One week after the birth of our second son, Dan, in September 1989, my husband, Bruce, and I decided to escape the parade of visitors and spend a few days alone with our boys at a cabin near Stonington. I had envisioned a weekend of light hikes and shore walks, but the soreness and bone-deep fatigue caused by cesarean surgery took me by surprise, and the weather was damp and cold. One evening we stepped into a small restaurant on a steep hill above Stonington village, where I ordered [for the rest of this story, see the January 2008 issue of Down East]
the scallop stew. Filled with scallops the size of silver dollars, creamy, fragrant, and glistening with a touch of butter, the simple concoction soothed and warmed my tired body. It was heavenly.
Over the years, especially on wet, chilly days, I'd find myself yearning for that stew and straining to remember the name of the restaurant where I'd been so comforted. Last summer I shared the story of my holy grail with a friend from Blue Hill. He knew exactly where I had sipped the scallop stew: the Fisherman's Friend (5 Atlantic Ave., Stonington, 207-367-2442, www.fishermansfriendrestaurant.com
), owned by Tony and Lauren Bray.
A few weeks later Bruce and I happened to be back in Stonington. We hiked on Isle au Haut in a mist so thick and damp that even a hot shower failed to lift the chill that had settled in our bones. We headed to the Fisherman's Friend for the remedy. In large new digs on the harbor, the restaurant was not the cozy place of my memories, but one sip of the scallop stew reassured me that we were in the right place. Redolent of the sweet and briny seafood broth that is its secret ingredient, the warm milky soup was chock-full of scallops and as soulfully satisfying as the first time I tried it seventeen years ago.Virginia Wright is an adventurous, if recipe-dependent, cook, but her real food talent is remembering exactly what she - and sometimes her husband - ate the last time they visited a restaurant, even if it was years ago.