Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Last spring a couple of friends from the Midwest came for a visit. I obligingly set them up with a week's worth of Southern Maine experiences.
We biked Peaks Island (with a stop at the Cockeyed Gull), toured the Kennebunks (with a stop at Federal Jacks) and spent too long in the rain watching Friend One try to learn skim boarding on the receding waves at Pine Point.
We lighthoused, we Old Ported, we local microbrewed.
And when said friends asked to hit a lobster shack to crack a crustacean open for the first time, I said "Sure! Let's do it! Three people from the lobster-less Great Lakes region with little to no lobster eating experience attempting to eat lobster together? What could go wrong?"
Wrong thing No. 1: I relied on a paper placemat for proper lobster-cracking instruction.
Wrong thing No. 2: The shack we landed at didn't have aforementioned paper placemats with aforementioned step-by-step instructions, with numbers, graphics and directional arrows.
Wrong thing No. 3: Friends then looked to me for further instruction.
It didn't go well. Bits were flung about. Liver was smeared in places it didn't belong. Meat hid away in seemingly unreachable crevices.
That's not the way lobster eating should be. And it was embarrassing for all of us.
Lucky for we lobster-deficient, there are people like Courtney MacIssac. Courtney owns The Maine LobsterBake Co., a Portland-based clam-and-lobster-baking company.
They'll run your lobster bake from beginning to end, and if you're hanging out in the sidelines like I did a few weeks back, they'll even give you pointers on how to properly crack one of those crazy things open.
Courtney and her right-hand-gal, Melissa Rivera, set up a make-shift kitchen outside The Fifth Maine Regiment Memorial Hall, where the day's lobster bake/birthday party was taking place a few weeks back.
The lobster cooker, the grill, the local ingredients and plenty of propane was set up and prepped for action.
Thanks to her hands-on learning at a lobster pound, Melissa can adeptly deband a live lobster without getting caught in a shellfish death grip. She's like the lobster whisperer.
She also managed to keep the lobsters and corn cooking in the steamer and the chicken burgers and hot dogs cooking on the grill while simultaneously preparing the clam chowder and the mussels. She's a gifted lobster baker.
Upstairs, Courtney took care of the party-goers, serving up hot bowls of chowder on a sunny but cool early spring afternoon.
The main course, of course, is why everybody is here. The lobsters are served up steaming hot with drawn butter that's so irresistible the lobsters can't keep their claws out of it, despite dealing with the larger issue of being dead.
Outside I tried cracking open one of my own - with much-needed guidance from Melissa. She dared me to try the tomalley - the green paste of horror - and since I was overwhelmed by the Casco Bay views and all the lobster baking revelry, I couldn't resist.
I tried the stuff. It wasn't that bad. I'll never eat it again.
I will, however, eat plenty of blueberry cake (it's homemade stuff prepared by Courtney's mom, who's also the Peaks Island historian).
FMI on The Maine LobsterBake Co., check out: www.cascobaylobsterbake.com
And check out the fancy slideshow:
Shannon Bryan, content producer for MaineToday Media, likes exploring Maine - from mattress races to cardboard boats, she's into the weird stuff.
Karen Beaudoin, online editor for MaineToday Media, likes knowing the important things - like who's just opened their deck for a sunny afternoon beer and what Portland's eclectic set of street performers are up to.