Last week, we drove up to Maine regardless of the disappointing forecast. It was midweek with June showers, but it needed to be done, and up here, you really never know with the weather anyway.
Two hours into the road trip, we drove past a shack I had seen on the Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive Ins, and Dives, and after about getting 15 miles closer to where we were really headed, we made an illegal U-turn for the fried whole clams at Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery,ME. Although we snacked on a basket of fried-ness, the batter was light and the fries flavorfully crackled when you bit through. The Food Network has yet to let us down. And Guy Fieri isn’t even one of my favorites.
We reached Portland in time for dinner. I don’t know if it was the misty air or the fact that it was just the guinea pig and I showing our true inner selves that our time spent was really solely invested in food adventures. We tried everything and nothing but creatures found in the ocean, the highlight of it all being lobstah. (That’s not me misspelling; that’s how New Englanders say it.) We saw the Portland headlight and walked its museum, enjoyed some fancy relaxing in a hot tub at a beautiful inn, and toured Boothbay Harbor on a two hour boat cruise, but the before, after, and in betweens all involved feeding our stomachs.
I proved my paranoia of raw oysters being slimy shellfish that slide displeasingly down your throat to be wrong; they are harmless and taste like nothing but an ocean breeze. Baked stuffed oysters on the half shell, however, are nothing to fuss about. In fact, I prefered them raw. How badass of me.
We followed the directions on our paper placemats on how to shell and eat a lobster, nutcracking the pink meat free and dipping it in butter. By the time we were headed back to Hanover, we had gotten quite good at it, ditching the directions and yet managing to unravel claw meat in one solid piece, and sucking the little legs to a complete void.
We had chowdah outside on the dock where it smells like the sea, sitting next to a heater, as we dried from the morning rain. The chowdah was hot and full of bits of clam swimming into our mouths and under our teeth in every spoon. Everything was fresh, dissolving on our tongues with the least bit of effort, simple, and delicious, washed down with Allagash White, a Maine made beer refreshingly light and crisp and summery.
The least of our favorites was the most pretentious. A restaurant off the docks too fancy for flipflops, with a nice ambience, an open kitchen, and higher prices. Yelp reviews raved about their “lobster diavolo”, and that was just what we ordered. The waiter said it was very spicy, something the guinea pig cannot enjoy, so we asked to tame the fire to a lighter spice. After a nano scale ten dollar salad, we were served with a copper pan housing sauced spaghetti (or linguine- I don’t quite remember) with mussels and clams and scallops and calamari, on which a whole lobster cut in half down the middle was throned upon. The first forkful was not as exciting as the facade. We could not find the spice, or even the salt. It was under-seasoned and over pastaed. The ratio was not right, and it all lacked flavor. After we took our lobstah halves into our own individual plates, I tossed everything with the sea salt that sat on our table and moved the sauce around to coat everyone. It was an improvement, but it did not impress.
Surprisingly, (or not so surprisingly after all), our favorite turned out to be a cash only take out stand next to the high way, with a queu of people risking sunburn for a lobster roll that is well worth any aloe vera seeking pain. Red’s Eats is at the corner right before the road is morphed into a bridge, crossing the water onto the other side. The rolls themselves were buttered and toasted, and piled with lobster meat. Mine had two tails, convincing me that the rumors are true; more than one lobster is put into each roll. They were heavy to lift, leaving us with no choice but to pick from the top and dip pieces into our cup of drawn butter to ease the handling of picking it up and fitting a clean bite into our unlatched mouths. I drizzled the cold meat with the butter, and daubed mayo on the inside of my bun. The bite was perfect. The guinea pig hummed sounds of love in public, loud and without shame. Although I presume he was transported to another world, a world closer to the Muslim paradise of 72 promised virgins, and as far as away to the reality of plastic chairs around umbrellaed plastic tables by the street, and oblivious to the surrounding family with 3 children, the man on his lunch break, and an old couple slowly chewing at a neighboring table, I don’t blame him. It was like an orgy in my mouth- something I’d never experienced before, sweet and buttery that made my heart race and my back arch.
Our stomachs had a really good time, and after we snacked on steamer clams a town north and were driving back down home, we couldn’t fight the urge to stop one last time at Red’s Eats for two lobstah rolls to go, bringing a little bit of Maine to Hanover. And, sitting at my dining table, away from the water and far from the ocean’s gentle gust and saltwater scent, it still tasted damn good.