It was a fun, food-filled weekend on this charming island in the midcoast, where we enjoyed everything from deep-fried lobster to locally farmed oysters.
In theory I should have filled my ancient Vuitton valise with food works for a fine dining weekend away: locally sourced flatware for travel and sustainably harvested and heirloom foods in abundance. But in such a rush I was to get going I nearly forgot the whole kit and caboodle as though these important food-movement wares belonged to someone else.
Don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t about to commit culinary hari-kari, dying on the vine and not eating local. Heaven knows I won’t gorge on genetically engineered folderol. But rather this weekend away I might attempt to rediscover fresh local food for what it is.
Do you remember those three little words — fresh local food — from a more innocent time? Locavore hadn’t entered Webster’s (talk about a word that just doesn’t roll off the tongue) and feta was still a cheese for foreigners.
My first stop before heading to Southport Island was the Portland farmer’s market for my stash of fresh food, the sustenance of the good life that would sustain me upon my return.
At 7:10 am the Deering Oaks parking area was already lined with cars. I stopped by Uncle’s farm stand to get my fix of tart cherries. I wonder now if his trees are sprayed or had I acquired the organic variety? Hmmm. No, bro, the sign didn’t say.
New potatoes are finally in the markets — not abundantly yet. But a few farmers are digging them up now. I spied a box of crimson reds and purple in different sizes and bought two, one for myself and the other for my weekend hosts.
Dandelion Spring had string beans in yellow, purple and green and I scooped up a pound to cook up a stew with potatoes and smoked ham hocks later in the week.
First I had to make the cherry pie, which I promised to bring. I had prepared the dough the day before and the cherries were macerating in sugar, lemon juice and almond extract. Assembling and baking was quick and easy.
Chores done and on the road, the next stop was the gas station off the Brunswick Exit 28. I loaded up on a bottle of Poland Spring water to wash down a bag of honeyed cashews.
About an hour later, after crawling through Wiscasset”s usual traffic jam, I arrived at the cottage that sits so cozily on a picturesque harbor.
“I’m famished,” I said to my hosts and “I want simple food this weekend,” I announced.
Off we went to the Trevett Country Store, a fixture in these parts and about as old fashioned as it gets. It overlooks the manually operated swing bridge connecting Sawyers and Barter islands. They’re famous for their fried haddock sandwich and fried clams. Sitting at picnic tables overlooking the water and funny little bridge it was a divine lunch— simple, fresh and delicious.
For dinner that evening in downtown Boothbay Harbor we stumbled upon the summer parade of tourists. My hosts love McSeagulls on the water for its simple, family style food.
Fried lobster is a specialty of the house. I took a chance. It actually was pretty good, the meat remained juicy and moist and the lobster tasted so fresh. I wouldn’t have it ever again probably but it was an interesting dish. My hosts chose prime rib and the crab cakes, hefty portions that looked and tasted so good. The menu is eight pages deep filled with fried, grilled and breaded foods from fish to beef to chicken to lobster — American fare, nothing fancy, barely local but a nice change of pace. Back to the cottage we had the sour cherry pie topped with Gifford’s old-fashioned vanilla ice cream.
The next day we made the circuit to assemble the ingredients for an old-fashioned lobster bake: Off to Glidden Point Farm in Edgecomb for oysters; Pinkham’s Seafood on the River Road in Boothbay for clams and Atlantic Edge for lobster on the docks of Boothbay Harbor.
We had a Premier Cru Chablis (procured from the well-stocked Southport General Store) with the oysters and lobster boil with clams, corn, potatoes and lobster. The menu was pure Maine — fresh, local food enjoyed simply as a chilly wind drifted off the ocean and the evening called for sweaters and a drink or two more to keep it cozy on Cozy Harbor.