Britt Langford and her husband, Leo Zhang, have bought the former Lolita restaurant space at 90 Congress St. and plan to open an Asian restaurant there called Jing Yan. Their target opening date is Nov. 15.
Langford, originally from Falmouth, lived in Beijing for seven years. She owned a small bakery there, and later opened a cocktail bar with husband, who has a decade of experience bartending mostly in five-star hotels in Beijing and Shenzhen. The couple moved back to Maine three years ago. Langford worked as food and beverage manager at the Portland Harbor Hotel for about a year, then tried her hand at selling lobsters. Most recently, she’s been a manager at Sea Salt in Saco and Pepper’s Landing in Brunswick.
While she was at the Portland Harbor Hotel, Langford met Christopher Petrillo, who will be the chef at Jing Yan. Petrillo has spent time in Beijing with Langford and Zhang, Langford said, “so he has a general understanding of northern Chinese food. It will definitely be a fusion using an American chef, but he has an understanding of it. We have faith in him. He’s very talented.”
The Lolita space is pretty much a turnkey operation, but the new owners are adding a fryer that requires a new hood system, painting and switching out light fixtures. The restaurant will mostly be takeout, with just two to three tables available for dining in. “We really want to be a neighborhood spot,” Langford said.
Langford realizes that the middle of a pandemic is not the ideal time to open a new restaurant, but “I actually saw this as an opportunity because I felt like there were not a lot of options for higher-end takeout in the Portland area. That was the spark that pushed us to get going on this sooner rather than wait for everything to be over.”
Welcome back, Silly’s
It’s called a soft opening for a reason. Colleen Kelley, owner of the former Silly’s, which closed last year, tried to reopen the popular restaurant over the weekend but ran into some kinks she’ll need to work out before trying again this weekend.
Kelly opened Vintage Silly’s at 68 Washington Ave. with a limited menu and limited hours Saturday and Sunday. For now, the restaurant is weekends only, counter service only and cash only, offering takeout and “a few tables inside and out.” Masks are required except when eating.
Last weekend, Kelley blew so many breakers trying to cook in the former Simply Vegan by Silly’s space that she couldn’t get the food out and had to call an electrician. The best she could offer was her famous cakes and shakes (including the Hippy Hippy and the Elvis). Kelley’s sister Shelley is doing the baking.
On Monday, the electricians were still trying to get things up and working. “I had some serious challenges this weekend, but I’ll figure it out and do my very best to get better at my job,” Kelley said. “I just need to get back in my groove.”
Kelley said that the restaurant looks like the old Silly’s and Silly’s with a Twist “combined and had a baby.” For the first time in 18 years, she said, all the Silly’s bumper sticker photos taken by customers all over the world are in frames on the walls. Kelley re-created the beer-themed bathroom from Twist (although she won’t be serving any alcohol until next year).
The reimagined restaurant will close in January and reopen in March or April, depending on how much snow the city gets this winter, Kelley said.
Return of the Empire (no, not a new Star Wars movie)
Fans of Silly’s aren’t the only ones acting like kids at recess because their favorite restaurant is reopening. After taking a few months to regroup and figure out how to work in a small kitchen under pandemic guidelines, Empire Chinese Kitchen at 575 Congress St. finally reopened for curbside takeout last weekend and, from the feedback on the restaurant’s Facebook page, appears to have been swamped.
The owners announced their reopening with a dad joke: “It’s A-Bao Time!”
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-8:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant will be closed Tuesdays.
Tacos and tequila, muy bueno!
Mi Pueblo Tacos Y Tequila, a Biddeford restaurant from former Portland tequila sommelier Sergio Ramos, opened Monday at 45 Boulder Way. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Ramos is the former tequila expert at Zapoteca, the Portland restaurant that closed in 2017. Ramos left Zapoteca in 2015.
Portland restaurant Helm Oyster Bar & Bistro will hold a pop-up at Lorne Wine in Biddeford Saturday starting at 3 p.m., with outdoor seating only. The menu features oysters, crudo and salad, along with a Champagne list and mineral-forward wines by the glass. Lorne Wine is located at 61 Main St.
Guest chefs, plus fries
Duckfat Frites Shack at 43 Washington Ave. in Portland is holding a Guest Chef Grill Series starting today with chefs Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez, the owners of Chaval, manning the grill from 5-9 p.m. The couple will return at the same time Sunday.
Upcoming guest chefs are Josh Potocki from Bread & Butter Catering on Oct. 14 and Jay Villani of Salvage BBQ on Oct. 21.
A grocery store specializing in American, Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern products (including halal meats) has opened at 170 Brighton Ave. in Portland.
D Ajan’s Supermarket is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
Open Creamery Day, with safety first
A dozen Maine creameries from Alfred to Appleton will open their doors from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday for a socially distanced, 13th Annual Open Creamery Day.
Sunflower Farm Creamery in Cumberland is the closest creamery to Portland that is participating. The day will begin with a yoga class in the pasture from 9:30-10:30 a.m. (You must register in advance, and the class will be limited to 50 people.) After you’ve gone through your postures (downward-facing goat?) visit the herd of 31 Nigerian Dwarf goats, check out the local vendors that will set up on the farm, grab lunch from a food truck, and enjoy free donuts and hot cider.
Fall, White Barn Inn-style
The White Barn Inn in Kennebunk is hosting a Fall Festival Thursday through Sunday that will include an Oktoberfest-themed three-course dinner serving classic German food with beer pairings and live music; a pumpkin-carving class with master carver Mo Auger; a fall-themed cocktail class; a lesson in making fresh-pressed apple cider with executive chef Matthew Padilla (includes cider and cider doughnuts by a bonfire); a pie-decorating class taught by pastry chef Wilson Suliveras; and a harvest brunch.
For more details, prices, and information on booking, go to aubergeresorts.com/whitebarninn and click on Experience.
Ag trade show goes virtual
Like many Maine agricultural fairs this year, the Maine Agricultural Trades Show is going virtual.
Farmers, food producers, service providers and the general public have attended the annual January event since 1941 to celebrate farming, to network, and to discover new farming products, equipment and services. Organizers are asking for help planning the first ever online show by emailing [email protected] or filling out an online survey at https://bit.ly/2SyhrJy
Portland festival canceled
Portland’s annual October food and wine festival, Harvest on the Harbor, has (no surprise) been canceled.
“We’ve heard from fans near and far who want to come to experience the up-close-and-personal way we showcase our food scene,” an organizer wrote on the festival’s website. “It’s simply not safe to do so. And so, 2020 will be the year we use to make our events better than ever for 2021.”
Next year’s festival is scheduled for Nov. 4-7.
Lovely Spam, wonderful Spam
A priest from the Rangeley-Oquossoc area has won the St. Hildegard Food Pantry Recipe Challenge sponsored by Catholic Charities Maine. His dish: Spam and Potato Bake.
Fr. Anthony Kuzia is pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, which includes Our Lady of the Lakes Church in Oquossoc; St. Luke Church in Rangeley; St. John Church in Stratton; and Bell Chapel at Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley.
The recipe challenge, which drew 40 entries, was designed to support food and nutrition ministries throughout the Diocese of Portland. For Kuzia’s win, Our Lady of the Lakes in Oquossoc will receive $1,000 for its local food pantry.
Patricia McCollum of St. Raphael Church in Kittery finished second with her Italian Potato and Chicken dish. St. Raphael will receive $500 for the Footprints Food Pantry.
Recipes submitted to the contest had to contain potatoes, and every ingredient had to be something that could be found at a food pantry. The recipes were judged on their ingredients, ease of preparation and nutritional value. For an electronic copy of all the recipe submissions, email [email protected]
CORRECTION: This story was updated at 12:25 p.m. on Oct. 7 correct one of the cities in China in which Britt Langford has worked.