The bounty of summertime dining from dinner in the farm fields, to lobster in the rough to a mountainside outpost for the best of Maine crops
The line was out the door at Moody’s, a typical summer crush at this iconic diner on Route 1 in Waldoboro. I didn’t have the patience to wait. So we drove on with two dogs in the car who probably needed a pit stop. But just a mile north was Captain’s Fresh Idea Wicked Good Food (3515 Atlantic Hwy., Waldoboro), ostensibly one of those clam joints, and we pulled in. The place was not crowded and the woman behind the counter greeted us warmly. I said something about having two grumpy dogs left in the car (windows open) and she said we could bring them in if we went to the open porch in the back.
We loved the two fried full-belly clam dinners and the restaurant’s housemade lemonade—everything was delicious and fresh and I’ve made it a regular stop ever since.
It’s often a familiar scenario about Maine’s seasonal restaurants that cater to the crowds from May into the fall. I have my favorites, and herewith are three that I look forward to going in the summer.
The Well at Jordan’s Farm is a unique dining outpost in this part-suburban farm area in the seaside town of Cape Elizabeth. Just a few miles from downtown Portland, it seems like it’s in a far-off world of peace and serenity—and great food. It’s been written about a lot lately, but ever since it opened a few years ago I’ve been a regular, and it has never disappointed.
The chef and owner is Jason Williams, a highly regarded local chef who was once sous chef at Back Bay Grill. He likes running his own show, and he does so with gusto–a great seasonal restaurant open from early June through early fall. He’s received a lot of attention in recent years and it’s all well deserved.
This is a true farm-to-table establishment—dinner in a gazebo set in a farm field with the soft ocean breezes wafting over the open meadows. Everything is made in house from provender that’s literally out the back door or nearby farms. Preparations are simple, and the highlight of fresh ingredients prevails more than fancy sauces or the charisma of small plate dining.
Dinner began with a salad of mixed lettuces that were so fresh you could almost taste the sea mist in the leaves. It was touched with blue cheese, a red-wine vinaigrette, lardoons of bacon and a runny soft-boiled egg that added a richness to the dressing.
Then grilled Harris Farm veal was perfectly done medallions, lightly seasoned and served over herb-scented canellini beans, Swiss chard, caramelized onions and tomato–a dish of pure simplicity and goodness, everything so carefully prepared.
My friend had pan-seared cod—snow white and flakey–over mushroom risotto, another dish of sublime flavors. Dessert is Williams’ signature donut—a puff of fried dough coated in sugar nestled on a bed of macerated local strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. The menu changes often, reflecting seasonal changes, and new this year is a$50 tasting menu of five courses.
On a trip last week to Rockland, which I’ll write about more in a Friday dining review, I stopped stop at one of the area’s great lobster pounds. My two favorites on the St. George Peninsula are Miller’s Lobster and Waterman’s Beach Lobster. I chose Waterman’s because it has a great beach which you can repair to after eating. Both, however, have great seaside settings.
The menu is very simple: steamed clams, lobster, crabmeat and such—no fried food of any kind. I chose the lobster roll. Sitting at a picnic table with a glorious view over Muscle Ridge and Muscungous Bay beyond, I was disappointed in the lobster roll presentation. Out came a flat hamburger bun and a bag of chips. I lifted up the top piece of bun and saw an ordinary looking salad of lobster with mayonnaise. However, looks can be deceiving. And it turned out to be one of the best lobster rolls in recent memory. What set it apart was the freshness of the lobster. This was literally just handpicked from lobsters straight off the boat. It was briny and sweet—utterly delicious. Forget about other claims of best lobster roll. This was, in my book, the best.
While we have no shortage in Maine of farmers’ markets and farm stores, one of the best around is Beth’s Farm Market in the hills of Western Road off Route 90 in Warren. I’ve been going there since it was just a lean-to farm stand and have watched it grow over the years. Beth is the first to come out with the season’s strawberries, which she grows on raised beds, which allow for early development. She cultivates over 20 varieties including ever-bearing, which grow into the fall. But everything is superb there. From the breads and biscuits made in their kitchen to the finest greens and produce. Last week she had just-picked shell peas and dug-up new red potatoes. She also had an unusual variety of chard called Golden Eldorado, with beautifully golden stems. Strawberries were aplenty as well as her own hoop-house tomatoes, lettuces and lots of fruits and vegetables that were preserved.
The market stays open through the holidays, and it remains one of those great old-fashioned farm stores where everything is so wholesome and good.