We mentioned last week that Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro and the Maine Grind, both on Main Street in Ellsworth, have teamed up to bring an expanded menu to the Grind. Well, now there’s lots more information on that front. Firstly, that not only will Rich and Cary Hanson, the masterminds behind Cleonice, be bringing some of their signature locally-sourced dishes to the Grind – but also that eventually, they plan to move their entire operation up the street to the Old Mason Hall, the spacious building that houses the Grind. That’s going to take a considerable amount of time and planning, naturally, but in the meantime, the Hansons and new Grind manager Peter Voigt (formerly of Lily’s Cafe in Ellsworth) are busy getting started on phase one Operation: Downtown Ellsworth Is Awesome (yes, I made that name up). First up? A Kickstarter campaign, which was launched this week by all involved to bring gourmet grilled pizza to the Grind. Crispy, melty, yummy grilled pizza. To make that happen, they need a convection oven, a grill, some pizza making supplies and to install a hood. If you love pizza, and you love Ellsworth, then it’s well worth donating to the cause. They’re hoping to have the renovations ready by late February.
In other, less optimistic food news, we’re sad to report that Lily Bistro in Rockland – no relation to the aforementioned Lily’s Cafe in Ellsworth – closed a few weeks ago. Hilary Nangle of the Maine Travel Maven reported on Dec. 29 that owners Rob and Lynette Krajewski had to shut down their restaurant, which served acclaimed French bistro fare, because a number of unfortunate events happened simultaneously. It’s a shame to see a local business go under due to things that could have been avoided. The pair have relocated to Boston; I wish the best to them.
In today’s food pages there’s a story I wrote about “ethnic” food in Portland — from the charming Thai fusion available at Boda, to the Eritrean food of Asmara. It’s very easy to get lost in the array of eateries Portland offers, so here’s hoping our list of restaurants is helpful to those looking to dine out in southern Maine. I highly recommend both the Mexican corn on the cob at El Rayo Taqueria, and the ramen bowls at Pai Men Miyake. Both inexpensive, both wonderful. Oh, and the Cubano sandwich at Sonny’s. And pretty much anything at Boda. Dangit. Now I’m hungry.
And finally, I haven’t posted a new recipe in a while. Well, last night I made an extremely tasty Southwestern chicken stew, based on this recipe from Cooking Light. I jazzed it up a little differently from what they suggested, however, and ended up making enough soup for an army of people. Here’s what you need.
1.5 pounds-ish of chicken thighs
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup corn niblets (I love the word niblets)
2 cans white beans (Cannellini beans are probably the best)
1 seven ounce can salsa verde (get in the “Mexican/Hispanic” section of your grocery store, and if you find an eight ounce or larger can, that’s fine too – more salsa! Ole!)
4 cups chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and cayenne pepper
1 cup water, half of which you will mix with 3 tablespoons flour to add in at the end
Limes and sour cream
OK! Get out a Dutch oven or a large pot. Coat the bottom in a thin layer of olive oil and heat on medium-high. Brown the chicken thighs, three minutes each side, and toss in a small amount of salt and pepper. Remove the chicken thighs and set aside on paper towel to drain. Add in a little more olive oil and saute the onion, with the garlic and as much rosemary, thyme and cayenne as you want, depending on how much you like all three or how spicy you want it. Once the onions have sweated a bit, add the chicken back in, and then pour on the broth, the salsa verde and about a half cup of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes. At that point, you’ll remove the chicken yet again, and pull it apart into bite-sized pieces, and toss them back in the pot. Add the beans and the corn and that half cup of water mixed with three tablespoons flour, mix it all up, and bring it back up to a simmer for another five minutes or so. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. Put a generous plop of sour cream and a squeeze of a lime wedge on it. You can add cheese, but I don’t think it’s necessary. You can serve it with tortilla chips or cornbread, but it’s good on it’s own. It makes enough to serve about six people.