I am not just a blogger, an armchair theologian. I am in fact a part-time, self-appointed tourism assistant for my beloved home state: Maine.
Acting as I constantly do in this role, and recently surfing various websites, I came across this NYT article on the excellent cuisine of one Portland, Maine. I might note before hastening on that this article was the number one article on the Times website. Eat your heart out, Maureen Dowd. (Photo: Stacey Cramp/NYT)
Here’s what the piece, entitled “A Rich Symphony of Food” (interesting how we often mix metaphors to speak of food and the arts) by Julia Moskin, has to say by way of summary. Why is Portland, Maine a hotbed for great cooking?
In the last decade, Portland has undergone a controlled fermentation for culinary ideas — combining young chefs in a hard climate with few rules, no European tradition to answer to, and relatively low economic pressure — and has become one of the best places to eat in the Northeast. The most interesting chefs here cook up and down the spectrum, from Erik Desjarlais’s classically pressed roast ducks at Evangeline, to the renegade baker Stephen Lanzalotta’s gorgeously caramelized sfogliatelle (sold out of the back of Micucci Grocery, an Italian-imports shop), to Mr. Potocki’s simple but brilliant chili-garlic cream cheese and handmade bagels.
Can I share something with you? Maine, speaking generally, has amazing food. I swear. I’m not making it up. You could eat your way up the coast and back. That’s right–on top of being breathtakingly beautiful, Maine boasts excellent cuisine. In my college town, Brunswick (a quintessential New England college town), there were three Thai places, one Indian restaurant, several good Chinese establishments, an incredible old-fashioned donut shop, another incredible old-fashioned drive-in burger place (Fat Boy’s–wow), an Irish/German fusion restaurant, a gourmet pizza place (Benzoni’s, RIP), and more.
So here’s the point: plan a vacation to Maine. It’s not that expensive to go there. Early fall, late spring, summer, or winter (if you want to ski) are all great seasons. Go up route 1. Rent a car and drive up it. Along the way, make sure you eat at Amato’s, where you will get the best Italian imaginable. Go to Epi’s in Bangor or Bar Harbor, where you will a sandwich Greater Than Which No Other Can Be Conceived.
You could not go wrong with a stay in Camden, one of the prettiest towns you’ll ever see (couples might want to honeymoon or visit here for a getaway). Sugarloaf is great for skiing or golf. Freeport has incredible shopping in a charming environment. And, if you make all the way up the coast to my little hometown, Machias, you could lunch at The Artist’s Cafe and eat a sumptuous dinner at The Riverside Inn.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. Honestly, you should plan a vacation to Maine. Don’t take just my word for it–take that of the NYT. As they say, “Go to Portland and eat.”