Sleek and spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows and light blue walls — on approach, you’d swear you were entering the Apple store. Stools and counters overlook bustling Boylston Street; there are also a few longer tables and stools without views. Order from a series of flat screens at the entrance, beneath which a friendly server stands, device at the ready, to take orders. You’ll receive a text when your food is ready. Pick everything up at a rock-walled counter topped with oysters on ice, and then relax: There’s mellow guitar music on the speakers, and you’ll (almost) forget the bustle on the other side of the glass.
Two chefs from Maine received a James Beard Award – a coveted recognition that chefs consider to be the Oscars of the food world – on Monday night.
Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, chef/co-owners of three Portland restaurants, won the award in the Best Chef: Northeast category.
Along with their manager, Arlin Smith, Wiley and Taylor own and operate Eventide Oyster Co., The Honey Paw and Hugo’s. This was their third nomination. They were finalists last year.
When I visited Portland, ME for the first time this March, I was instantly charmed by the way the city seemed the perfect marriage of old school and new. On one hand, it was quintessentially New England with its stunning seascapes, cobblestone streets and everyone-knows-everyone warmth. On the other hand, the city’s rich cultural offerings, eco-friendliness and diverse community lent Portland a distinctly modern feel.
And the food.
Fore Street and The Honey Paw, both in Portland, are among the restaurants named, and five chefs from four restaurants are in the running for Best Chef: Northeast.
Nine Maine restaurants, chefs and brewmasters are among this year’s semifinalists for James Beard Awards, considered the most prestigious in the American food world.
Maine’s 2016 semifinalists cover seven categories – there are 21 restaurant and chef categories in all – including Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Restaurant. The group was selected from more than 20,000 online entries.
The Honey Paw in Portland is a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category, which is given to a restaurant opened in 2015 that “already displays excellence … and is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.”
The 2015 James Beard Awards, hosted by Alton Brown, will be held at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 4. Carla Hall will host our Book, Broadcast, and Journalism Awards Dinner, taking place at New York City's Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on Friday, April 24. Tickets to the main gala go on sale April 1, while BBJ ceremony tickets are now available online.
Announcing the Nominees for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards, Presented by Lexus
Best Chef: Northeast
Karen Akunowicz, Myers + Chang, Boston
Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother, Cambridge, MA
Masa Miyake, Miyake, Portland, ME
Cassie Piuma, Sarma, Somerville, MA
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, ME
Lobster will always be Maine's king crustacean, but this nonstop-crowded bar in Portland specializes in the state's other seafood star. The menu divides the oysters, displayed over ice on a counter cut from rugged granite, into categories using local parlance: "From Maine" and "From Away." Start by slurping local gems like citrusy Pemaquids from the Damariscotta River. Accoutrements go traditional (cocktail sauce, mignonette) and inventive (ices flavored with blasts of cucumber and ginger or kimchi).
New England Region Winners Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley:
Why they're amazing: Their restaurant combines the best of old-school Maine oyster bars with updates like cleverly flavored sauces (kimchi ice) and fried oysters served in steam buns, Korean style.
Culinary School: Both are self-taught.
Background: Taylor - Daniel's Broiler, Rover's (Seattle), Clio (Boston), Hugo's (Portland, ME). Wiley - Elk Creek Lodge (Meeker, CO), Black Cat (Boulder, CO), Hugo's (Portland, ME)...
In a state where lobster is king, Eventide’s dedication to the mighty oyster is a bold move. The menu lists around 20 different varieties displayed in a massive trough of Maine granite on the bar. All are pristine and offered raw with creative “accouterment” like kim chee ice or a mimosa mignonette (yes, you can still get cocktail sauce). There is lobster here too, only Eventide’s take on a lobster roll comes in a Chinese bun and is offered with not just mayo, but a brown butter vinaigrette or hollandaise.
Slurp down a half dozen oysters on the half shell and chances are you'll be washing them down with a beer. But how many people have tried oysters in their beer? You'll soon get your chance, becasue Arlin Smith of Eventide Oyster Co. and Chresten Sorensen of Bunker Brewing Co. have been collaborating on an oyster stout using Maine Winter Point oysters...
F&W Staff with Eric Steinman
This restaurant in the Old Port district specializes in Maine oysters, including Winter Point Selects, a variety raised by the renowned harvester John Hennessey, in West Bath. “The Winter Points are about an inch and a half in size and have a very clean, bright and briny taste,” says Eventide co-owner Arlin Smith. “A smaller oyster is special because it has amazing salinity.” Hennessey also provides the restaurant with big, meaty seven- to 10-year-old oysters, which chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley roast in a thick, Korean-style barbecue sauce. The caramelized oysters are served in their shells, topped with coleslaw, crispy fried potato strings and a drizzle of chile oil
Food & Wine magazine runs the annual contest, which allows the public to vote for one of 100 outstanding chefs from 10 different regions. Chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley of Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland are in the running for the title "The People's Best New Chef". The nominees are allowed to campaign for votes, and the Eventide group is taking the challenge seriously - kind of. They produced a humorous, professionally done video for their website, with a link that goes to the contest's voting page.