A recent lunch made by Great Falls Delivery Cafe in Lewiston included a bacon, broccoli, onion and cheddar cheese quiche, split pea and ham soup, and a fresh-cut fruit salad.
You might say Jessica Fortin is a free spirit. With a desire to help others, she studied social work in college. After two depressing internships, she left school and went to work in a corporate job. Her last gig lasted for six years and although she said the employer was a “good company to work for,” she didn’t enjoy the work.
Describing herself as a person who does things in a “gung-ho fashion,” she stepped off the edge of job security and quit her job.
Having three dogs of her own, she considered a doggie day care. But the barking life wasn’t her path of joy.
Then, last November, she went out to dinner with a group of friends. One of them asked Fortin to make lunches for her and her children. Fortin bought bento boxes (the Japanese equivalent of a portioned lunch box) and she started making lunches. The lunches were popular and other friends started asking for lunch. A passionate self-taught cook, Fortin said she was “having a good time doing it.”
But reality dawned quickly. “You can feed your one friend, but you can’t feed your 100 customers out of your home kitchen,” said Fortin. So she took the plunge and leased spaced on Sabattus Street. With the help and encouragement of her boyfriend, they transformed the space into a commercial kitchen. And although reinvention is not without stress, she said, “This is a different stress. Being up until 10 p.m. cooking is something I enjoy.”
For almost a year now, Fortin has been dishing up healthy lunches four days a week and delivering them to customers in L-A. What started with a handful of bento boxes has blossomed into up to 100 lunches a week by her Great Falls Delivery Cafe.
‘Stepping off the edge’
Fortin creates her weekly menu after finishing her Thursday deliveries and posts it to Facebook. Preferring to keep her vendors as local as possible, she buys produce from Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce. Beef comes from Roebucks Angus in Turner. Fortin also visits neighboring Nezinscot Farm for their pickles and she’s working with another Turner farm to supply her with chicken. Local restaurants including Marche and Fishbones inspire her when she’s not cooking because they are “stepping off the edge a little bit” with their menus.
Fortin generally delivers lunch four days a week. A typical weekly menu might include entrees like a baked chicken breast, pulled pork soft tacos, beef stroganoff with German red cabbage, and shrimp and vegetable pasta. Each meal includes soup and a salad.
Fortin is flexible and can make substitutions and vegetarian options with advance notice. She makes her creamed soups gluten-free by thickening them with tapioca flour instead of a flour roux. Noodle soups are cooked without the noodles and customers can request they be left out. Generally, meals don’t include dessert because Fortin says she’s not a baker; occasionally she’ll make some cookies or bars to surprise her customers.
The cost: $7 per meal, delivered to your door. Fortin accepts cash and PayPal.
Sheila Twitchell, one of Fortin’s earliest customers, said Fortin’s meals are “always balanced, healthy and original. Lunch has become my favorite meal of the day. It’s like having a happy surprise delivered to your work every day. I just order weekly and don’t check the menu because I trust her food will be great. It gets me out of my comfort zone, and to date I have never been disappointed.”
Her customer base runs the gamut from people who live alone, people who work from home, and businesses. She also offers a variety of catering options upon request.
Does she see herself doing this for a while? “Yes, absolutely” she said. The response has been steady and reassuring. Fortin admitted it’s tempting to want to see exponential growth every week, but “I don’t want to grow too fast and not be able to handle it.” She plans to hire some staff in the near future.
Julie-Ann Baumer writes, bakes Cheez-its and gardens from her home in Lisbon Falls. Read her blog www.julieannbaumer.com or follow her on twitter @auntotomato.
Great Falls Delivery Cafe
Jessica Fortin, 0wner
Or view the menu and order on Face book
The fruit salad from Great Falls Delivery Cafe is freshly made.
My Great Falls Delivery Cafe experience
By Julie-Ann Baumer, Special to the Sun Journal
When I read about the Great Falls Delivery Cafe a few weeks ago, I was disappointed I lived outside the Lewiston-Auburn delivery radius. I’ve often called the long stretch of Route 196 between Lisbon and Lewiston my own personal “food desert.” But sampling the food I write about is important.
So I was overjoyed when Jessica Fortin told me she regularly delivered to the Liberty Mutual building in South Lewiston. For four days, I traveled the barren food desert to meet Fortin and pick up my lunch. By Friday, the large corporate building near the turnpike overpass had become my personal oasis and a refreshing break from my work routine. Here are the hearty and surprising lunches I enjoyed, with a few comments.
Tuesday was Cajun grilled shrimp with cilantro and black bean rice. There was a lot of shrimp! I have to admit, I was lazy and didn’t microwave it and found it to be delicious just the way it was. I saved the fruit salad for my afternoon snack and added some yogurt on top. The chili I saved for dinner, and it was just spicy enough for my taste.
On Wednesday, it was slow-simmered Bolognese sauce over pasta with Italian bread, a green salad and chicken parmesan soup, plus a surprise rice krispies square. Truth: I ate the dessert first, then savored the pasta and salad. I saved the soup for dinner and found it to be hearty and filling with my salad.
Thursday’s lunch was a fun change of pace, with big squares of chicken stir-fried Mongolian style. The chicken was packaged with large crispy lettuce leaves. Before eating this lunch, I tossed the chicken quickly in a hot pan to warm it up and then wrapped up two or three chunks in a lettuce leave. Almost like P.F. Chang’s! I saved the chicken noodle soup for my afternoon snack and then ate the fruit salad for breakfast on Friday.
Each lunch was a tasty surprise, but Friday’s menu knocked me out: Greek feta meatballs served with tomato, cucumber and tzatziki sauce on flatbread. The feta meatballs were a tasty replacement for the mystery meat often used in the Greek food cart favorite, the Gyro. The homemade naan flatbread had a good consistency. I didn’t eat my wrapped sandwich until later in the evening and the naan wasn’t soggy after sitting in my refrigerator all afternoon. The tzatziki sauce was so tasty, and I made a batch over the weekend.
I enjoyed the variety of foods delivered over the week, the $7 per lunch price tag was more than reasonable considering the quality, quantity and variety. Plus, if you live in Lewiston-Auburn you can have it delivered to you! I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special mention of the fruit salads delivered almost every day with the lunches. Cubes of melon rotated with a variety of options; strawberries and tangerine slices one day, chunks of fresh pineapple and blackberries another. If you cook at all you know how quickly fruit oxidizes, making “fresh” synonymous with “art.”
Finally, Fortin was on time for each day’s delivery and did not arrive without a smile.
Jessica Fortin, owner of Great Falls Delivery Cafe, makes and delivers up to 100 lunches to people in Lewiston-Auburn each week.
I asked Jessica Fortin if she could share a recipe with me; she wanted to oblige but admitted that most of her recipes were for large portions and wouldn’t easily translate for the home cook. She did, however, provide me with her take on “Cheez-it Crackers,” which she will occasionally bake as a surprise item.
1 cup flour, plus additional for rolling the dough
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-3 tablespoons almond milk
Equipment: food processor, toothpick, rolling pin, parchment paper
Pulse all the ingredients except the almond milk until it’s crumbly. Add almond milk one spoonful at a time and continue to pulse. Remove from the food processor, shape into a ball and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour.
When dough is chilled, roll out on parchment paper. Roll the dough thin, about 1/8-inch thick. Using a pastry cutter, cut the dough into equal-size squares. But don’t make yourself crazy. (If you want them to look like “real” Cheez-its, poke a hole in the center of each square.)
Bake them for 18-20 minutes in a 350-degree oven. They should be brown on the top and bottom.
You’ll want to eat them immediately, but let them cool and then enjoy!