Monthly Archives: September 2008

community Maine destinations Uncategorized

Oysters Oysters Oysters

Shucking in Damariscotta, Maine

Shucking in Damariscotta, Maine

Maine Destination: Pemaquid Oyster Festival

Oyster Festival, cocktail sauce not allowed.
Glidden Point Oysters, firm, crisp, as tangy as the water they were raised in– and as many as I wanted to eat! How many was that? About 16, 12 raw with nothing or a small scoop of pico di gallo, and then four, one broiled with cheese, one Rockefeller, one barbecued, and I cannot remember the fourth cooked style. Raw is the way to go. I could have eaten that many again, but it was a good place to stop, content and functional.
I don’t care for cocktail sauce on my oysters, I don’t think many people do, and yet I hear people trying them for the first time frequently smother their oyster in it. No wonder then, if they’re not enchanted with the crisp, briny, I am swallowing the ocean, magnificence of a raw oyster. And so I heard with a bit of awe and a great deal of respect that the Pemaquid Oyster Festival has banned cocktail sauce. The range of flavorings offered instead was impressive: Lime-Sake Sauce from Swan’s Way Caterers; Sea Bean Slaw from Primo Restaurant; Cider Mignonette from Francine Bistro; Pico de Gallo from Amalfi on the Water; Lemon-Leek Mignonette from Newcastle Publick House; Jalepeno Relish from the Anchor Inn/Damariscotta River Grill; Prosecco Preserved Lemon Mignonette from Atlantica; Green Tabasco Mignonette from Augustine’s and Lemon-Fennel Salsa from the Bradley Inn.
Boats were taking happy oyster eaters down the river to the oyster farms, where we could see the very simple mesh containers where the seed oysters spend about four years of their lives, growing from thumbnail size to ready to eat. The trays get rotated every day to keep algae from forming, according to our guide. These oysters are then dumped on the river bottom near shore to enjoy the last few months of their lives out of captivity. Batter flavor, again according to our guide, much like a free-range chicken.
The festival is a great place to learn about the Damariscotta region. Booths manned by members of area organizations provided information about the fish ladder–a stone waterway allowing alewifes to make a 42-foot vertical ascent to their spawning grounds, river trails, and the shell middens–mounds of oyster shells, one of them once more than thirty feet deep, 1,600 feet long and 1,650 feet wide, evidence that people ate oysters from 200 BC to 1000 AD, and many of them. There was also a touch tank with small scallops snapping their way through the water, nudibranches, hermit crabs, starfish (watch out oysters!) and enthusiastic young marine biology students (outside the tank) showing specimens and explaining life-cycles, identification, and who eats whom.
The grey day was brightened by all the yellow and orange slickers, and the line of oyster openers with dull blades flashing in and out keeping up with the hungry crowds. Good food, happy oyster eaters, a boat ride, and oyster lore combine to make the Pemaquid Oyster Festival a great Maine destination. Think about this: the oyster shells in the bottom layers of the midden ranged from 12 to 20 inches in length. Don’t think I’d eat 16 of those!

Medium Friday, supersizing not available.

Rev. Michelle Love offers spiritual connections at the Hall, on Fridays in the summer.


Wenches, Scallawags and Ribbon Fries

A full schedule of exciting Pirate adventures filled the poster of the Pirate Festival in Eastport Maine. I was hooked.

The dance performance was a small dance school recital, and anywhere else would have had me looking for a book to read or a magazine to thumb. But ten 5-7 year old girls in tap shoes and glittery red sweaters over black tights bumping into each other, or gamely concentrating on getting the routine right was touching against the backdrop of tall masts in the harbor, and buildings looking a bit down at heel.
Eastport is a city on the edge. In 1900 the population was 5,311. In 2000 it was 1,640 and today is 1,556. But the spirit at this festival was optimistic, and the community spirit was so permeated with love for neighbor that I was ready to pack my bags and head north.
Pirates were everywhere. Kids, grandmother’s and pets were pirated up, and some pretty grand costumes there were. And the pirates didn’t just look like pirates, they jeered swaggered and threatened. I couldn’t wait to don my pirate garb and atrocious Irish pirate accent, and join the crowd. I proclaimed perhaps a few too many times Anne Bonnie’s last words to her spouse awaiting the gallows, “If ye’d a fought like a man, ye needn’t die like a dog!” But no one ran me through.
Looking for a light bite before dinner we saw the sign Ribbon Fries. I don’t usually eat fries, but pirates really like them, so we ordered. While we were waiting a huge platter of greasy potato chips, piled precariously high and shimmering in the heat, was handed to the fellow in front of us. Incredulous, I asked if those were the fries. Indeed yes, and no, too late to change our order. We wandered on, munching a few, and I looked wistfully at the nearby truck selling smoked salmon on a stick. Next time.

The canon boomed, there was an attack by ship from the city across the harbor, and we had the best crab cake ever at the Chowder House Restaurant. Danced all night, and even Lee Southard’s rendition of Y-M-C-A (Ayuh, A-Y-A-H) was perfect for this boisterous evening.

Inches of wet hemlock needles make a wonderful cushioned path.

Nature Log Torrential rains during the night. We hiked Shackford Point in the morning, splashing through the trail. A seal near the fish weirs, moss was soaked, drips sounding loud in the quiet woods. Roads washed out, erosion in places on the way home.

We decided not to take this road by the river.