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Portland chefs tapped for James Beard House event

Some of Portland's favorite chefs have been selected to prepare a dinner at the James Beard House in New York City.10-10-14-TG-James-Beard-chefs-Davids-Opus-10

David Turin, of David's, and Damian and Ilma Lopez, of Piccolo, will be heading to the Big Apple to prepare some of their favorite dishes for the big city food aficionados.

Dr. Christopher Papagni, program committee member of the James Beard Foundation, announced their selection this week.

"As a certified foodie, I've made it my business to try the highly recommended places in Portland, and I have found that these are some of the most talented chefs around," he said. "I'm proud to bring the best of Maine to New York, and I'm certain that other chefs will be invited in 2015."10-10-14-TG-James-Beard-Piccolo

Papagni moved from New York to Portland a year ago. For 16 years, he was executive vice president of the International Culinary Center in Soho. Papagni grew up in Brooklyn. He started to learn the craft from his father, Leo, an Italian chef.

"My dad only cooked on his day off (Monday nights)," he said. "He taught my mom how to cook. She was a good cook, too, in her own ways."

On Tuesday, Oct. 21, Turin will take his turn at the James Beard House. He's bringing a large contingent of his chefs with him. Bo Byrne, the head chef at Opus 10, and Matt Caddell, the sous chef there, are both going. From David's restaurant, he's bringing Kelsey O'Connor, Ian Yancha, Rocky Hunter, all sous chefs. From David's 388 in South Portland, Carlos Tirado, the chef de cuisine, and Dylan Leddy, a sous chef, are going. And Derek Federico, executive sous chef at David's KPT in Kennebunkport, is heading to NYC, too.

"We're going to take the whole team," Turin said. "Everyone is involved."

David Muise, manager at Opus and wine director for David's and Opus, and Kim Smith, general manager, are also going on this inaugural trip.

"It's really a unique thing. Statistically, very few people get invited to go and cook there," Turin said. "It's a huge honor — to be noticed in the first place and then have someone come out and evaluate us. People who remember James Beard and what he started in the culinary field ... it's such an education."

Turin has been serving up exquisite meals in Portland for about 20 years. He's been at his Monument Square location for 14 years. He started out in 1983, owning a French restaurant in North Plymouth, Mass., called Santé.

Among the 13 courses he'll serve in NYC, one of his favorites is the Seared Salmon Sashimi with Norwis Frites, Lobster Beurre Rouge, and Micro Basil–Apple Salad.

"I love that dish. It's perfect in the fall, the peak for apples," he said. "It's just this really nice sweet acidic counterpoint to the buttery lobster."

Another offering, the Porcini, Morel, and Madeira Cream Shooters are "probably the most popular thing we serve at Opus," he said.

He'll also serve the Butter-Poached Lobster with Chanterelles, Butternut Squash, Risotto Cake, and Citrus–Truffle Microgreens, one of their regular dishes.

When guests arrive on the evening, they'll walk through the kitchen where Turin and his staff will start serving the hors d'oeuvres. After about an hour, people then head to the tables for the main courses.

"Anytime you go to a James Beard event, you're going to have people preparing your meal who focus on this as a craft," Turin said. "We will give our absolute 100 percent best effort."

On Saturday, Nov. 8, the table turns to Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez, owners of Piccolo, on Middle Street in Portland, who "pay homage to the rustic, soul-satisfying cuisine of Central and Southern Italy with great care and passion," according to their bio on the James Beard website. "For this Beard House dinner, the former Bar Boulud chef de cuisine (Sansonetti) will return to his roots with a tantalizing menu inspired by the rich flavors of Italy's Calabria and Abruzzo regions."

Lopez moved to Maine three years ago; Damian moved here two years ago, a year before they opened Piccolo. The New York trip is a homecoming of sorts for them, but it will be the first time they cook there under their own restaurant's name.

They are bringing Luke Averle, the sous chef, and Kelly Nelson, the head waitress, with them, and will meet up with friends in the city for additional help.

Their 10-course treat will feature Pasta di Agnello, or Lamb Neck Ragù with Cavatelli, Eggplant, Fennel, Orange, Cerignola Olives, Mint, and Pecorino Romano.

"That's our specialty, where we pull inspiration from — central and northern Italy," said Sansonetti, adding admiration for the James Beard House's layout.

"The kitchen downstairs is completely open. Weather permitting, they open up the back garden," he said. "We get to meet all the guests who come through. It's fun for them. They get to see what we're doing, finishing up some prep."

They will bring some food and supplies to New York with them, and then will connect with Daniel Boulud, a friend and former boss, to use his kitchen in the city to do finishing touches the day of the big meal.

"He's always been a generous guy," Sansonetti said. "That's why I worked for him for nine years in three restaurants."

For more information, visit www.jamesbeard.org.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 01:33

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Superhero Lady ArmWrestlers go national

The Superhero Lady ArmWrestlers of Portland are taking their show on the road, heading to the Collective of Lady ArmWrestlers National Competition (or SuperCLAW) in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 15.

They are trying to raise funds for their first trip to the bigger competition, with a Dance with the SLAP girls at the Spring Point Tavern in South Portland on Friday, Oct. 24, and an arm wrestling competition called "Over the Hop" at Infiniti Fermentation and Distillation in Portland on Thursday, Nov. 6. The Infiniti event will be a true SLAP competition with the winner taking the title and prize — a beer brewed and named for them.

Jenna Keys, aka Voom Voom Valhalla, has been refereeing the bouts since she broke her neck in a car accident a year ago. Money is raised when audience members "bet" which wrestler they think will win each round. That bet is really a donation, but it gives the gamblers beaucoup bragging rights.

Kate Squibb, aka Lumbersmack Sally, expects to be representing Maine at nationals. She's the executive chef at Infiniti, and last year won the rights to have a beer brewed in her honor. "Lumbersmack Sally" is a double IPA.

"If someone else wins, we'll get together and craft a beer in commemoration of their character," Squibb said. "They get to be a part of the process, even put ingredients in."

Elizabeth "Burdie" Burd, aka ErNasty'ne, will be the hostess at Infiniti. She was an armwrestler, but has turned her talents to the microphone. She will be swinging from a trapeze, hanging from the I-beams at Infiniti.

"It's very industrial in here, so we're going to be hanging her somewhere from the ceiling," Squibb said.

"Burdie's Perch" was Burd's idea, even though it's not one of her favorite things.

"I'm scared of heights, but my character is not, so that's how I'm going to deal with it," she said. Burd hosted the event at Spring Point last spring.

"It was a huge success," she said. "It's the smallest venue we've used, and we raised the most money. I had a ball and look forward to doing it again."

She gets the crowd pumped up and reads each wrestler's bio, "so that the people have some idea who's coming out."

The Dance with the SLAP girls at the Spring Point Tavern is purely fundraiser. You can get your pic taken with a SLAP girl for a donation. There's a $5 suggested donation at door.

At the "Over the Hop" at Infiniti, there will be eight wrestlers, including Lumbersmack Sally, Black Powder Betty, Sylvia Wrath, Black Mamba, Madagascar Mindy, Barrel Roll Barbie, and Slammin' Sister Mary. Each armwrestler enters with their entourage and theme song blasting. This will be Squibb's first time competing at nationals, and she is expecting some serious competition.

"It'll be interesting to see how I stand. I think I have some awesome techniques, so I don't know if anybody else is coming like I do. They're big girls. I'm not the only one who has broken someone's arm. I've heard that some of my competitors have also broken arms."'

SLAP have previously used their entertaining bouts to raise money for several area charities, including Mayo Street Arts Center, the East Bay Neighborhood Association, the Locker Project (food-based donations that educators can give to students anonymously), A Company of Girls theater group, and MENSK, the local nonprofit film screener.

"This time, we're raising funds to help with travel costs," Squibb said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 23:58

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Portland police seek 'person of interest' in East Bayside assault on child

The Portland Police Department has asked for the public's help in locating a "person of interest" in an assault on a young child in the East Bayside neighborhood.10-10-14-PPD-Soto

On Sunday morning, Oct. 5 at 3 a.m., police responded to a Greenleaf Street residence for the report of a burglary that had just occurred, police said. Investigation revealed that a man entered the apartment and sexually assaulted a young child, police reported. The man fled the apartment when an adult heard a disturbance in the child's room and came to investigate.

Police are seeking 25-year-old Julian M. Soto of 39 Greenleaf St. for questioning. Soto was described by police as being a light-skinned Hispanic with dark hair. He is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs about 190 pounds. Police said they had been unable to locate him and asked anyone with information about Soto's whereabouts to contact police immediately.

Information can be provided by calling 874-8575. Also, mobile phone users can text the keyword "GOTCHA" plus their message to 274637 (CRIMES). Anonymous phone tips can be left on the Department's Crime Tip line at 874-8584.

Area residents should lock all doors and windows and report any suspicious activity to police, a Portland Police Department press release stated.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 21:17

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LePage decries unaccompanied alien children in Maine

"Unaccompanied alien children" in the country illegally are being placed in Maine, a federal agency acknowledges, but Maine Gov. Paul LePage said federal officials are not commenting on rumors that the children may end up at a former school in Poland.10-10-14-lepage-paul-gov

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the "HHS is engaging with state officials to address concerns they may have about the care or impact of unaccompanied children in their states," but LePage and other governors have voiced concerns about unaccompanied alien children being placed in states without notification.

A total of 43,419 "unaccompanied alien children," the term for children "who have no lawful immigration status in the United States," have been located in the states, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/programs/ucs/state-by-state-uc-placed-sponsors).

The online site lists nine "unaccompanied alien children" being placed in Maine, but a LePage administration letter alludes to 12 of these children being placed with "sponsors" here, based on information from the federal government.

LePage this week said unaccompanied alien children who may be placed in Poland remain shrouded behind a federal agency's silence.

"Rumors have been swirling about whether a large number of Unaccompanied Alien Children may be placed at the former Elan School campus in Poland, Maine," LePage said. "Despite efforts by our administration, these rumors have not been substantiated by the federal government. As recently as last week, Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, sent an inquiry to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeking information on whether such plans are in the works. So far, we have not received a response or further information from the federal government. The Administration remains opposed to the placement of these children within Maine."

The Office of Refugee Resettlement reports, "HHS has strong policies in place to ensure the privacy and safety of unaccompanied children by maintaining the confidentiality of their personal information. These children may have histories of abuse or may be seeking safety from threats of violence. They may have been trafficked or smuggled. HHS cannot release information about individual children that could compromise the child's location or identity."

LePage said, "While we are very concerned for the health and safety of the children, we hope the federal government provides funding and an appropriate home for them if this plan is real and comes to fruition. However, since we have no idea who would pay these costs or if there is any health risk to Maine people, we cannot support them coming to Maine. The state has received no formalized plans or information about this alleged plan. As a result, the administration has no assurance from the federal government of the health status of the children or whether they have had proper immunizations, nor have we had any assurance that the federal government would pay for their health care, education, general welfare or safety."

Mayhew wrote, "We want to be actively involved in any plans for Maine."

LePage has raised concerns about the unaccompanied alien children in the past. Other governors have expressed their concerns as well.

Following a National Governors Association meeting, on July 22, governors including Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Robert Bentley of Alabama, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Pat McCrory of North Carolina, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Gary R. Herbert of Utah wrote a letter to President Obama stating, "Governors on both sides of the aisle expressed concern with your administration's handling of this situation. ... As we were told at the NGA meeting, currently nearly half fail to show up for their assigned immigration proceeding. We are concerned that there will be significant numbers who will end up using the public schools, social services and health systems largely funded by the states. More importantly, we are concerned that the failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border. We fear that this will put a significant number of children at risk of abuse and neglect on their journey to the United States."

Calls for additional comment to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and to the governor’s office on Thursday were not returned at presstime.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 01:34

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Pratt found guilty of Scott murder

A jury found Anthony Pratt guilty Thursday of the murder of Margarita Fisenko Scott, whose body was found in a vehicle at a Portland motel in January 2013.10-10-14-PPD-Scott

Closing arguments were heard Wednesday in the murder trial of Pratt, after which Justice Thomas Warren gave the jury their instructions before they left the courtroom to begin deliberations on a case that began almost two years ago.

Pratt was found guilty of killing his lover, Margarita Fisenko Scott, in the apartment of Christopher and Tunile Jennings on Concord Street West, where he had been staying. Scott went back and forth from that location to the apartment in Westbrook she shared with her husband, Cary, testimony in the trial revealed.

Scott, 29, was last seen alive the evening of Nov. 10, 2012. Her dead body, with a gunshot wound in her neck, was discovered in the back of the Trailblazer she and her husband owned. Her jugular vein and spinal cord had been pierced by the bullet, the evidence revealed.

On Jan. 17, 2013, this grim discovery was made by her husband and a friend of theirs. The vehicle containing her pajama-clad body was in the snow-covered parking lot of Motel 6 on Riverside Street.

Pratt was arrested for Scott's murder in New York, in April 2013.10-10-14-MN-Pratt

Pratt looked very different in the courtroom than he did when first arrested two years ago at age 19. At that time he had numerous dreadlocks, but those were replaced by closely shorn hair, and he wore wire-rimmed glasses, giving him a studious look, as he sat quietly between his two attorneys during the trial that began with jury selection on Sept. 26.

At the start of her summation, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese said, "This case is stranger than fiction." She told the jury their job was to determine if the state had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Marchese also reminded them, "You only need be unanimous on the crime of murder." She stated, "The only question is who killed Margarita Scott. Of course, it is Anthony Pratt."

Marchese said, "This case brings you to the intersection of drugs and domestic violence." The jury was told that Scott was "in way over her head, but she was having a difficult time leaving Cary." In fact, Cary Scott didn't even consider them separated. He didn't think they were estranged, even though he knew his wife was having an affair with Anthony Pratt, according to trial testimony.

Marchese stressed the fact that Margarita Fisenko Scott never stayed out overnight. She always went home to bring the Trailblazer to her husband, so that Cary could get to work. November 10-11 was the only time she didn't bring the car back. She always had it back by 2 a.m. before that night.

There was testimony that Pratt had assaulted Scott at the apartment in Westbrook the morning of the day she was last seen alive. He dragged her down the steps and beat her. Someone living in that building called the Westbrook police after witnessing the violence. Pratt was enraged because Margarita had once again returned to her husband, according to testimony.

An important piece of evidence in the case was gum and paper with the defendant's DNA on both items covering the bullet hole found in the wall by evidence technicians.

Two phone calls also had significance in the case; one was made at 1 a.m. when Tunile Jennings called Scott, saying she and her husband did not need a ride home; and the other was between Jennings and Pratt, after Pratt had returned to New York. The jurors requested to have the transcript read back to them for the first call, and to once again hear the recording of the phone call where Jennings expressed his anger to Pratt about what had occurred in his Portland apartment.

Peter Cyr, one of Pratt's attorneys, in his closing arguments for the defense, stated that Anthony Pratt enjoyed the presumption of innocence, saying, "Mr. Pratt is an innocent man. Mr. Pratt has the right to remain silent. You cannot draw any negative inference from the fact that Mr. Pratt did not testify."

Cyr continued by telling the jury, "We do not have to prove anything. The state has the burden of proof."

He then went into a description of types of evidential standards of proof, from proof beyond a reasonable doubt to a scintilla of evidence, at the bottom of that scale.

Cyr told the jury, "If there is some other reasonable alternative — that is a reasonable doubt."

He dismissed the testimony of Christopher and Tunile Jennings, whom Pratt had been living with, as lies, stating, "Mr. Jennings is not a trustworthy person."

Cyr said detectives had "a confirmation bias," and that was why they didn't investigate whether Jennings might be the murderer. He also stated that Jennings was the last person to have sex with Scott before she died. Cyr said of Jennings, "Rita and Anthony were his minions. Christopher Jennings was the 'man.' He was the boss. Anthony was an employee. Christopher Jennings was the employer."

Cyr told the jury, "When Christopher and Tunile returned that night after being out celebrating, they find nothing out of the ordinary, and the next morning nothing is out of the ordinary."

Cyr's final remarks to the jury were, "If there's a reasonable alternative, that's reasonable doubt, and you have to find Anthony Pratt not guilty."

Cyr stated that there wasn't enough time for Pratt to have committed the murder, cleaned up its traces, to have brought the vehicle to Motel 6 where it was left, and then to have returned to the apartment on foot.

Marchese said that police were hampered by the fact that no one wanted to be honest, but she said, "Lying alone doesn't make someone a killer." She admitted that Jennings lied about many things, and said, "You may not like Christopher Jennings but he did not kill Margarita Scott."

She commended the detective work done by Detectives Karl Rybeck and Rich Vogel.

Marchese ended by asking the jury a provocative question during her rebuttal: "Is Anthony Pratt the unluckiest man alive or is he the guiltiest man alive — with unfortunate coincidences and bad luck?"

Marchese then answered the question by stating, "Anthony Pratt is not unlucky. He is guilty."



Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 01:33

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