We asked some Maine chefs and food artisans what they would feed President Obama if they had the chance. Their answers ranged from fun, casual foods to nine-course meals. Here’s what they had to say:
ROB EVANS, OWNER, DUCKFAT, PORTLAND
“Duckfat is a sustainable small business that supports local agriculture and business. Our fries are made from organic Maine potatoes, we recycle 90 percent of our waste, and a cone of fries would leave President Obama one hand free to greet Portland.”
DEAN BINGHAM, OWNER, DEAN’S SWEETS, PORTLAND
“We’ve known for several years that the president has a fondness for salt caramels from a particular western chocolatier. (Editor’s note: Bingham is referring to Fran’s Smoked Sea Salt Caramels in milk chocolate from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle.) About a year ago, we were able to get a box of our Maine Sea Salt Caramels as far as a Cabinet meeting, with the assistance of a friend and Cabinet member. We understand that the Cabinet members greatly enjoyed them, but unfortunately, the president was not present. Our selection would be our Maine Sea Salt Caramels, milk chocolate for the president and dark chocolate for Michelle Obama, knowing that they have differing tastes in chocolate. And we’d certainly include enough for the girls.”
MITCH KALDROVICH, EXECUTIVE CHEF, SEA GLASS RESTAURANT AT INN BY THE SEA, CAPE ELIZABETH
“I have chosen a true celebration of Maine fare for the president, starting with a creamy smooth lobster bisque and mini lobster roll — a delectable salute to Maine’s most notable crustacean and the state’s proud tradition of lobstering.
“For the appetizer, delicate Maine scallops are paired with pureed parsnips from Cape Elizabeth’s Alewives Brook Farm.
“The entree is a light, flaky day boat catch, gulf of Maine silver hake. It is a delicious alternative to haddock or cod, and is abundant in the cold clean waters of the gulf of Maine. Silver hake has been identified by local fisherman and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute as under-utilized. Serving these lesser-known species helps sustain Maine fishermen and the health of the gulf of Maine. The silver hake is paired with a sweet local corn succotash.
“For a captivating dessert, our local apple crostado with handmade gelato is finished with a touch of Maine maple cider syrup.
“All local, and all so healthy and light — even Michelle Obama would approve!”
WILLIAM BENNER, EXECUTIVE CHEF, BLACK POINT INN, SCARBOROUGH
Benner said he would serve the president Maine lobster, but in the form of a lobster strudel he makes at the inn. This would spare the leader of the free world the indignity of wearing a lobster bib and splattering his suit with lobster goo. The dish consists of lobster in puff pastry dough with a Newburg sauce.
“The way you cut it, it winds up looking like a lobster tail,” Benner said. “And then you brush it with an egg wash, bake in the oven — perfect. We serve that with a little grilled corn salsa and some red bliss potatoes, and then a little bit of extra Newburg sauce on the plate as well. That would be one I would definitely love for him to try. A nice oaky chardonnay would go perfectly with that.”
DAVID CONNOLLY, EXECUTIVE CHEF, OLD PORT SEA GRILL, PORTLAND
Connolly has actually fed President Obama before, when Connolly was sous chef at Spiaggia in Chicago.
“He came quite a bit just before he was president,” Connolly said.
Connolly never got to meet Obama. The staff could see him in the restaurant dining with his wife whenever the couple came in, but “we kept it as discreet as possible.”
So what would Connolly cook for the president? He says he would try his best to re-create a dish that Obama ordered often and appeared to love.
“His favorite thing was a scallop with guanciale, which is pork jowl, and cannellini beans, usually imported from Italy.” Connolly said. “That was the thing he always loved to eat every time he went there.”
DAVID TURIN, CHEF/OWNER, DAVID’S, PORTLAND
Turin said the first lady (who isn’t scheduled to attend either fundraiser on Friday) speaks French and has a penchant for French food, so his menu would be an inspired version of Maine foods meet French cooking.
“Hopefully, they would allow me to cook nine courses, and so it might go something like this”:
Amuse: Pepper-seared salmon “sashimi” in lobster beurre rouge, crispy local Norwiss potato and micro basil granny apple slaw. (Kate’s Homemade Butter, Green Thumb potato, Micromania micros).
Appetizer: Duo of seared foie gras and magret duck breast on local “duck honey” brioche, dried cherry gastrique and sun shoot salad. (Hudson Valley duck, Streaked Mountain honey, brioche from Standard Baking, shoots from Olivia’s Garden).
Fish: Butter-poached lobster on crispy chanterelle risotto cake with citrus truffle micro greens. (Mike Libby Lobster, Micromania micros, locally foraged mushrooms).
Intermezzo: Raspberry, apple sorbet with frozen basil-infused vodka. (Goss Berry Farm and Ricker Hill Farm cider, Olivia’s Garden basil).
Meat: Lamb saddle with spring parsnip, roasted beet hash, oven-dried tomato, braised spinach and intense lamb bordelaise with spring morel mushrooms. (Belanger’s parsnip, beets from Nature’s Circle Farm, spinach from Two Farmers Farm, tomatoes from Olivia’s Garden, locally foraged morels).
Salad: Pea tendril, Macintosh apple salad with peppered goat cheese and port wine cranberry vinaigrette. (Olivia’s Garden, Apple Farm apples).
Cheese: A blue, a semi-hard and a semi-soft aged (Hahn’s end cheeses: Bleu Velvet, City of Ships and Olde Shiretown with spiced pecans and spicy cranberry jelly).
Dessert: Apple tart tatin with my own cinnamon-ginger ice cream. (Apple Farm apples, Smiling Hill Farm cream).
Confiture: Sea salt caramel chocolate truffles, Anise almond tuiles.
STEVE AND MICHELLE CORRY, OWNERS, FIVE FIFTY-FIVE AND PETITE JACQUELINE, PORTLAND
“We understand the importance of appeasing both people in a couple. We, of course, would like to do a tasting menu for them.
“Some of the highlights would be our chipotle-spiked sweet potato soup, garnished with green onion and house creme fraiche. We have read that the president thoroughly enjoys spicy dishes; therefore, we could bump up our normal spice level for him.
“Next, we would create a salad that would showcase some of Maine’s best spring vegetables — radishes, just-dug parsnips, Paul Lorraine’s organic greens with a salt-roasted shallot vinaigrette because we know Mrs. Obama loves her vegetables and is very conscious about eating healthy. After that, we would do our pepper-seared Maine scallops with a vanilla butter and baby carrot emulsion. Again, playing on President Obama’s love of spicy (foods), and apparently scallops are one of his favorite foods.
“Of course, we could not let them leave without giving them a small portion of our truffled lobster ‘mac and cheese.’ Obviously, we could not let them leave Maine without showcasing Maine lobster — but with our decadent twist. Apparently, Obama loves his comfort food, including mac and cheese.
“Certainly, we would have to finish with dessert. Perhaps a few house-made caramels or truffles so they could take it to go, as we are sure they would be in a hurry, or maybe they could bring some extra for their Secret Service staff.”
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]