Friday, October 14, 2011

Not the Maine event

Article of a Philadelphian food critic’s recent family trip to Maine for lobster and other local fare.

“With such natural bounty to work with, food craftsmen with a strong locavore sensibility were everywhere we looked in Maine, from the dome-shaped pizza trucks (Harvest Moon and Uproot) that dotted the farm markets from Damariscotta to Rockland, to cheesemakers such as Seal Cove and Hahn's End, to Mount Desert Island Ice Cream in Bar Harbor, where Ambler-raised Linda Parker draws on local dairies for the ingredients for inventive ice creams with names like Bay of Figs and Blackstrap Banana that are as rich as they are clever. Even Allagash in Portland, the trend-setting Belgian-style brewery that's the national star of Maine's growing craft beer industry, has been using local fruits and wild yeasts to give its coveted barrel-aged sour ales - like Coolship Cerise - a distinctive sense of terroir.

Terroir - French to describe the intrinsic flavor of a place - is a word Maine chefs have been using since the early 1980s, almost simultaneously with Northern California. That's when Sam Hayward began calling himself a "terroirist" at a little restaurant named 22 Lincoln in Brunswick, and the "back-to-the-land" movement had found an inexpensive, rain-rich mecca for independent small farming in a state that now has the highest percentage of organic farms per capita in the nation.”

“There were other heralded Maine tables we didn't quite make, such as the garden-ringed Primo in Rockland and luxurious Arrows in Ogunquit. But there were so many other restaurant highlights, they were hardly missed. At Chase's Daily in downtown Belfast, a market-bakery outlet for the Chase family's 500-acre farm where dinner is prepared only on Friday nights, I ate one of the best vegetarian meals of my life. It was international in inspiration but deeply rooted in Maine produce. We spooned through cob-sweet Mexican white corn soup; a plate of heirloom soldier beans stewed Tuscan style with sage beneath shaved Parmesan; an exquisitely layered lasagna of beets, gorgonzola, and walnut sauce; and an upside-down plum cake that tasted like the caramelized end of summer.”

Click here for the full article by Craig LaBan.

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