PORTLAND, Maine — Despite the city’s burgeoning reputation as a foodie mecca, some of Portland’s most interesting kitchens aren’t in its renowned restaurants.
For Mainers who wonder what the kitchens look like in some of Portland’s architectural gems, but aren’t bold enough to knock on a stranger’s door unannounced, an upcoming May 10-11 event will be seen as a welcome calendar item.
The Portland Kitchens Tour is being billed by organizers as “two days, six kitchens and loads of inspiration.” Participants can purchase tickets at the St. Lawrence Arts Center at 76 Congress St. — a historic building whose renovation is the beneficiary of the fundraiser event — and then waltz through a selection of high-end city homes.
The excursion provides participants a voyeuristic opportunity to get up close and personal with the types of home food prep spaces before seen mostly in magazine spreads.
For the DIY and HGTV crowd, contractors and designers will be on hand along the way to explain how they made the spaces work, what materials they used and how to find cost efficiencies.
For the aforementioned foodies, who are as interested in what comes out of a kitchen as what goes into making it, each of the sites also will be equipped with one of Portland’s elite chefs, a cookbook author or a food tasting.
“Put us in a pretty kitchen and let us talk about what we do,” said Elizabeth Fraser, co-creator of the Kids Gone Raw “un-cookbook,” website and BDN blog, who will hand out gourmet vegan snacks at one kitchen on the tour.
“We’re chefs, and we’re in our kitchen all day,” agreed partner Maggie Knowles. “So being able to go into new kitchens and see how differently things can be done is inspiring even for us.”
Adam Beckworth, a New York City chef who launched A Little Somethin’ Sweet bakery in Portland after moving from the Big Apple about a year ago, said the tour will show what makes Maine’s largest city a great place to find a home.
“There’s a warmth here I was missing,” he said during a recent preview of two of the stops along the tour.
For a teaser, Beckworth handed out colorful cupcakes decorated to look like cheeseburger sliders.
“It’s kind of a mind trip, because you have a different expectation biting into them,” he said.
As for the folks who designed the stuff in the kitchens not molded out of fondant, their secrets also will be revealed on the tour.
“We did our best to keep some of the elements of the old church,” said Tina Richardson, owner of Maine Coast Kitchen and one of the revamped buildings on the itinerary, a former house of worship.
“Not only will they get the brand names, but they’ll see what it takes to make these projects happen,” said Adam Rosenbaum of the Falmouth-based CSI Builders, whose firm helped design and construct another fashionable stop on the tour. “They’ve seen the TV shows where it all happens in 20 minutes. Everybody knows it takes longer than that.
“I’ll be able to tell people, ‘Don’t cheap out here,’ but we can save you money over here,” he said. “Or when to go online for materials or when to buy from suppliers in the area. How to maintain a home’s historical identity while keeping up with modern fire codes and structural loads, and also minimizing maintenance and expense down the road.”
The Hermon Recreation Department is providing a “ladies only” bus trip to the tour and Maine Mall on Saturday, May 11, for Bangor-area women interested in visiting the kitchens. Those interested can call the department at 848-4075 for more information.
Tickets cost $25 online at PortlandKitchenTour.com in advance of the event, $30 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center during the event, or $50 through the Hermon Recreation Department, a price that includes the bus trip.
Event sponsors are Kitchen Cove Cabinetry and Design, EcoHome Studio, and Distinctive Tile and Design, while the media sponsor is Down East Magazine.