Geared to aspiring journalists and critics alike, our Week in Review camp takes full advantage of The Telling Room's Old Port location with art, music, food, and entertainment at our doorstep. Together, we explore art galleries, food establishments, and check out some local performances. Campers delve into the art of critical observation, evaluation, and persuasive writing in the form of art, food, and performance reviews. We chat with a panel of local editors and journalists to get their tips of the trade, and take a tour of the Portland Press Herald and have a Q&A with their features editor and music reviewer. This camp is led by Telling Room staff member Sonya Tomlinson who spent nine years as traffic manager and contributing writer to the Portland Phoenix.

Camper Reviews 2019:

Published in The Maine Sunday Telegram's Food & Dining and Audience Sections

Mario the Magician

Not Your Average Magician

Chester Parish

Age 12, Yarmouth

When I went to Mario the Maker Magician, I thought it would be dumb party tricks- but I ended up not taking any notes I was so captivated.

It was fantastic, from the tricks to Mario’s energy. There were some times when I was actually confused at how he did some of the tricks. He did tricks with shoelaces, clown noses, robots, hats, cups and other contraptions. He does great humor for the age he’s targeting. He is also very resourceful- he made an entire robot monkey out of 3D printing. The monkey’s name was Marcel and he and Mario were featured on Sesame Street.

Mario let the kids in the audience be involved in his show. He made them scream, whisper, raise their hands, and sit criss-cross applesauce. He gave the kids who volunteered to help him with the tricks Mario the Maker Magician gifts. He had so much energy and fun with the kids. He pretended to get hurt when they gave him high fives and tricked them into believing they were dropping coins in a can using coin sounds. The audience really liked it. They laughed and clapped at his tricks. 

In all, I say that Mario the Maker Magician is great for kids from 3-6 and maybe seven.

 

Mario The Maker Magician Leaps into fame without Nintendo

August Faulkner

Age 11, Cape Elizabeth

Did you know that Jean Eugène Robert-Houdini invented magic? Without him, we never would be able to appreciate magicians.  “Mario The Maker Magician.” is one of those many; I am going to tell you about his magical performance.

“Sadly, there were no Nintendo™ references during the show,” says Interviewee Phillip Tran. Even without the references, Mario had one hell of a performance anyway. A magician, who has had an appearance on Sesame Street, came to the Portland Public Library Tuesday, July 30th and put on a magical show. Before he began, he came and joshed around with the Audience getting “hurt” by high fives. As jolly and bouncy music played in the background, I shook hands with the magician and talked for a minute. After a 5-minute delay most of the seats were filled, so the audience got bored. When asked if he thought the wait was too long, friend and interviewee Emmett Cole replied: “Yeah, it’s been too long.” Two minutes later, the show began.  As I looked around I noticed the viewers were from infants to grandparents. Mario knew how to keep the audience entertained, from silly humor to card tricks. He had them focused on him by having them sit criss-cross-applesauce and yell back to him. Every so often he got a helper from the audience by bribing them saying that “If you sit criss-cross applesauce you might get to help!” He made every viewer smile or laugh at least once. He even showed us a robot monkey, by the name of Malcolm, who Mario used 13 pages of code to program. It was incredible how he mixed humor with his own magic tricks (hence the name, Mario the Maker) to impress everyone. And he did. 

“Funny and Entertaining.”

“It was impressive”

“A great performance.” 

“I really enjoyed it.” 

“Too good to be real… But it was!” 

These are quotes from viewers (Mostly kids) on the performance. They said it was fun, and as you know, as usual... the kids are right! It was! 

 

Mario the Magician 

Will Maziarz

Age 13, Portland

My first glimpse of what to expect from Mario was a colorful poster, containing a cartoony graphic of him. It depicted him with his hands full of robotics, hurtling across the frame in a tiny car. Under this is a bold caption, proclaiming, “Mario the maker magician!” and “The world’s best kids magician!” I might add, I was staring at this cheery poster for a solid 10 minutes while waiting to be let in at the way back of the line stretching up the stairs. 

When we where finally let in, my first sensation was the overly loud music. It was not deafeningly loud, but it was annoying nonetheless. By the time the show started almost 10 minutes late, we had waited a total of about 20 minutes. We were all fidgety and impatient in the warm basement (while it was almost 90 F outside already), but he did a great job overall. he timed his jokes perfectly (most of them armpit, butt, or stinky shoe related) and pulled off some amazing tricks. For example, he did a bit with clown noses where he would have one on, turn around and they appeared all over his body. He also held true to his title, “Maker Magician” with micro drones and hand- made robots. 

All in all, he is a unique and funny entertainer, with the perfect personality for the job, being enthusiastic and happy. He is the perfect show for a rainy day, and has even starred on Sesame Street. But if I were to recommend this to someone, I would be sure that the person is younger than 9 for the simple reason that this is his target audience, and they would get more out of it.

 

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Jacob Goldman

Age 13, Cumberland

Mario the Maker Magician, on one of his posters is referred to as, “the best children's magician in the world,” and while this seemed to ring true to most of the kids under the age of ten, it did not have the same effect on the rest of the audience.

I can see why Mario’s act would be appealing for younger audiences, due to the frequent usage of cheesy and childish humor, but the under ten crowd were really the only ones laughing. I did however enjoy a few parts of his performance, such as the tricks themselves. There were only a few instances in which I had even the faintest Idea how he performed them. I also enjoyed the fact that he included the audience in the majority of the tricks. He must have used at least 1/10 of the attendees of the show (which in this case was a lot). That is not even including the call and response segments.

One inconvenient and minutely annoying thing was how long we had to wait before he started the show. We were among the first group to be let into the theater, which at first I believed to be a good thing, but after finding seats, we had to wait at least ten minutes before the show actually began! While this did provide a sufficient amount of time to relax, it became uncomfortable fairly quickly mostly due to the fact that we were sitting in metal, non-cushioned, folding chairs.

According to Philip Tran, one of the interns at The Telling Room, “there were many missed opportunities to make Mario jokes, for example when he had supposedly lost his hat and was searching through a box, he could have pulled out a Mario hat.” Of course this is not the most pressing concern that I had with the show but it would have been funny if he had made a slight reference to everyone's favorite Italian plumber from Nintendo. In the end, I thought that Mario was fine. To me the show was monotonous and at times repetitive, but as I said before, smaller children would definitely like it. Overall I would give him 3 stars out of 5. 

 

Bait Bag, “Pockets”

WOMEN ROCK

Lucy Fougere 

Age 13, Cape Elizabeth 

Feminism and rock music, two of the greatest things invented. If you want both, there’s a band for you; Bait Bag. Bait Bag is a modern feminist punk band from North Haven, Maine. They sing about social issues regarding sexism and feminism.

Upon listening to their song, “Pockets” which is a song about how women’s clothing doesn’t have as good of pockets as men’s clothing or any pockets at all sometimes. One could also assume there is a deeper meaning than just the issue regarding pockets. Perhaps a metaphor related to opportunity— how historically men have had things better than women do, how women have to work harder to carry their belongings and aren’t provided with adequate attire. Whereas men don’t have to work as hard because they’re already provided with the functions they need.

Beyond the lyrics, the actual song itself has really neat instruments. I loved the strong bass and distorted guitars and simple drums— with amazing bridges might I add. It gave me a 90s punk pop vibe. 

As for the vocals they were a little more spoken word than I would have liked. They were unconventionally good, not something I would listen to by choice. As much as I liked and related to the message of the song, I didn’t feel it on an emotional level, which for me is an important aspect of music. Overall I’d say you should give them a listen if you’re into women empowerment. They also seem like they would be a fun show to see live.

 

Bait and Traps

Chester Parish

Age 12, Yarmouth 

I recently listened to a song called “Pockets,” by a 3-woman band named Bait Bag. At first I absolutely hated it, from the bad lyrics such as, “I need a place to put a knife and a flask/My goggles and an oxygen mask,” to the annoying voices and the garage band style sound.

But, there were some good things about the song. My dad has a record called Beat of the Traps containing songs like “Disco” and “Jimmy Carter Says Yes,” and they are awful. Still, I love them for their terrible lyrics and actual pretty music- they are some of my faves.

So, it didn’t take long for me to like “Pockets”. It’s fun because of the bad lyrics and ridiculous voices. There is also something else, “Pockets” actually has a secret message in it. It's talking about how men get better things than women and that realization gave me a whole new respect for the song. “Disco” and “Jimmy Carter Says Yes” have no reason to exist, but “Pockets” by Bait Bag has a very good point to it.

In all, if you like songs with good and important points then you might like this, and if you like songs with ridiculous lyrics, then you will definitely love this.

 

Dean’s Sweets

Dean’s Sweets: the tastiest snack in town

Koba Scout Cone

Age 12, Yarmouth

When in the mood for delectable treats, search no more. Dean's Sweets is your go-to place. It’s located on Fore Street, with a new shop on Cove Street. This place is the spot any chocolate craving fiends and caramel obsessed crazes need.

As you are about to enter the shop, which has been around since 2004, there is a large green awning that says “Chocolatier.” There are two tall orange signs reading “Dean’s Sweets”. I thought that the entrance and very welcoming.

When you step in through the door, you are hit with the smells of caramel, chocolate, and butter creams. However, the shop looked a bit bland with no decor inside, and the visibility of the kitchen I disliked. Nobody wants to see a messy kitchen when buying treats.

There are two shelves to your left and right sides, one organized with chocolate flowers, intricate raspberry chocolate and elegant cinnamon truffles. The other shelf is overflowing with sweets — lollipops, hard candies, and a small assortment of different sea salts all from Maine. There are also some jams that are locally sourced from one of Dean and his wife Kristin’s friends. Dean uses the jams in his recipes and sells them to customers.

Towards the front of the shop are two countered display cases. The smaller counter has a new treat known as London Fog. The other counter has a register for paying for the sweets, and boy, are they expensive. Four pieces of Bacon Butter Crunch is $10.50.

Dean presents me with two dishes: a dark chocolate truffle with orange zest and a caramel popcorn clump with a chocolate drizzle. I enjoyed the rich flavor of the hard yet silky truffle. The caramel popcorn to chocolate drizzle ratio on the second treat, however, was too much. I didn’t like that the popcorn tasted soggy, and there wasn’t enough chocolate to compete with the caramel.

Generally, I liked the treats, but for the price, I wouldn’t recommend it for people who don’t want to be broke by the end of it.

 

Chocolate- Need I Say More?

Audrey Piltch

Age 13, Freeport

Even a few feet from the threshold of Dean’s Sweets, the scent of chilled chocolate is overwhelming. The store itself is small and simple, with a glass counter displaying their mainstream product, truffles, along with a variety of bars and molded products. 

The welcome AC is refreshing after the warmth of Fore Street. Dean and Kristin Bingham, the creators themselves, are working behind the counter. I ask them about their business, intrigued by flavors such as Wasabi Sake Ginger and Cherry Chipotle.

Originally starting in their home-kitchen in 2004, Dean’s Sweets has now opened a second location on Cove Street for more room and retail space. 

Our flow of questions halts as the London Fog truffle enters our mouths. The chocolate shell fractures to relinquish a torrent of creamy Earl Grey and vanilla flavored filling. This is their newest flavor on the ever-changing menu.

Dean lets us in on the truffle-making process. The appetizing filling is set overnight, then scooped and rolled into a ball. The ball is then hand-dipped in tempered chocolate. Tempering the chocolate adds the pleasing shiny and crisp qualities.  

“We get lots of families, especially in the summer, with nut-free kids,” Dean tells us. Everything in their stores is nut-free, enabling kids to come in and- “They can have anything they want,” he smiles.

I also sample the Sea Salted Caramel, a staple at any sweet shop, and their best-seller. The grit of the salt and the silky chocolate is a beautiful marriage. I send out a silent thanks to the brilliant mind that invented this heavenly combination. 

Dean’s version has a caramel that straddles the line of “chewy” and “jaw-workout”. Personally, I found the task of digging the sweet stuff from my braces daunting. However, I left the store pleasantly surprised- don’t be discouraged by the outdated website or the sparse space. I enjoyed my visit and the friendly atmosphere. The flavors you’ll find at Dean’s are unlike any others I’ve encountered before.  

 

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.

Charlotte McDonald

Age 11, Portland

We all have those days when we need a little sweetness in our lives. Luckily, Portland has Dean’s Sweets. It’s a chic, nut-free, and inviting chocolate store. With the bright orange signs and perfect location on Fore Street, you can’t miss this shop. Fairy lights and delicate decor draw customers here, but it’s chocolate that’s the star of this show.

The sweets are made right there, using the finest imported chocolate. Other than that, almost all of the ingredients, including the maple, goat cheese and potatoes are locally sourced. Dean, the founder, hand-dips all of the truffles, and combines the flavors to perfection. Their wide variety of flavors range from the classic Peppermint to the complex Wasabi Ginger Sake, Maine Moonshine, and even Moxie, which is surprisingly popular.

My favorite sweet that Dean let us try was the London Fog, a chocolate truffle. The outside has a satisfying crunch to it, and the inside is a soft vanilla butter cream with a splash of Earl Grey tea. This combo may sound peculiar, but trust me, it works. We also tried the Sea Salt Caramel, which was a little too rich and sugary for me. However, I understand how the combination of sweet and salty can make it their most popular truffle.

Dean, originally an architect who designed the restaurant Grace on Chestnut Street, wanted to have something on the side, so he took up chocolate with his wife, Kristin. They started their business in 2004 in their own kitchen, and now they’ve opened a second store in the East End for more space. 

It’s called “Dean’s Sweets,” and not “Dean and Kristin’s Sweets” because Dean was the originator of the chocolate company, and “Dean’s Sweets” is more efficient, they said. Dean and Kristin are known around town for their generous acts of kindness. Recently, they catered truffles for the opening of Maine College of Art’s new exhibit, “Darkness and the Light.” 

“We feel like if we give back to the community, the community will give back to us,” Dean said. And I'm giving them a five-star recommendation.

 

The Chocolate Love Affair

Chloe Briman

Age 14, Cape Elizabeth

If you ever catch yourself walking down Fore Street, among the many other shops is the luscious Dean’s Sweets. You can’t miss it between the bright orange sign and that breathtaking chocolaty scent wafting towards you. It opened in 2004. Before Dean became a chocolatier he was an architect. Dean’s Sweets is a very quaint and cozy space. Dean and his wife Kristen now have second shop on 54 Cove Street, Portland Maine. Let’s get to talking about those truffles that he hand-dips. I have to say I agree with the majority on the Sea Salt Caramel. As Dean confirmed it is a bestseller. The way your teeth sink into the sweet caramel and the nice salty chocolate is a combination I would not have any other way.

Not to worry Dean and his wife Kristen have a whirlwind of flavors as Dean says it is a storehouse full of ideas. They have flavors such as Moxie, Maple, Tequila Lime, London Fog, and more.  Did you know they are a vendor at the FryeBurg Fair?  That’s how they got the idea for their Moxie Truffle. Their London Fog and the Caramel Popcorn Ball are pretty new. Dean and Kristen get their popcorn from Big Scott Farm in New Hampshire.

The reason that I love Dean's sweets is because it is a positive experience. One of Dean’s accomplishments is a community service award. They received in 2012. An institute for a family owned business. Not to worry all of Dean’s chocolates are nut-free. I am definitely one hundred percent for it.

 

Dean’s Sweets Review

Aila Robinson 

Age 12, Cumberland      

Upon entering the small homey shop I instantly noticed the aroma of freshly made chocolates. One of the first things I observed was the friendly arrangement of small lights that hung around the window. The first chocolate I tasted was the “London Fog”. The soft, creamy mint flavor melted in my mouth and I couldn’t help but imagine standing on a corner in London, mist curling around the buildings. 

After that I ate the delectable chocolate-covered caramel popcorn. The taste was salty and yet the caramel and chocolate added a sweet tang to it. Caramel popcorn, with dark chocolate drizzled over the treat. It reminded me of the carnivals, festivals, and fairs that I’ve been to. 

My last chocolate that I consumed was the Sea Salt Caramel. Caramel goodness coated in dark chocolate with sea salt sprinkled on top. The delicacy had a sweet flavor with a salty kick to it. The smooth chewy texture was simply scrumptious and done very elegantly. 

The only problem was that they were chocolates were not decorated, though the flavor makes up for the lack of decor. But they are unique and tasty.

Owner/founder Dean Bingham was an architect but eventually opened the chocolate shop that he designed himself in 2004. The shop is on Fore Street.

The chocolates are exceptional and tasteful. I would definitely go back to eat chocolate there.

 

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Adele Roberts-Fishman

Age 13, Freeport Maine

In the middle of bustling Fore Street Dean’s Sweets is marked by bright orange signs and green awnings all advertising Sugary goodness. Slipping into the cool air-conditioned space felt like heaven after the 95-degree streets of Portland, and the scent of fresh chocolate was like a dream. Dean and his wife Kristen welcomed us into their shop and offered us several different treats that he wanted us to try. The first truffle he gave us was called “London Fog,” and consisted of dark chocolate, thick cream, and Earl Gray tea. This to me tasted much like I licked a stick of incense. The insanely strong earl gray taste completely overwhelmed the thin layers of other ingredients.

The second thing I was lucky enough to taste was his kettle corn with chocolate drizzle. Unfortunately, the popcorn had a tough, chewy, texture, and not enough chocolate. 

The third and final sugary snack we tried was an incredible caramel sea salt truffle. For this one I have no complaints at all. On the contrary, I think this might be one of the best chocolates I’ve ever had. With the perfect amount of rich dark chocolate, chewy sweet caramel, and tiny grains of delicious sea salt, you’ll find yourself saying “just one more”, over and over again. 

While we ate the delicious treats, Dean patiently answered all of our questions. He told us about how they opened their first store in 2004 and opened their second one in early July.

 If you ever want some sweets for any occasion, Dean’s offers a multitude of delicious flavors from Moxie to peppermint. Dean makes it all 100% nut-free by hand, with locally sourced ingredients.

 

Chocolate. What more do you need?

Will Maziarz

Age 13, Portland

Dean’s Sweets is impossible to ignore, between the bright orange signage and the occasional tantalizing whiff of sweet, rich chocolate. Upon entering, you are hit with a warm wave of chocolate-scented air, a thousand times better than the smell outside. The walls are covered in wooden shelves, which lend a cozy vibe to the place, and each is stuffed with all kinds of goodies, from moxie jelly to catnip toys. These shelves do not detract from the centerpiece of this little shop, the glass counter filled to the brim with rows of glistening hand-dipped chocolates. These morsels are tiny and are priced as though injected with pure gold, but taste like heaven come to earth.

Located on 454 Fore Street, this chocolate shop is sandwiched between a salon and a restaurant. While we were visiting, I had the privilege to sample 3 different confections, all made right there. The first was the London Fog, a bittersweet truffle consisting of Earl Grey tea and Vanilla Butter Cream as the core dipped in tempered dark chocolate. The Earl Grey overpowered the rest of the flavors going on there, but it was tasty nonetheless. 

The second was the Sea Salt Caramel, their most popular flavor. I found it amazing, the chocolate, caramel, and salt working together perfectly and complementing each other. The final one was a caramel-covered popcorn, which was so saturated with sugar, it felt soggy, and it got stuck in my braces. But, seeing as it is still a work in progress, I hope it will get better. 

So all in all, Dean’s Sweets is a chocolate shop with many kinds of amazing, nut-free treats, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.   

 

Old Port Classic

Saga Hart

Age 13, Cape Elizabeth     

Are you sick of having to tell your kid that they can’t have treats that their friends have because of their food restrictions? Dean and Kristen Bingham have a solution! Dean’s Sweets is completely peanut-free, with gluten-free and dairy-free options as well! 

As I stroll down bustling Fore Street, I spot a pair of bright orange signs reading "chocolate.” Underneath an array of dark green awnings there's a quaint but homey chocolate shop called Dean's Sweets. Upon walking in the door, a rich aroma of chocolate bombarded my nose. Shelves to my right and left reveal an array of jams and snacks made by local businesses. In the front window, there are fairy lights hanging from glass jars that create a tacky yet magical window display. Front and center, there’s a large display case filled with truffles, caramels and butter creams in unique flavors such as tequila lime, apple pie, cayenne, Moxie, and their newest addition, London fog! Based off of the original London fog drink, the truffle has a dense, chocolaty base with a powerful earl grey essence, and a top layer of silky vanilla butter cream. The truffle is then hand-dipped by staff. Also in the display case is Dean’s iconic sea salt caramel. From its smooth, salty caramel made by Dean to it’s 70 percent Callebaut dark chocolate, this caramel is as perfect as getting all your homework done before the due date! An open concept reveals the messy kitchen behind the display cases, so anyone can see the process to make sweets. 

Dean’s Sweets was originally founded as a home-kitchen-based chocolate shop in 2004 by Dean, an architect in search for a side business, along with his wife and business coach Kristen. In 2008 they opened their store (with their first commercial kitchen) designed by Dean himself! Their business flourished. They were awarded a Community’s Service Reward from Maine Family Business Award for, as Dean phrased it, “giving away more than they had.” 

Dean’s Sweets has delectable chocolate, but it’s a bit expensive. Chocolates range from 5.50 for two, to 64.50 for thirty-two. Dean’s Sweets is a treat for ANYONE in the mood for something to make their day.

Visit my food blog on instagram, @littlestfoodieofportlandme

 

Royale Lunch Bar

Royale, the Imperial Lunch Bar

Charlotte McDonald

Age 11, Portland

Rounding the corner on this hot summer day, I see Royale Lunch Bar’s fancy sign and the restaurant tucked into the street. Upon entry, I was blasted with cool air a whiff of seasoned bacon. The cool air felt relieving, but as a vegetarian I didn’t love the bacon smell. 

Joe Farr opened the restaurant four months ago on Union Street in Portland. They make everything from scratch except for the bread and soda, and all of the takeout containers are compostable. I ordered the tomato soup and grilled cheese with a mocha milkshake. 

The first thing I tasted was the milkshake, which is a beautiful concoction of flavors. The ground-up coffee beans added a gritty but tasty texture. I loved this, but it seemed like more of a dessert than a typical drink.      

The grilled cheese was simple, which is how I like my grilled cheeses. Although, if it were a touch crispier I would have appreciated it even more. The soup was also simple and a little bland, but I enjoyed the taste of real tomatoes that they incorporated. Then, I discovered the luxury of dipping the sandwich into the soup. I have no regrets there.

I also got to try the Mac N Cheese special, and as soon as it touched my tongue, my taste buds threw a party! The creamy pasta with just enough cheesiness, felt surprisingly light, so it didn’t weigh me down.

I enjoyed the modern but at the same time vintage vibe of Royale, with the various plants around the room and the stone walls. The music, on the other hand, didn’t fit in with the atmosphere. They played heavy metal and rock, which wasn’t consistent with the homey feel.   

Despite its few flaws, Royale Lunch Bar is one of a kind and somewhere I’d definitely return.

 

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Jacob Goldman

Age 13, Cumberland   

My immediate impression after entering Royale Lunch Bar was how small it was, but this was what gave it a unique atmosphere. Due to its lack of seating it was incredibly tranquil, with no sounds but that of the kitchen, the cars outside, and people happily enjoying their delectable lunches. We were cheerily greeted by the cashier and promptly given our order that was prepared by two or three chefs including Joe Farr, the head chef and owner of the humble establishment. 

What Royale was lacking in noise, it made up for in smell and taste. We were hit with a pleasant fragrance that told us the food was ready. I sat down and instantly began to devour my fried chicken sandwich. It was crispy, and I could feel the perfectly seasoned outer breading break as my teeth sank into the juicy meat. I could taste the creamy, spicy, sweet Sriracha-maple mayo that had been applied in generous amounts on top of the shredded lettuce. The pickles added a touch of acidity that completed this culinary masterpiece. 

The sandwich was not the only item I ordered off the menu. I also ordered the peanut butter cup milkshake. Unfortunately, this did not quite live up to the high standards set by its fried chicken counterpart. Its taste was a perfect balance between chocolate and peanut butter, but the texture left a lot to be desired. The texture was gritty, and as a person who values texture over than taste, this was a huge problem, and almost ruined it for me, but the simple fact that it was sweet saved it, since I have an enormous sweet tooth.      

The feel I received from Royale’s atmosphere was very rustic and cozy. This was due to the corner I sat in which allowed me to have a clear view of the whole restaurant. It would be the perfect place to take your family or friends for a comforting, filling, and most importantly delightful meal. Overall I would give Royale 4.5 stars. I will most definitely return here soon.

 

Royale: Food Fit For Kings and Queens

August Faulkner, 

Age 11, Cape Elizabeth

Ever heard of a place that is small, quiet, and has an arguably good view and atmosphere? It goes by the name Royale Lunch Bar, and let me tell you about it.

Joe Farr started Royale on April 3rd, 2019 in the hope of making a catering and restaurant business. Now, 4 months later, they are a company with 4 Stars on Yelp and 4 and a half on Google. When I walked in, I couldn’t help but notice the fact that there was rock music playing and how all the people there were smiling and relaxed. 

I ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich. I enjoyed it for reasons including that it had a lot of flavor and the fact that it has many tasty ingredients including lettuce and pickles, I also really appreciated that the food fills you up. 

Now for a con— I am a person who doesn’t care for spicy foods as much as some. So as time passed, I caught myself sipping my drink more frequently. The sandwich was too hot and spicy, that was the biggest problem. Although I didn’t appreciate the spiciness of the food, that could well be your favorite part!

The Fried Chicken is currently the most popular sandwich according to employee Milo Degoosh who has been with the company since the beginning. 

An interesting fact about Royale is that they make all their own food except for the bread.

According to customer Charlotte McDonald, the homemade milkshakes are a great dessert, but not the best drink because they are sweet and thick. Phillip Tran claims that their tomato soup is bland and not that delicious, “Like a dried tomato turned into juice.” 

Their kind employees and good variety of food more than made up for the cons. I highly recommend it for a lunch place in the Old Port. Royale Lunch Bar is open everyday except Sunday. If you are being tough and still don’t believe me, go experience the magic yourself and spread the word about Royale!

 

Royale Lunch Bar: A less than royal experience.

Koba Scout Cone

Age 12, Yarmouth

Royale Lunch Bar is a new spot to go for some in-house food. Royale is a very recent business that has only been running for about 4 months and it’s located on 7 Union St in Portland.

Personally, the place seems homey and rustic. I think it was the lightly painted brick walls and the accented wood walls more towards the sitting area. But I didn't like the look of the oxidizing penny floor. It made the restaurant look unkempt and old — and not in a good way.

I am a vegan and when I took a look at the options for people like me, I felt unsatisfied by the selection. I could choose from vegan mac ‘n cheese, a soup and fries. That's it — 3 things to eat. That is preposterous!

Nonetheless, when I tried the mac ‘n cheese I was confused on why I could taste real cheese. They gave me the wrong one! The menu didn’t specify that they had a regular mac ‘n cheese, only a vegan and gluten free option. (Turns out the regular mac ‘n cheese is an everyday special, but if it’s there every day, why is it a special?) When I got the vegan mac I was very disappointed in its taste. The sauce wasn’t creamy and thick, but flowing and flavorless. I wish I could give them my mother’s recipe for fantastic vegan cheese sauce.

I didn’t like the fries either due to how salty and thin they were. I also thought the crispy level on the fries was lacking. It also seemed as though the fries weren’t fully cooked.

All in all, I didn’t love this lunch bar. They had the place, the location and the decor but the food just didn't cut it for me.

      

Kings of Modern Comfort

Saga Hart 

Age 13, Cape Elizabeth

Comfort with a modern twist— that’s how I’d describe Royale Lunch Bar. When I stepped in, a greasy aroma grasped me, creating an inevitably delicious smell. I knew I was going to love this place. You can instantly hear bubbling fryers and clanging dishes from the kitchen. From its wood panels to it’s bar seating, this place truly is the next level of ease. Royale Lunch Bar is located on Union Street in the Old Port and opened in early April this year. Owner Joe Farr, “wanted a place in Portland to use for catering,” said an employee.

Some updated takes on comfort food include cauliflower Mac N Cheese, a fried chicken sandwich with Sriracha maple mayo, homemade shakes, and fries with homemade, extravagant condiments! When I asked an employee what his favorite menu item was, he listed the Fried Chicken Sandwich and the special, Korean Beef Banh Mi. The fried chicken sandwich was my choice. It consisted of tender, crispy fried chicken, sweet Sriracha maple mayo that gives a nice kick, crunchy lettuce, and a toasted bun from Southside Bakery. The fries were crispy and greasy; Best. Fries. Ever. I also ordered a peanut butter cup milkshake (how could I not?). It was overwhelmingly sweet, but thick and flavorful. On top of that, It came in a compostable cup with a compostable straw! The atmosphere of the restaurant was fun — there are wooden tables and chairs with a view of the street, a bar with cocktails and beer on tap, and window seating with bar stools. You can peak back into the kitchen and see Joe Farr, the owner, and his staff preparing food. Royale Lunch Bar is flexible; whether it’s Vietnamese coffee in the morning, on-tap beer or cocktails with free fries during happy hour, or their “Late Night Lunch” from 9pm-2am, they will accommodate to your needs. Royale Lunch Bar is my ultimate go-to for comfort food, (and fries!)

Visit my food blog on instagram, @littlestfoodieofportlandme

 

Meghan Brady

Meghan Brady

Adele Roberts-Fisherman

Age 13, Freeport Maine

When I stepped through the gallery door the brilliant color on black wall is what caught my eye first. It was clear that the artist was a master of her trade. Meghan Brady is an artist from Midcoast Maine who’s art focuses on electric colors, and abstract shapes, with a recurrence of colors such as, orange, yellow, purple, and blue. As the artist herself said, “These paintings came about as a response to my restlessness and a desire to see my paintings on shaped surfaces, as well as the technical freedom to change the piece at nearly any given. I noticed a kind of similarity in all of her works. There was a feeling almost impossible to describe, a sort of joyous, anxious, thrilling energy unique to her work. This feeling made it nearly impossible to tear my eyes away from the harsh and yet calming beauty of her art. 

If you wish to see her work, the SPACE Gallery in Portland Maine is a non-profit organization that supports up-and-coming artists just like Meghan. Their space (no pun intended) instantly feels welcoming the second you walk in. With the bar, stage, and connecting galleries for art shows of all different kinds, it feels Urban and modern with a twist of 80’s. If you to are an art junky looking for your new favorite pieces Meghan Brady’s newest exhibit called “ Second Hand” showing in the main Gallery is one hundred percent the way to go!!!!

 

Colors do the Tango

Chloe Briman 

Age 14, Cape Elizabeth 

I stepped into Space Gallery in Portland Maine and felt myself chilled by the cool air  blowing around the room. I look upon the walls and see Second Hand, an installation by Meghan Brady. 

I was greeted by three large paintings twice the size of me, and I’m only 4’8”. Brady’s use of bright and neon colors almost gives it an 80’s vibe.  She loves to use deep, saturated, and bold colors. 

It’s almost as if she didn’t really care how the pieces looked as a finished product. Like she was doing the freestyle stroke.  As if it flowed out of her on to the paper- abstract and artsy. The three pieces that create the installation were done in sections. She constructed them in many steps. She painted each piece on the floor and collaged it together to make it look like it all flowed with the dots and shapes and curvy edges. Her work gives me a sense of hope because of the abstract story it tells- like the colors did the tango. It also sparked joy. It was bright and fun. 

The Space Gallery is not a quaint place. It is mostly empty space and a little dusty (it also has a double feature as a venue) I just wish there was more of her work on the walls. Meghan Brady lives and works from Mid Coast Maine. I am 100 percent for second hand.

 

Howard Fonda

Art Out of This World

Lucy Fougere

Age 13, Cape Elizabeth 

A dark room, neon art strewn on the walls, and a mysterious drum set in the back corner with a broken kick drum. This is what I saw as I walked into the Space Gallery in downtown Portland and I could instantly tell I was going to like this place. 

We went from the main space to the annex where Howard Fonda was in the middle of an installation. The walls were completely white with many colorful paintings leaning on the ground waiting to be hung. 

For me, art is supposed to make you feel something it’s not just there to look at. As soon as I saw Fonda’s art I immediately started smiling. From what I gathered by looking at it, his art was abstract expressionism. In his pieces there is often an image covered by colorful lines and shapes that seems to say, there’s always more than meets the eye, sometimes you just have to look. 

The pieces in his exhibition Carry Me made me question their meanings. When talking to  Fonda, he said that the inspiration for his art are overarching questions like, “What is Love?,” or “What is life?” He said he tries to figure it out through his paintings. 

Another thing he said really opened my eyes- paraphrasing from art reviewer Jerry Saltz, “drawing is a way of seeing yourself think.” I'd never thought of that before. As someone who is not very good at processing and understanding my thoughts, let me tell you I’m sure not going to forget those words. Fonda was very nice and was very open to answer questions about his work- that are qualities I value in an artist. I would definitely recommend going to the Space Gallery whether it be going to see Howard’s art, a concert, or anyone’s art in general- you’re certainly going to be amazed by the event. 

 

Carry Me

Audrey Piltch

Age 13, Freeport

“What is love?” The deep question takes me by surprise. Artist Howard Fonda says this is one of the broad questions that inspires him, along with ones such as, “What is existence?” and “Why am I here?”  Fonda lopes over, wearing an informal T-shirt, Vans, and a cup of coffee. He seems refreshed, relaxed, and happy to talk to us. 

“I do well with questions,” he says brightly. “If you have any, just shout ‘em out.” I take full advantage. To formulate a painting, he draws inspiration from scraps of quotes, lyrics, and ideas to form one larger piece. Fonda tells me he does some meditation before working. He accepts mistakes, welcoming failure as opposed to absolute perfection. 

The clean, white, space guides the eye to his colorful canvasses. I take a moment to look around with his questions in mind. Laying eyes on his art, I see his appreciation of color and shape. 

A particular piece stands out to me. It resembles a wolf, or another canine, but the lengthened eyelashes gave it a delicate aspect. The way the lines are formed, it seems to loom imposingly, but I get a maternal sense as well. 

As I’m admiring his artwork, the Wabanaki baskets that are being shown alongside Fonda’s paintings arrive- the few that I see are stunningly detailed. 

“I like to combine something that’s not contemporary in a very contemporary context,” he says.

Fonda hasn’t always been a full-time artist. He’s delivered papers, dabbled in graphic design, and taught college. Now he’s content with the roles of husband, father, and artist.  Impacted by his words and viewing the pieces through a different lens, I walk away knowing Fonda achieved his goal- to connect to people through art. I loved his use of easy, bold, lines, blurred paint marks, and more than one image in one painting- I assure you the exhibit is worth a visit.

 

Portland Museum of Art In The Vanguard

Aila Robinson

Age 12, Cumberland

One of the first pieces of art that I instantly noticed was a multimedia work that had the look of a stain-glass window. Screen, created by Ted Hallman in 1958 was a rectangle made from translucent colored plastic. It consists of a pattern of stripes and circles, almost like a layered cake. String wound between the plastic tiles, almost like a web, connecting the plastic cut-outs.

Next, Trude Guermontrez’s Untitled, circa, caught my eye. At first I assumed the beautiful triangular-wind-chime-shaped hanging art was created from string, but then I discovered it was made from woven metal strands. Guermontrez was born in Germany and taught at an experimental school. Untitled, circa, looked like a few Dorito’s stuck together, but incredibly satisfying to look at.

Pen ultimately, I just had to stop in front of a glass artwork by Dale Chihuly. Its wavy shape possessed the resemblance of a curvy bagpipe. The Wine Bottle- made in 1968-was a gorgeous glasswork that had gold streaks running down the translucent side of the glass. The art almost looked like it was liquid itself, soft curves and twists that flow with the design. 

Lastly, I couldn’t resist pausing to stare at the huge dream catcher shaped work that had curly waves of red tumbling from the center of the piece. Scarlet string hanging from the sides of the round base gave it the appearance of a crimson jellyfish. The work Celibary, constructed by Walter Nottingham in 1968, was inspired by nature and consists of four shades of red; cranberry, red, cherry, and dark red. 

In all, the beautiful multimedia works in the Portland Museum of Art astounded me.

 

Camper Reviews 2018:

Published in The Portland Phoenix

 

Camper Reviews 2017:

Published in The Portland Phoenix

 

Camper Reviews 2016:

Empire Chinese Kitchen

The Mouth- Watering Empire Chinese Kitchen (as seen in The Portland Press Herald)

By Sage Kuchta, Age 11, Portland

The huge neon sign flickered and flashed, high above all the others. The exterior door was wide open, inviting people to enter and eat the scrumptious food. The walls were a creamy beige, and plants lined the room. There was soft music in the background, and you could hear the clatter of plates in the kitchen. I inhaled the delicious aroma of food being baked, grilled, and steamed. This was Empire Chinese Kitchen at 575 Congress Street, and it looked and smelled heavenly.

This restaurant has been here for 3 years, managed by Theresa Chan with her father, Freeman Chan, as the head chef. It is named Empire because a hundred years ago, there was a restaurant there by the same name. There was also a venue called Empire Dine and Dance, where bands played live music while people ate. When that closed, Empire Chinese Kitchen took its place. They named it after the previous establishments.

The first dish we ate is the most popular, three times more popular than all the others says Chan. It was Garlic Green Beans—wok fried! A wok is a round pan with a round bottom. Americans have modified it so that it has a flat bottom, to make it easier to cook on an electric stove. Traditional Chinese woks have a round bottom. Anyway, the green beans were amazing.

The next dish was called Chicken Bao. This bao was  a dumpling filled with chicken, cashews, and warm sauce. It reminded me of mushu, which I don’t like, so even though the bao was good, I couldn’t get past my mushu association. The cool thing was that it was made just for us to review! No one had ever had it before, as it was not yet on the menu.

The next and last dish was Lo Mein. There were vegetarian noodles with broccoli and sprouts. Then there was a meat option with duck and vegetables. I ate the veggie one. In China, long noodles symbolize long life, so usually they are eaten last. Chan told us that to bite or cut the noodles was thought to cut life short—so it is not rude to slurp your noodles whole! I absolutely ADORED those noodles!

For dessert, we had fortune cookies. They were chocolate flavored, which I appreciated, because the plain ones taste like Styrofoam. I thoroughly enjoyed the Empire Chinese Kitchen, and would love to return to eat more, and new, delicious foods.

 

Empire Chinese Kitchen

Topher Kavookjian, Age 12, Portland

I went to Empire Chinese Kitchen on Congress Street. I stepped inside a corner-located marble building that read Empire along the side.  I was seated at the end of a long table by servers Rob and Alyssa. The room felt comfortable because of the dim lights and the smell of dumplings and vegetables. The walls were lined with Chinese symbols. After a few minutes, down-to-earth manager Theresa Chan walked over to the table and greeted me and other Telling Room students. She gave us a little backstory, and chopstick-using lesson.

“I didn’t learn how to hold chopsticks correctly for like, the first 14 years of trying to use them,” she said. “One time a party of 8 came in and brought their own forks. They didn’t know that we already have them here!” I laughed when I heard this.

The staff planned on bringing us three dishes to review. The first was Garlic Green Beans,  the most popular item on the menu. They came prepared on a stone dish. I picked some up and placed them on my plate. I lifted the red chopsticks and took a bite. They had a smoky yet juicy garlic and ginger flavor. I just loved them! They were great for so many flavorful reasons.  

Dish two of three was Chicken and Cashew Bao. It came as a large pillowy steamed dumpling. I took a big bite of what tasted like gold. It was fantastic.

The last but not least was Duck Lo Mein. Theresa recalled, “When I was a kid my parents told me that noodles represent long life, which is why they should be eaten on birthdays.”

The dish was thin soba noodles with cubed duck slices, veggies, and jalapeñeos. As I slurped the noodles, my mind was blown. I was really amazed by the outstanding yet spicy, soft flavor of heaven. I had to have more. I did. 

I would recommend Empire Chinese kitchen to absolutely anyone. The food is absolutely spectacular to the classic level, 10 out of 10, and the staff members are very humble and kind. Go to Empire.

 

Empire Chinese Kitchen                   

Alina Lindemann Spear, Age 11, Portland

If you like Chinese food then you’ll love Empire Chinese Kitchen. If you’re in downtown Portland with a grumble in your stomach, Empire, located at 575 Congress Street, is a convenient place to eat. When you open the doors you will see a load of friendly faces and smell fresh steamed rice and vegetables. We were greeted by the lovely manager, Theresa Chan, who served us and introduced the various dishes. As we were being seated, I heard pots and pans clinging and clanging while a rhythm of music played, stopped, and played again.

As each dish came out we learned about the traditions and the food. Empire used to be an old restaurant from 1916 to 1953. Then in the 1960’s it was a Dine and Dance, and now it is Empire Chinese Kitchen. It has kept the name Empire all this time—for 100 years.

As a plate of green beans with ginger and garlic sauce touched the table, I was thrilled to try the crunchy, mouthwatering, green beans. Our second course was Bao with cashews and chicken on the inside and sweet white steamed doughy bread on the outside. Our final course was two noodle dishes. One was duck meat and the other was with vegetables. If you like spicy food, then you’ll love the duck meat noodles. Both were delicious! We learned never to bite your noodles-- especially your long noodles-- as they represent a long life. Everything we tried was scrumptious and at the end we got chocolate fortune cookies.

Empire is open every day of the week except Tuesday. Lunch or dinner, Empire is the way to go.

 

Empire Chinese Kitchen

Kate Waxman, Age 13, Falmouth

Chinese food is common cuisine that most people eat. It can be hard to find Chinese food that tastes delicious, but we have found one. The Empire Chinese Kitchen has been around for three years, but has more history than that. Before this restaurant was created, there was a restaurant before it called Empire Dine and Dance, where Empire got its name. The new restaurant still has that classic Chinese aura, but with a modern twist. There was a mix of contemporary lighting, with traditional Chinese chopsticks. There were large Chinese characters written on a brick wall, as well as wooden tables and chairs.

The first course of the meal was Garlic Green Beans. You’re probably wondering, “garlic green beans?” Well, yes, garlic green beans! They didn’t have that average bitter vegetable taste, but a rather flavorful zest to them. The green beans were stacked high on a white plate with shaves of ginger on top and cloves of garlic. They were flavor packed with a slight charred taste. Manager Theresa Chan said, “the green beans are ordered three times as many as the regular dishes”.           

The next dish that I tried was the Chicken Bao. The bao is a chicken and cashew dumpling wrapped in steamed dough. The salty cashews and the savory chicken complemented with the sweet soft dough. It seemed like a savory cake. The bao’s dough was steamed at a perfect temperature to make sure that the dough was cooked, but not too much so it still had that sweet cakey texture. We were the first people to sample this bao, but sadly for the general public, it is not yet on the menu.

The next course that we had was Lo Mein. Noodles normally come at the end of a Chinese meal because they symbolize having a long life. This explains the long length of the soft noodles. If you cut the noodles, it symbolizes cutting off a long life. The noodles were served in a ceramic bowl, and you have the choice between veggie and duck noodles. The duck noodles had a jalapeño sting to them, whereas the veggie had the simple taste with slight spice.        

The Empire Chinese Kitchen is a very appetizing restaurant, and I enjoyed it very much. I definitely recommend you walk through the glass doors into Empire Chinese Kitchen.

 

Empire Chinese Kitchen

Hannah Dwyer, Age 14, Yarmouth  

There was an overpowering smell as I walked into Empire Chinese Kitchen on 575 Congress Street in Portland, Maine. It was somewhere between traditional and exotic; spicy, sharp, and bold scents filling the air. The overall environment was bright and lively. We were greeted by the manager—fun and upbeat Theresa Chan. Three years ago, Theresa and her father Freeman Chan, the head chef, turned this space into Empire Chinese Kitchen.

As soon as we sat down, friendly Chan started telling us the interesting story of why they named the restaurant Empire. In 1916, 100 years ago, this space was a Chinese restaurant named Empire. Later separated into two floors, the top floor was a music venue and the bottom floor was formally known as Empire Dine and Dance. When Chan and her father acquired the place, many people told them to consider keeping the name as a small tribute to the once thriving businesses that occupied the space before.

We had three courses. Our first course was explained to us as the most popular and most ordered dish at Empire, Garlic Green Beans. I have to admit that when I first saw these beans I wasn't impressed, but the more I dug in, the more my first impression faded. From the first bite, I was hooked. The way the sweet sauce reacted with the fresh warm beans was unforgettable. The raw crunch of the outside of the green beans fit together so well with the firm fresh center.

For our second course they brought out a Cantonese version of a cashew and chicken dumpling. The dumpling, or bao, is great for people who want to widen their usual variety of foods. Packed with flavor, you will want to eat the whole plate!

Our third and final course consisted of two dishes: one bowl of Veggie Lo Mein and a second bowl of Duck Lo Mein. When the noodles were first put in front of me, they looked almost delicate. But from my first bite, the robust noodles produced the spicy kick I had been waiting for. From the charcoaled crunch of the noodles to the mild sauces, I can say with confidence that I’ll be back soon, and you should have already started planning our visit.

 

Portland Museum of Art, Women Modernists of New York

Portland Museum of Art (as seen in The Portland Press Herald)

Elizabeth (Libby) Dakers, Age 12, Kennebunkport

Dive through the controversy surrounding modernist women artists and enter a world filled with vivid colors, bright patterns, and stunning paintings. The unique styles of Georgia O'Keefe Marguerite Zorach, Helen Torr, and Florine Stettheimer all result in iconic paintings in this group show, Women Modernists of New York  at Portland Museum of Art.  These four women committed their lives to art whether they were rich or poor, popular or shy. 

Walking into the spacious, chic gallery felt overwhelming. Stunning art was hung on the walls leaving the viewer to question the paintings ages. The friendly tour guide took us to the far wall of the show and began to describe the life of artist Marguerite Zorach. Zorach was a mother and an artist who used a lot of symbolism in her paintings. She even took on embroidery considering it was easier to juggle with her kids. Next, was Florine Stettheimer’s art. Apparently, her art did not receive much recognition in her time. Her artwork features the wealthy men and women of the early 1900s at public events, parks, and beaches. She used light, airy colors to capture the aristocrats in their tracks. Then we saw Georgia O'Keefe’s paintings. O’Keefe painted close-ups of flowers with breathtaking colors put into the right places. However, controversy began to crowd around O’Keefe’s paintings when the public started to believe them extremely sexual and that they were not “art.” Lastly, we viewed Helen Torr’s paintings. Helen’s paintings were nautical and used shades of grey and blue. Her paintings took a more realistic turn on modernism, but are equal in beauty to Zorach, Stettheimer, and O’Keefe’s.

So tag along with the Portland Museum of Art on a journey that displays the abstract paintings and “busy, mom-friendly” embroidery of Marguerite Zorach, Georgia O'Keefe’s bold flower close-ups, Florine Stettheimer’s paintings of public events, parks, and beaches, and Helen Torr’s nautical paintings that feature the shores of New York and Long Island. Come meet the friendly staff at the Portland Museum of Art today and travel back to the early 1900s to see the clean, right brush strokes put into place by the women who started it all, risked it all, and demanded the rights they deserved.      

Long story short, don't see this as just another review, use this as an opportunity to embrace what art really is: the ability to express yourself.

 

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Women Modernists of New York

Sumner Meahl, Age 14, Portland

Helen Torr’s work featured in the exhibit Women Modernists of New York emphasizes the suffrage experienced by women during her lifetime. The hypnotizing piece, “Mountain Mood” is a gloomy landscape of mountains that have been created through simple jagged lines. The mood of the painting is highlighted through the drab grey, white, and black colors. The same gloominess of “Mountain Mood” is displayed in a haunting picture that Helen Torr painted of herself, “Self Portrait.” Helen Torr’s sad expression is captured by the bags tinted purple looming under her eyes. With her chin tilted high and shadows crossing her face, this piece becomes mesmerizing. This piece is like memory foam and will leave a lasting imprint on your mind. Another piece displayed by Helen Torr was “White Cloud (Light House).” This piece is a realistic painting of a simple light house on a rocky shore in a fog of puffy clouds. The dark blue sky in the background highlights the lighthouse in the foreground. The same distressed mood as shown in the other pieces is displayed in the “White Cloud (Light House)” painting. Helen Torr’s discomfort is clearly shown in her work.

Portland Museum of Art is lucky to display Helen Torr’s work. Mainers are fortunate to have an opportunity to experience this art and should make time to visit this exhibit. Portland Museum Of Art is located on Congress Square in Portland, Maine. The Women Modernists of New York display will be shown until September 28th. This is a fun and easy way to spend an afternoon in summer.

 

Equality Shows at the Portland Museum of Art

Sarah Card, Age 14, Scarborough

If you believe in gender equality, you don't want to miss Portland Museum of Art’s Women Modernists of New York. The show centers around four artists; Georgia O'Keeffe, Florine Stettheimer, Helen Torr, and Marguerite Thompson Zorach. These women defied the rules of society with their art in unimaginable ways. The four artists refused to put feministic labels to their work, knowing that nobody would take them seriously if they were only recognized as female painters. Everyone was against them, but nothing could stop them.

The gallery began with Georgia O'Keeffe, possibly the most well known of the artists. The colors in her paintings swerve and blend together, but still manage extraordinary detail. Her art created a world in which art is mightier than words, a world in which art is examined with individual perspective, not gender.

Next was Florine Stettheimer, a wealthy woman who painted just for fun, not concerned about being paid. She used stunningly bright colors in her work to channel her strong emotions. The people in her paintings were whimsical, almost as if they were taken from a fairy tale. Her lively paintings are all around the gallery, and you'd have to try hard not to notice them.

Art took a darker turn with Helen Torr. She included stormy skies with her paintings of nature, structures, and landscapes. As I walked through the gallery, I noticed that she changed the details on less important objects in her paintings to add focus to the main subject. This move is brave and makes you think about why the subject is significant to you.

Towards the end of the tour, I came across some works of Marguerite Thompson Zorach. The paintings of her family are realistic and down to earth, but still have a mystical quality in the character's eyes. Later in her life, Marguerite turned to embroidery to pay the bills, but it's easy to tell that she puts just as much effort into the weavings as the paintings.

This exhibit is perfect for anyone, whether you're going with friends or on your own for a quieter atmosphere. The show will be on display until September 28th, 2016.

 

Portland Museum of Art

Zoe Ruff, Age 12, Bath

I want the reader, whoever you might be, to take everything you think you know about impressionists, and get rid of it, because the Portland Museum of Art presents a completely new look on art and four female modernists whose names may be familiar to you.

Florine Stettheimer's style is unique and eye-catching. When we visited, I found myself staring at her whimsical paintings, figuring out patterns between them. I found many. For example, a lot of them had pale colors and one eye-popping bright color (usually apple red) used in many places. Another, is that Stettheimer wanted the emphasis to be on the action of the moment captured, not the elements within that moment.

I personally did not enjoy the works of Helen Torr, but I could see how others would. Torr uses darker, cool colors to bring out the mood. In one, ”White Clouds (Lighthouse),” light colors on the top fade to darker shades further down. I didn't like her work as much as the others because, if you look at them just right, you can't see the brushstrokes. This means she didn't put care into the work she was creating; she rushed. To me, it looked like she did her art beautifully, but not because she enjoyed it.

Margaret Thompson Zorach hasn't got one style in particular, but one thing is similar between each piece: they're all made up of complex shapes. In the portrait of Zorach’s daughter, Dahlov, and the family’s nanny, Ella Madison, they are depicted in hues and shadows that make their faces geometric. However, other pieces of hers have hard lines and soft features. Zorach also did embroidery. The piece ”Family Dinner” sticks in my mind, and I know it will for others also. It shows two scenes: a town with houses, trees, and streets, as well as a family eating dinner around a table, made up of the town scene. I could've stared at it for hours, trying to figure out how she planned this, how long it took, and how much work was involved.

The name Georgia O'Keefe is well-known everywhere, and PMA presents some of her most famous works. ”Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. 3” is one. The colors are bright, beautiful, and deep, with not one stroke out of place. On the topic of brushstrokes, in O'Keefe's art, you can see every single move her brush made, showing the thought, hard work, and patience that went into them.

PMA has a comfortable, quiet atmosphere, and the artwork creates a catching splash of color to the white walls. I recommend going by yourself, because it would be nice to have plenty of time to take in each work of art.

Whether you enjoy portraits, still-life, or scenes, there's something for everyone, and I recommend you visit the Portland Museum of Art to see this incredible exhibit before it's gone.

 

Women Modernists of New York

Nicoletta Coupe, 13, Cape Elizabeth                            

At the Portland Museum of Art I observed a modernist exhibition featuring four women artists from New York; Georgia O`Keefe, Helen Torr, Florine Stetthiemer, and Marguerite Zorach. I had mixed opinions on the exhibit. I vastly enjoyed O`Keefes early flower paintings while I found the other three artists work less impressive.

O`Keefe painted her flowers extremely close-up focusing upon the intricacies of the flowers petals and blossom. She brought out the warm colors in her paintings with smooth brushstrokes that gave life to her flowers, while, the contrasts of the warm and cold colors she used gave them depth. Her strokes flowed together seamlessly and were masterfully blended to a point where you couldn't tell where one ended and another began. This added to the overall uniqueness of her flowers and highlighted the flowers complexities, making them appear almost too perfect to be found in nature, yet just flawed enough.

O`Keefe had two paintings that really stood out to me, “Jack in Pulpit” whose bright vibrant colors that faded into a darker background made the flower appear to be glowing from within. The other painting of O’Keefe's that really caught my eye was called “White Calico Flower”. The flowers petals are a beautiful shimmery silver that fades gorgeously into the dark green background like the moon’s shining reflection on the surface of a lake, a peaceful serenity undisturbed by even the slightest ripple, reminiscent of the eternal tranquility of the night. “White Calico Flower” is a painting of the past that will live on in the future.

Helen Torr’s paintings ceased to leave an imprint on me the way O`Keefes did. I found them lackluster and uninteresting. The only emotions I gathered from her paintings was dreariness and tiredness. She suffered from ill health and depression throughout her life, as well as receiving very little recognition for her work while her husband's artwork was met with great respect and was renown. Although, art critics today would argue that she was actually more talented than her husband. Many of her paintings were painted on her houseboat, they were of single subjects painted in drab colors. They exuded feelings of isolation and loneliness..

Florine Stetthiemer on the other hand managed to wow me. Although I was not a fan of her painting style or the abstractness of her paintings, I still found much to enjoy about her work. Stetthiemer painted flamboyantly with messy, passionate brush strokes and expressive vibrant colors as if she was pouring all of her feelings into her paintings. A style that was captivating to the eye and resonated deeply. I prefer realist paintings which is why I did not particularly like her style and color scheme, but, even I could comprehend and appreciate the level of feeling and meaning Stetthiemer put into her artwork. She was an expressive woman in her lifetime, her residence was on 5th avenue and she was a member of New York's elite. She rebelled against society's expectations of her, choosing to never marry and spend her time painting instead of partying. She always painted herself somewhere in her paintings, and while she would often paint an exciting, whimsical, scene such as a circus, gala, or picnic, she would paint herself alone. This conveyed her feelings of not fitting into her role in society as well as her loneliness amongst the other members of New York's elite. During her lifetime she never exhibited her work and decreed that after she died her artwork be destroyed, suggesting that as it was not a lady's place to be an artist  and that she was ashamed and unconfident about her unique artwork. When she died, one of her sisters went against her wishes and exhibited her work. While it was not what Stetthiemer wanted, art critics, enthusiasts, and lovers are thankful to be able to see and appreciate her artwork.

Marguerite Zorach is the fourth, and possibly the least captivating artist of the four women. Her husband was a very successful painter and she was very supportive of him, although art critics today say that her artwork was actually much better than his. She had two children and they were her priority which led her to stop painting and do less time-consuming art. So, she started quilting and embroidery. I was not impressed by her paintings. They were very bland and monotonous. I could detect little feeling or expression. I liked Torr better because at least with Torr's paintings you could feel the depression and the isolation. With Zorach’s there was nothing to feel. Her embroidery and quilts were beautiful and meticulously detailed in ways that I found very creative. It was in this medium, that her clear artistic talent was displayed.                                                                          

The exhibit runs from June 24 through September 18 and tickets are $7 for kids and $10 for adults. On Friday night from 5:00 to 8:00pm, the exhibit is free. If you have an open Friday night, or really any day of the week I would recommend stopping in and visiting the Portland Museum of Art, Women Modernists of New York exhibit to experience the wondrous artwork for yourself.  

 

Stop Here, This is The Place: A Year in Motherland, a book by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis

We Spin and Spin (as seen in The Portland Press Herald)

Abbie Hews, Age 11, South Portland

Stop Here This Is The Place, A Year in Motherland   is the heartwarming story created by  two mothers who try to slow down time and pay attention.  Susan Conley, a local, Maine writer, and Winky Lewis, a photographer, despite their jam-packed lives of commotion, team up in the pursuit of capturing the simple pleasures of life.

As mothers, they fear they’re going to look back and somehow their children’s lives will have slipped from between their outstretched arms. The dearest of memories discarded like flotsam and jetsam and lost into the slippery waves of never ending time.

Thee book expressed a sense of awareness, a warning.  Almost that time itself is alive, a  sensitive thing not to be meddled with and not to be wasted. We often get caught up in our lives—something always needs to be done, there's always somewhere to be, and there is always someone to please. We try to stuff our lives with as much as we possibly can, often not leaving enough room for those we love the most.

Susan Conley  and Winky Lewis give us a taste of their lives week by week, for 52 weeks.  In week eleven of the book, there is a photograph of Lewis’s daughter where she has a dog’s paw cupped in her hand, which I interpreted as a symbol of love and promise never to part. It was a simple gesture yet so full of meaning and unconditional love.

I felt as if every page opened the door to a new beginning, another chapter.  Simply stated, just another week in the magical world of Motherland.  

“We spin and spin and spin and don't ever let go.” ~   -Susan Conley

 

Stop Here This Is The Place

Ava Hoffman, Age 13, Falmouth

My mom always says carpe diem –seize the moment. A dull rainy day was changed into a great memory of a wet and watery slip and slide. The outdoors became my own personal water world. Changing moments by putting them on pages, two moms Winky Lewis and Susan Conley understood the concept of carpe diem. They seized life’s moments for one year.

Winky Lewis captured the flawless fantasies of the author’s children and her own kids during the year. Stop Here This Is The Place, the art book they created, is a piece of work where you can almost feel like you’re living the moment. The girl running down the road—chasing after her in the dark scenery. The words that are incorporated with each picture make you fall into a fantasy of reading. The words capture and lure you into the page. The photographs capture fleeting moments of childhood happiness. A wink in time was plastered onto the square hard, smoothness of the cover. Two boys backs to the sun, bathing suits on, looking towards the ocean floor. Full of minnows, hair wet maybe from the exciting swim they’d had.

The book is filled with 52 pictures from throughout the year. In one picture a girl with blonde hair is the focus, with a lake in the background and two boys on a rock. The page talks about the seconds of  holding our breath underwater. Like the seconds in life that create the minutes, which become hours. Finally, there are years. The boys are blurry as if they are growing out of childhood and reaching adolescence. The young girl is the focus, she is still in her youth. There are fifty other amazing pictures taken in this book you can enjoy. Whether you're taking a picture or reading a book, pick up Stop Here This Is The Place, it’s is the perfect choice to look at and read.

 

Stop Here This is the Place

Elsa Engesser, Age 12, Kennebunkport

Stop Here This Is The Place, is an art book by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis, published in April of 2016. Lewis would take pictures of moments throughout her day and email them to Conley, who would respond with a piece of writing to caption them. Although they saw each other throughout the day, it was only to exchange children or “Emergency cups of coffee” as the book puts it.  

Stop Here This Is The Place shows the pitfalls, the happiness, the sorrows, and the silliness of both childhood and motherhood. It stops life at the most perfect and most human moments. It makes you slow down to take advantage of the times without science fairs and soccer practice, the times before school dances, and college applications. It shows laughter, simplicity, and even the hope of a pact between dog and child.

Photographer Winky Lewis shows the most personal moments of her life through the camera lens. She shows the struggle in the life of a ten-year-old through the angles of the pictures she takes. Susan Conley does the same, but with her pen, or in this day and age, her keyboard. She captures the pit in your stomach that is homesickness, the excitement of jumping in a puddle, the sadness of school approaching and summer ending.

But it’s the things that happen when Lewis and Conley get together that is truly magical. The images and the words speak to each other, intertwining through the thick pages splashed with colors.  

Whether you have to break into a bookstore, or hijack Amazon, it will be worth it for this book.

 

Exploring the Meaning of Home

Grace Flynn, Age 13, Gorham

Though photography and writing have been paired millions of times before, this collaboration and the feeling the art gives you is strangely unique. From the intimacy of each picture to the story behind the project, it is a tale like no other. Stop Here This Is The Place by Maine author Susan Conley and photographer Winky Lewis publicizes a new level of motherhood from playing dress up, to watching your kids grow farther away.

The few short paragraphs at the beginning of the book discuss how the experiment blossomed into a book, starting with how the two artists began as next-door neighbors who on occasion would swap kids while the other parent was working. One day Lewis decided to take a picture of the children and then Conley wrote a story to go with it. The two did this every week for a year, but opted not to have conversations about it. This detail makes the book far more fascinating; the closeness achieved without any communication between the artists is simply astounding.

Reading this book is equal to experiencing the seemingly miniscule moments in these families’ lives. You feel like you’re sitting with them on the dock as the waves lap at your feet, and you’re standing on the damp street soaking from the storm that’s now abandoned your small neighborhood. Each piece of writing creates a story that unfolds itself into the picture next to it, creating an unexpected twist. For example, the photo on page seven shows a group of children playing on a faraway cliff. The story complements it by describing a mother afraid of what will happen when she no longer has the ability to protect her son.

Stop Here This Is The Place is a must read for any parent or any child who have shared a strong bond..

 

Yes. I'd Stop Here.

Maddie Kerr, Age 14, Portland

Relatable. Memorable. Stop Here This Is The Place, A Year in Motherland is an art book written by two childhood friends, Susan Conley, writer, and Winky Lewis, photographer. This whole project started as an experiment that escalated to a 52-week collaboration that brought them closer together. Each spread is a week. The photos, mostly of their children, have a piece of writing beside them. Though written by adults, these stories connect childhood to growing up, making it to relatable to all. Reading this book, I could see myself in it. I could remember similar things I did as a child. But, I could also see it from an adult's point of view, reminiscing at times, scolding at others.

Week 30 was the page that stuck with me after finishing the book. It was of two little girls planning to run away when things got worse. Immediately after reading this entry,  my mind snapped back to when I was about eight. My best friend and I had planned to run away for whatever reason.

This book is a perfect opening for deep discussions and old memories. Conley did an amazing job, leaving the reader puzzled but enticed. The work is so passionate; I could feel Conley and Lewis's excitement throughout the pages. Lewis took majestic pictures and Conley wrote profound sentences, which fit perfectly together. Susan Conley and Winky Lewis have outdone themselves with Stop Here This Is The Place, A Year in Motherland.

 

Stop Here This Is The Place

Liam Brown, Age 13, South Portland

Stop Here This Is The Place by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis is a creative work of art. Living in Portland, the next door neighbors tried an experiment. For one year Winky would take a photo and Susan would then write about the image. I have not yet found a book similar to Stop Here This Is The Place. After reading a couple deep and well thought-out pages, I wanted to own it. The words and pictures correspond perfectly on the page. Although simple, simplicity works for this book. There is a picture and words for all 52 weeks in a year. What makes this so original, is that all photos in this book are of the authors’ children.

Flipping through the book week number thirty-six caught my eye. The image of the rural, winter-white background made the black lettering on the sign stand out much more. It reads, “Every Thu. Bingo 6:30 P.M.” Giving the photo an even deeper meaning, Conley’s entry for the week reads, “The fields have tufts of green hair and the sky is so big and flat that everything feels entirely possible. Everything feels within reach. Which is why you should come with me.”

This book is a one-of-a-kind book. While reading I felt like I was there with the kids: skateboarding, blackberry picking, swimming. the feeling of sitting back and watching the kids grow was a joy. I recommend you picking up a copy and reading it for yourself.

 

A Book At Its Best

Sarae Leonard, Age 14, Yarmouth

Stop Here This Is The Place by Susan Conley and Winky Lewis is a beautifully simple story. Each photo is full of so much emotion and meaning. These photographs are creative and candid, yet some of them are so perfectly posed. It's not like Winky posed the subjects and said, “Put your foot there and don't move”, it's as if she took out her camera each week and made herself unknown, like the paparazzi of her and Conley’s families. This book inspired me to grab my own camera and capture the underrated scenery of the world around me.

As you progress further into the book, you become more and more familiar with the families of Susan Conley and Winky Lewis. Everything the children do in the photos is so vivid and relatable it almost seems like you are a part of each moment. While I was reading this a feeling of comfort washed over me. This book takes you on a captivating journey through the lives of these mothers and their children. The clarity of the photos lets you see every grain of skin and the dirt on their shoes. It just makes the experience that much better.

The physical cover is very soft and well put together. The layout of this book is that on every page there is a photograph and a small text narrating the situation. The text was very well-corazon

composed and the images and words gelled nicely. I can't stress enough just how much emotion is in each and every photo. I felt like I could understand exactly what Conley and Lewis were trying to capture, which was that a picture book doesn't have to be a children's book, it can have more depth, it can be a visual experience for the reader.

The families in this book have such unique perspectives on life which made reading this book that much more enjoyable. A particular photo that caught my eye was a photo of the two children jumping off a dock near the ocean. It brought back a flood of memories for me. Overall this book was one-of-a-kind book, I have never read a book like this before. I absolutely recommend this book to you and anyone you know!  

 

Samuel James, "Old Dan Tucker"

Samuel James ‘Old Dan Tucker’

Metis Welthy Bradford Tucker, Age 11, Saco

Samuel James’ song “Old Dan Tucker” made me want to first just sit and listen—but then made me want to get up and dance to the beat of the country-style music. I don’t usually like that much country music, but this I liked. You know in old movies when a cowboy is walking through an abandoned town with tumbleweeds? The music is like that except the lyrics  are more homey—like a backyard full of chickens vibe. The actual lyrics are from an old folk song. James’ version makes you want to stand up and stomp your foot, and bob up and down.

His new album including  “Old Dan Tucker” is called Already Home Recordings Volume 1. Each volume will be released over a year’s time with a subscription to the next volume with the purchase of one.

 

Space Gallery, The Genuine Article

The Genuine Review (as seen in The Portland Press Herald)

Ella Briman, Age 13, Cape Elizabeth

Upon entering, the fluorescent lights lit up my eyes. The Genuine Article, an installation at the SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine, is designed to look like a conventional dive bar. The art is tacky in a good way; it’s colorful, playful, and whimsical. The cheap wood paneling on the walls was actually hand painted by Leon Benn and Seth Gass, the artists in charge of the show. Benn and Gass also chose the pieces that are displayed in the installation, asking their artist friends to send them pieces. Nat May, the executive director of Space, explained, “The artists acted as the curators in this show.”

There’s everything from a taxidermy Kermit the Frog pinned to the wall, to a stained glass hanging lampshade. On the back wall, black and white sequins create the silhouette of Darth Vader on a fake door. According to Space’s online description, “This installation situates itself in the greater trajectory of kitsch, pop, and decorative art.”

You might as well cancel your afternoon plans, and head to this show to sit on the center benches and watch vibrant, contrasting lights flicker. Above all, this installation is memorable, and something to be experienced with all your senses as a whole. The slightly musty smell ties well with the theme of the rest of the room and the sound of the murmuring of the passersby walking up and down the busy Portland street just outside. SPACE Gallery is located at 538 Congress Street, and the exhibition is open to the public from June 23rd to September 23rd, 2016.

 

The Genuine Article

By Natalia Pinette, Age 13, Portland

I’ve never thought of myself as an artist or even an art enthusiast. Sure I’ve been to art galleries where the paintings are hung on the walls not even a centimeter crooked, and the sculptures sit in cases with heavy surveillance, but I never really enjoyed it. Museums were a thing my mom brought me to where you had to be quiet and you couldn’t touch anything. I’ve seen pieces that I thought were beautiful but always wished I could touch the art. I never thought I would find an exhibit where that could happen.

From the name The Genuine Article, an exhibit at SPACE Gallery in Portland, by Leon Benn and Seth Gass, open until September 23,  I assumed it was just a regular paintings-on-plain-walls exhibit. What I got was so much better.

Walk through the doors and you're in a completely different world. In front of you is a dimly lit dusty old bar. A dive bar. The floor is scratched and scuffed and the walls, painted to look like wood paneling, are covered in random pieces. From a Darth Vader door made of sequins, to a Kermit the Frog head mounted on the wall. And you know those old-timey chandeliers, the ones that look like they're pieces of stained glass placed in no particular pattern? There’s a multicolored one hanging in just the right spot with a dart board behind it and the bar below. The place even has a smell of it’s own, a little musty but not so much so that it’s gross.

If you close your eyes you can picture perfectly who might be there and what’s going on. You can hear a band playing on the stage and see the bartender pouring drinks. You can smell all the perfume and cologne as it settles in a hazy mist over the crowd cheering on the band. But the installation wouldn’t be complete if it weren't for the artwork within it. All of the paintings and art pieces are absolutely exquisite, full of color and while they're all very different, they fit together seamlessly. One of my personal favorites is called “Cowboy with Palm Tree”, 2016, by Leon Benn. It’s a painting of a cowboy lying in the grass under a palm tree. I love how there’s a lot of color and most of the picture is made up of circles.

Maybe it’s the dim colorful lights or the painted walls, but this is one of the most realistic and creative installations I’ve ever seen. The whole setup feels like it’s been that way for decades, it’s crazy to think that Benn and Gass installed it in a week. For anyone looking for a unique art experience you should visit The Genuine Article. Everything down to the squishy couch is filled with antiquity that’s hard to find. If you get the chance to visit it’s free and well worth your time.

 

Magnificent Exhibit in the SPACE Gallery

Isa Kesselhault, Age 12, Cape Elizabeth

Walking through adjoining doors leaving the bright and sunny annex, and entering SPACE’s main gallery, it was suddenly dim. This interesting room, curated by Leon Benn and Seth Gass, was made to look like a dive bar.

The two artists painted the walls to look like wood paneling. The realistic dark room was filled a colorful cool collection of art pieces, and fluorescent lights. Because of the dark walls and lighting, the room felt enclosed. But the feeling of a small dark room just added to the experience. Benn and Gass put out a call for submission to a dozen artists. Having twelve artists contribute their craziest pieces of art makes all of the pieces on the walls so different. The show called The Genuine Article started June 23 and ends on September 23.

My favorite piece of art in this exhibit is the Darth Vader door. If you look closely you’ll notice that the design is made out of black and white sequins. The outline of Darth Vader’s mask is made with tiny white sequins. Slowly the white sequins fade into something that looks like a snowstorm with a black background, like the night sky. The white sequins being the snow that blows everywhere.

My experience at the The Genuine Article exhibit was definitely worth it. Appreciating all the hard work Leon Benn and Seth Gass put in,  you enjoy the exhibit even more. The Genuine Article is a magnificent exhibit in the SPACE Gallery. I recommend you come and see it before it closes.

 

My Experience at The Genuine Article

Quentin Wu, Age 12, Scarborough

My experience at The Genuine Article was unique, for when I stepped into the room, I was amazed at the setting. It was unusually dim, and there were neon lights, something not that common for the backgrounds of art exhibits. I also noticed a bar and a stage, not to mention a Star Wars themed door, which could not be opened. There were also two mirrors, one with words listing the artists who helped in the making of the exhibit, and another one with a picture of someone pointing to his muscles. Lastly, there were a  few abstract paintings each with vibrant colors, but each painting did not have a wide spectrum of hues. All of it was quite peculiar, and I liked it. That is why I would recommend for people. However, the show doesn’t last forever. It closes on September 18!

The room had a wide range of colors and was dull and neutral at the same time, for you could easily see the neon lights in contrast against the dark walls of the room. The neon lights dimly lit up the bar, giving a feeling as if there could be people waiting to be served. The Star Wars themed door featured Darth Vader. The depiction was quite abstract, as it was just an array of black and white sequins, but their arrangement made it so that it looked like Darth Vader, when viewed far away enough. There was not really anything on the stage, but above it there were unlit strobe lights and beside and in the front of the stage, were stairs, making it somewhat realistic. But what I liked most was the lighting of the room, as that was what stood out to me when I entered.

 

El Corazon Food Truck

El Corazon (as seen in The Portland Press Herald)

Thalia Tucker, Age 11, Saco 

The chicken burrito was the best I have ever tasted. When I bit into it, a bomb of flavors and textures assaulted my mouth. Avocado! Grilled chicken! Rice! Beans! Tortilla! And a little bit of spice screamed for attention in my mouth. Not only that, the textures were magnificent. The guacamole was not too clumpy, not too smooth. The chicken was hearty and flavorful. Admittedly, the rice was not totally perfect; it was a little too sloppy (more like it belonged in a chili soup). The beans were not too hard, not too squishy. The tortilla was warm, soft, and a little bit chewy—just right. The spice was not overpowering, but still enough to add a kick. It felt like I was biting into a dance-off of flavors, everything spinning and twirling around in my mouth, but contained neatly into one small package.

If you're wondering where I got this super burrito, it came from El Corazon, the red food truck. Usually parked at the corner of Spring and Temple Streets most weekdays, El Corazon is easy to recognize with its dark-red coloring and vibrant day-of-the-dead-skull.

When I asked co-owner April Perry where the ingenious recipes came from, she replied that they came from her step-father, who is from Southern Arizona. It's a family business. She had to poke her head out of the back of the truck to speak to us while she continued to work the line. "When we lived in California, there was a lot of Mexican culture. When we moved to Maine, we wanted to bring that with us." After talking to April, the food was ready, and I enjoyed the best burrito of my life! El Corazon is a good place to stop by on lunch break, and if you do, you'll be in for a tasty surprise!    

 

Mexican Madness

Emma Hallee, Age 11, Portland

The bright red truck pulled me in. They were parked in their usual location, on the corner of Spring and Temple street, and they were busy. People waiting off to the side, people waiting in line. That’s right, this is about El Corazon! The Mexican smells coming off the truck were of meats and spices and fried food all in one. Cars were passing by and I was wondering why they weren’t stopping to try this amazing smelling food. It’s not like there was nowhere to park there was a parking lot right next to the food truck. Even though cars weren’t stopping there were a lot of people showing up, who were just walking by.

A fellow customer named Marcus said that his favorite two meals to order were the fish taco and the Sonoran hotdog. Marcus also mentioned that the fish tacos are the best he’s had in Portland.

El Corazon is a family owned business of four. April Perry, the daughter, willingly popped her head out the back to answer some questions. Taking time out of her busy day, she had a smile on her face while talking. Their recipes came from Perry’s stepdad who lived in southern Arizona on the Mexico border. El Corazon decided to be a food truck verses a restaurant because it’s less overhead, and this way they have a flexible schedule and they're able to do weddings, rehearsal dinners, and park outside of local breweries. El Corazon sells Mexican food because April’s family is Mexican and because they used to live in California and they realized that not a lot of places sell traditional Latin dishes, so they brought it to Portland in a truck.

As I unfolded the tinfoil that was labeled “chix” for my chicken taco, I smelt the chicken and lime burst off the taco. It looked decent, but a little messy. I folded it together and took a big bite. First reaction was “Oh My God! Delicious!” It was better than I expected. There was a nice mix of all the ingredients and the chicken wasn’t too spicy. Just as I went in for my second bite, the tortilla fell apart and most of my chicken and lettuce fell out into my dish. But it was still amazingly good. The taco was actually quite filling.

Try El Corazon, it might surprise you. It surprised me and now I want to take my whole family there. Nice service. Great food. Unforgettable reactions.

 

Mexico in a Truck

Max Bennett, Age 13, From Scarborough

If you see a bright red truck, decorated with authentic Mexican designs, you know you’re looking at El Corazon—a  popular food truck in Portland, owned by Joseph Urtuzuastegui and his family, who have prominent Spanish roots.

When you get there, you are greeted by the delicious smell of fried food, showered in intricate spices and cooked to perfection. Around 15 people were standing in line around noon. However, the line went quickly, due to the fast and kind service.

In the background played a variety of jazzy tunes; the whole ordeal was quite relaxing and easy to enjoy. When I spoke with a customer, he exclaimed that El Corazon had “The best fish tacos in Portland!” The man was an employee at Port Property in Portland and he said that “El Corazon if very easy to get to from work.” The truck is usually parked near the intersection of Spring Street and Temple Street, Tuesday through Friday, from 11am to 2:30pm.

The food itself was quite tasty, warm to the touch and served fresh and moist. El Corazon was voted “The Best Food Truck in Portland” in 2015, so, as to be expected, it was delectable. With each bite came a burst of interesting flavors, none too spicy, none too mild. The chicken is thoroughly cooked, perfect for anyone’s palate.

The family comes from California, but the recipes originate from Urtuzuastegui’s family, who lived on the Arizona-Mexico border.  When they moved to Maine and noticed the lack of Mexican food, they decided to open El Corazon, meaning  the heart, in Spanish.

You should definitely try this food truck. They can substitute any ingredients for food allergies, service is kind and quick, and the food is very affordable. The refreshing and relaxing experience will leave you wanting more. Hope you can go!

 

My Experience at the El Corazon Food Truck

Quentin Wu, Age 12, Scarborough

I went to El Corazon once. El Corazon is a food truck that serves Mexican food. I ordered a chicken burrito and I can tell you about this experience. At the surface of the burrito, all that can be seen and smelled is the tortilla on the outside. However, there is a very scrumptious interior.

I take a bite of it. It tastes like a combination of meat and McDonald's Special Sauce. The guacamole did not have much flavor, and neither did the rice, but the rice, had more flavor. There was supposedly beans, sour cream, and salsa in the burrito, but I could not find it. What came with the burrito was a slice of lime, and when the juice touched my teeth, it felt like it was “eating” through them, like they were in pain and discomfort. The lime also had a flavor, as it was sour and tart, but it was quite mild and I liked the flavor. So that was my experience, and I enjoyed it, so I would recommend it for you.

Now about the truck that served the Mexican food. The El Corazon food truck is mostly red, with fuel storages in the front and back. It was parked nearby the intersection of  Temple and Spring Street, as where it has been parking for the past three years. When I was towards the back of the car, I could smell meat, and it sure smelled delicious. How the business got started was that a family of four used to live in California, where Mexican food was popular. However, when they moved to Maine, they found Mexican food not that popular. So in that case, they decided to start their business, and they are now they are considered the best food truck in Maine.

 

Camper Reviews 2015 as seen in The Portland Press Herald

Camper Reviews 2014 as seen in The Portland Phoenix

 

 

 

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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