What could be finer than great food on board a magnificent sailing schooner in Penobscot Bay or a river boat tour with an oyster tasting? Maine’s schooner fleet has always been renowned for its food with several boats boasting true cuisine fit for the most discerning foodie.
On the J&E Riggin, Chef Annie Mahle has honed her craft with both knife and pen. Her first cookbook titled At Home, At Sea, was highlighted on the Today Show and her food has been featured in dozens of national media outlets including the Food Network and Bon Appetit Magazine. The wonderful menu adds to the historic feel of the cruise, and much of what is offered comes from local farms and Annie’s ever expanding garden. Beginning with the highest quality and freshest ingredients allows for simple yet elegant meals that are both healthy and charming.
The newly rebuilt Ladona takes dining to a new level on board. The food on Ladona reflects the restrained decadence and pure aesthetic of sailing in Maine. Produce is fresh, local and carefully prepared. Applying their professional expertise and personal style, Captain Noah and Jane Barnes transformed their beloved Stephen Taber’s traditional classic comfort food to the gourmet standards of 21st century foodies and built its reputation as a food destination to the delight of many well satisfied guests. Jane has worked in the wine industry for over twenty years and enjoys selecting a white and a red for dinner each night, along with some special treats for good measure. There is no question that fresh air and the nature of a voyage at sea adds flavor to the food.
For a different experience, the River Tripper out of Damariscotta offers wine and oyster tasting and oyster as well as sake pairing cruises. Maine food aficionados can sample half a dozen different oyster types from the Damariscotta River, ranging from the mild Norumbega oysters to the extra briny and plump Pemaquid oysters, all paired with sumptuous summer wines, bubbly, or even sake.
One of Maine’s most significant maritime traditions also involves a favorite Maine pastime: eating lobster! Sitting down to enjoy the delicacy is definitely the end goal, however it’s also important to take time to understand how Maine’s signature seafood item gets from the water to the table. Before donning the bib, cracking the claws and dipping the tail into the drawn butter, consider several ways of taking the time to understand the evolution of the iconic Maine lobster.
CHECK OUT THE (ART-Y) FACTS
Maine Maritime Museum Lobster Exhibit
There are a number of museums in Maine that have exhibits, collections and activities dedicated specifically to the Maine lobster. Visit the recently opened Lobstering & the Maine Coast at the Maine Maritime Museum, the largest permanent exhibit that tells the authentic story of Maine’s most iconic fishery. When you’re on Islesford, head to Boats and Buoys, Lobstering on Little Cranberry Island at the Islesford Historical Museum and check out this community-curated exhibit that features imagery and hands-on activities to celebrate the men and women who have fished the waters around Little Cranberry Island for generations. And if you’re island hopping, you can go over to the Swan’s Island Lobster & Marine Museum to experience how, through extensive preservation work, brothers Theodore and Galen Turner allow visitors access to antique equipment, old time fishing techniques, photographs, navigational tools in order to learn the story of commercial fishing in Swan’s Island, Maine.
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Learn how the humble lobster began as bait and even prison food before it eventually made its way to a highly sought-out Maine delicacy. The Downeast Fisheries Trail site provides an in-depth and informative article on the history and science of lobstering, and how finally in the 1800s the commercial industry started to flourish and lobster was on its way to being an economically important resource and high end food. The Lobster Issue of the Maine Thing Quarterly gives readers a plethora of lobster facts, insight into a day in the life of a lobster fisherman, information on the long-standing Maine sea-to-table movement and, of course, how/where to eat our favorite crustaceans. And just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Maine lobster, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative offers a vast collection of resources and information on the iconic Maine sea creature including where to buy and how to cook and eat a Maine lobster.
Video Courtesy of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative
BEFORE YOU EAT THE ROLL,
SEE WHERE THE LOBSTER CAME FROM
Lobstermen at work | Monhegan Island, ME (Photo Courtesy of Thierry Bonneville)
A number of lobster fisherman/woman offer boat tours leaving from Bar Harbor, Portland, and Boothbay Harbor, among other ports. Before lunch or dinner, get out and see first hand how lobstering is done and even experience hauling traps right out of the water—talk about doing something of the beaten path! And since you worked so hard for your lunch or dinner, you’ll be more than ready to sample some fresh lobster–the hardest part will be deciding where to dine or what recipe to follow. Maine has a seemingly unending selection of places to get lobster, from the “best” or “most authentic” shacks to fine dining restaurants totraditional community beach bakes. You could also, of course, make your own lobster roll…
WHAT WE DO:
ENJOY LOBSTER EVENTS ALL YEAR, EVERY YEAR
Succulent Maine lobsters! Photo Courtesy of Thierry Bonneville
Every year in Coastal Maine there are year round, annual, and unique events and activities that center around the theme of lobster. For example, every year from June to August, the Maine Lobster Boat Races not only showcase participants’ sailing and boating talents, but spectators also really get into the spirit too as they cheer on their favorite boat. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Lobster Bicycle Ride has been circling the state since 2002—the routes vary from 15 to 100 miles and follow winding, country lanes and breathtaking rockbound coast; Bicycling Magazine recently recognized the century route as one of the TOP TEN in the country. Head to Rockland the very end of July to the first weekend in August—like thousands of attendees have since 1947—for the Maine Lobster Festival, a nationally and internationally recognized event and the ultimate festival for lobster aficionados!
Everyone knows that lobster is the quintessential Maine food, however we also have another “secret weapon” in our larder. The same marine ecosystem that produces Maine’s succulent lobster also works for producing some amazingly noteworthy oysters. The region’s cold, pristine waters and sheltered, tidal rivers are optimal for Crassostrea virginica (East coast oysters), and Maine is increasingly being recognized as one of the country’s premier oyster regions, evidenced by the high product demand.
To get an idea of just how prevalent oysters are in Maine, if you travel for example along the riverbanks Damariscotta and Newcastle—where many Maine oysters are grown—you will see piles and piles of middens, an indication of the thousands of years that people have been eating oysters in the area.
One of the best perspectives of Maine is from the water—this vantage point offers visitors views of coves, islands and harbors, all while taking in Maine’s timeless beauty and getting a sense of its seagoing history. From the on-the-water perspective, you’ll see many of Maine’s charming ports, observe animals such as seals, porpoises, and osprey, learn about the history of the region, and have unique access to seaport villages.
In late spring, summer and early fall, there are a number companies offering many ways to enjoy a bay or harbor cruise with departure options up and down the coast, from Boothbay to Bar Harbor, Camden to Castine. There are also a variety of vessels to choose from, including windjammers to lobster boats to a 1934 motor yacht similar to Hemingway’s beloved “Pilar”.
Lobster traps stacked 10 feet tall on the wharf, with as many colorful buoys stashed neatly inside each one. Peapods and dories floating nearby, with lines attached to a cleat on the edge of the dock. Fishing boats tied snug in the harbor’s mooring field further out, bows all pointed in the same direction, into the wind.
It is an iconic image of Maine’s working waterfront, and it tells a timeless story of communities whose economy, culture, and character are intertwined with the sea.
I love mud between my toes on a hot summer day, at the edge of the sea, pants rolled up above the knees. I love being a child again, up to the elbows and ankles in mud. I’m digging for clams to steam for tonight’s supper on the beach—although you don’t have to dig in the mud with your bare hands, like I do!
Most people wear rubber gloves and boots and dig clams with a 4-tined rake called a hoe. My father used one of these, and a wooden slatted basket called a roller. Digging clams was his main income during good weather, along with raking blueberries.
When people think of Maine, they tend to think of lobsters. The lobstering industry has always been a key component of Maine’s economy, dating back to the 1800s. Today, the fishery employs over 5,900 licensed lobster harvesters and is a multimillion dollar industry that supports a number of coastal villages throughout the state. Lobster is a featured component of many recipes enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, but have you ever wondered where those lobsters come from or what it takes to get them from the seafloor to your table? Now you have an opportunity to find out as you take part in one of the many lobster hauling excursions available in the Boothbay Harbor Region.
Hauling traps, mending nets, digging clams, raking worms, wrinkling, dip netting, seining… you can see all these activities in Downeast, Maine, where men and women make their living from the sea. Folks in Downeast Maine rely on the sea, and are fierce protectors of its bounty. Not only do they fish here, but people also seed clams to restore the flats, grow salmon for release in native brooks, and truck alewives around dams to help them get them to their spawning habitat.
Downeast, you can witness resource harvest and resource conservation hand in hand, and that’s pretty unique!
Take a look at a coastal map of Maine and you’ll quickly discover there are dozens of peninsulas that stretch like fingers into the Gulf of Maine. Each one is unique and well worth exploring, and the Blue Hill Peninsula is no exception.
When visiting this Peninsula, it helps to love boats. Brooklin, the self-proclaimed “Boat Building Capital of the World” is home to six companies that produce everything from prams and peapods to offshore fishing boats to some of the world’s finest wooden yachts.