Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

A few more Maine things before moving on

Before I say a final farewell to Maine I wanted to post a few more photos of the things I loved during our annual summer getaway—from lunch to markets, an amazing restaurant and the fastest cocktail hour (s) snack ever. Here we go:

This was one of the most popular lunches I made, which was completely thrown together but somehow worked because it was made up of all very fresh summer ingredients: sliced tomatoes topped with goat cheese; tabouleh (soaked bulger) mixed with mint, parsley, cucumbers, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper; watermelon and cucumber salad with sliced shallots;  roasted red potatoes; and pesto.

We went to a farmer’s market in Rockland one Saturday, located right on the harbor, and it was fantastic. I met this guy in wide orange suspenders and a t-shirt that said “will trade my wife for a John Deere tractor” selling his own corn, which he promised was delicious even though it was a bit early for corn up in Maine. And he was right. I think we actually ate corn almost every day, most often the kernels scraped off for a warm salad mixed with herbs, lime zest, pecorino and sherry vinegar and served with pan fried halibut or scallops. We ate it straight off the cob too.

Some gorgeous spuds sold at that same market from a farm called Dandelion Spring Farm. Everything I bought there was wonderful–these are the potatoes I used for the roasted potato salad–and I found out they even offer apprenticeships! Dare to dream…

Anyone who’s rented a summer house knows the challenges of cooking in a rental kitchen. Typically the drawers are full of rusty knives with dull blades, antique vegetable peelers and bent bottle openers. The pots are warped and tinny. They bowls cracked and scarce. We once rented a house with a coffeepot but no coffee mugs. And forget about finding a cutting board, colander, measuring cup, or spatula. Dream on! So I have learned over the years to travel with my own gear, because there’s nothing more frustrating than having to chop an onion with a butter knife. This year’s kitchen was actually pretty good—nice pots, giant salad bowl, good selection of wooden spoons—but when it came time to make pesto I realized there was no food processor or mortar and pestle. So I had to do it real medieval like with my sharp knife and a cutting board. It actually turned out really nice, it just took a bit more elbow grease: With a really sharp knife I chopped the basil, a garlic clove, and a handful of toasted walnuts with a drizzle of olive oil just so the knife could smoothly break it all up (grease the wheels, so to speak). When everything was pretty chopped up, like a fine gravel, I added some lemon juice and salt and pepper and chopped some more. When the mixture started getting pasty I transferred it to a bowl and stirred in more olive oil and grated parmesan until it resembled pesto. It was a hearty pesto, perfect for slathering on some toasted bread or spreading on warm roasted potatoes— so thank you half-assed summer rental kitchen!

One night at the fish store in town I picked up a tin of smoked wild kippers (herring fillets) that come from Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park, which was about two hours north of us. For cocktail hour I drained the kippers and layered them on a plate, sprinkled with capers, lemon juice, and sea salt, and served with crackers and a small bowl of creme fraiche. They went really well while dinner cooked and we enjoyed the sunset with limey gin and tonics.

One of the things we look forward to all year (with insane amounts of anticipation) is dinner at what I think is one of the best restaurants in the country: Primo in Rockland. Located in a rambling Victorian house on a hill overlooking the water, with gardens, greenhouses and a farm outback, Primo is the creation of a very gifted chef named Melissa Kelly and her husband who runs the front of the house. The menu is Italian-country/Mediterranean —with dishes like escarole salad; wood fired pizzas topped with homemade sausage, pesto or fried eggplant; lobster minestrone with house made pasta shells; a lush charcuterie selection—but it’s also seriously local, with most of the ingredients coming from either the gardens out back, local farms, or the sea right outside their door.

Everything is delicious but the pizzas are so beyond that we always order several just for an appetizer. The wood fired oven really does do something magical to a crust, that’s puffed up and slightly charred on the edges, a little chewy in the middle, layered with pesto or olives or simply tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. *Special note: the stand the pizza was served on was like a round cooling rack with folding legs–I want this, anyone know where to find?

And there was also pan roasted cod, vegetable terrines, farmer salad with poached egg, bruschetta topped with a fig and onion compote and their own pancetta, duck with roasted cherries, and here Primo’s version of oysters Rockefeller:

And for dessert a wooden bowl full of hot zeppole dusted with sugar and cinnamon. I had to show Conor how to gently tear open the top of the donut crust to let the steam out before taking a bite.

And I didn’t even mention the passion fruit margarita or nectarine bellini for cocktails. Ridiculous. I wish I could live closer to Primo and become a regular. I wish I could live inside Primo. I so admire the food and environment Kelly has created, her bold flavors and joyful, hearty food. Although they close in the winter I hear they do make a Christmas dinner—that is something I’d love to experience.

2 Responses to A few more Maine things before moving on

  1. We’re heading up to Owl’s Head a week from Friday–CAN’T WAIT! It’ll be my 5yo’s first time. The Rockland farmers’ market is mine, all mine.

  2. Allison says:

    That pizza looks absolutely delicious. Your trip makes me miss New England. I think the pizza stand is actually a steaming rack? Great idea! I found this one at

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