Canopy Farms

By the end of this year, Canopy Farms will be growing produce for all of Eighty Ate Hospitality’s businesses in our own aquaponics greenhouse next door to Tao Yuan. It’s been a long time coming.

I joined the Tao team back in 2013, ready to take a vision that Cara and I shared– a farm, in partnership with the restaurant– and bring it into reality. Cara and her mother, Cecile, had been working hard to get their first restaurant off the ground, and it was beginning to pay off. Tao Yuan was coming up on its 1 year anniversary of being open, Cara was starting to be recognized on the national stage, and plans were forming for a second restaurant  in Portland (BaoBao Dumpling House). The farm was part of the next phase of the vision, and I was thrilled to be a part of it all.

I have to admit something here, before I go any further: I wasn’t necessarily hired for this job based on skill and experience alone (although I like to think that had something to do with it!). My appointment at Tao had a bit of a nepotistic twinge to it, if you take into account that I was a long-ago dubbed an “honorary Stadler,” with my own slot on the family chore chart and everything. Cara and I grew up together, and stayed close friends all the way from pre-school through the twists and turns of early adult life as we both began our careers. We both focused on food– her on preparing it, and me on growing it. We had dreamed of working together in these obviously synergistic roles, and as Cara grew her business, she had kept this vision in mind. She and her parents had bought the lot adjacent to Tao with their purchase of the property, and it was here that the plan for an aquaponics greenhouse would take shape.

Four years later, construction is soon to begin. It’s been a long road– with lots of hurdles, distractions, and delays– but our commitment to the project and long-standing mutual trust have allowed this project to persist. And along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to work with my friend and watch her grow as a business owner and manager as she and Cecile have brought their own vision to life. There’s so much more to say about the greenhouse project– what we hope to do with aquaponics, how we’ll partner with Harpswell Coastal Academy and the Propeller Project to host high school interns, the other businesses that the facility will house– and I’m sure we’ll discuss it many times in many ways on this blog. For now, here’s to the next year, and more good things to come!
Kate Holcomb, Canopy Farms

Tiki Revival

What is Tiki? In the original Maori mythology, Tiki represents the first man created by the god Tane. Its carved humanoid form became ubiquitous as a vessel for the popular Polynesian drinks of the mid-20th century. The 1934 opening of Don the Beachcomber, a popular Hollywood restaurant, forged the path with Tiki torches, rum punches, flower leis, and Cantonese cuisine. Not long after, “Trader Vic” Bergeron opened a similar themed restaurant in Oakland California. Stars like Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra were regular patrons at these Hollywood hot spots.

Modern Tiki culture was born in the Depression and died with disco.  In the 1930’s, Tiki pioneers like Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron wowed their patrons with exotic ingredients and tropical flavors.  As the Polynesian craze swept across the country, many imitators attempted to copy the closely-guarded recipes of the originals, often falling short. This resulted in the abundance of poorly crafted, boozy, sugary bombs.  For too long, Tiki drinks were equated with syrupy sweet, watered down concoctions–but recently the style has made a massive comeback.

While Tiki bars are now all the rage, it was Chinese restaurants that carried the torch for the last fifty years. One of our favorite things about Tiki drinks is that they’re fun. In a time when mixology is revered like alchemy, Tiki reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. True Tiki cocktails are well balanced, nuanced, and refreshing, and many of the original recipes are now available.

At Bao Bao we’ve revived Tiki classics such as the Mai Tai and the Zombie (check out the recipe below), and put our own spin on them. These drinks utilize a carefully selected blend of rums, house made syrups, and fresh citrus juices. They are the perfect accompaniment to an order of dumplings.

 — Patrick McDonald, Bar Manager, Eighty Ate Hospitality


1 1/2 oz dark rum
1/2 oz navy strength rum
1 oz Chinese 5 spice syrup
1 oz white grapefruit juice
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
Shake with ice and pour whole concoction into a Tiki mug.


On the outskirts of Maine’s much-boasted food scene in the Greater Portland area is the small historic college town of Brunswick, Maine. I spent most of my adolescent years in, or passing directly through, this cozy Midcoast Maine destination– and over the years, I ate at many of the area’s restaurants. As a child, I never thought too much about the behind-the-scenes competition that thrived in the professional work environments of my favorite places for an evening milk shake, lobster roll, or bowl of soup. But as I’ve spent the last 14 years in the restaurant industry in this great state, that competition has become very real for me.

I find now, at the age of 28, that it is nearly impossible for me to stop an ever-revolving thought pattern of culinary critique wherever I eat; whether it’s a search for refinement, musings about price points, or simply the little adjustments I would make to the recipe if I made it. I notice this same instinct in my colleagues and especially in my chef and educator, Cara Stadler. When you dine with other restaurant professionals, sometimes the conversation is not as full of “ooo”s and “ahh”s, but more like a boardroom meeting (even if it can seem like a boardroom of misfits and quasi-pirates).

I feel that building an establishment like Tao Yuan  in Brunswick has helped to strengthen the ecosystem of this strong culinary mentality. The more restaurants and eateries that constantly challenge themselves and others to be innovative in the locales outside of famous foodie Portland, the better off my home state will be. Living in Midcoast Maine, seeing these important transformations has inspired and solidified my career in the industry. Maybe the outskirts of Portland won’t always be home, but it is surely where I learned the difference between a simple monetary transaction for a meal and what the story of a restaurant can really be– the staff and their countless hours and efforts to perfect every detail.

–Kyle Birkinbine, Sous Chef, Tao Yuan Restaurant

Kyle enjoying a Midcoast Maine sunset

Exploring Oregon Wines

As I approach my one year anniversary with Eighty Ate Hospitality, I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned in the last year. Before Tao I knew little about Asian cuisine—except that I very much enjoy eating it! I was (and still am) on the pursuit to study and understand the vast world of wine. Pairing wines with Asian cuisine was not second nature to me, but working here has allowed me to think out of the box (of course while following some of the fundamentals).   In the spirit of “there is always more to know,” I decided to dive into the history of Oregon wine this week in consideration of our upcoming wine pairing dinner. So here we go…

It is only relatively recently that the Oregon became not just a viable but an extraordinary region for growing vitis vinifera.  In the 1960’s a group of dreamers were convinced that Oregon was a prime location for growing European grape varietals.  This group is known as the “Pinot Pioneer’s.” They were engineers, teachers, and liberal arts graduates who had no farming or sales experience and no clue of what it took a run their own business. Nevertheless, they decided to move forward despite a number of naysayers.

It all started with David Lett. Educated in viticulture at UC Davis, Lett fell in love with the Pinot Noir grape while visiting Burgundy. He became determined to find a place in North America where Pinot Noir and similar varietals could thrive and display terrior as in Burgundy. (“Terroir” is a word often used to identify wine by region; it refers to the unique flavors and characteristics of a wine based on the region where it was produced). UC Davis wine professors and wine professionals urged Lett that Oregon’s cool and wet climate would not lead him to success. Lett ignored their advice and found his spot in Willamette Valley. A number of other couples in pursuit of the same goal were soon to follow, and the group was eventually coined as Pinot Pioneers. They ripped up strawberry fields and abandoned prune orchards and began to lay down Pinot Noir vines. The families were not able to obtain loans from banks due to the common lack of confidence in the project. To battle this, they all worked second jobs to keep their families afloat, they shared equipment and knowledge, and they decided that together they would prove their critics wrong. And as we all know now, proving them wrong is exactly what they did. It took some tweaking and practice to make a vintage that was of quality, but in 1979 Lett took his Pinot Noir to an international wine show where his wine placed in the competition. His Oregon Pinot Noir beat out well know Burgundy wines—and finally, Oregon was in the game. Pinot Noir and the Pioneers truly paved the way for the expansion of Oregon’s wine industry and subsequent winemakers. These victories led to the introduction of additional varietals that have become just as successful as their predecessor.

A varietal that thrives in the cool climate of Oregon and demonstrates the region’s natural acidity is Gewurztraminer. We will be pouring Teutonic Gewurztraminer from Crow Valley Vineyard in Willamette. Barnaby Tuttle of Teutonic Wine Company fell in love with German-style Rieslings while working as a wine buyer in an Oregon restaurant. In spite of being a complete novice on grape growing and winemaking he decided in 2002 that he was going to leave the restaurant industry and become a wine maker. A friend of his lent him a parcel of their farm in Alsea, Oregon where Tuttle planted 2000 vines. His determination lay in learning how to grow and produce a product with the same typicity (a wine’s ability to demonstrate the characteristics of the grape from which it’s made) that you find in a German wine. In my opinion he has done a great job, the moment we tasted this wine we were all very excited about the quality and the range of food it would be able to handle. This wine is crisp and ripe with a great viscosity. We decided to think outside with box and pair this with a young lamb tartar alongside the flavors of chamomile and sesame.

Another producer we will be highlighting is Cristom. Like the Pinot Pioneers, they too were in the pursuit of spectacular Pinot Noir. The founder, Paul Gerrie, was an engineer from the East Coast who fell in love with wine when invited to the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. He decided to uproot his young family and move west to chase his passion.  Once there he teamed up with his vineyard manager, Mark Feltz, and winemaker Steve Doerner. They produced their first vintage in 1992 and have been carefully working to produce exceptional Pinot Noirs since.  We are pouring their 2013 Pinot Noir from Jessie Vineyard , a fuller-bodied representation of Pinot Noir.  At first taste we realized this wine would be a spot on pairing with a New York strip we have coincidentally been aging.

The more I’ve researched Oregon grape growers and wine makers, the more I see the spirit of the Pinot Pioneers having a continual influence on Oregon.  People are continuing to take chances and from what I have found they are doing it out of passion and love for the grapes. As I delve further into my wine education, the most exciting and daunting thing is there will always be more to know. There are endless grape varietals and regions to study and more stories of winemakers and their passion to discover.  I am looking forward to the continuous exploration.

Nicole Elmore, Front of House Manager, Tao Yuan Restaurant

A vineyard from Nicole’s visit to Oregon