Over a year ago, a grateful and appreciative bed-and-breakfast guest gave us a $100 gift certificate to Slipway Restaurant in Thomaston. It was probably a tip for the excellent service we provide.

This summer two sisters from the New York City area, who stayed here for three days, went to Slipway. We suggested that they do so, and they liked it so much they went back two more times.

Last night, in an effort to blatantly flaunt our American affluence, we treated Marsha’s Dutch brother-in-law and bride to a meal at Slipway. It was only fair, as he has put up with us many times at his home in the Netherlands. So I slipped the gift certificate into my pocket and off we went.

I didn’t know a soul there. Restaurants in my bailiwick are obviously patronized by people from “away.” And, luckily for Slipway, there were enough of them around to fill the place last night. We are talking about people who think nothing of dropping $80 to treat their visiting friends to exotic Maine seafood treats.

Last night, except for my name tag, tie and $2.50 jacket, no one would have suspected that I was a local. Although the fact that I drank only water might have suggested that I probably belonged to some weird cult.

How much longer Slipway will be open this season is anyone’s guess, but it was 45 degrees this morning and, after a month of unusually dry and warm weather, we are starting to feel something that resembles September on the coast of Maine.

Thirty years ago, the chef’s father was a friend of mine who really enjoyed my public radio program. He had hung out with Archie Shepp and other musicians in NYC. We had many interesting conversations about jazz and the relative merits of performers.

Rhubarb from the humble farm has filled the pies at Slipway for several seasons. With more than a bit of effort, I picked the last of the rhubarb and presented it to the chef with my compliments.

He, in turn, put a jazz recording on his sound system, and our waitress said I’d get a prize if I could tell him who was playing. My hearing is so bad I couldn’t even hear an instrument, and later learned that it was saxophone virtuoso Scott Hamilton – who also has roots in St. George.

Knowing of my relationship to Slipway, you can understand why I was surprised to read this morning that it has garnered more than a few bad reviews. Is this typical of most popular restaurants? Do well-fed and satisfied people go home and jump happily into bed, while those with dyspepsia sit up and vent their spleen over computer keyboards?

Like everything else, food and service and pricing are in the eye of the observer. Because, while teaching in Waldoboro in the early ’70s, I ate hundreds of Alvah’s hot turkey sandwiches at Moody’s Diner, it is hard for me to realize that nowadays it costs more than $1.25 to eat in a first-class restaurant. Or that anyone would order anything other than a hot turkey sandwich.

Can any one restaurant please everyone? If your palate is attuned to a certain kind of barbecued ribs and there is a restaurant that makes ribs just the way you want ribs, and if people with the digestive prowess of a cockroach are the only ones who write rib reviews, you have a five-star restaurant that garners only raves.

But if one wimpy old Maine man were to go in there and wolf down a plate of the house specialty, would he not soon regret his indiscretion?

I am more qualified to evaluate the cleverness of a jazz solo than the food and service in a restaurant. So I can say nothing about the one time in a year a friend treats us to a night on the town with a gift certificate.

It must suffice to say that I was impressed by the huge portion of haddock that the three others had, and was amazed that they were able to eat it all. And I, a man who lives with the best cook in captivity, thought my crabmeat roll was wicked good.

Generous friends can easily drag my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, to any restaurant, and they often do. Marsha probably eats out six or eight times a year, and can put away a plate of Mexican, Thai or Indian food and cry because there is no more. So I’ll be interested in what she has to say about her Slipway haddock later today when I grill her. You know I mean question her.

Hopefully, Slipway’s management will not be influenced by my words or the words of others. The new owner of a good old restaurant on the other end of town improved it so much that nobody goes there anymore.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website:


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