September 23, 2018
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Portland food lab opens tasting room

By Kathleen Pierce, BDN Staff
Updated:

PORTLAND, Maine — Blueberry olive oil gelato made before your eyes. Fresh-pressed almond milk. Pumpkin ale-infused brownies. It’s a food show every day at Fork Food Lab, and starting this week you can grab a forkful.

The tasting room in Portland’s new shared kitchen incubator opens Tuesday to showcase inventions its members are cooking up.

“Through experimental product lines, we are trying to give people a taste of a wide variety of food,” said CEO Neil Spillane, who is excited about a new nitro cold brew company called White Cap Coffee and the meal prep service Carr Eats, two of many startups that will test market their products to the public before they go to market. “This is the first shelf that any of our incubators will land on.”

Each week will spotlight new members in the tasting room cafe. For a slight rotating fee, consumers can try new tastes such as kettle corn gelato, exotic whoopie pies and other creations from the food hub.

Getting fed while giving feedback is “the secret sauce,” said Spillane, whose partner Eric Holstein is the chief operating officer in this novel business.

The tasting room, funded by a $34,000 Kickstarter campaign, is a new concept for the state, and Fork Food Lab founders say it may be the only one in the country.

“We are really empowering Portland to be part of the process,” Spillane said. “Like a beta tester for a game company, we are creating the feedback loop that’s like a bug report. It goes directly to the developers and they fix the problems. We are doing that, but for food.”

It’s not just startups that will have a presence here.

When you walk into the tasting room, Gelato Fiasco’s new open kitchen is front and center. Co-owner Bruno Tropeano might be perfecting a batch of goat milk yogurt gelato or working with Fat Pants Bakery on cool flavors long before they land in pints.

The Brunswick company started gelato making classes here last week and are eager to show the public how their dense, creamy desserts are created. As an anchor member, “we can provide some guidance to people who are just starting,” Tropeano said.

The move will allow the company to explore, collaborate and stay fluent in emerging trends while offering advice to newcomers. “We started nine years ago and ran into some issues along the way that people might as well not repeat.”

Gelato Fiasco will debut 10 flavors that will change every other day. “Some we might never do again,” Tropeano said.

Fork Food Lab’s grand opening is from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Regular hours will be from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 72 Parris St., Portland.


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