The Maine Farm Table Summer Road Trip #1: Farm Visit Day Trip from Portland

Stats: 72 miles, 4 stops, about 2 hours of driving. 

When Peggy Grodinsky from the Portland Press Herald reviewed The Maine Farm Table Cookbook back in 2021 she wrote, "...I’d be as tempted to keep “The Maine Farm Table Cookbook” in my car when I travel the state as a guide, as in my kitchen."

In that spirit, I'm putting together a few summer road trip itineraries that follow our stomachs, using the amazing food that's being produced and cooked around the state as a guide. Let's hit the road!

Much of The Maine Farm Table Cookbook doesn't veer that far south of Portland, Maine's largest city, so we'll be heading west and north from there. That isn't to say that there aren't GREAT things happening in food south of PWM! But at the time of my research, I was retracing my old stomping grounds primarily in midcoast Maine. Shortsighted? Probably. But maybe I'll get to make up for it sometime in the future. Okay, back at it:

Stop #1: PINELAND FARMS

Grab a cooler, a sunhat, and your best bug dope: right out of the gate we're getting out of Dodge and heading due north about 20 miles to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. The farm is opening their PYO strawberry fields on Saturday, June 15th! Hooray for Maine strawberries! The fields will be open for early birds (like you!) at 7am. I'm all about berry picking in the morning before the sun is too hot. Pineland's PYO fields are open 7 days/week, but for the latest on what's looking good (or what's not), call their 'Berry Hotline' at (207) 657-2877.

Start planning your strawberry recipes, like the Strawberry Bruschetta with Ricotta and Arugula on p. 303 of The Maine Farm Table Cookbook, or the Rhubarb Frosé on p. 276. For a chocolatey take on strawberry shortcake, make my Cocoa Shortcakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream, which you can find HERE (or in my book Chocolate for Beginners). Or just make a batch of pie dough, roll it out, pile sliced, macerated strawberries in the middle, and then fold in the edges for a simply, stunning strawberry galette. 

Pineland Farms--which is actually part food production and part recreation and learning center--doesn't stop at strawberries. 

"True to it's name, the center is made up of almost equal parts evergreen forests and open land; the forests are host to more than 16 miles of year-round recreational trails and much of the open land is employed in agricultural pursuits." (from The Maine Farm Table Cookbook)

The center offers a two-hour farm pass for $6/person, and gives you access to the Family Farmyard and Valley Farm dairy barns for a self-guided tour. Again, I recommend these visits early in the day because heat combined with cow poop can drive a non-farmer to distraction. 

Stop #2: ORCHARD RIDGE FARM

Hungry? Time for lunch! Let's head over to Orchard Ridge Farm in North Gorham where we can get an unfussy burger (made from Maine-raised beef) and fries and eat out in the sunshine with a tall frosty glass of their house-made lemonade. You can also peruse their extensive market for snacks and adult beverages, which you can enjoy on the premises. Check out the farm animals--they raise ducks, chickens, and pigs--or just sit back and look out over the orchard. The farm also hosts a community craft group in the hoop house every Sunday morning through the summer. 

Stop #3: SNELL FAMILY FARM

Located in Buxton, the Snell Family Farm store is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9 to 4. If it's spring or early summer, take a stroll through their greenhouses for some home garden inspiration. While light on produce in the store this time of year, the farm does brisk business in seedlings, and of course you'll find rhubarb in abundance. As the season progresses, Snell produces a dizzying array of lush produce, including tomatoes, kale, celery, rutabagas, onions, shallots, garlic, hot peppers, and so much more. While we're there I'm going to pick up one (or two or three) of Carolyn Snell's fresh flower bouquets, made with cultivated flowers and wild things grown right there on the farm. Carolyn's style is vibrant and loose and always a show-stopper, and if you bring one home, the guests at your next dinner party will be asking you where you got it. 

"'We grow food, flowers, and plants for our neighbors,' Carolyn says of the farm's retail-based business model. 'And we think of our relationship in the community as one of our crops.'" (from The Maine Farm Table Cookbook)

I love that philosophy, and the entire Snell Family (who have been farming on the same land since 1926) are civic-minded folks who believe in being good neighbors.

Here's a fun fact from the Small World Department: Carolyn's sister, Margaret, was an Island Institute Fellow on Isle au Haut when Steve and I lived there!

Stop #4a: HARBOR FISH MARKET

Well, we have spent a gratifying sun-soaked day on a few of Southern Maine's farms, but it's time to head back into the city. If you're not too tired to cook, let's make a quick stop at Harbor Fish on Custom House Wharf for something to eat for dinner. If they have fresh tuna, I'd get that, marinate it in a simple soy-ginger-sesame oil situation, and make a poke bowl piled with fresh lettuces, cilantro, cucumbers, sprouts, pineapple, and scattered liberally with toasted sesame seeds. For me, this is a perfect summer dinner. Or, if you're feeling clamshack-y, get a pile of haddock filets and make the Oven-Fried Haddock on page p.183 of The Maine Farm Table Cookbook. It's a classic, and always a crowd-pleaser. Or, if you're feeling slightly more refined and the halibut is in, let's get a slab of that, fire up the Weber, and make the Grilled Halibut with Spiced Butter Sauce on p. 180     

Stop #4b: FORE STREET

A dinner at Maine's most acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant would be my fantasy ending for this day-trip. So, if we don't feel like cooking, and if the budget allows (and we can get there at 5pm sharp because we don't have a reservation), let's go grab a seat at the bar at Fore Street restaurant. 

 (photo by Derek Bissonnette for The Maine Farm Table Cookbook)

"Fore Street--twice named to Gourmet Magazine's Top Fifty Restaurants in the United States and a finalist, semifinalist, or nominee for a James Beard Award every year since the early 2000's--purchases virtually all of their produce and meats from just a handful of small family farms who plant market crops that suit the restaurant's seasonally changing menu." (from The Maine Farm Table Cookbook)

I'd probably order something very cold to drink, and a few wood-fired plates to share: the mussels, the foie gras, and the marinated squid. 

If this itinerary inspires you to hit the road, please send me photos! And if you want more ideas of where to eat well in Maine, for a limited time, I'm offering a 10% discount on The Maine Farm Table Cookbook! Check it out HERE and use code HITTHEROAD2024 at checkout!

Yours in the kitchen (and on the road!), 

 


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