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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: March 10, 2014

40 Paper takes the top prize at Maine Restaurant Week finale

Written by: Susan Axelrod

Photos by Susan Axelrod

The service bays of Prime Mercedes Benz in Scarborough were once again transformed into an exciting, nightclub-like event space for last night’s Signature Event, the cocktail and dessert competition that caps off Maine Restaurant Week. Bartenders, chefs and pastry chefs got especially creative this year, with drinks featuring pine, Asian spices, beets, harissa-infused olive oil and, naturally, bacon. The People’s Choice cocktail winner was newcomer Top of the East in Portland, with Snow White’s Poison: vodka, Maine apple cider, pear and lemon juices, topped with a coconut-apple foam. The editors of DownEast magazine chose a “Best of Maine” winner — the Maine Pinetini created by Executive Chefs Shelby and Chris Long of Camden Harbour Inn. It was a heady mix of clementine juice, Canton ginger liqueur and cardamon syrup, capped with a swirl of pine-scented foam.

For the second year in a row, chef David Turin of David’s won the dessert prize, this year with an adult take on the ice cream sandwich: brownie, vanilla ice cream and bananas flambeed in rum.

I had the good fortune to be on the judging panel for the cocktail competition, with a couple of real pros: Greg Bell of The Spotted Pig in New York City and Andrew Volk of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club in Portland. We deliberated long and hard – initially narrowing our picks down to four, then going back for follow-up tastes before choosing the Root & Smoke cocktail from 40 Paper in Camden. It was intense and complex, with a beet-ginger shrub base, smoky Illegal Repesado mescal, brown sugar syrup, lime juice, grapefruit and Angostura bitters and Maine Root ginger beer.

As the saying goes: it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

For more details and the recipe for the winning cocktail see Meredith Goad’s story in the Portland Press Herald.

For more photos, check out the Seen Gallery.

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