News: Fork Food Lab Merges with Foodworks

Fork Food Lab Merges with Foodworks

Maine food incubator strengthens services with national industry leader

PORTLAND, Maine — June 12, 2017 — Fork Food Lab, the 6,000-square-foot commercial kitchen incubator in Portland’s West Bayside neighborhood, has merged with Foodworks, based in Brooklyn, New York.

Founders Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein opened Fork Food Lab on Sept. 27, 2016 with a vision to boost Maine’s food economy by helping local entrepreneurs scale up their companies. Fork Food Lab provides enough space for 45 food businesses and currently services 34 members who have access to state-of-the-art equipment, direct feedback from customers through an adjacent tasting room, as well as marketing and legal advice. Current members make anything from pies to almond milk, and salsa to coffee. 

"We are very excited to partner with a company that shares in our vision for a more robust local food system where entrepreneurs with creative recipes can strategically grow,” said Spillane, who will stay on as General Manager of Fork Food Lab. “This merger will allow Fork Food Lab companies to expand distribution into the large New York market and leverage supplier discounts that are available to current Foodworks producers."

Foodworks is a 10,000-square-foot kitchen in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn with a similar goal of helping food startups to grow. The space currently hosts 110 member companies. One of the key­­ benefits of a partnership with Foodworks is access to their technology team. This arm of the company focuses on developing software to help streamline communication and sourcing for members.

“Foodworks is incredibly excited about merging with Fork Food Lab. In spending time with Eric and Neil over the last few months, it was obvious how values- and vision-aligned our teams were,” said founder and CEO of Foodworks, Nick Devane. “We deeply admire everything they, together with their community, have built thus far. We look forward to learning from each other and continuing to build towards changing the face of entrepreneurship in the food space.”

Fork Food Lab will remain at its current location in West Bayside with no immediate plans to change names. The merger is official as of Monday, June 12th.

Member Monday: Bubbe & Bestemor's Baking Company

Bubbe & Bestemor are two fictional grandmas symbolizing the "Ashke-Nordic" theme of Audrey Farber's baked goods. Audrey Farber is an actual young woman who makes the meanest rye bread east of New York City. More about her: Audrey holds a Master's degree in Linguistics, spent the past week at a historic cookbook conference at Radcliffe, bikes faster than most people drive, and consistently produces extremely high-quality baked goods made with love and an eye for tradition. She describes Bubbe & Bestemor as "A project about exploring historic foodways in the modern era, a preservation effort, and a cool experiment in making stuff."

We sat down for a chat about her favorite spots in the city and her "food pet." After you read, check out her menu for this week and order for pickup at Fork on Friday! 

What was your first job?
Beal’s Ice Cream on Veranda Street.

How did you get involved with food work?
It’s practically the only work I’ve ever done. Food is life, man.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Sheer willpower. And my challah is the best.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Anybody claiming their own identity through the food they're making.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
What season? Am I at home? Something with a s***-load of CSA veggies.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?

For which meal?
Afternoon snack obviously, or first dinner. Or dessert.

What's an early food memory you have?
When I was 5, my mom let me invent my own cookie recipe so I basically just put a bunch of cocoa powder, baking soda, flour and butter in a bowl. When I baked them, they were so gross, and I made a huge mess. 

What's the last thing you ate?
An apple, and before that, I made chard hand pies with hot sauce on them. (Ed. note: Hand Pies are not for sale.)

Do you have any food pet peeves?
No, but I have food pet - my starter. She doesn't have a name but she is a female (technically asexual, though, because microbes). I've had her since January, I got her from a friend, but now from all the feeding she's her own creature with her own idiosyncrasies. She likes to Netflix & Chill.

Member Monday: Tortilleria Pachanga


Have you ever tried a fresh, warm corn tortilla? There isn't anything like it. As a Spanish teacher who has travelled extensively in Mexico, Tortilleria Pachanga's Lynne Rowe has a deep appreciation for and knowledge of this Mexican staple. Her version is made with exclusively locally-grown, organic heritage Maine corn. Here at Fork, we enjoy them with some avocado, Plucked Fresh Salsa, and a yolky fried egg. It's a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) of champions.

Lynne shared with us a little bit of her (interesting) work history, and the entrepreneurs that she has looked up to during her small business journey.

What was your first job?
I did bladder and bowel care for kids with Spina Bifida after my first year of college. I have a t-shirt that says “Bladder and Bowel Care ‘84.” I gave a good enema.

How did you get involved with food work?
My grandfather owned a diner, one of those diner cars, in MA. I started waiting tables in college, I had a little food business that I ran out of an Irish bar in Boston - I ran it like a concession within the bar. It was the early ‘90s, and nachos were big. I also made a Guinness beef stew.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
I think it's making and creating something! I love that I was just with the farmer who grew the corn and we were unloading it together. I think being there from the point of growing [the corn], and then making an ancient product in a modern way, then creating wholesome food that families eat, that’s what motivates me. If it were the money I’d be out of here.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Diane Kennedy, she’s sort of Mexico’s version of Julia Child. But there really are a lot. I think that Alison and Matt [of Standard Baking Company] have said things that I’ve held onto. Amado Ramirez Leyva, who owns Itanoni in Oaxaca, has been the most influential because he’s helping save corn and he helped me to source local corn here. His restaurant is Alice Waters’ favorite restaurant in the world!

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
We usually make a big salad with grilled chicken (or tortillas with refried beans and avocado!). 

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
At my friends’ houses.

Member Monday: The Marshmallow Cart

Madison Gouzie is NOT a hot dog stand. Though tourists in downtown Portland often mistake him for one, in reality Madison is the purveyor of one of the city's most unique mobile food operations: The Marshmallow Cart. His streetside roasted s'mores are the perfect treat to keep your energy up as you shop the Old Port or as a sugary nightcap after dinner. He's also a former Subway Sandwich Artist and he loves a good clam cake, as he shared with us in this interview.

What was your first job?
I worked at Subway Sandwich Shops in Westbrook. I was a sandwich artist in high school. I was there until I went to college. My sandwiches looked the best - I took pride in making it look awesome.

How did you get involved with food work?
I was always in food work. After college I moved to Boston and picked up a bar gig at Legal Seafoods, which is corporate but has a great training program. I learned a lot about service. I attribute them to being able to execute what I do.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
The ability to connect with the community. It’s fun to be on the street - I’m part information booth, part marshmallow man. It’s really fun. I feel like I have a pulse on the city. People think I’m a hotdog stand. 

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
The inventor of the milk and cookies shot. He also invented the cronut. A milk and cookies shot is a cookie shaped like a shot glass with a chocolate rim and you pour milk inside of it. His name is Dominique Ansel. Here’s why he’s awesome - he has fun with his food.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Definitely I revert, I need my beans and franks. Like, red hot dogs sauteed in the pan with a little molasses and some B&M beans. Plus you gotta have the brown bread from a can.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
My whole life I’ve loved al fresco. If it’s wintertime and they have a seat outside, I’d still sit there. So, anywhere with an outdoor patio. I love people-watching. In the summertime, I will drive wherever. On that note, though, I just drove to Biddeford to get a clam cake burger with cheese at Rapid Ray's. There’s only 3 places to get them: Rapids Ray's, Harmon’s Lunch and Don’s Lunch. I love all three with equal affection.

Member Monday: Renee by the Bay


Renee Dolley is the most enthusiastic woman in the pie business. Though she works a regular full-time gig as a lab technician, on her days off you can find her at Fork, filling the kitchen with the smells of rhubarb hand pies for her business, Renee by the Bay. She's also a huge believer in sharing, sabotaging any chance a Fork member might have of dieting (let's be honest - we weren't trying that hard). Most of all, she's one of our kindest and friendliest members. In this interview, she dished about her origins as a blueberry picker and brought in her most influential cookbook to show us. 

What was your first job?
It might have been raking blueberries. I guess they have machines that rake them now, so I’m really dating myself. I was in junior high. It was hard work! We’d go up a dirt road on this bus and rake ‘em through the rows and we got paid by the pound. You’d bring your two 5-gallon pails and you’d rake all day and I remember you’d eat blueberries till your teeth turned blue!

How did you get involved with food work?
It sort of found me. When I was growing up in Central Maine there weren’t foodies. It was the 70s and 80s, when eggs were bad and margarine was big. My mom made bread, but still I never had the idea that food could be good until I moved to Portland in the mid-90’s. I think Aurora Provisions had just opened. I was like, what’s all this? Then, I started this thing called ‘Pie Night’ and people would say, you oughta have your own business. I thought they were just being kind. Fast forward to a little over a year ago, my friend Caroline goes, ‘Renee, this place is coming to town called Fork Food Lab,’ and I had thought I couldn’t have my own business because I worked full time. When I found out I could have a part-time membership, I just went, OH!

What did you bring in to share with us? Why?
This is what made me realize that baking really was a science. I made my crust from this recipe for years but it was half shortening and I realized I had to take shortening out of my crust. I still refer to this book even though my crust recipe is different now. I got it as a Christmas gift 10 years ago.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
I love baking. I love talking about it. I never thought I would be comfortable in a room full of people sampling, but when we have these markets or when I go to Harvest on the Harbor, I can talk all day and I don’t mind the crowds and it’s so different than normal. I just love being a part of it. It’s like an extension of who I am, it’s so authentic. You think you do all the right things, go to college, get the degree, but I still had this nagging feeling like, this isn’t it. Now I feel like that voice doesn’t talk to me anymore.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Alison Pray and what she’s done for baking. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. When you combine everything in terms of ease of recipe, accessibility, respect for your time, her writing is so witty, it draws you right in. Taking everything into consideration it’s probably the best food blog out there. It’s so authentic, what she does.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
I really learned to be good at rice bowls because they’re quick. It’s a blank canvas, just like a pie crust. You can put anything you want into it!

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
During Restaurant Week I went to Solo Italiano. I’m not a pesto person but their gnocchi changed my life. Also, I recently went to Thanh Thanh Two and had their beef salad. It says rare, but it’s raw. It’s so good.

Member Monday: Joyful Spirit

Ellie Tucker, AKA Joyful Spirit, has done just about every job in the food world. Currently, she is a Fork member who uses the kitchen to create her delicious and nutritious Box Cottage Granola Bits and other tasty treats made with wholesome, local ingredients. She's a seasoned chef, a voice of wisdom in the Fork kitchen, and she puts together a mean platter of bruschetta for our catering team. In this interview, we chatted about Ellie's food history.

What was your first job?
I had a newspaper route when I was 11. I biked around and kept maybe 25 newspapers in my bike basket and I would deliver them on my road. This was back when the PPH did two editions - there was no social media, no computers, so there was enough news for a daytime and a nighttime edition!

How did you get involved with food work?
I had summer jobs but my first serious food job was in Sugarloaf. Like everyone else, I had this romantic notion of working in a restaurant so when I moved to Sugarloaf, I got a job as a cook at the Sugarloaf Inn. It was supposed to be a temporary move, but I ended up staying for 15 years! The first time I made chowder at the Inn, it was so bad that the chef sent my sister in to tell me that it was awful. I asked around for help, because I’m a huge believer in collaboration, and to this day I think I make a pretty good chowder. I ended up even opening a deli around there.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Having people appreciate my product, and being able to offer an alternative to what is out there - a healthy alternative.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Some fellow Fork Food Lab members. Other small business owners who have had their own struggles.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Whatever I can throw in a salad bowl. Hot, cold, whatever. I hate dishes! I have a wooden bowl that I’ve had since my Sugarloaf days. I put whatever I have around in my salad bowl and add balsamic vinegar or some Plucked Fresh Salsa. My other favorite is Lynne’s (Tortilleria Pachanga) tortillas with cheese and avocado.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Places with homemade foods! I love to eat on someone’s back porch overlooking the ocean. My brother is a lobsterman so I think one of the best meals I had was on the back of his broken-down pickup truck.

Member Monday: Carr Eats

Christina Carr is feeding the people of Portland, one Crossfit gym at a time. Chris' business, Carr Eats, consists of "real, prepared meals that are healthy, taste great, and are fork-ready." Once a week, Chris dominates the Fork kitchen with the amazing smells of paleo-friendly proteins and roasting vegetables, preparing hundreds of meals. An avid Crossfitter, she then distributes the meals to gyms in the Portland area or leaves them for pickup at Fork Food Lab. She sat down with us to chat about how food businesses run in her family! 

What was your first job?
I think my first job was at a breakfast place. I assisted the breakfast in the kitchen and in between I would run out to the front and scoop ice cream. It was called Maxy’s in Camp Ellis. I was pretty young, like the youngest you could be - I think it was 14!

Even earlier, I had another job. My parents wouldn’t allow us to have dogs when we were little, but my neighbors had a springer spaniel named Sadie, and I offered to clean their house so that I could play with their dog. I think I was 9 or 10. I would go over with soap and windex and scrub the counter and play with the dog.

How did you get involved with food work?
My family has always owned restaurants in the Saco/Biddeford area. My family runs a sandwich shop in Biddeford. My sister and I used to play at the sandwich shop. We had a little kid picnic table and we’d set it up and sit there and greet people.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
It’s very rewarding for me to provide a service that actually helps people. In previous jobs, I didn’t feel satisfied in that regard and this fills that void. It’s good to hear people say they love something or that it’s convenient or that they feel better about themselves. That part is really satisfying. It’s great to see people use my meals as a catalyst for making healthier choices.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my family. My grandmother is probably one of the biggest workhorses ever. She doesn’t work at the family business anymore but she used to pit olives on a stool until she was like, 85. I’m fascinated by small businesses, I love when families are involved with restaurants because it was a part of my childhood and now I have this food obsession.  

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Carr Eats leftovers! I basically eat what I don’t sell - I make extra of everything. If it’s a Monday-Friday, I'm eating some sort of salad. A handful of mixed greens or spinach with Carr Eats leftovers dumped on top. There’s no waste - I can’t throw things away.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Right now Eventide is one of my favorite restaurants because I don’t cook a lot of seafood for myself. My boyfriend’s cousin is the kitchen manager there, so we go and eat kitchen creations and drink dirty martinis. I love going for cocktails at Round Turn Distillery, too!

Member Monday: Fyood Kitchen

Maddie Purcell of Fyood Kitchen wants you to play with your food. Participants in Fyood's "Iron Chef meets Paint Night" events are encouraged to improvise, get creative, and trust themselves as they create sweet and savory dishes using a basket of mystery ingredients chosen by Maddie herself. Fyood's events, held at Fork Food Lab and all over the state of Maine, are messy, lively, and tons of fun. We sat down with Maddie for an interview, and asked her to bring an item that has been essential to her crazy foodie journey.

What was your first job?
I was a camp counselor at Bowdoin Day Camp in Brunswick!

How did you get involved with food work?
My parents started food internet businesses when I was little. There was one called, and it was the first website to catalog recipes online and let you search by which ingredients you had. So I’ve been around food forever, but not in a restaurant setting. Now, I just love eating. I watched a lot of chopped one year, I spent a lot of time cooking with friends, and realized this is what I wanted to do.

What did you bring in to share with us? Why?
I brought one of our mystery baskets. We put 4 mystery ingredients that participants have to use with their dish. It helps people start to think creatively. A lot of the time when we’re cooking, we’re using our imaginations, but we think of it in a sort of routine, chore-oriented way too often. This inspires you to cook more adventurously and use your imagination.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
The feedback from participants in terms of how much fun they have and also that it changes the way they think about food and cooking a little bit. People will tell me they took things home from the grocery store that they wouldn’t have used before. One participant said he plates his dinners at home differently because he got feedback at Fyood that his dish needed more artistic quality. A lot of people come into Fyood events a little intimidated, which I actually like because that means they’re challenging themselves. However, 96% of dishes at events come out well or really well, so it inspires a confidence in people. It’s an empowering experience to share.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
There are a lot! At Fork it’s inspiring to be around people who have started distributing widely but also the people who are finding innovative ways to grow their business, like Chris Carr.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
I guess it would be a stir-fry with a bunch of vegetables, egg on it, and some noodles maybe.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Everywhere. My favorites are Pai Men and Miyake, Boda, Izakai Minato is bomb, and Ramen Suzukiya. Also, my friends’ kitchens!

Member Monday: Anchor & Rose Apothecary


Every food lab needs a trained herbalist, and Fork's own Katie Munn, of Anchor & Rose Apothecary, is a spectacular one. Katie is a Certified Clinical Herbalist & Nutritionist from the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, and her unique set of products and services bring diversity to the Fork community. Katie distributes her own Community Supported Herbalism (CSH) share, makes Bliss Bites, and does herbal consulting. In a few weeks, she's even hosting a Plant-Based Brunch right here at Fork. We sat down to chat about her story!

What was your first job?
I worked at Dunkin Donut’s when I was 15 in Skowhegan, Maine. It was fun, I’d bring doughnuts to homeroom and my friends all loved it.

How did your business come about?
I’m from Maine, but I went to herbal school in Colorado and moved back here afterward. One day, I just went to the beach and the name ‘Anchor and Rose’ came to me. I knew I wanted to meet with clients and make and sell herbal products but it didn't really solidify until I had the name.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
The desire to bring herbal medicine in the mainstream. I also want to bring herbs and healthy foods into people’s diets and lifestyles.

Who are some herbal or food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals is doing wonderful work with biodynamic herbal farming. Kathy Langelier of Herbal Revolution is doing amazing infused tonics and herbal shrubs.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Lately I’ve been on been a lentil kick! So I sautee up some garlic and onion, kale, brussels sprouts, and add some lentils, turmeric, and ginger. I guess it’s a sautee, or a stir fry, I’m not sure.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Lately it’s been Pai Men! The ramen has been so great in the winter. Recently, I went to Empire and had forgotten how good it is. The sauteed green beans are amazing!

Member Monday: Dirigo Coffee

Dirigo Coffee is no ordinary coffee company. Originally Maker's Mug, a mobile coffee cart that owner Jacob Perry built from scratch, Dirigo wants to do much more than caffeinate you. They use educational programming and special events to craft unique coffee experiences that are more memorable than the average cup o' joe. Together with White Cap Coffee, Dirigo keeps the Fork Food Lab awake and alive for those long days in the kitchen. We sat down with Jacob and General Manager Amanda Porter to talk shop. They took it semi-seriously.

What was your first job?
Jacob Perry: Working in a redemption center.
Amanda Porter: Camp Counselor.

How did you get involved with food/beverage work?
Jacob: I got a job delivering pizza because I was tired of sitting behind a desk while working at a TV station. I picked up a job making pizza and found that working in restaurants really spoke to me.  The immediacy of creating something for someone to enjoy was really fulfilling.
Amanda: Jimmy John’s making sandwiches. I was their marketing manager. I would take samples out around town, pass out sandwiches all day.

What did you bring in to share with us? Why?
Jacob: I brought in my food cart. It’s meaningful because it is what has kicked off this whole thing, this entire business. It was like a challenge to myself to try and do something that I had never done before, that I expected to be a side gig - I didn’t expect it to be what it is now.

What motivates you to continue and grow your business?
Jacob: Independence.
Amanda: Passion for what we’re doing, a love of coffee and people.
Jacob: All those things and the drive to provide something unique to Portland's growing food scene.

Who are some food entrepreneurs that you admire?
Jacob: I think everybody admires people like David Chang or Anthony Bordain right?  Those guys stay true to themselves while maintaining a love of foods and culture from all across the globe.  Also Rwanda Bean Company: they’re focusing on people first.
Amanda: Rwanda Bean Company, a local example.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner?
Jacob: We usually just make a grain and a roasted vegetable to keep it super simple. Or like, a pot pie if I'm hosting friends or family, there is just something so comforting about a pot pie.
Amanda: I’m gonna make curry tonight cause it’s easy and inexpensive and I have a lot of vegetables.

Where do you like to eat in Maine?
Jacob: At home.
Amanda: Pai Men Miyake.
Jacob: Oh yeah, Pai Men. And I like all those old-school seafood places like Ken’s or Clambake or Bayley’s. I like the Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company. Anyplace that’s quintessential Maine.

Alt-Milk vs Big Milk: The Fight Over the Future of Dairy

Photo Credit: Rachel Adams

Photo Credit: Rachel Adams

If you’re one of the 49% of Americans who enjoy their morning cereal with plant-based milks rather than the original substance, you may soon notice some different wording on your carton. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-MI) introduced a bill to the Senate in January that proposes “enforcement against misbranded milk alternatives.” Essentially, the bill wants to disallow plant-based milks, such as almond, cashew, hemp, or others, from using the term “milk” at all. The bill suggests that the term “milk” misleads consumers into buying non-dairy milk alternatives, which “do not provide the same nutritional content as real milk.” Those are some big claims, ones that won’t go unquestioned in this fight.

Baldwin, heralding from America’s second-biggest dairy state, is claiming that alternative milks use the term milk at the expensive of the real deal, defined as the “lacteal secretion...from one or more healthy cows.”

(Side note: let’s hope they come up with a better term than “lacteal secretion” for the ad campaign.)

It’s no doubt there’s big money in big milk ($35.5 billion dollars in 2012), and there’s also a precedent for arguments over the usage of dairy terms. New Food Economy points out that when margarine first came on the market, a costly battle ensued over their usage of the term butter, a fight with parallels to today. In this business, words matter.

The resolution of this battle is important, because across the globe, milk consumption is decreasing and alternative milk consumption is increasing. It’s hard not to see this bill as a power move by the dairy industry, one which may or may not pay off. Maine is a part of that dairy industry - one-fifth of Maine’s agriculture is made up of it - but we also have plenty of plant-based milk, too.

We’re not in favor of any milk over another. There’s enough room in the dairy aisle for everyone! But we are partial to innovation and entrepreneurship, and the nut milks made by our member The Whole Almond are a great example of industry shifting to meet new demands. Here's hoping we can keep choosing the "milk" we want, regardless of what it's called!

The “All-Natural” Label: What Does It Mean?

The word “natural” in food marketing is a highly ambiguous term, holding very little actual definition. The FDA’s website loosely defines the term as meaning that “nothing artificial or synthetic...has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.” This is exactly as nonsensical as it sounds.

Consumers, too, are confused: when the FDA last year requested a public comment period on what natural should mean, responses varied from “as close to the Earth as possible” to “only same species breeding” (no all-natural mules for that commenter). It’s clear that no one can agree on exactly what “natural” food is, or should be.

It may seem like a silly policy battle, but as New Food Economy reported this month, there’s money at stake for food producers of all sizes. An Ohio State University study showed not only that consumers were willing to pay more for a peanut butter labelled “all-natural,” but that they were willing to pay even more if a server told them it was all-natural.

As any researcher knows, one study does not a conclusion make. However, it’s interesting to consider how labels impact consumer perception of quality, taste, and value, even if those labels are technically almost meaningless. It’s even more interesting to consider how the delivery of those labels, whether verbal or written, impact that perception as well.

While marketing is a powerful tool, turning a $4.00 jar of peanut butter into a $6.50 jar of “all-natural” peanut butter, that power comes with responsibility. Charging more for a label or word is not a sustainable business model, nor does it buy consumer goodwill.

Hopefully, the FDA is working to add some weight behind the term natural. In the meantime, Fork and our entrepreneurs are committed to transparency in the production process. One benefit of being a small food producer is the ability to connect with consumers to mitigate confusion! At events like our Spring Market on March 18th, you can ask questions directly to our members about their methods and ingredients. They - and we - love to chat!

Click here for more information about our Spring Market - we hope to see you there!

New Year, New Me-atless Burger

Photo by The Minimalist Baker

Photo by The Minimalist Baker

For many folks, the beginning of 2017 marks a new awareness of the types of foods they’re eating. One common new year resolution is to reduce the consumption of red meat. Cutting down on red meat is beneficial for health and budgetary reasons, plus it makes it that much more enjoyable when you decide to indulge. This sweet potato and black bean burger recipe provides the same hearty burger experience, and is naturally sweet and savory. The patty itself is both gluten and dairy free.

First, you’ll want two mashed sweet potatoes, a cup of cooked black beans and a cup of cooked rice. This should get you about 12 patties. Put about half of the black beans in a mixing bowl, begin to mash them lightly before adding sweet potato.

Add the cooked rice to the mixture, then throw in some green onion, paprika, cumin, and if you’d like, some chipotle powder. Of course, salt and pepper to taste.

From there, you should be able to mold the mixture into your desired patty size. If it’s too wet, add some more rice to help absorb some of the extra moisture.

Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper and lightly grease it, place your patties onto the sheet. Use a small bowl or cup wrapped in plastic wrap to lightly press down on the patties so they hold their integrity after cooking.

With the oven at 375, pop those in for 30-35 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
Now you’re ready to dress your burger as you like! Add sprouts and onion for added texture.

One Pot Comfort Food

Photo by Yasmin Fahr

Photo by Yasmin Fahr

Much is to be said for the simplicity of one-pot meals. Cooking this way not only saves on dishes, it’s also a great way to maximize the flavor profiles of your ingredients. An easy meal to start out with is pan seared chicken thighs, and roasted butternut squash and carrots. If you’re looking to make an easy and diverse meal for the week, try using brussel sprouts or sweet potatoes to add some diversity.

Start out by seasoning your chicken to your liking, and then placing it skin side down in a pan to give it a nice sear. This will provide the crisp your chicken craves, and the pan will hold onto the flavor and assist in bringing a complementary element to your vegetables.

After your chicken has browned on both sides, remove it from the pan and let it sit. Add a little bit more oil if necessary, then cook your squash and carrots until they’re lightly browned. Add shallots and broth during the last minute of browning the veggies, then return the chicken to the pan and roast in the oven until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. This should take about 30 minutes.

Once done cooking, add fresh squeezed lemon juice (seasoned with salt and pepper) over the top, and cilantro to your liking.

A new trick for your treats

Photo Courtesy of Serious Eats

Photo Courtesy of Serious Eats

The first of November leaves us with copious amounts of leftover candy that didn’t quite make it into the plastic pumpkins of trick or treaters. Some are content to slowly munch on the store bought candy over the upcoming weeks, others will gorge for a night or two and then immediately seek out a solution to their candy surplus. For those of us who don’t mind the cold, folding the goods into homemade ice cream is a smart way to end the holiday, and have dessert for a week!

   If you don’t have an ice cream maker, fret not. Before you start collecting your ingredients, put a deep stainless steel pan in your freezer. After the mixture is made, chill it over an ice bath, then you’ll pour it into the pan, and return to it every 20 minutes (about 4-5 times) to whisk the ice cream so it has a creamy and consistent texture throughout.

You’ll want to find a recipe that’ll complement whatever your bounty contains. If you’re going the vanilla route, basically any candy will add texture and flavor to your ice cream. A chocolate ice cream pairs well with salty or crispy treats, and a coffee-based ice cream will take kindly to your all your smooth, simple, chocolate candies. If you’re around Fork Food Lab during our Tasting Room hours (Friday - Sunday, 12-8pm) grab some Chocolate Almond Sauce by MaineFlavor to top off your treat.

** Some candy just isn’t meant for ice cream. Candies to avoid in your mixture include: chewy candies, hard candies, and candy corn.

Fall is more than just pumpkins

Photo courtesy of The Green Forks

Photo courtesy of The Green Forks

 In New England kitchens, ordinary recipes are being introduced to seasonal muses, like pumpkin and squash. A particular favorite of mine is squash gnocchi, enjoyed with a slice off of a homemade loaf of bread and a salad with a citrus-infused dressing to lighten up the dish. Here in the lab, we’re seeing similar seasonal recipes beginning to formulate. Following the Feed the 5000 event, the squash and almond milk gelato (made in the Gelato Fiasco space next to the Tasting Room) is still being highly praised by those who had the chance to try it.

With November around the corner and winter following shortly after, there is hardly an indulgence more delightful than sharing a great meal with friends and family. Most of you don’t know that last year, the Fork team celebrated Friendsgiving. This year on November 21st, we hope to continue that tradition, but now executed in a collaborative effort catered by our members. The event will have tickets available for the public, more info can be found here.

The meal is sure to impress, as each member has a different specialty to bring to the table. For example, Renee by the Bay bakes solely pies, so this holiday provides the perfect channel for her to share her talent. Friendsgiving will also be a great time to become more familiar with our members’ products, and get some creative ideas for stocking stuffers. During the week of Thanksgiving, items will be available for pickup from the Tasting Room, and a menu will be available to the public in the upcoming weeks.

Photo and recipe are from The Green Fork, click here for the full recipe.

How To: The Quick & Simple Dill Pickle

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats

The pickle hasn’t been untouched by the artisan food revolution. Pickles have been subject to constant innovation and transformation by chefs and wholesale food producers. This leaves the simple dill pickle forgotten, paled in comparison to its flavorful cousins. The dill pickle can be a satisfying addition to any sandwich, burger or wrap with its crisp texture and flavors.

To make a crisp, delightful pickle, start with a basic brine of equal parts water and white vinegar. Add a tablespoon of salt to the mixture, then flavor with garlic, black peppercorns and fresh dill. Bring the brine to a boil, and then pour over your sliced vegetables and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Be sure that when your cucumbers are sitting in the brine, they are fully submerged. A folded napkin or paper towel can rest above your brine to help ensure that the flavors are evenly distributed. For an extra kick, try adding some yellow mustard seeds and red pepper flakes.

This method gives you a fresh, flavorful pickle and is simple enough that it can be done right before you start cooking your main course. These pickles are also great to prepare in bulk and can be stored for up to one month with this method.

To read more about this pickling method, visit Serious Eats.

Feeding the 5000 Coming to Portland, Oct. 7!

Photo: Ben McCanna, Portland Press Herald; Jordan's Farm, Cape Elizabeth.

Photo: Ben McCanna, Portland Press Herald; Jordan's Farm, Cape Elizabeth.

Feeding the 5000 has teamed up with several coalitions in Maine in order to bring attention to the issue of food waste, while at the same time, feeding thousands of people stew from produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. The feast will take place in Monument Square on October 7th, from 11am - 4pm, and will be followed by Portland’s First Friday Art Walk. Most of the food being served during this event will come from gleaning efforts. Volunteers will visit Maine farms to pick produce that otherwise would have remained unharvested by machines or pickers.

As highlighted by the Cumberland County Security Council, one of the co-hosts of this event, many Mainers are unable to put healthy meals on their tables because they are limited by their income. In August 2015, Cumberland County listed over 30,000 people utilizing SNAP benefits, a third of which were children. More information regarding food security in Cumberland County can be found here.

The “clear your plate” mindset is only a small portion of the solution to minimizing food waste. This community endeavor will hopefully inspire businesses and individuals alike to minimize their food waste, or contribute their leftovers to local food banks. Here at Fork, we see great potential in value-added products as a way to repurpose farm seconds and still make them profitable.  

Fork Food Lab is excited to be a part of this event by hosting the Disco Chop Party which is scheduled to take place on October 5th. Volunteers will be preparing the acquired produce, jammin’ out to music, and learning about food waste from speakers and guest chefs. 

To learn more about the event or how to get involved, visit Feed Back Global or read about it in the Portland Press Herald

Food & Drinks to Be On The Lookout For This Fall

The camaraderie in Portland that comes with the changing of the seasons is coupled by the shifts in local produce and craft beers. All over the city, restaurants will be exchanging the light, sweet summer ingredients for more hearty, comforting produce that's at its best quality during the colder months. Fortunately, root veggies and fall beers make a warming pair. With dozens of breweries in and around the city, it is highly advised that one takes advantage of the wide variety of options and takes the opportunity to taste some of the local ever-evolving craft beers. Foulmouthed Brewing and Liquid Riot Bottling Company are both new to the Portland scene, and are sure to impress. Foulmouthed has recently released a Belgian style dark ale called Blue Balls, that is aged on local blueberries. The owner of the brewery, Jeff Hodenburg, is currently creating a beer cocktail using that and a blackberry infused rum, so be on the lookout for what is sure to be a delicious beverage. If you prefer nonalcoholic craft drinks, or want to splurge on a cocktail, Vena’s Fizz House can help you stay warm this fall.

Here at Fork Food Lab, Fat Pants Bakery has been getting ready for the fall by producing their infamous decadent brown butter brownies and pumpkin gingersnap cookies. The Whole Almond has been processing almonds into milk and flour, and has recently sampled some of the flour to a few of our baking members. Almond milk makes a great non-dairy substitute for baking and cooking, and can foam up nicely for a homemade latte.

Tourist season is now rounding out with cruise ship season, and soon, the arrival of leaf peepers. With Portland on over 20 “Best Of” lists, and even a recent mention in the New York Times, this fall will certainly bring thousands of people to the city for the first time, and no doubt leave a lasting impression. September marks a change in the atmosphere of Portland, but there are drinks (and good eats) for plenty.

The Late Summer BLT

Photograph by J. Kenji López-Alt

Photograph by J. Kenji López-Alt

During my 3 years working in Boston, I lived a block away from Craigie on Main. It was my first introduction to a truly season restaurant, which meant that Tomatoes were only served in August and September (a fact that did bring some disappointment to some traditional burger lovers). I questioned the manager about this and it is always came back to quality. If they did not serve the very best, there was no reason to sell it at all.

Even with seasonality, I will still add tomatoes on top of a burger throughout the year, but that is becuase the tomato is not the star of the show. As J. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains in The Food Lab's BLT Manifesto, this is not the case with a BLT. He writes:

A BLT is not a well-dressed bacon sandwich. A BLT is a tomato sandwich, seasoned with bacon. From this basic premise, all else follows. Indeed, a better name for the BLT might well be the Tomato Club, for it is the perfect tomato, not the bacon, that is the rarest, the most ephemeral, the most singularly delicious ingredient. A BLT is not a democracy. It is not a committee meeting. It is a dictatorship, and the tomato is King, Queen, and Supreme Leader. In the BLT universe, the Prime Directive is that all other ingredients shall be at Her Majesty's service, their only role to prop her up and enhance her best qualities.

A BLT is one of those quintessential american sandwiches where you have to respect its simplicity. With only five things: bread, mayonnaise, bacon, lettuces, and of course tomato, you can make something magic. I don't eat them often, but it is the perfect lunch for a hot late august afternoon.


To read more and find out how to make the perfect BLT, click here.