By Rebecca Cooney
RISMEDIA, Sept. 5, 2008-(MCT)-No one escapes the lobster in Maine. Its little red icon decorates place mats, adorns flags and mugs, even inspires sugar candies. Everywhere, promises of the fresh crustacean abound. And so, with so many offerings, where to go?
Having sampled the delicacy up and down the coast, I vote for any lobster between Bath and Rockland. This is subjective, but there is reasoning behind my proposition. The town of Bath lies past the urban sprawl, east of the state’s highways. Long, winding peninsulas stream southward in this region that extends to Rockland, cut by such rivers as Sheepscot, Medomak and St. George. On the map, the coastline looks like a craggy mess of inlets and islands. Plenty of shelter for a lobster, I say. And if that weren’t enough, the landscape here has a verdant softness I don’t see up north. Perhaps this is why I find the lobsters so tender in this part of Maine.
All favorites aside, if you are anywhere on the coast of Maine, spectacular lobster is within your reach. You just need to drive to its source. So turn off Route 1 and follow those curving roads down to the sea. Drive past sleepy villages with neat, flowering gardens and lichen-covered graveyards whose stones date back to the 1700s.
Pull over and watch local artists work. The rural routes between Bath and Rockland abound with galleries, studios and potteries. Who knows what eccentricity or exquisite piece of pottery, glazed in the iridescent colors of the sea, you will discover? Stop to browse in any of the antiques stores tucked off the road. Who knows what relic from another epoch you’ll find?
Roll down the windows to smell the salt in the incoming fog. Pass through stands of pines, fir and spruce, and pause to breathe in their scents. You will surely pass a nature sanctuary with trails to hike and shorebirds to observe. Catch a glimpse of the lighthouse in the distance. Visit it.
Sooner than you will expect, you’ll spot notice of a lobster pound. In Maine, even the smallest establishment has a sign leading to its door. Follow it to its inevitable end, to a dock with a shack and some wooden tables, all with a view of the harbor, the lobster boats swaying on their moorings in the breeze, and beyond, a sea of islands dotting the shimmering ocean.
You won’t need to roll up your windows or lock your car. Let it fill with the Maine air while you study the chalkboard of offerings: hard- and soft-shell lobsters, clams and maybe corn and potatoes. Order the soft shell, a pound or a little more. And if you’re hungry, go ahead: order the twin. The soft shell is a delicacy only found in the summer and early fall months, after the lobster has molted. It is so tender, it can’t be shipped. It can only be eaten in Maine, at its source.
When it arrives, a red so bright it startles, its shell will be easy to tear open. Juices will spill out, but stay clear of the green tomalley (the lobster’s liver), per a recent FDA advisory. Bite into the lobster’s flesh, sweeter and more tender than any you’ve ever tasted. And savor it, for this is what you came for.
Things to Do
Sunny day adventures:
Reid State Park, 375 Seguinland Rd., Georgetown; 207-371-2303
This pristine park is blessed with not one, but three of the state’s few beaches. Digest your lobster with a walk down Mile Beach and over the short trails that skirt marshes and a lagoon where shorebirds feed ($4.50 a person ages 12 and older; ages 5-11, $1; ages 65 and older and children younger than 5 are free).
Fort William Henry
Off Snowball Hill Road, New Harbor; 207-677-2423
The 18th century fort commands a view out to a bay of islands. Inside and in the nearby fort house, too, numerous exhibits of excavated tools and shards are enough to imagine the lives of the earliest settlers ($2; 12 and younger and seniors free).
Monhegan Boat Line
Route 131, Port Clyde; 207-372-8848, monheganboat.com
Take a 2 ½-hour cruise out to see the puffin colony on Eastern Egg Rock or around the islands to view myriad lighthouses ($24 adults; $10 kids)
Rainy day rambles:
Musical Wonder House
18 High St., Wiscasset; 207-882-7163, musicalwonderhouse.com
Surely one of the world’s largest collections of elaborate, antique music boxes. Take the tour ($20; 12 and younger free; 10% senior discount) and you will get to hear their glorious tones, or just drop quarters into any or all of the 23 Victorian coin-operated music boxes.
30 High St., Thomaston; 207-354-8062, generalknoxmuseum.org
Guided tours ($7; seniors, $6; 5-13, $4; family $18; open Tuesdays through Saturdays) run every half-hour in the summer and hourly in the fall through Henry Knox’s mansion, three floors of history and life as it was lived in the early 19th century, when the young general and his wife settled in Thomaston after the Revolutionary War.
Where to Shop
Route 127, Georgetown, 866-936-7687,georgetownpottery.com
Housed in a rambling log cabin, potters work right in sight of visitors. The many rooms of the airy shop are stocked with vases, lamps, bowls, plates, mugs, even a shaving scuttle, all in the colors and patterns of Maine. Most items run from $15-$65.
Granite Hall Store
9 Back Shore Rd., Round Pond, 207-529-5864
Candies selling for cents take center stage in this store set in a Grange Hall. For those without such cravings, the store sells everything from blankets to baskets to new kitchen tools, with almost everything less than $40.
Maine State Prison Showroom
Route 1, Thomaston, 207-354-9237
Inside this oddity of shops, beefy men service the counter while a corrections officer handles the cash register. Wood is the medium here, with old-fashioned blocks, toys, puzzles, cutting boards, chairs and a bevy of souvenirs including a savings bank designed as a cell ($20). A one-of-a-kind experience.
Where to eat
1. Five Islands Lobster Company
1447 Five Islands Rd., Georgetown, 207-371-2990, fiveislandslobster.com
Open through Columbus Day weekend, this lobster pound is really three shacks, one for sandwiches and fried foods, another for the regionally famous Annabelle’s ice cream and the last, for everything boiled, including lobster. Tables cover the wharf, some with an awning for those rainy Maine days.
2. Sarah’s Dockside
Moore’s Turnpike, Georgetown, 207-371-2722, sarahscafe.com/dockside
Set in a remote cove, Sarah’s has a few tables set out on the wharf. The specialty, naturally, is lobster, fresh from the co-op next door. She also serves a wicked blueberry pie with the crust crusty and the wild blueberries not too sweet, reason enough to stop by. Open through September, weather permitting.
3. Red’s Eats
Main and Water streets, Wiscasset; 207-882-6128
The lobster roll is worth every bit of the wait, even if the line snakes around the block. Don’t gasp at the $16.50 you’ll spend on it. You will be handed a lobster roll like no other, with nearly two full lobsters stuffed into your buttered roll; mayo and melted butter served on the side.
371 Medomak Rd., Bremen, 207-529-5186
Diners are almost an afterthought at Broad Cove Marine Service, unusual for its scant signage. Order from the shack by the gas pump and take a seat to savor the conversation between lobstermen before eating what I consider the best lobster to be had in all of Maine-tender, flavorful, juicy-the essence of lobster. Here they serve them super soft-shell. Cook Leeanne Mank thinks the difference isn’t in the softness but in the cooking-she steams them instead of boiling.
5. The Dip Net
1 Cold Storage Rd., Port Clyde, 207-372-6307, dipnetrestaurant.com
With a menu that serves raw oysters, a lobster bisque laced with cream and sherry, a wine list with local and foreign bottles and a bathtub full of lobsters delivered that morning from Mosqito Island, this little dockside shack takes artisanal to a new level.
6. Waterman’s Beach Lobster
343 Waterman’s Beach Rd., South Thomaston, 207-596-7819
The restaurant is set on a grassy knoll next to the small beach that overlooks Muscle Ridge Channel, so stop in for peace and a lobster, or clams, or maybe just a lobster roll and homemade pie. BYOB, open Wednesday through Sunday only.
© 2008, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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