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September 15, 2023

Friday Food Insider Notebook: awards, apples, coffee and closings

Kate McAleer in chocolate shop File photo / Jim Neuger Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby Chocolate, at the Bixby Chocolate Café.

Bixby Chocolate, a Rockland maker of organic chocolate bars, has won three prestigious International Chocolate Awards.

The company, launched in 2011 by Kate McAleer — a Mainebiz 2022 Women to Watch — specializes in bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing and employs 15 people.

The products are manufactured in a 125-year-old former ice plant, on the working waterfront in Rockland. Bixby Chocolate also collaborates on products with other Maine companies such as Split Rock Distillery, Maine Grains and Allagash Brewing Co.

The International Chocolate Awards, presented annually by the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting, are touted as the world's largest chocolate product competition. 

"We are honored to receive these esteemed awards from the International Chocolate Awards,” said McAleer. “It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team, as well as our commitment to creating unique, high-quality chocolates. We are proud to represent Maine on the global stage of fine chocolate production."

This isn't the first honor for the chocolate company. Bixby has won several pitch competitions since its founding, and this year has already claimed a national Good Food Award and three Specialty Food Association Sofi Awards.

The awards

Courtesy / Kate McAleer
Belize 70% Dark Chocolate Bar

The International Chocolate Awards honored the Maine company with the following.

Silver Award for Belize 70% Dark Chocolate Bar. The bar captivated the judges with its rich and complex flavor profile. The bar is made from cacao beans sourced from Belize. The judges said the bar boasts a harmonious balance of intensity and smoothness. 

Courtesy / Kate McAleer
Maine Grains Oat Milk Bar

Silver Award for Maine Grains Oat Milk Bar. The Maine Grains Oat Milk Bar exemplifies the company's commitment to sustainable and locally sourced ingredients. McAleer partners with Maine Grains in Skowhegan on the product.

Courtesy / Kate McAleer
Split Rock Bourbon Bar 70% Dark Chocolate

Bronze Award for Split Rock Bourbon Bar 70% Dark Chocolate. The Split Rock Bourbon Bar is a 70% dark chocolate infused with the rich, nuanced flavors of Split Rock Distilling's bourbon. The bar showcases the mastery in combining premium ingredients, resulting in "a harmonious fusion of chocolate and bourbon that captivates the senses."

Back at Bixby

Building facade
File photo / Jim Neuger
The Paul J. Schupf Art Center in Waterville.

In December, Bixby opened a chocolate café and retail shop in Waterville in the Paul J. Schupf Center at 93 Main St. The chocolate counter offers grab-and-go options ranging from Bixby's "Bixenta" brand of coffee and chocolate drinks along with winter bon-bons and toffee. 

“The Waterville location has prepared beverages as well as baked goods,” said McAleer. “Our Chocolate Chai has become a signature drink in Waterville and among Colby Students.” 

McAleer told Mainebiz that she is continuously exploring new opportunities for expanding sales. She also has some collaborations in the works. 

“We are, as we speak, launching single-origin Dominican Republic Ganache Dark Chocolate and Single Origin Dominican Republic Milk Chocolate Ganache Truffles — this means the chocolate is entirely made with one type of cocoa bean,” said McAleer.

Beloved French restaurant closing

Earlier this summer, the owners of the French bistro Petite Jacqueline said they hoped to find a buyer to keep the restaurant going. But, without an apparent buyer, in a recent social media post the owners indicated plans only to operate through the end of the month.  

Photo / Alexis Wells
Petite Jacqueline, in Portland's Old Port, is closing.

“As of now we plan to continue to operate through September and hope that someone that is equally as passionate about French food and culture will continue our vision,” the couple recently wrote in a post to the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Owners Michelle and Steve Corry gave several reasons for their decision to sell, including rising operational costs, equipment issues, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to spend more time with their children.

"We are extremely grateful to our customers who have been incredibly supportive over the past 12 years," the couple said. "We will miss the daily interaction with our friends of Bistro PJ and especially our team some of whom have been with us for many years."

Commercial real estate company Porta & Co. has the spot listed as a turn-key restaurant for lease. The space is 2,100 square-feet and is in the heart of Portland's Old Port. 

Breaking ground

PM Construction Co. plans to break ground on Ziggi's Coffee shop on U.S.  Route 1 in Saco later this month. 

At a planning board meeting on April 3, the town approved a Ziggi’s Coffee, a franchise brand that started in Longmont, Colo. It’s believed to be the first Ziggi’s in Maine. The site will be a new build, 840 square feet, with a drive-through with a walk-up window and seasonal outdoor seating, according to planning board documents.  The coffee shop will be at 991 Portland Road, near the border of Saco and Scarborough. 

Apple season is here

Apple picking season is finally here so grab your pumpkin spice latte and head to the orchards. Apple picking season begins in August and is in full swing from early September to late October. 

On Sunday, the State Pomological Society will hold the 23rd annual Maine Apple Sunday. 

Here is a list of participating orchards:

  • Bailey's Orchard in Whitefield
  • Boothby's Orchard and Winery in Livermore
  • Elwell Farm Orchard and Gallery in Monroe
  • Hansel's Orchard in North Yarmouth
  • Kents Hill Orchard in Kents Hill
  • Libby and Sons U-Picks in Limerick
  • McDougal Orchards in Sanford
  • Mullis Orchards in Corinna
  • North Star Orchards in Madison
  • Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner
  • Romac Orchard in Acton
  • Sparrowhawk Orchard in Bethel
  • Spillers in Wells
  • Sweetser's Apple Barrel and Orchard in Cumberland
  • The Apple Farm in Fairfield.

For more information about the event, check out the Maine Pomological Society

What is your go-to apple recipe? The Mainebiz Food Insider wants to know! Contact Alexis Wells at

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