‘Eating in Maine’, a native’s perspective
ROCKLAND — Malcolm Bedell hopes to open his ‘Wich Please sandwich wagon May 15 in Rockland’s Buoy Park, provided that public opinion at the April 13 City Council meeting doesn’t dissuade councilors from allowing a third vendor at that location behind the police station.
“Buoy Park is perfect,” he said. “I can get the summer people, it can be a great place for locals who work downtown to walk to, and it’s a great place for kids to go. Buoy Park is just a great place to sit and hang out.”
Bedell mentioned his ‘Wich Please venture to an audience at the Rockland Public Library Tuesday, March 31 during his book talk on Eating in Maine, a semi-recipe, semi-food inspired memoir with essays and restaurant reviews co-authored by his wife, Jillian. The restaurant business is one of the many projects Malcolm and Jillian are working on, and talk about in their Fromaway.com blog.
‘Wich Please will sell one breakfast item, which will be a rendition of Bedell’s idea of the perfect breakfast sandwich. The lunch menu, which will change every two months, will include three or four sandwiches with rotating specials.
The specialty lunch item at the debut is to be curry-brined grilled chicken breast with fennel and celery slaw. All sandwiches will cost around $7.
Bedell’s sales will derive from a concession trailer measuring 8-feet by 10-feet, with a loaded kitchen, a 40-pound deep fryer, grill and refrigeration unit.
“Anything I need to make anything I want, basically,” said Bedell.
Bedell is from Tenants Harbor and remembers the days of Bonanza, Chuckwagon restaurant, buying lobster rolls at the gas station, and Dave’s restaurant, “watching the dim room full of flannel-clad grownups with thick accents, who somehow managed to smoke cigarettes and stack empty steamer clam shells on their plates at the same time.”
He remembers traveling to Portland for upper-scale dining, but mostly he recalls just eating at home.
It wasn’t until he and Jillian lived in Mexico for four years that their interest in food was piqued.
“If you want a water-boiled New York bagel, you’re not finding it on the Yucatan Peninsula,” Bedell said.
If they wanted any of the American foods not found south of the border, they had to learn how to cook. Their blog about living in Mexico slowly turned into a food blog with friends and family offering recipes and reading about the results.
Upon return to the U.S., they started fromaway.com, reviewing some of the unique, under-recognized venues from Portland to Calais.
A few of the restaurants reviewed were Long Grain, Slipway, Cod End, Suzuki, Wass’s, and Jillian’s experience aboard the Angelique.
While Malcolm and Jillian learned to cook, they also learned to improve their blog by taking better food pictures, and cross-linking their site with social media sources such as Facebook and Pintrest. Soon Bon Appetite and other magazines were asking to republish their pictures. Soon the Bedells were considered professionals in the food industry.
On a whim, Bedell began entering cooking contests, and winning.
“There was a sausage contest that got me two grand and two years of sausage coming in the mail every month,” said Bedell.
Last November in California, Bedell started a Kickstarter campaign, asking for $25,000 to help start the new business, ‘Wich Please. Within 30 days, 400 people, including Midcoast locals, contributed almost $30,000.
Soon, perhaps, another foodie will publish a critique of Bedell’s chicken curry with the same passion as Bedell ’s own Love Letter to a Meatball Sandwich.