Friday, August 20, 2010

And Back Again

Ten days in Maine. So what have I learned?

While other areas along the Eastern seaboard contemplate five-year lobstering moratoriums due to depleted fisheries, Maine has an abundance, likely largely due to forward-thinking, stock-preserving industry self-regulation which has been incorporated into state law since 1933. Healthy supply and lower demand due to the economy have driven prices down: Maine lobster retails for as low as $3.99 a pound - good for consumers, tough for lobsterers. This is actually an improvement for the industry from last year, when prices were so low, and tempers so high, that some lobsterers resorted to gunfire to settle disputes over rules both written and unwritten. Even if not priced like a luxury item, it still tastes like one.

The whole farm-to-table (or ocean-to-table) thing has taken hold quite nicely in Maine. Indeed, one gets the sense that it's not seen so much as a current trend as just the way things always were and continue to be done. Aside from the ubiquitous lobster, wild blueberries and "native" sweet corn dotted both roadside stands and menus throughout our travels along the coast. We ate at multiple places that literally had their own farms supplying produce, and of course there are still lobster docks where the buggers go pretty much straight from the boat to the boiling pot. Though I suspect eating seasonally and locally may be a lot more interesting this time of year than the dead of winter.

That kind of tradition and independence manifests in other ways too. Maine turned out to be quite an off the grid experience, as cellphone reception apparently is considered to be highly overrated by the locals, the 3G variety basically unheard of, and wi-fi networks functioning, as often as not, about as effectively as they would have been a hundred years ago when the places we were staying in were built.

Some of the more memorable tastes from our trip: blueberry-blackberry shortbread with sweet corn ice cream at Fore Street in Portland; the fries at Duckfat; Pemaquid Point oysters, on the half shell at Street and Company, wood oven roasted with chanterelles, corn and coriander butter at Primo in Rockland; tomatoes from the Squire Tarbox Organic Farm; a whoopie pie at Moody's Diner; General Tso's sweetbreads with ramen noodles and bacon dashi at The Edge in Lincolnville; Thai chili ice cream from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. More details to come - I've got my work cut out for me.

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