That’s Chef Derek Ronspies one-word descriptor of how The Black Goat approaches food.
“We always try to do something that’s not the norm, but some kind of play on comfort food,” he said.
He clearly likes a personal challenge and approaches each day with an open mind to the menu.
“It’s probably self-punishment that I don’t do the same menu twice,” he said with a laugh. “I like it when people come in they’ll always know there is something new to try.”
Ronspies and his partner, Cat Biggar, both from Seattle, have only been in Midcoast Maine for two months. They have completely transformed the interior of the St. George Café right next to the St. George River into farm-to-table casual fine dining that heralds creativity as its central theme.
“We get fresh items from the local farms each week and that inspires what’s going to be on the menu that day,” said Biggar.
Ronspies, who owned a restaurant in Seattle before the pandemic, was doing underground supper clubs with Biggar in their home when they began looking at the East Coast as a place to start over. “We knew we wanted to be in the northeast; so we took a leap of faith, sold what we had, and drove cross-country until we found a place. The couple, which is renting the space for the next 18 months, is feeling out the area, from what customers want to the local produce, proteins, and seafood available.
The chalkboard handwritten menu changes frequently, depending on what Ronspies feels will spark his imagination.
Last week, the grand opening menu featured a variety of vegetarian dishes sourced from multiple local farms and a popular Asian BBQ doughnut appetizer. “We shredded up some of the ribs, hooked it up with a homemade Asian BBQ sauce then wrapped it in a donut,” said Ronspies.
The black walls, farmhouse tables, new pub area, and elegant wine bookcase give the former country café an updated urban feel. Each day the menu features specialties such as the Korn Dog—their spin on a “Korean Korn dog,” a hotdog and mozzarella cheese wrapped in dough, deep fried, and then rolled in crushed-up goldfish crackers.
During the weekdays, the Black Goat serves as a grab-and-go gourmet local market and wine bar with small plates from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Ronspies and Biggar spend their days prepping for the grab-and-go cooler, which contains: dips, spreads, salads, soups, wine, beer, and specialty cocktails. To go with that, they also offer bread, granola, and protein balls with almost everything made in-house or produced locally.
“We’re also going to start preparing ‘picnic baskets’ so that people can come in and grab items to take out for the day,” said Biggar. “Things like chicken salad sandwiches, something easy to take on a hike or on a boat trip down the St. George River,” added Ronspies.
But it’s their Maine supper clubs, with communal dining that pairs up neighbors and strangers, that they’re both going to throw their creative energy into. “This is the part we love the best,” he said.
“It’s more than five courses and you will definitely be fed,” said Biggar.
Brunch will also be on their calendar going forward with a fun twist on eggs Benedict, such as a poached egg on a duck fat masa cake, Greener Days Farm crispy skin pork belly with an orange-tomato Hollandaise sauce, Chimichurri, and Syrian spice, za'atar collard greens.
They’ve been open nearly a month and report great support from the community. “A lot of locals came in and shared some love,” said Ronspies.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org