards, the reigning lobster chef of the year, and Sam Talbot, a newcomer with a built-in social media following, did their parts. The energetic young chefs flashed their passion and commitment to Maine cuisine 2.0.
The Maine Office of Tourism and the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau organized this who’s who of chefs. These kitchen stars, both old and new to Maine, showed their culinary prowess and elevated further the rising star of Pine Tree State food tourism.
“Showcasing what kind of chefs and products we have in Maine will increase tourism, because that is the lifeblood of our economy,” said Kerry Altiero, owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, who made a rich and hearty onion dish. “We are showing off the state and showing off the quality. We are a food-centric state.”
As the aroma of Maine crab cakes, a smoked lobster profiterole, collard greens and cheesy, rich onions filled the air, it was clear the state’s dining scene is a top reason visitors flock here. Food tourists are no longer a narrow segment of the population.
“We are so excited to be opening in Portland,” said Gaier, showing off his wedding ring.
The James Beard winners, who opened Arrows in Ogunquit more than 20 years ago and are credited with starting the farm-to-table trend in Maine, are keeping their menu under wraps, but say it will be emblematic of everything they have done in the past. M.C. Union and the new Pig and Poet in Camden were smartly teased by their chefs during the live demos.
“Maine has a cache of honesty and quality,” said Altiero, who said he is proud that his adopted state’s cuisine is getting its due.
Richards’ orange thyme profiterole with lobster goat cheese mousse, applewood smoked lobster, cranberry maple gastrique and sweet and salty pine nut brittle was a rave-worthy masterpiece. Check out Mine Oyster, which he helms, when it opens in Boothbay Harbor this summer.
“Massachusetts is a great drive-to market for us, and most people there who enjoy good wine also appreciate great food,” Vanessa Pike, membership director at the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “By taking advantage of this audience, we were able to remind everyone what a great culinary destination Maine is and even give them a taste.”
The success of the CVB’s Harvest on the Harbor in the fall helped pave the way for the Maine Stage, which was new this year. Erica Archer of Wine Wise Events was central to the show. She selected the state’s top chefs and paired their inventive dishes with worldly wines.
“Maine is not just about lobster. It made sense to expand the stage to showcase many talented chefs and product from all over the state,” said Pike.
Because the blizzard canceled Sunday’s demos, several chefs, including Shannon Bard of Zapoteca, were not able to cook. But with people in the audience ohhing and ahhing over the Maine-inspired morsels and adding places like the Whitehall Inn in Camden to their travel bucket list, the event was a success.