Foodie Sunday: Live from Castine Maine!
You've got to love a summer family vacation..Jim and I try to take one every year, but this summer the stars aligned in just the right configuration and my friend old friend John and his wife Brenda suggested that we meet up in Castine Maine, an absolute paradise of an island about 4 hours north of Boston.
So we rented a house on the water that served as vacation central and the kids all stayed there while the two couples roughed it in two gorgeous rooms at The Lovely Pentagoet Inn, which by the way if you ever get the chance to stay there, this is about as perfect an Inn experience as you can get. The house on the water was/is(I'm still there!) gorgeous with a porch that sits right on top of the Penobscot Bay, resplendent with a view of some pretty wonderful sailboats , lobster boats and a lighthouse! We wake every morning to the brightest clearest sunrises that I've ever seen, the sound of early morning ships bells and the sweet/salty tang of the sea air. I even found a broken shard of antique blue willow porcelain on the beach one day when I was looking for sea glass....
The best part of this trip was that our son Alex was able to join us for the whole week! So we've spent our time kayaking, sleeping,reading, playing guitars, hiking and eating and if you've ever spent anytime in Maine then you know just how wonderful last activity can be. Fried clams and fresh lobster rolls and the tenderest , nuttiest fried scallops that you've ever tasted. New England seafood never lets you down and this summer was no exception. On Monday night after a full day of play, our kids walked in with 10 live Maine lobsters, some of the largest I've ever seen, purchased for the whopping price of 4.50 cents a pound! We began dicing potatoes, roasting asparagus and setting huge pots of water to boil. We tossed the lobsters into the pots,( never an easy job for me!) and set the table with the adorable lobster plates that Joes girlfriend Steph found in the cupboards. Then we sat down to eat.
What a feast...I looked at my friends son Joe who is an avid fisherman and asked him where he thought the lobsters had been caught. "Right out there" he said and pointed to the bay outside our window. "They brought them in yesterday from about 1000 feet out". I have never tasted lobster so fresh and sweet, all it needed was just a little bit of melted butter and even then it felt like we were gilding the lily.
After dinner, none of us could bear to throw out the shells or the broth that had collected in the bottom of the shell bowl so Steph,( a fabulous cook in her own right) decided that we should make stock. Out came the pots again, in went onions, carrots, celery and all of the shells. We couldn't find any Old Bay seasoning but we had some Garam Masala so we threw that in too. A little salt, a little pepper and we set the whole thing to simmering for a few hours. The aroma was out of this world, just a briny, tangy scent that you can only get with seafood that's as fresh as this was. Into the refrigerator it went, just waiting for the perfect opportunity.
About two days later , somewhere in between a fabulous platter of smoked seafood and my second lobster roll and a nighttime kayak trip through the bay to enjoy the glorious bioluminescent algae, Steph decided to make some chowder . I sent them off with requests for some fresh vegetables for a ratatouille and a few hours later we were cooking again! Talk about sustainable food. Two days before we were enjoying the lobsters picked from the shells and now there was chowder, steaming and fragrant with fresh thyme and bay leaves, chunks of potato, fresh scallops and haddock (again minutes from their watery home), carrots and celery. I made Ratatouille that we ate with fresh Parmesan and buttered toast points and Steph made a baked Brie with fresh raspberry jam and strawberries. A wee dram of Laphraoig and enough love in the room to light up the whole world and the evening was perfect .
If you want to try this yourself, remember that cooking like this is simply a matter of patience and intuition. Start with the freshest ingredients and plenty of time. Gather a great book, a glass of wine and someone you love and stay in the kitchen for awhile. Listen to what the pot is telling you, if it wants cumin, add cumin, if it wants cinnamon add cinnamon. Sip , smell, taste. Turn on some music, light a couple of candle and while the stock is simmering have dance or two. There will always be plenty of time for eating later.....
Images: the author