Thursday, April 17, 2014
In Bulgaria and Hungary, people put a hard-boiled egg into the middle of their meatloaf.
In the Czech Republic, they put gherkins and wienerwurst inside.
The Danes put bacon on top. (Smart folks, those Danes.) In Romania, a meatloaf always contains lamb organs.
And in Ogunquit, Maine?
Well, you’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out. The small coastal town’s resident home cooks are planning to put their best loaf up against the loaves of local chefs in one meaty competition. And it’s all for a good cause. The proceeds will go to the Marginal Way Preservation Fund.
Anyone can play. The “Best Meatloaf in Ogunquit Contest,” which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, is not just for restaurants. Just bring your best 5-pound meatloaf, pony up $20 for an entry fee, and soon you may be basking in the glory of being the meatloafiest of them all.
This is the fourth year of the contest, and it grows more popular every year, says Norm Hebert, who hosts the contest at Bintliff’s Restaurant, 335 Main St. (U.S. Route 1) in Ogunquit. “They line up,” he said. “There’s a frenzy.”
Typically more than 100 people pay $20 to come and sample the 20-25 meatloaves entered into the contest every year.
“The flavor, the blend of meats, it’s whatever they want to do,” Hebert said. “We’ve had some interesting ones, but moreso the entries that have won in the past have been more resident (entries) than has been professional chefs and culinarians.”
Last year, first place went to Claire Bigbee of Wells, who used figs and feta cheese in her loaf.
The contest has humble beginnings.
“About four or five years ago now, we were all sitting around this restaurant after a Sunday brunch and people started saying 'I make the best meatloaf.’
'No, I make the best meatloaf.’ “
Along with the food, there’s a silent auction that contributes to the fundraising aspect of the event. The meatloaf-off typically brings in $6,000 to 7,000, but last year was a banner year and they raised $10,000.
For $20, you get to sample the meatloaves and partake of sides prepared by Hebert for the occasion.
“People have wanted us to change it,” he said. “(They say) oh, we should do the best mac and cheese or the best meatballs or the best lasagna. We just kind of kept it, let’s just keep it the best meatloaf contest.”
The judges will include the chef from the York Harbor Inn, the Ogunquit town manager, the local police chief, and Ogunquit’s citizen of the year. Hebert will be the tie breaker. Ribbons will be awarded for first, second and third place.
“Restaurateurs and local residents have been told for so many years their meatloaf is the best. And then we find out, maybe not so much,” Hebert said, laughing.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.