- by Carol Standish
Imagine yourself land-cruising along the Maine coast, dipping into picturesque harbor towns and villages along the way in search of the perfect meal. An idyllic interlude, of course. A way to make a living, not likely, unless you’re Terry Ward Libby, a Midwestern food-arts writer and author of Creative Coastal Cooking (Down East Books, 208pp, $19.95). It had to take someone from away to think up such a great cook book idea.
Libby traveled from Kennebunk to Bar Harbor sampling the culinary skills and exploring the creative psyches of 12 of Maine’s most imaginative chefs. The author was accompanied by her husband, Tony who took the pictures and “never once complained about having to visit all those beautiful towns and eat all those great meals.”
The first section of the book provides a glimpse of the 12 chefs and just enough background information to set the various dining scenes. The following eight chapters contain over 200 recipes covering Starters, Soup, Salads, Breakfast, Side Trips, Chef’s Entrees, Desserts and The Chefs’ Pantry.
Frequently accompanying the recipes are comments by the relevant chef. “On damp, rainy days all of Bar Harbor’s visiting campers decide to crowd into town and wait out the storm while having a beer and some hot soup. This [recipe] is our ‘Yikes!—we’re almost out of soup’ solution. If you hustle, this soup can be ready in less than an hour,” says Chef Lise Derochers of the Lompoc Café and Brewpub in Bar Harbor about her Creamy Tomato Herb.
Since Libby traveled from west to east, Cherie’s Bistro and Wine Bar at 7 High Street in Kennebunk is the first featured restaurant. Chef/owner Cherie Davis has contributed 13 recipes including such delectables Bay Scallop Seviche, Mango-Chili Salsa and Banana Stuffed French Toast. For more about Cherie’s visit www.cheriesbakery.com.
Two restaurants in Portland are featured, Street & Co. at 33 Wharf Street and Local 188 at 188 State Street. Chef Abby Harmon “creates an original seafood-only menu every night” at Street, working with a seafood “forager” who seeks out the best fresh seafood available on any given day. At Local 188, “owner and head cook, Jay Villani cooks with the staples of Spanish and Basque cuisine—Romesco sauce, saffron and shellfish.” The seafood recipes from these two restaurants are outstanding.
Moving down the coast, Libby visited the Rogue River Café in Damariscotta. As the author stated in her introduction, most of the restaurants she visited were “sweat equity enterprises...run by young entrepreneurs”-- (chef/owner/artist/carpenter/remodeler/gardener) “who value their ties to the surrounding community and who view their restaurants as more than just business enterprises.” No one embodies that description more than Wendy Hebb, “[restaurant]owner and community service award recipient who donates the profits of her “Town Dinners” to a designated community-based non-profit. (www.roguerivercafe.com). Recipes from Rogue River include Belgian Chocolate Drop Cookies and Brown Rice and Mushroom Burgers.
The Thomaston Café in Thomaston is owned by German born culinary arts teacher, Herbert Peters and his wife Eleanor. His recipes include several authentic old country dishes like Sauerbraten and Cheese Spaetzle although the restaurant menu is much more varied (www.thomastoncafe.com). Most impressive are chef Peters’ instructions for cooking the Christmas Goose.
Libby features three restaurants in Rockland. Café Miranda at 15 Oak Street, “we do not serve the food of cowards,” says chef-owner Kerry Altiero (www.cafemiranda.com). “We love to stir the pot.” He cooks Italian, Thai, Mexican, Armenian, and more in a wood fired brick oven and has contributed 15 recipes to Creative Coastal Cooking. Market on Main, “MOM” at 315 Main Street has a mission to serve and provide handcrafted quality food at an affordable price. Primo at 2 South Main Street (Rt 73), on the other hand, is decidedly upscale. Chef/owner Melissa Kelly is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Primo recipes include Braised Short Ribs and Mustard Crusted Lamb Chops with Tomato-Mint Jam. (www.primorestaurant.com)
In Bar Harbor recipes from three more intriguing restaurants are presented. Café This Way at 14½ Mount Desert Street (www.cafethisway.com ), Lompoc Cafe & Brewpub (www.lompoccafe.com) and Morning Glory Bakery all use locally grown produce, locally caught seafood and the Lompoc serves locally brewed beer. Mouthwatering recipes include Myrtle’s Buttermilk Pie (Cafe This Way), Honey Bourbon Sauce and Spicy Pecans for Chicken or Pork (Lompoc), and Extreme Brownies (Morning Glory).
And finally, in Otter Creek, just down Route 3 from Bar Harbor, Elmer Beal, a professor of Anthropology at the College of the Atlantic and his wife, chef Allison Martin operate the Burning Tree Restaurant. They are both committed to supporting the local economy by serving the best available foods, fresh from local fishing boats and the restaurant and neighborhood gardens. Burning Tree’s Grey Sole Fillets with Shrimp Mousse and Lemon Cream Sauce, Allison’s French Green Beans and Feta Salad, and Nantucket Cranberry Pie will be the next party meal I prepare. Libby’s cookbook is the next best thing to taking her delicious Maine restaurant tour.