The Face, St Patrick's Day, & an Irish recipe

Did you ever wonder how your order makes its way through Native Maine and to your kitchen? In the next editions of Local Lore, I’ll take you through the different departments of Native Maine to explain how each functions to provide you with the freshest, tastiest foods at the best value and in the shortest delivery time frame. We’ll start with customer service.
Did you know you can place orders with Native Maine three ways? Customers can order 24 hours a day online at; to sign up for online ordering call our customer service department or talk to your sales rep. Prefer the phone? You can leave a voicemail anytime by calling 207-856-1100. Want to speak to a real person? Call the same number to speak to one of our knowledgeable, live customer service representatives from 6am to 10pm Monday through Saturday.

In this edition of “Get to Know Your Native Mainer”, I’ll introduce you to Dave Cignoli, one of our daytime customer service crew who also has an interesting, unofficial work title….Hi Dave, what’s your official job title?
cignoli daveI’m a customer service rep and an inside sales rep. And your unofficial job title? Oh yeah, I’m also the face of Native Maine...though my face is not yet on the side of the trucks; I’m working on that. Okay, tell us about the “face of Native Maine” Well, that’s the title given to the person who sits at the desk closest to the door in the office. You have to greet everyone who comes into the office. Most people who sit here hate it and want to move ASAP. I actually like greeting and talking to all the people coming in. So, yes, I am the face of Native Maine. And what a lovely face it is...
How long have you worked at Native Maine? 2.5 years; wow, can’t believe it’s been that long!
Everyone says that! How would you explain your job to a child? Well, If I had to explain to a kid, like my 4 year old, I would say: So you know when you go to school and you have a snack in the afternoon like an orange or an apple? Well, when the oranges and apples are all gone, the teacher will call me up at Native Maine, and place an order for more. I type the order into our computer system and that order goes down into the warehouse. The night guys pack the oranges and put them on a truck, and the next day the driver in the box truck delivers them to your school for your snack in the afternoon! And really, my boys really love the Native Maine trucks when they see them around Portland. They’ll say: Dad Dad is that your truck!!? And they see the driver and ask what’s his name!? I’ll say yeah, that’s Steve, and they be like, you know that guy?!! WOW!! Yeah, the drivers are famous with my kids...It's a huge deal knowing the guy that drives the box truck with corn boy on the outside!!
What did you do before this job? Well, I was a stay at home dad for six years. I worked part-time, and still do, at Bruno’s in Portland as a bartender and a line cook. Before I stayed home with the kids, I was a sales rep at PFG Northcenter. Tell me about Bruno's....It’s an Italian restaurant that also serves pub food. Really excellent food and really good people. Native Maine is going to sell their house made pastas--really good stuff!
What does a typical day look like for you? In at 7am, first thing on the docket is coffee!...Get computer rolling; I’ve got 2 screens and a wireless mouse. And this new power stapler: Big Bertha! Nice! How many pages can you do? .20 pages…no problem.. took me a while to get it…..Are you stapling more? Definitely! Okay, then I check customer voicemails from the night before in case there are any that impact morning deliveries. Usually they’re new orders or add ons or maybe people who called their order in late the night before wondering if order made truck. I listen to those and fix everything that I can…. I check email and see what needs attention. I answer the phone when customers call. Then I have a serious discussion with Kenny about coffee and who didn’t make coffee and who will make the coffee. Then I drink more coffee and discuss lunch with Kenny. over coffee. I take care of any standing orders for customers; standing orders are items that are automatically ordered every week on the same day for the same customer. We sticker standing orders with special stickers to designate what the product is and where its going; I print the stickers and get them to the buyers. I work on purchase orders and any special orders for customers. Our sales reps call with questions, I deal with that. I greet all the people coming into Native Maine and direct them where they need to go. If we have items that we are on sale or we want to move out, I take care of that. Wow, that’s a busy day....!
If you could switch jobs with someone at Native Maine, who would it be? I really had to think about this one….I guess Seth Wilson (one of Native’s produce buyers), that way I could sit next to Don Bob (Don Brown, another of Native’s produce buyers). Don Bob is really cool, has amazing fashion sense too, and I could use a few pointers. Yeah, we all could!
If you could change one thing about working here, what would it be? Well, we used to cook lunch together pretty often...we had really good food. We don’t do that too often anymore.
What’s one thing that nobody here knows about you? Hmmm...It really bugs me when one shoe is tied tighter than the other. Well, that seems to really explain a lot about you! Thanks, Dave!

COMING RIGHT UP! St Patrick’s Day....And some St. Patty’s Day trivia for your perusal:

  • Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. It is widely celebrated in Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Montserrat in the Caribbean and, get this, Russia!
  • New York has a larger parade, but Chicago has a spectacle all its own. The city has been celebrating Saint Patrick by dumping 40 tons of green dye into the Chicago River since 1962.
  • All of the Saint Patrick’s Day revelry around the globe is great news for brewers. A 2012 estimate pegged the total amount spent on beer for Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations at $245 million!

ColcannonLooking for something different from boiled dinner for St Patrick’s Day? Try Colcannon, the very Irish combination of potatoes, leeks, and cabbage! Combined with cream and butter, this is a rich and delicious dish that will make everyone happy, including vegetarians.

Where did Colcannon come from? Romans introduced cabbages to Europe; cabbage (cole) cooked with onions or garlic was common food for peasants in Medieval times. In the 16th century, explorers to South America brought the first potatoes to Europe. At first, regarded as poisonous curiosities, it took the French, then the Irish to recognize that potatoes could feed a nation. The word 'colcannon' is from the Gaelic ‘cal ceannann' which literally means white-headed cabbage. The cannon' part of the name is thought to be a derivative of the old Irish cainnenn', translated variously as garlic, onion, or leek.

In Ireland colcannon was traditionally associated with Halloween! “Charms hidden in bowls of colcannon were portents of a marriage proposal if an unmarried girl was lucky to find one, Other young maids, filled socks with spoonfuls of colcannon and hung them from their front doors in the belief that the first man through the door would become their future husband."

5 Local red potatoes (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons Kate’s unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups (packed) shredded local green cabbage, divided
1½ cups Hatchland milk
½ cup Hatchland heavy cream
Native Maine ground black pepper

Cover potatoes with water in a small pot; season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until a paring knife slides easily through the flesh, 30–40 minutes. Drain, let cool slightly, and peel.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and leeks are just beginning to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes longer. Add 1 cup cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Add milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes and remaining 1 cup cabbage, then coarsely mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.

Eat with corned beef and, as the irish say: “Taitneamh a bhaint as do chuid béile!”

Eat Local, Smart Cookies, and Seaweed!

Greetings Local Lorers!  Slowly, but surely, mid-winter is coming to an end!  The sun is up at 6am and sets after 5:30pm!  Wow, Spring will be here before....well, okay...let's not get carried away.  Winter will be with us for a while to come.

This in between season is the time for farmer and local foods conferences.  Last Friday, the Maine Farm to Institution Summit took place at the University of Maine campus in Belfast. Native Maine is super proud that we were a sponsor of this important event. Maine Farm to Institution (MEFTI) supports developing the supply of and increasing the consumption of Maine-grown food in Maine institutions in order to give more people access to healthy, local foods while also strengthening our local economy. 

The summit brought together over 200 people from different sectors including public schools, hospitals, farmers, fishermen, educators, college students, non-profits, government agencies, and distributors. Speaker panels and workshops were held throughout the day to strategize getting more Maine foods onto Maine plates. Sessions ranged from Meeting Your Farmer to Leveraging Food Waste Prevention.

One of my favorites was a panel discussion called “Setting Up Your Kitchens for Local Procurement and Processing”. Two school food directors and the food director at the Charleston Correctional Facility talked about the successes and perils of bringing more scratch cooking and local foods into their kitchens. It was informative and fun! The summit helped all participants see and feel the power of working together to achieve goals,

 SMCC Culinary Students are Wicked Smart!
Quick, name four of the five ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder. What term describes the meat from the cheek of a hog? What mushroom has a crunchy texture, an almost fruity flavor and is also known as a snow puff mushroom?

Five SMCC culinary students, Avery Anderson, Taylor Feehan, Mark Kurkjy, Jim LeBlanc and Nancy Piche, will answer similar questions when they compete in an upcoming “Jeopardy”-style competition testing their culinary knowledge. SMCC faculty chose these students based on their knowledge, skills and leadership in the classroom

The Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl will take place at the American Culinary Federation’s regional conference in Charlotte, N.C., on Feb. 26-27. A dozen teams (nine from the Northeast region and three from the Southeast) of culinary students will compete. Regional winners will go on to the national competition in New Orleans this summer.

Besides taking part in the Knowledge Bowl, students will hear from guest speakers, take part in workshops and have a chance to meet chefs from along the entire East Coast at networking events, said Kurkjy, the team’s captain. “I am extremely competitive, so just the opportunity to compete in the competition is a big draw for me,” he said

The entire student team is currently employed in the food industry. Each of the students are fund raising by reaching out to their employers and holding a number of on campus fundraisers that highlight their skills in the kitchen. If you would like to donate to the SMCC team, please contact Maureen LaSalle, Culinary Arts Chair at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Oh yeah, and if you’re curious, the answers to the above questions are cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and Szechuan pepper; jowl (or guanciale); and an enokitake mushroom.

Native Maine Approves of Ocean Approved!!
We are happy to announce that we are partnering with Ocean Approved Seaweed to offer our customers unique kelp products at value-oriented prices. Ocean Approved creates delicious and mild tasting kelp products with just a hint of ocean with no additives or dyes. All their products are naturally a vibrant green and ready to serve right out of the package. Everything is cut, blanched, and then quick frozen. All you have to do is thaw and serve or add right to a hot dish.

Farming kelp sustainably creates a highly nutritious vegetable without using arable farmland, fresh water, pesticides, or fertilizers. Ocean Approved harvests kelp not only from their own farms, but the farms of 9 other fisherman along the Maine coast. Their fresh frozen products are produced locally in a new 8,000 sqft. state of the art facility.  Native Maine stocks:
KELC-Kelp Cubes LOCAL 12x12 (144ct)
Move Over Kale, now you can supercharge your Smoothie with Maine's Own Kelp Cubes™. They have a mild, fresh flavor. They are easy to use and will not overpower the flavors of your smoothie - simply add 1 cube per serving to your blender and puree with other ingredients. The cubes are designed with portion and cost control in mind and work well in a broad spectrum of recipes.
KELSC-Kelp Slaw Cut LOCAL 10#
Mild in flavor, vibrant color, and a just right texture. Easy to use in sautés, salads, pesto's, sandwiches, pizzas, even desserts. Simply thaw, drain, and add to your hot or cold dish. Maine Kelp is the new, better tasting kale.
SEASALL-Salad Seaweed LOCAL 4x2.2#
SEASALLB- Salad Seaweed LOCAL 2.2#
Made with Maine kelp, carrots, honey, ginger, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and spices, Maine's own Seaweed Salad is 100% natural.

Cook This!

1 Ocean Approved kelp cube
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
½ cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut milk
1 Tbsp. mint
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. lime juice, fresh
Add all ingredients to a blender; puree until smooth. Drink and feel healthy! Delicous!

Eat your kelp, donate to the SMCC team, and support your local farms!  

A Goal Met, Food Research and Cold Comfort


I hope your New Year is starting off right!  Keep up with those resolutions!!

 And speaking of resolutions, about 2 years ago Sodexo was awarded the food service contract for our University of Maine school system. Part of the contract was the stipulation for 20% local food purchases by 2020. In order to achieve this, Sodexo created the Maine Course program that established an advisory board consisting of farmers, distributors, and other players in the local food scene. Sodexo stayed focused on that important goal; and, in 2017, not only beat the goal coming in at 23% local foods but did it 2 years early!!! Wow! Talk about commitment and follow through. If only we had the same determination with our resolutions!

Native Mainers were out and about this week! I attended the Pathway to the Plate event at King Middle school in Portland. 7th graders were tasked with figuring out where some of the foods that they eat in their cafeteria come from and how they get onto their plates. I went into the school and spoke to a very enthusiastic group researching carrots, bananas, tomatoes, and apples; so many questions! It was great! This Thursday the same students presented their research and findings in front of students, family, and invited guests. I was so impressed. The presentations were well thought out and informative; the students even did cost benefit analysis to determine if the school were purchasing foods competitively. Wow! Kudos to the students and teachers at King Middle!

Local in Winter: it’s impossible to eat locally as we approach the dead of winter, right? Wrong; we have loads of local options available at Native Maine during the coldest months! Meats, cheeses, dried beans and grains, leafy greens, mushrooms, apples, root veggie abound. And don’t forget all the local food manufacturers in Maine. Winter is a great time to check out Hurricane and Kamasouptra Soups, Blue Mango veggie burgers, Vintage potato chips, or Izzy’s cheesecakes. These are all great products your customers will love made right here in Maine!

And speaking of cold….
Colds are prevalent this time of year. Be sure to wash your hands, rest when you can, and try this yummy ginger-lemon tea to open up your sinuses, soothe your throat, and warm you up inside. Of course, you can always add a shot (or two) of bourbon to really make your troubles go away, but this tea is delicious on its own. We often have a big pot of it brewing on the stove at Native Maine.

For One Serving:

  • 1-inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 cup water (boiling)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed or Orchid Island
  • To taste, Native Maine brand local honey

How to Make it:

  • Grate or finely mince the ginger. Put into a large cup
  • Pour 1 cup boiling water over the ginger and let it steep for 3 minutes
  • Add lemon juice and honey to taste. Breathe deep, taste, enjoy!

Local You Know

At Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods we're working hard to connect our customers with the freshest, quality produce & specialty products available. We believe in supporting New England's vibrant and diverse food system by providing locally grown & processed food items alongside some of the world’s best specialty foods sourced from around the globe.

As one of New England’s leading produce wholesale distributors with 3000+ quality items in stock, our 2000+ New England customers have access to local, regional & hard to find specialty foods delivered frequently at very competitive prices. We are your neighbors; we are the Local You Know.

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