So here it is, my annual summer vacation photo round-up, featuring our recent family trip starting in Vermont, where we picked-up my daughter Belle from sleepover camp. The photo above is of Belle at The Mad Taco in Montpelier, VT waiting to devour her first Mexican meal in over four weeks…doesn’t she look thrilled to be back in her family’s clutches? (Side note: If you go to Mad Taco be sure to sample all of their house-made hot sauces). From Vermont we took many back roads into New Hampshire, skimming the northern edge of the White Mountain range, before entering northern Maine, zig-zagging past fog-dusted lake fronts and old farms, until we reached our annual rental cottage on St. George’s Peninsula. So come along with me! I will keep the photo montage short, scrappy, and caption happy.
My first breakfast in Maine is always a variation of the above: A bowl of jersey milk yogurt (like blueberry, raspberry, or strawberry-rhubarb) from Swallowtail Farm and Creamery, raspberries from a front yard-stand down the road, granola from Good Tern, which is a fantastic small co-op in nearby Rockland, and some kind of blueberry crisp or compote. This concoction is best eaten while figuring out the day’s plans (“should we go swimming in the quarry?” “take a walk on the rocks?” “visit the used bookstore?” “take out the paddleboard?” “play Stratego?” “read a book?” “how about we do nothing!?”)
Normally we make a stop in Portland, Maine on our way up north, but this year our itinerary changed, which meant I didn’t get a chance to have breakfast at 158 Pickett Street Cafeâa place that I love and have documented with the unbridled passion of a Rolling Stones groupieâfor the best bagel on the northeast seaboard. But luckily my mom drove our normal route, and did me a solid by picking up a paper bag full of Pickett Street’s “everything” bagels and a container of their addictive sweet chili cream cheese. I used both to make a tomato and egg sandwich. Thanks mom!
Oysters. Lobster Roll (served with a side of melted butter and mayo). Steamers. All from a tiny lobster shack called McLoon’s, located just around the cove from our house. You fill up on crustaceans that are literally pulled up from the dock right outside their kitchen door, cap it off with a slice of blueberry pie, then topple home from rock to rock on the water’s edge.Â It’s possible that we ate at McLoon’s more than once in a day. We may have gone there a lot. Do you blame us? It has officially joined my list of favorite restaurants in the area, along with Primo in Rockland and The Slipaway in South Thomaston.
The aforementioned roadside berries. We’ve been lucky to that our visits Maine usually coincide with wild blueberry, blackberry, or raspberry season, and every year I look forward to driving by the one home that sells pints and quarts of sweet wild raspberries on a card table in their front yard. Pro-tip: Always buy two quarts when you stumble on a card table laden with wild berries, one to eat in the car ride home and one for eating on top of yogurt, pancakes, salad, ice cream, and this…
A raspberry sandwich, using up those roadside berries that didn’t get devoured in the car, and inspired by a recipe from a story about the Cotswolds that I worked on while an editor at Saveur magazine: Crusty baguette slathered with butter, topped with a layer of ripe berries (squished down ever-so-gently so that they don’t roll off with the first chomp), a drizzle of maple syrup, and a squeeze of lemon. It’s weird. It’s wonderful.
We eat a lot of salads in Maine. There’s just such an amazing bounty of farm stand vegetables, organic co-op produce, local cheese and yogurt, and other treats, that the easiest, most satisfying lunch is always an enormous salad. Like the above, made with all local ingredients from places like Morning Dew Farm: Arugula, raw corn, grated beets and carrots, pea-shoots, shallots and feta, topped with a creamy vinaigrette made with Milk House raw milk yogurt-apple cider vinegar-mustard-and maple syrup.
Here’s another nod for finding and using as many local food products as possible, like the (above) fresh churned butter from Smiling Hill Farm. This stuff was so rich, salty, and nutty, it was like eating a hybrid of parmigiano-reggiano and butter. I cooked with it for practically every meal.
Most nights after dinner found us at the Harjula’s ice cream truck, which is parked alongside a farmer’s field that slopes down to St. George’s River. We’d be feasted upon by skeeters while waiting to order our cones filled with scoops of deer-caribou-bear-moose tracks, but it was worth it.
Besides the nightly cone, Belle and Conor also had more than a few root beer floats (seen above at the Rockland Lobster Festival, an annual event that I go to grudgingly because I always come home cranky from the heat of the midway and smelling like a corn-dog dipped in diesel fuel and lobster sweat). Clearly the “summer diet” (aka a total relaxation of rules in regards to the consumption of soda, ice cream, sweets, hot dogs, french fries, grilled cheese, etc.) was in full effect.
I love the Good Tern co-op in Rockland, and also the co-op in nearby Belfast, because they’re always stocked with jars of local pickles, notions, sauces, cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, and such. To end our midday meals, I would place the jars on the table for everyone to help themselves and make a little “digestive” pickle plate. I am a firm believer in the power of pickled and feremented things to help with digestion. Seen above are: Fermented gingered carrots from Thirty Acre Farm, truly delectable homemade dills from Vermont Pickle, pickled beets from Gracie’s Garden, hot sauce from some dude named Chip, and feta from Pineland Farms.
The fish that you’re able to source on the midcoast of Maine is so spectacular and fresh, that I eat as much as I can, including for breakfast. Above is flour dusted filets of sole, sauteed in browned butter (see aforementioned Smiling Hill Farm butter) and then drizzled with lime juice and tamari. I served it over sushi rice topped with microgreens from Morning Dew Farm and ripe avocado. If I could eat this ever day for breakfast I would.
And last but not least, here is Miss Maeve, my college roommate’s little girl who joins us along with her family every year for a visit that is crowned with our annual pie-eating contest (where everybody wins because you’re stuffing your belly with pie and you don’t have to use utensils). My friend always spoils us with multiple pies from Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, and this year she brought a sour cherry pie that was a sweet-tart-juicy fantasy between two crusts. Oh Maine, I miss you already.