Sunday, March 2, 2014

Maine Trip #2

Needing a few days away from western MA and work, and with the promise of raw seafood, I hopped in my car for the not quite four hour drive to Edgecomb last Thursday.  I grabbed a beer, some cold sake, and an order of the addictive Brussel's sprouts at continual favorite Pai Men Miyake with my sister's boyfriend on the way, before arriving in Lincoln County just in time to take a very brief nap before my step-mom finished making a creamy broccoli soup and a platter of croque monsieur sandwiches.  I highly suggest this combination, as it bears a lot of similarities to my personal specialty.

I spent a lazy day in Edgecomb before heading south to meet up with my step-mom to select oysters and clams for the night.  Harbor Fish has been featured on just about every television show that filmed an episode on food or fish in southern Maine, and for good reason; it is where the locals who know fish go, because they have the best, freshest, and most reasonably priced fish you can imagine.  We grabbed 18 oysters deriving from Maine to Massachusetts, along with six clams.  If you like cooked clams, you should try them raw; not everyone enjoys the texture, but the flavor is incredibly powerful and delightful.  If you do not like them cooked...well, then you definitely won't raw.

Thankfully it was cold enough to just leave the oysters with some ice in the car for a couple hours, so we adjourned to J's Oyster, a bar on the Portland Pier that, during the month of February, offers free oysters to its customers beginning at 4:00pm until they reach a certain amount.  They are initially given away three on a plate per person, then it drops to two per plate as more people pack the bar, and are served with a wedge of lemon, some oyster crackers, and a dollop of cocktail sauce.  The oysters are by no means top of the line, and they don't do much more than open them (in fact, the oyster meat itself is still attached to the shell), but hey, they're free, and they're fresh, and they taste good.  We left before they ran out of the freebies, so I can't tell you how many you can end up getting, but I would definitely suggest going with someone who either does not like raw oysters, or at least likes them in limited quantities.  My step-mom likes them, but not more than a couple a night, so I had the majority of hers, ending up having 18 myself.  This was, of course, just the prelude to the couple dozen other raw mollusks we had when we got back home.

After polishing off the oysters we got at Harbor, we went to dinner at The Cockeyed Gull, but the experience was nowhere near as impressive as on the Fourth of July.  I liked my meal (sesame crusted salmon with a Wasabi aioli, seaweed "garni" aka seaweed salad, mixed vegetables, and white rice), but I was really the only person who was not completely disappointed.  We started with a scallop appetizer that was actually pretty successful, and reasonably well cooked, but things went downhill from there.  My salmon was tasty but overcooked, the white rice was beyond boring, and while the seaweed salad was good it was nothing better or worse than what you could get in any sushi joint in America.  In fact, the best part of the meal for me were the carrots in the mixed vegetables, which consisted of them and some broccoli florets.  Their beer options were very limited, with a Baxter Brewing Company Stowaway IPA being the only really local and craft option.  It was good, but nothing special; I have had better from Baxter before.  The beer was canned, not on tap, and while this is one of the many breweries doing the canned thing right, it is just not the same as a good draft beer.  Apparently during the winter the Gull loses some of its staff, and the owner does the cooking; she is a nice lady, and has some interesting ideas, but is not as creative as some of her summer chefs and not as talented either.  I would say this is still a great summer destination, but I will be avoiding it during the off-season.


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