A discerning chef can find everything necessary for a scrumptious meal close at hand in the Blue Hill region.
- By: Brooke Dojny
Photograph Courtesy of The Cave
A Saturday morning in mid-September and I’m off to forage ingredients for our supper party tonight. While the menu is sketched out, it remains somewhat fluid depending on what I glean. The main course is lobster and corn chowder with fresh thyme, a mesclun salad, some late heirloom tomatoes (if I can get them), and country bread with herb butter. I’d like to find a nice cheese and some lamb sausage to serve as appetizers. I’ll grill the sausages, skewer them with rosemary twigs, and maybe make a mint pesto for dipping. Dessert will be a free-form fruit tart — probably apple — with ice cream.
I’ve taken stock of the larder. A couple of days ago I made the weekly visit to Carding Brook Farm, our CSA in Brooklin, where I’d acquired two large bags of Jennifer Schroth and Jon Ellsworth’s amazing mesclun, a couple of pounds of potatoes for the chowder, and several heads of fresh garlic.
Starting out in Sedgwick, I head over to the Cave in Brooklin. Laura Cramer’s charming two-year-old shop, which stocks all manner of specialty items including imported and New England-made cheeses, pates, breads, and wines, has become a must-stop on the local foodie trail. Today I get two rosemary focaccia baked by the Fowler family in their wood-fired oven. Should I splurge on some Black Dinah chocolates to offer with coffee after dinner? Hand-dipped on Isle au Haut, each of these confections is like a jewel — so I buy one for each of us, plus one extra for the cook to nibble on slowly as she travels.
On to South Blue Hill to Annette Candage’s Sleigh Bell Shoppe and Lobster Crate. I’m here for the lobsters, fished out of Blue Hill Bay by John Candage, and, since they’re going into a chowder, I’ve called ahead to order culls (lobsters missing a claw) because they’re less expensive. The lobsters are stowed in a cooler that’s always in the car, just in case. . . .
My next stop is Blue Hill’s Mainescape, because I always stop at Mainescape, whether I’m looking for something specific or not. Althea Eaton and Don Payne run a wonderful garden shop here, but Eaton has also been showcasing the best local products — produce, meats, baked goods, pickles, etc. — for upwards of twenty years. Their Lucy’s Crabmeat order has just arrived — so fresh, sweet, and clean that I must buy a container. I’ll add mini crab cakes with tarragon mayo to the menu! And Eaton has the Stonington-made Ice Cream Lady’s ginger ice cream to scoop atop my tart.
How can the Blue Hill farmers’ market just keep getting better and better? Even though fall approaches, most of my favorite vendors are here in the church parking lot on Main Street — Five Star Nursery, from whom I buy heirloom Duchess of Oldenburg apples for my tart; King Hill Farm, which has the lamb sausage that I’m after; and Sunset Acres, where Anne Bossi displays some of her bloomy rind goat cheeses. I get a Stonington Granite, a vegetable ash-dusted pyramid with mellow mushroomy flavor. I find bacon for the chowder at the Stoneset Farm truck, and at the last minute, add a bouquet of Horsepower Farm’s beautiful blue-green Lacinto kale that I’m thinking I’ll braise with garlic and spread onto toasted focaccia wedges to serve with the lobster chowder. Yum.
At Max Treitler’s Blue Hill Wine Shop I sip a cup of espresso from his new machine while Treitler ponders a wine to pair with the chowder. “The lobster and corn are sweet, so the wine shouldn’t be too buttery, but it mustn’t be too thin or it won’t stand up to the cream. This Alsatian Pinot Blanc will be perfect!” Sold. Also sold are two baguettes from Tinder Hearth [Down East, August 2010], one for tonight for non-greens lovers, another for the freezer.
Finally, the last stop, as always, is at Tradewinds, our wonderful Blue Hill semi-supermarket, where today all I pick up are lemons and cream.
Not quite finally. This gatherer is famished, so I shoot down the hill to the Fish Net for a fried clam roll to eat on the ride home. I’m excited about cooking this afternoon, turning all these incredibly fresh ingredients into a feast of a supper, but . . . maybe next week I’ll eat out, at the Co-op Café for a bowl of their many-bean chili soup, or the Birdwatcher’s Café for a Greek salad, or Barncastle for a hand-thrown wood-fired pizza, or Marlintini’s for their fried haddock sandwich. And I’m quite sure we can conjure up a reason to make a reservation at Table to order grilled free-range chicken with Israeli couscous pilaf or at Arborvine where I’ll happily eat roasted native halibut with a lemon butter crumb crust.
Brooke Dojny is a food writer and author of several cookbooks including the New England Clam Shack Cookbook. She lives in Sedgwick.
- By: Brooke Dojny