taste of maine (part 2)
May 22, 2007

Days after the Taste of Maine (a tourism marketing event we're on the press list for), Eliza, Nicole and I are still so amused that we make plans for Taste of Maine, Part 2, taking advantage of the Dishing Up Maine cookbook that came in the L.L. Bean swag bag.

I pour over Brooke Dojny's recipes and envision lobster feast or true clambake, but in the end we've got to translate Maine's flavors to weeknight cooking in Tiny Kitchen Brooklyn. I opt for mussels in a mustard-leek cream sauce and hope that late May will still be cool enough for us to appreciate this belly-filling (but quick and cheap) meal.

After two test runs I've assured myself we can have dinner on the table in under an hour, and that it can be purchased for around $20. A second batch of sourdough bread makes the simple meal heartier and homier. Grocery shopping is still a bit of a hike, and the Manhattan girls aren't used to a 15-block loop before dinner. Even though the fish shop guys are closing up when we arrive, they manage to dig us up two full mesh bags of mussels from the back. At home (after snacking on pre-dinner cheese and crackers), picking through four pounds of mussels is the longest part of meal preparation (I'm never sure exactly how open a mussel has to be before you toss it).

So dinner may take slightly longer than an hour to get on the table, but it's worth the wait. The cream sauce is entirely decadent, and we sop it all up with a loaf and a half of bread. Strawberries and bacon on spinach salad is equally rich, but the flavors are down home enough to imagine we've fresh-picked our Driscolls from a Maine berry patch.

If dinner is a little chaotic, dessert goes together with true simplicity. I hop up while the others are still licking their bowls and mix together a crumbly, rough-hewn shortcake. I get a little distracted while it's in the oven, but other than a crispy posterior, our strawberry-topped cakes are no worse for wear—and they are the essence of summer.

It might be overreaching, but I'd guess we've gone beyond the mere Taste of Maine and landed on the Flavor of American Summertime.