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New pop-up restaurant in Bangor area highlights indigenous cuisine

Jasmine Tintor bakes blue corn minis- a bite-sized pancake puff- on a Japanese squid grill at Katahdin Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant featuring indigenous cuisine in Veazie.
Kaitlyn Budion
/
Maine Public
Jasmine Tintor bakes blue corn minis- a bite-sized pancake puff- on a Japanese squid grill at Katahdin Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant featuring indigenous cuisine in Veazie.

It's Thursday morning in Veazie, and at the pop-up restaurant Katahdin Kitchen, food prep for the day is well underway in the already hot, cramped kitchen.

This is a three person operation: Zachary Neptune and Orion Tintor are chefs, and Orion's partner Jasmine Tintor is the baker, who works the front of the house.

While two chefs start to cook squash and pork for the day's menu, Jasmine is assessing the batter for blue corn minis — bite-sized pancake puffs with an assortment of toppings.

"So right now what I'm doing is I'm hydrating the corn," Jasmine says. "So I'm like checking, I'll mix it a little bit and try to see the flow from the batter."

She adds more water to the mixture, whisking it in, and then letting it sit.

"You can tell it was flowing like, five minutes ago, now look, it's starting to become more lumpy again," she says.

Orion Tintor(left), Zachary Neptune and Jasmine Tintor(right), in the kitchen at their pop-up restaurant Katahdin Kitchen in Veazie.
Kaitlyn Budion
/
Maine Public
Orion Tintor(left), Zachary Neptune and Jasmine Tintor(right), in the kitchen at their pop-up restaurant Katahdin Kitchen in Veazie.

As the minis begin to bake, a light, almost maple syrup smell fills the kitchen. That's from the Abenaki flint corn, Jasmine says, a variety that is denser and not as sweet as corn from the grocery store.

"That corn is out of this world," Orion says. "That corn is better than anything you'll find in the stores because it's real."

It's a lot of work for just one dish on the menu. But for Neptune and the Tintors, this venture is about more than just food. It's about food sovereignty, culture and creating a community space.

"It's really important for us as indigenous folks to be connected with our food, even more so I think, because it was so like systematically taken away from us for so long," Neptune says.

A descendent of the Penobscot Nation, Neptune says he didn't feel particularly connected to indigenous foods growing up.

But Jasmine, a citizen of the Penobscot Nation, has known Neptune since they were kids, and had a very different experience. She recalls foraging with her grandmother for seasonal foods like fiddlehead ferns, which have also been on the restaurant's menu.

"From eight years old, onward, we'd go fiddle heading every spring," Jasmine says. "And that's been a celebration, like, you know, going with my aunts to our fiddlehead patch and cleaning them off together."

Chefs Orion Tintor(left) and Zachary Neptune working at Katahdin Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Veazie.
Kaitlyn Budion
/
Maine Public
Chefs Orion Tintor(left) and Zachary Neptune working at Katahdin Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Veazie.

The idea of a business focused on indigenous food has always floated around with the trio, and when they learned about the opening for a pop-up space in Veazie, plans came together quickly.

Developing the menu was a challenge, Neptune says, to find traditional ingredients and dishes and give them a modern twist.

"Food has always been so important to our culture, and, you know, to nourishing our bodies, and you can't find anything about it anymore," Neptune says.

But it's been rewarding, Orion says, because it's never been just a business to them.

"We're not trying to make any money, we just want the experience and we want the community around it, and that's exactly what it's done so far," Orion says.

They've only been open for about two months, but the response has been amazing, Neptune says. They get messages from customers sharing recipes, and asking about future menu changes. The restaurant already has regulars, like Lokotah Sanborn, who grew up with Jasmine and Neptune.

"I've only missed one week I think since it opened, I make it a plan to come out every week," Sanborn says.

Sanborn says he enjoys the unique dishes, that fuse indigenous ingredients with dishes from other cultures.

"There's a lot of foods that are native to here that are traditional foods like corn and beans and squash, of course, but never kind of catered in this way," Sanborn says.

Jasmine Tintor speaks with Frances Soctomah in the front of Katahdin Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Veazie featuring indigenous cuisine.
Kaitlyn Budion
/
Maine Public
Jasmine Tintor speaks with Frances Soctomah in the front of Katahdin Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Veazie featuring indigenous cuisine.

Frances Soctomah, a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, is a big fan of the Indian tacos and the Sumac Salmon, with a molasses barbecue sauce and polenta. Her grandmother was a well-known caterer, Soctomah says, and after she found out about the restaurant on Facebook, she has been trading fiddlehead recipes with Jasmine.

"There are a lot of different ingredients involved in it, but it still feels like home," Soctomah says. "It still has that it's still grounded in our foods and I love that."

Looking ahead, Neptune says the trio might try to get a food truck and expand hours. But for now they are working to establish the restaurant and roll out their next seasonal menu.

Katahdin Kitchen is open 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, at 1492 State Street, Veazie.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.

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