Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Maine: What We Ate

The Good Sport
When last we met I was promising that this post would tell you what we ate during our four-day Maine vacation. If pressed, I could do that fairly succinctly:

We ate everything. The end. 

But because you know me well, you know that I am not going to stop there. Oh, no. You are going to get descriptions and photos and rankings of practically everything on our plates (as well as some foods we didn't even bother to use plates with). Sit back and grab yourself an Alka-Seltzer for the sympathetic indigestion. 

Before I start I should add a disclaimer: As a general rule, in order to gobble down every edible morsel, we limited ourselves to two meals a day, mid-morning breakfast and an adventurous dinner. Also, we have reached the age at which "Hey, let's get one and split it" seems like a swell idea rather than something to be ridiculed, which reminds me that I owe my late in-laws an apology on this front. 

So off we go. Let's start with breakfast:

I had permission to take this picture
The Holy Donut is a Portland institution, and is ranked as one of the top doughnut shops in the entire nation. It is so popular, in fact, that you must ASK PERMISSION to take photos of their doughnuts. There is a tiny bit of Soup Nazi feel to this shop: Know how many you are going to ask for in advance, step to the front quickly, everyone else seems to know the rules and you don't, etc. We didn't arrive until mid-morning, and maybe that's the reason we were somewhat disappointed in the product. Potato doughnuts have a different texture and taste and I'm sure that taste is acquired, but we had neither the time nor the inclination to fight lines to acquire it. In spite of the dozens of interesting flavors, I'd take a Daylite Donut baked cinnamon roll any day over what we bought there (and a single Holy Donut cost $2.25). Grade: C-

After messy meal division 
But, oh, breakfast connoisseurs. Do not leave Portland without eating your first meal of the day at the Bayside American Cafe. This place.... Well, excuse me for moment while I drool a memory. I forgot to take a picture before I slopped half of my corned beef hash onto Husband's place and slid one of his Crabcake Eggs Benedicts onto my own plate, but not much later the plates looked like this:
I resisted licking it.
If I could only eat one meal in Maine, I would eat this meal. It was soooo good, from the coffee you are invited to serve yourself while you wait for a table, to the corned beef that wasn't so much hash as the tenderest slab of deliciousness to ever come off a cow, to the crabcake that was all crab instead of a little crab and mostly breadcrumbs (which is the way we Kansans do it). It wasn't cheap (this was where I formed my hypothesis that every meal in Maine costs $20, whether you're eating lobster or an Egg McMuffin) but sooooo good. Grade: A+

An exception to my price guide above was this meal:
At the Sacko, Maine, Grange Hall
We noticed an ad in the a small-town newspaper for a community bean feed so we decided to go all local and see what they serve at the Sacko Grange Hall on a Saturday night. Husband, good sport that he is, is not a fan of beans. This is a sadness in my life, as I would choose beans over almost any other food, but he agreed to put aside his personal preferences because we'd never been to a Grange Hall bean feed before. 

While we'd never been to a Maine bean feed, though, we've been to about a thousand of these meals in our lives: A Maine bean feed is exactly exactly exactly the same as the Small Town soup supper for Habit for Humanity, or the Boy Scout pancake feed, or any other small town benefit. The beans are different (I had expected big pots of navy beans with ham but these were more like my Calico Baked Beans) but the wonderful homemade pies, the kids refilling our water cups, and the powdered creamer on the table made me smile with recognition. Also, at $8 each, this was the cheapest meal we had in Maine. I would give it my highest rating except that there was some kind of jerry-rigged support system on the ceiling and I was a little afraid I was going to be beaned by a rafter at any time. Grade: A

But this is the meal you've been waiting for a report on, right? 

Well, as Husband's bib suggests, let's get cracking.

Neither of us, at six-plus decades on this Earth, had ever eaten a lobster. We truly are pathetic. So with this the top priority on our culinary list, we asked our local hostess where she would recommend we go. We ended up at Docks Seafood, which she assured us is where the locals eat their own lobsters. 

It was a good choice. This is an order-at-the-counter place where a two-lobster meal with two sides will set you back $23. The lobsters are small, the friendly guy at the counter told us, so why didn't we split one of the two-lobster meals and try something different for the second meal? 


Because I have always read too much, especially books about Scotland and the islands off the coast of Maine, I had heard the words "finnan haddie." The people in those books about Scotland and the islands off the coast of Maine love their finnan haddie, and when I saw it on the menu, I didn't even ask what it was before I made it our second choice. That was a mistake.

Finnan Haddie, which sounds much better in books than it tastes
It turns out that finnan haddie, rather than being a charmingly fresh and flaky seafood, is haddock smoked over green wood and cooked in a concoction of white sauce and hard-boiled eggs. It was edible, barely, but we are not fans of finnan haddie, and I am now doubting my Scottish sympathies. Grade: D+

And I'm sorry to say that (spoiler alert) we also were not fans of the lobster. I know! What kind of plebeians are we? Maybe it's because we were incredibly inept with the crackers and in spite of the "Let's Get Cracking" bib I ended up with lobster juice in my hair, covering both arms, and in my eyebrows. Maybe it was because that gross green liver ooze was smeared over every bite I took. Maybe it was because it just seems so wasteful to have this much trash for what turned out to be about six bites of lobster:

Whatever the reason, Husband and I agreed that at the risk of unhinging the jaws of everyone we know (LOBSTER IS SO DELICIOUS! was the common reaction to a Facebook foodie post) we would prefer a good ribeye any day. We did not enjoy the taste enough to put up with the hassle.

And there is the added bonus that you are not required to look your ribeye in the bulging eyes immediately before it is dropped into boiling water from which it reappears a few minutes later with those same eyes staring accusingly back at you from your Styrofoam plate. Grade: D

However, I did love lobster rolls, in which the lobster is thoughtfully removed from the garbage before it is served to you. In fact, I was so busy snarfing lobster rolls (seasonal price: $20) that I did not take a picture of either of our lobster roll meals. You are welcome. Grade: A, both times. 

So now we have eaten everything in Maine. Four days, four million calories. 

Worth it. 

(Next post: What we did.)


  1. Hello. I found your blog a while back through that next blog feature up on the top tool bar thingie. I was probably procrastinating doing homework (mid-life grad student) and after I read a couple of entries I bookmarked your site. You are funny, thoughtful, insightful, and funny. I simply want to say thank you. The world feels yucky and that hope is hard to come by so I am combatting the hate by saying thanks. Gratitude helps. So, thank you. Keep writing.

  2. Ugh. Did not edit. Let me correct; "The world feels yucky and hope is hard to find." I trust that you will not judge me.

    I am not an unstable stalker, really. I live in MN with my husband and three kids. Am newly employed in my field (another piece for my gratitude pile) and lead a fairly mundane and cluttered life. I appear normal to those who do not know me. Again, thanks.

    1. Oh, this comment will keep me smiling for days and days. The politics of this season have been making me cranky and despair-ful, and you are the most wonderful antidote. Thank you!

  3. MN reader again: one more thing. My marriage and motherhood does not make me stable. Anything but some days. Just don't want to imply singleness equates instability. I just have somewhat reliable in house accountability for my actions.

  4. Yikes. Changes "does" to "do." Having trouble writing these days.

  5. Totally agree on the lobster. Glad to know you are with me. Good old Kansas beef any day! Glad you had a good time