When we think about food, so many things come to mind; where our food comes from, when we should eat it, where we should eat it, and with whom we should eat it. Leave it to Rosemont Market to answer all of these questions for us.
John Naylor, one of the two co-owners of Rosemont, makes it his business to think about the Maine community and how we eat. His commitment to the local farmer is unparalleled in our area. John has a personal relationship with each and every one of his purveyors. He spends a lot of time making sure that the food Rosemont sources is fresh, local and affordable. I once made the mistake of calling Rosemont a gourmet grocery store and John was within earshot. He shared that Rosemont is not so much about specialty foods as it is about food that is nourishing and can feed our community. He cares a great deal about a sense of place; the place where his family lives and the place where he and his partner does business. John’s business partner is Scott Anderson; they opened the first Rosemont together in 2005. Today there are five Rosemonts; four in Portland and one in Yarmouth.
The very first Rosemont, Rosemont Bakery, quietly sits on Brighton Avenue in the section of Portland called Rosemont. The neighborhood quickly embraced the concept of fresh bread baked daily and food you could buy close to home without breaking the bank. They outgrew their space and opened a Rosemont just a feet away from their first store. Their original space, now home to the Rosemont bakery and production kitchen, is warm, unpretentious and home to a series of weekly dinners. Chef Bryan Dame is fairly new to Rosemont. His style of cooking is straightforward and farm fresh, right in line with Rosemont’s concept. He uses local ingredients to cook dishes that comfort, please the palate and remind us of a time not so long ago: a time when we knew where our food came from and how it was prepared; a time when it was not so much about creating something complex, but more about creating something that was simply delicious. Chef Bryan’s food is full of flavors that remind us of eating at Grandma’s house or that tiny restaurant in the neighborhood you went to when you wanted something familiar, unpretentious and tasty.
Chef Bryan learned how to cook in several impressive kitchens: Opus 251 in the Rittenhouse Square section of Philadelphia, The Edge in Lincolnville, Maine, and just prior to joining the team at Rosemont, The Well at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth.
Chef Bryan is a Mainer. He attended St. Joseph’s College and dropped out to pursue his real passion in a restaurant kitchen. He thrives in the world of food and he is energized by the ever changing restaurant scene. It is this desire for change that led him to propose weekly dinners in the Rosemont Kitchen. The series is evolving, growing and was launched this January. The first Sunday of the month is a Bean Suppah, a family affair with communal tables, casseroles and music; the second Saturday of each month features a pizza night with six different kinds of hand-made pizza; the third Saturday is Meet Your Maker night, where Rosemont invites a different farmer, brewer, cheesemaker, winemaker or other artisan; and finally the fourth Saturday is Cabin Fever, communal dining accompanied by live music — this fourth theme will change seasonally. All four dinners take place at Rosemont Kitchen, used during the day by a full staff of bakers and cooks for the production of Rosemont’s prepared foods.
I had the pleasure of attending the Cabin Fever dinner Sunday, Feb. 28; Academy Awards night. I sat at a large square table with about 15 other diners. I had not met many of the people I ate with, but certainly got to know most of them before the night ended; and I got home in time for Chris Rock’s opening monologue for the Oscars.
The first course of the evening was a simple bowl of Paul Lorraine’s greens topped with a vinaigrette dressing. This Lyman producer also owns Funky Bow Brewery. The second course was a delicious bowl of broccoli and mushroom soup. I walked over to Chef Bryan and asked him what he called this soup, he replied, “broccoli and mushroom soup,” go figure. Next we were served a platter of meatballs in a red sauce, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccolini with carrots. The evening ended with rosemary bread pudding with burnt honey topped with fresh whip cream — far more food than anticipated and each dish a welcome delight.
The theme of the evening was definitely all about community. Your relationship with the food, the farmers and producers, the chef, and one another. I felt the warmth when I entered to the sounds of Harper & Friends, a wonderful trio of bluegrass musicians. They actually do not call themselves Harper & Friends; they haven’t decided what to call themselves yet. This didn’t surprise me, either. I smelled the food on the stove, I saw people laughing and drinking wine and I was welcomed to my seat at the communal baker’s table — a table that could have been my neighbor's table or my family table. The takeaway with Rosemont Kitchen meals: Be prepared to feed your belly and nourish your soul.
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