Chef breathes new life into North Yarmouth's 'Purple House'

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NORTH YARMOUTH — A cottage, a video rental store – the little building at the southern intersection of Routes 9 and 115 has played different roles over the decades.

Now, with a fresh coat and paint and extensive renovations, it will serve as North Yarmouth’s newest place to grab a bite to eat – such as a Montreal-style bagel – and a coffee.

When thinking of names for her new operation, owner and chef Krista Desjarlais went with the name the 544-square-foot building was already known by  – The Purple House.

“It was like, ‘why not just go with the tide, and let it be what it is,'” the New Gloucester resident said Dec. 3.

And with new purple paint on the formerly gray-blue structure with purple shutters, the building – expected to open for business mid-to-late January  – now truly lives up to its name.

Desjarlais has plenty of experience under her belt, having been a pastry chef in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Manhattan, and as a regular chef in Las Vegas. She operated Bresca, a primarily French and Italian restaurant on Middle Street in Portland, from 2006-2013.

Montreal-style bagels, one of the Purple House’s key offerings, are wood-fired, boiled in water with a bit of honey, and hand-formed, Desjarlais explained. They are also a little denser and chewier than New York-style bagels, she added.

“They’re their own thing,” Desjarlais noted.

Also anticipated for the menu will be naturally-fermented levain breads, baguettes, seeded breads, and a mishe, or larger loaf, she said. There will also be boulangerie-style pastries, thanks to the wood oven.

That oven calls the shots.

“We don’t have gas or propane; everything’s out of the wood oven,” Desjarlais explained. “So it’s all dictated by time, space and temperature. Every day the schedule of baking will be set by the oven.”

Roman-style pizzas, vegetables, sandwiches with smoked fish or smoked meat, and other savory morsels are also among Desjarlais’s anticipated midday offerings.

She plans to be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Purple House will also serve dinner one night a month.

“That will be very focused, and very special, where I can cook the way I have always wanted to cook,” Desjarlais said, adding that each dinner – multi-course or family style – will be different, and reserved with a purchased ticket.

Desjarlais closed Bresca in order to spend more time with her family and operate Bresca & the Honey Bee, a wood-fire grill operation at Outlet Beach in New Gloucester that offers its own ice cream and runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Desjarlais will continue to run both that operation and the Purple House.

The house often caught Desjarlais’ attention as she drove back and forth between New Gloucester and Portland.

“I thought, ‘wow, that place is so cute,'” she recalled, noting that before being a video store run by the late Linda Polkey, the building had been a cottage.

Time passed, and last winter Desjarlais was in talks to open a full-scale fine dining restaurant in Lewiston. A family illness caused her to switch directions, and the Purple House going up for sale opened a new door. She saw the potential in the small property, and closed on it in August.

The skylighted cafe may serve eight people at one table, with two to four stools at a large work table facing the woo-fired oven. It will also offer outdoor seating in the warmer months. Raised garden beds and flowers will decorate the side of the property abutting Route 9.

“I figured that would be comfortable for people, and comfortable for us to be able to serve,” Desjarlais said.

“Ultimately, I want it to be a place where families, and people who live around here, can come and stop in,” and read the paper, she added. “… Once we get the gardens and everything done, I feel like it will be about coming to the property … as much as it will be ‘oh, I love what she cooks there,’ too.

“Super delicious, affordable, but still excellent and quick.”

With Doc’s Cafe and Marketplace up Route 9 in Cumberland, and Stone’s Cafe & Bakery a stone’s throw away in North Yarmouth, “we’ll be completely different,” Desjarlais said. “We’ll be a different choice.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Longtime chef Krista Desjarlais is revamping a former cottage and video store into the Purple House, which may open in North Yarmouth mid-to-late January 2016.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.