- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

Lobster pounds and clam shacks. Pick-your-own berries and local corn. Whoopee pies and Italian sandwiches. Baked bean suppers and fiddlehead ferns.

Those are just a few of the ways you can experience Maine through food when you’re on vacation. A new book, “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing), offers recipes for such classic Maine dishes as baked beans, strawberry shortcake and blueberry muffins as well as listings for culinary experiences around the state, from farmers markets and food festivals to lobster pounds and clam shacks, and to fine dining.

Here are some recommendations from author Brooke Dojny — winner of the James Beard Award for the “AMA Family Health Cookbook” (Pocket Books) and a former prep chef for Martha Stewart — for sampling Maine seafood and other regional specialties.

1Enjoy fried seafood at clam shacks by the side of the road, or order your fresh-caught lobster at a lobster shack on a working pier. Place your order at a window, get a number, and pick up your food on a plastic tray with paper plates. The best places have long lines, but they’re worth the wait. “It is just one of those quintessential Maine experiences,” Miss Dojny says.

Try chowder, typically “made with steamer clams and milky and buttery and brothy,” she says. If you’re not up for a whole lobster, try a lobster roll, made from chopped lobster, mayo and a little lemon juice, heaped in a butter-grilled, top-split hot dog roll.

Miss Dojny’s favorite seafood places include Two Lights Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, near Portland on what she describes as “a beautiful dramatic headland, the entrance to Portland Harbor, marked by two lighthouses. On a foggy day, it’s quite an experience sitting there with the foghorns booming.”

Another favorite is Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster, a quiet, unspoiled place “a world away” — but just a short drive from L.L. Bean’s bustling retail store in downtown Freeport.

2Look for signs on local roads for baked-bean suppers “put on by local churches or civic organizations as fundraisers,” Miss Dojny says. Pay a few bucks and share whatever the community has cooked up — pies, casseroles, coleslaw and, of course, baked beans, “all homemade and almost invariably just delicious.”

Maine baked beans typically are simmered for hours with molasses, onions, salt pork and mustard “until they absorb all that sweetness and get rich and dark and syrupy.”

3Look for strawberry shortcake at country fairs, food festivals and in diners. Miss Dojny says that in Maine, strawberry shortcake is not a layer cake; it’s a warm biscuit topped with a little butter, sweetened sliced berries and whipped cream.

4Try tiny Maine blueberries, utterly different from the fat blueberries found in supermarkets. These grow on barrens in the eastern part of the state and are harvested with a rake. Look for pies, muffins and pancakes at diners and bread-and-breakfast inns.

5General stores, convenience stores and sometimes gas-station markets sell whoopee pies and Italian sandwiches.

Miss Dojny says whoopee pies are “probably the precursor to some of the Hostess cakes — it’s like a devil’s food cake, round with sticky sweet frosting.” An “Italian” is “what the rest of the country would call a submarine sandwich, a hoagie or a hero — cold cuts layered with cheese and condiments in a crusty roll.”

6If you’re renting a house and feel like cooking, seek out local corn and other fresh produce at farmers markets and roadside stands. Check newspaper classifieds for pick-your-own farms — strawberries in early summer and raspberries in August.

In Aroostook County, you may see bags of potatoes left out for the taking; you pay by the honor system — dropping money in an unsupervised jar. “It restores your faith in humanity,” Miss Dojny says.

7Check out Maine’s growing upscale restaurant scene. “Many chefs have moved to Maine because the food scene is so vibrant and the ingredients are so fantastic,” Miss Dojny says. “Dishing Up Maine” includes recipes from Maine’s top chefs, and Miss Dojny’s restaurant recommendations include Fore Street in Portland, Primo in Rockland, Cleonice in Ellsworth, and Burning Tree in Otter Creek, which is near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

You may find fiddlehead ferns on some menus. These wild greens are a favorite of old-timers, but they’ve turned trendy in recent years.

“They taste sort of like asparagus — crunchy and green,” Miss Dojny says. “They are a little weird-looking, but they are just delicious.”

• • •

Two Lights Lobster Shack: 225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth; lobstershack-twolights.com or 207/799-1677. Lobster is daily market rate; sides less than $10; entrees $10 to $20.

Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster: Town Landing, South Freeport; 207/865-3535. Sides less than $10; entrees up to $24.

Fore Street: 288 Fore St., Portland; www.forestreet.biz or 207/775-2717. Entrees $17 to $34.

Primo: 2 South Main St., Rockland; www.primorestaurant.com or 207/596-0770. Entrees $23-$38.

Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro: 112 Main St., Ellsworth; www.cleonice.com or 207/664-7554. Entrees $19 to $25.

Burning Tree: Route 3, Otter Creek; 207/288-9331. Entrees $18 to $26.

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