2011 Beard nominees prove Maine’s food scene isn’t limited to Portland

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Watch out, Portland: Maine’s Mid-coast is demanding that you share the foodie love. Need proof? Just check out this year’s crop of James Beard award semifinalists: Eight contenders, four from Portland, four from the Mid-coast. I’ve been touting the Rockland-Camden-Belfast food scene for years, and now the secret’s getting out. It’s an emerging culinary travel destination in Maine. More on that later, in the meantime, here are this year’s Maine Beard semifinalists:

Best New Restaurant:

Shepherd’s Pie, Rockport (love, love, love this place; go now, it’s small. Once summer comes, it’ll be hard to land a table).

Outstanding Chef:

Sam Hayward, Fore Street, Portland

Melissa Kelly, Primo, Rockland

(I can’t think of two more deserving chefs; both have already won regional Beard awards, and each is an anchor in the Maine food scene)

Outstanding Restaurant:

Fore Street, Portland (One of my usual grazing spots, when I’m in the city)

Best Chef, Northeast:

Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland (another favorite spot to dine when intown)

Brian Hill, Francine, Camden (a double nominee–he’s also the toque behind Shepherd’s Pie, see above; my thoughts)

Megan Chase, Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, and Ted LaFage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast (The family that farms together and cooks together, stays together; a bright light in Belfast and one of many reasons to visit this often overlooked town).

Demos Regas, Emilitsa, Portland (Another Portland gem that operates under the usual foodie radar screen–I just recommended it to a friend the other day).