Down East 2013 ©
Before you cozy up with your loved one this Valentine's Day, visit www.robinschocolate.com  to have some of Maine's sweetest sauces shipped right to your door - or pick some up at the Whole Foods Market in Portland. If you're in the mood for a night of classic romance, pour the Original Recipe over a shared bowl of vanilla ice cream. Or turn the lights down low and dip fresh fruit into the award-winning Tropical Dark made from 70 percent dark chocolate with a hint of lime. The other sauces include, Raspberry, Blueberry, Ginger Pear, and Orange Spice - something for every special someone. The best thing about these sauces (other than their decadence): is that they can be consumed guilt-free (at least in terms of the environment). All six flavors are certified organic, and three are Fair Trade certified. Plus the company, in tandem with the National Wildlife Federation, uses shade grown cocoa, a step toward protecting the winter habitats of migratory songbirds.
THE TALENTED MS. TIPPER
Pop in native Mainer and Appleton resident Ellen Tipper's new CD, Flanagan's Field, and relax to the clean sound of this classical pianist turned singer-songwriter. Combining the playfulness of Mary Chapin Carpenter, the quirkiness of Dar Williams, and the soul of Norah Jones, Tipper creates a sound that is at once melodic and moody, sweet and sultry.
Throughout all of the songs, the piano is a strong presence, accompanied by Tipper's folky yet soulful voice. She enchants you with songs such as the title track about our need for quiet outdoor places, and a particularly catchy tune, "All in a Day." Ranging from upbeat to achingly emotional, Tipper's melodies and lyrics prove her to be a varied and talented artist and reflect the myriad personal and musical influences she has experienced in her travels around the world. The result is an intimate collection of easy-to-listen-to songs.
Tipper has plans to perform throughout Maine and New England, so check out her calendar and CD on her Web site, www.ellentipper.com 
By Kathleen Fleury
Mama mia! A local Munjoy Hill landmark, the Village Cafe (formerly 112 Newbury St.) has closed its doors for good. Opened in 1936 by the Reali family as a "neighborhood tavern," the eatery has retained its reputation for family friendly food for more than seventy years, attracting locals and tourists alike with hearty dishes, homemade wine, and a cozy atmosphere. Word is that owner John Reali has no plans to open another restaurant but hasn't made a final decision yet. Here's hoping he reconsiders.
Psst! Want to know where to go for the dish on Greater Portland's restaurant scene? Look no further than your computer screen. Go to www.portlandpsst.blogspot.com  and dig into the picante posts of anonymous food blogger Portland Psst! While sticking mostly to what's going on in Maine restaurants, the blog also covers noteworthy local and national food and drink news, from new food lingo to store openings, restaurant reviews to specialty Maine products. Even if you disagree with his (or her) opinions, you'll at least get your fill of snarky gossip and sharp-tongued critiques.
Packed with historical photos, newspaper clippings, illustrations, and miscellaneous memorabilia, The Rangeley and Its Region (Tilbury House, Publishers; Gardiner, Maine; paperback; 127 pages; $30), by Stephen A. Cole, offers a thorough examination of the evolution of this iconic fishing boat, the region where it was invented, and the sporting culture it represents.
A new anthology documents the untold history of Maine's largest ethnic minority
By Jim Brunelle
According to U.S. Census figures, roughly one of every four Maine residents is of French origin, reason enough to publish a goodly sized anthology of the Franco-American experience here. And at more than six hundred pages, Voyages - A Maine Franco-American Reader (Tilbury House, Gardiner; www. tilburyhouse.com; paperback; 606 pages; $30) is satisfyingly hefty.
Co-editor Barry Rodrigue, an associate professor of arts and humanities at the University of Southern Maine in Lewiston-Auburn, points out the dearth of published historical material: "In 1990 amateur historian Neil Rolde made a significant effort to document the contributions of French Canadians and other ethnic groups in the state of Maine for his volume, Maine: A Narrative History. However, when professional historians produced a history of Maine eight years later, Maine: The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present, not a single chapter was devoted to Franco-Americans."
This is astonishing, considering [for the rest of this story and to read a review of an Aroostook County culinary landmark, see the February 2008 issue of Down East]that the French have been here from the very beginning of European settlement. Rodrigue traces his own ancestry back to the seventeenth-century Champlain-DeMonts exploration of the Maine coast.
And many French became Mainers without even moving. When a border dispute between the U.S. and Canada was settled in 1842 and the northern boundary set at the St. John River, Maine automatically absorbed "half of an already existing French community."
Oddly, the massive influx of French-Canadians during the Industrial Revolution was not regarded as a permanent resettlement. The majority of those who came here seeking work in the textile mills, lumber camps, and farming communities evidently regarded the move as an economic steppingstone. Many moved on to other New England locales and many more simply returned home to Canada. In other words, they were transients before they were settlers, migrants before they were immigrants.
But even after they had settled in as long-term citizens of Maine, French-Canadians resisted the idea of acclimation. As Celeste DeRoche, a Portland-born history professor who currently lives and teaches in Florida, writes, La survivance became the watchword for life in Maine: "The leaders of the immigration generation valued cultural survival. They understood their primary role in the developing Franco-American community as the guardians of their cultural heritage, speci-fically defined as their language and religion. Active promotion of their French-Canadian past and translating this past into a usable present in a new country and culture was their priority for ensuring their future."
Too often the feeling among their Yankee neighbors was reciprocal. Dorothy Blanchard, a local historian, describes how this affected even the burial grounds at Dexter: "In the original section of the cemetery all the French Canadians' graves are located in a corner next to the woods, while Yankee tombstones occupy the rest of the cemetery, which is on higher ground."
At a milder but more widespread level, the discrimination persisted in the popularity of "dumb Frenchman" jokes. John Martin, the first Franco-American to serve as speaker of the Maine House of Representa-tives, relates how insensitively common the practice was: "When I was first elected as speaker, members would often wander into my office and ask if I had heard the latest French joke. My response was always the same - `Are you French?' If the answer was no, I would tell them: `I'll listen to your joke as long as you use your own ethnic background as the brunt of it!' After a few months of this, the members quickly became aware of that rule, and after one term in office it was never again an issue."
Then there is Richard Pattenaude, a Seattle native, who writes movingly of his own self-discovery as a Franco-American upon becoming president of the University of Southern Maine: "This is a great gift, particularly coming to me at an later age . . . (In) the great melting pot we live in, I now better understand the power and meaning of identity. This is a wonderful country and I am proud to be an American. And it is a testament to the spirit of America that at the same time I can also be proud to be a Franco-American."
Although not the ordered history that we still await, this eclectic anthology includes a rich assortment of personal essays, scholarly papers, unpublished theses, and memoirs, as well as letters, poetry, songs, fiction, art, recipes, and, in some cases, material written especially for this volume.
One quarrel over layout: Collecting the biographies of its more than seventy contributors at the rear of the book dooms the reader to a constant shuffling back and forth to find out who wrote what. How much more logical and less annoying to have used these sketches as introductions to each of the pieces.
Tilbury House is fast becoming Maine's ethnicity publisher of record. First came Rolde's 2004 history of Maine Indians, Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future. Last year there was Maine's Visible Black History by H. H. Price and Gerald E. Talbot. With Voyages, Rodrigue and co-editor Nelson Madore, a professor of history, government, and management at Thomas College in Waterville, add a third publication that helps bridge one of the more perplexing gaps in the historical account of this state and its people. JIM BRUNELLE
Good and Plenty
A restaurant in Aroostook County thrives by offering local favorites with an international flair.
By Andrew Vietze
Island Falls is an Aroostook County town with a bit of intrigue to it. Set alongside the West Branch of the Mattawamkeag River, the community of eight hundred is home to a neat state park that nobody knows is there. Right in the center of town is a yoga retreat that's been featured in the New York Times, In Style, Travel & Leisure, and National Geographic's 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways in North America. Over on Walker Road, there's a surprisingly good set of golf links, and until last year, the quiet hamlet was home to a fashion museum. Pick a road and drive down it in Island Falls and you'll find a surprise.
One of the best of these is on the south side of Main Street. There, in an unassuming strip mall next to the local grocery store, is Horn of Plenty restaurant. Nothing about the place really suggests what's going on back past the dozen tables in the kitchen. With snowshoes mounted on the walls, wicker lights, sherbet green wallpaper, faux-pine paneling, and big game heads staring hungrily down at you, the d`cor says Any Restaurant, Northern Maine. But the food that lands on your table is anything but ordinary, a cut above - several cuts above, actually - what you'd find anywhere for fifty miles around.
We're not talking fancy pants stuff but rather peasant foods with an international twist to them, the sort of cuisine that will fly in a place like the County.
Chef Bill Roderick and his wife, Nancy Levin, transplants from Rhode Island, have made the same decision as many savvy restaurateurs in small Maine towns - combine comfort foods like steak and pork chops and stuffed chicken breast with unique recipes like scungille salad and Cajun cod and Hawaiian BBQ chicken, and you'll enjoy everyday local support from the community and you'll entice visitors and traveling foodies as well.
"When we first came up here," says Levin, expertly trained from years running her own Newport, Rhode Island, tavern, "we put all kinds of new flavors on our menu and told people, `Try it. If you don't like it, we'll get you something you will like.' People got to educate their palate, and they really liked that." The locals who started coming when the restaurant opened in 1993 have morphed into regulars - there's a real bonhomie to the place and many diners and the chef, who visits tables, are on a first-name basis. And they've come to trust Levin and Roderick. "When I do specials now, people come in and say to Nancy, `Go ahead, bring me whatever.' "
Whatever these days might be spicy Portuguese pasta, German-style calf's liver, venison lasagna, or coffee steak. The staple menu always features some sort of steak as well as the two most popular dishes, seafood tetrazzini and chicken Sicily, and Roderick will add as many as a dozen tasty specials.
Since graduating from Johnson & Wales, Roderick has worked at a variety of resort restaurants. He put in time at the Harborside Inn on Martha's Vineyard, at the Coachman Restaurant in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and the Oceancliff Resort in Newport, and he has taken those experiences and augmented them with a keen sense of his audience. He did, after all, discover Island Falls on a hunting trip, and he understands the hungry, working-class men and women of his adopted hometown.
To keep the diners of Aroostook County happy, he's kept the prices reasonable. "The average entr`e is fourteen dollars," says Levin. "That includes the soup, salad, and dinner rolls. And it's a nice family-style plateful. People don't go away hungry." Of course, you could simply come in and get a burger or a bowl of soup or a chouriA§o-and-pepper sandwich and enjoy good cooking for less than half that.
While the food may share some of the inventive and whimsical aspects of the hip Californian cuisine that seems to be taking over everywhere else to the south, Roderick doesn't believe in skimping. "The nouvelle stuff looks good, and a lot of times the flavor is outstanding," he says. "But when you're on the drive home you find yourself asking your wife, `Honey, do we have any leftovers?' "
The couple's methods seem to be working. Horn of Plenty regularly draws people from as far away as Bangor to the south and Woodstock to the north.
The anonymous-looking restaurant harbors a surprise as big as any in a town filled with them. "We're the culinary oasis of Aroostook County," boasts Roderick. "You never know what you'll get here."
Horn of Plenty restaurant is located on Main Street. It's open for lunch and dinner (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) Tuesday through Friday and for dinner only on Saturday (5 to 8 p.m.). Reservations are suggested. Entrees are $7-$19. 207-463-2861. 1