Sunday, March 9, 2014
Straw Farm sheep drive on a Maine island, spring 2013.
I hope are having a wonderful and relaxing holiday season eating, drinking, and being generally merry. With Christmas baking and yet another viewing of Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle in the rear view, I have begun making my final selections for the next few months of Root stories. During the Root’s sophomore year, stories will continue to look at Maine’s sustainable food movement and celebrate the state’s food heroes and traditions. As you might imagine, Maine offers an abundance of stories from profiling people revitalizing an old mill town with an urban farm to showcasing the next generation of farmers who are making new traditions.
As has been the case for decades, Maine is at the front of this country’s agricultural stage. The Pacific Northwest may sit comfortably in mainstream media’s spotlight, but it is in Maine that I for one am most excited to witness the extraordinarily smart and passionate people – young and old of varied backgrounds natives and from away – who continue to press forward with their work to create a sustainable food system that will preserve the small family farm, feed families living on the financial cliff, and provide glorious raw ingredients to some of this state’s great chefs. They do what is needed and much more.
This year the Root recognized a number of persons from Maine’s food community who are leading the way bringing fresh ingredients to the table. Looking back, a few of my favorite stories: the February day spent on the water with fishermen from Port Clyde Fresh Catch on the last day of the 2013 shrimp season, traveling to a small island to learn how to herd sheep for the weekend, the entire distilling and local grain economy series, and the potato harvest.
Maine shrimp netted by Port Clyde Fresh Catch, spring 2013.
In his recently published book The Taste of America, award-winning food writer Colman Andrews documents 250 of America’s greatest products and brands. Nine Maine products made the final cut: doughnuts from Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant, Finnan haddie from Stonington Seafood, lobster stew from Hancock Gourmet Lobster, lobster from Lucky Catch Lobster, quahogs from The Lobster Guy, heirloom potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm, whoopie pie from The Friar’s Bakehouse, and sea salt from Maine Sea Salt Company.
Curious about what other people enjoy food wise from Maine I asked a few of my favorite people from food and creative worlds.
Mark Bitterman (selmelier and owner of The Meadow, a boutique that specializes in finishing salts and other products) http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/
Eggemoggin Reach Salt made in Little Deer Island is a new favorite of mine. We just started carrying at our shops a few months ago, and it has been a big hit so far. From Travis at Eggemoggin: "Our ultimate desire is to evoke a simpler time-- of schooners, salt cellars, and salt spoons-- when our commodity was cherished and offered at the dinner table as the epitome of hospitality."
How can you not love a salt that takes you back to simpler times? Eggemoggin is light and airy, with a bit of mineral crunch and snow-like in texture. I love it on my scrambled eggs in the morning and use it to salt caramel and flourless chocolate cakes and whoopie pies. This salt is also beautifully suited for finishing light seafood (with lots of butter and lemon!), and of course on top of the obligatory lobster roll!
Joanne Chang (cookbook author, pastry chef, owner Flour Bakery and Meyers + Chang)
Standard Baking Company and Otto Pizza. I could live in both of these places!!
John Goodman (photographer, guest instructor Maine Media Workshops)
Great eating in Maine...Broad Cove Marina in Bremen.....I love the steamers Long Grain in Camden....always a mind blower. Suzuki's in Rockland...wow, amazing Muscongus Bay Lobster in Round Pond...simple and great Slipway...great food and totally relaxed vibe. Francine/s in Camden.....always excellent. I am getting hungry !!
Nancy Harmon Jenkins (writer, traveler, food authority, historian)
So hard to settle on any one thing. What I miss most when I'm not here are lobster rolls, of course, but also Down East places like Lubec, and Maine phenomena like our fabulous farmers markets and all the other people who supply us with great food throughout the year--Maine Street Meat in Rockport is a new favorite to go along with Chase's Daily in Belfast. And meals in some of our terrific restaurants, especially locally made "ethnic" like Long Grain local Thai in Camden and Suzuki local sushi in Rockland. And state of the art fine food from places like Primo and Fore Street. And the incredible array of oysters at Eventide. And Scott Yakovenko's fried oysters at the Slipway in Thomaston. And coffee at Dot's in Lincolnville Beach.
Rick and Michael Mast (cookbook authors, chocolate makers)
Their favorite things about Maine are... Tandem Coffee Roasters led by their good friends Kathleen, Will, and baby Claude. Steve and Sharon Cook's sea salt operation in Marshfield. It's got lovely minerality that really makes the flavors of their chocolate pop.
Monica Michael Willis (contributing editor at County Living and bobvila.com)
I'd have to say… Gotta love the clubby, more casual upstairs dining room at Primo, in Rockland for bread and fish soup, the farmer's salad with house made bacon, and the best aranchini (rice balls) I've ever tasted!
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.