When I go on vacation, I'm always a bit nervous about what the food is going to be like, especially coming from New York, where I can be your typical obnoxious food snob.
But I just got back from a week in Maine, and I can say that it was one of my favorite food vacations in a long time. Whether it was picking up some wild blueberries to nimble on while driving through the state or eating fish fresh off the boat, Maine was a haven for people like me who live to eat good food.
From what I understand, much of Portland's farm to table food scene started at the legendary Fore Street Restaurant.
While I didn't eat there (not in the budget), I did eat at Street & Co., where the wood-oven roasted mussels just about melted in my mouth, and the lemon curd pie with fresh wild blueberries that my daughter had made me want to rush home to my kitchen so I could try to recreate a gluten-free version.
In Camden, we stayed at a renovated sustainable motel with a farm in the back, run by ex-New Yorkers. Grass fed chickens were running around in the yard amidst the squash blossoms, greens and tomatoes.
But really, when you go to Maine, it's all about the lobster. The place to go was Red's Eats in Wiscasset. A pound of lobster on a bun. (Yes, I cheated and ate some gluten). I couldn't eat another one on the trip because this was by far, the best lobster roll I was ever going to have in my life, and anything else would be a disappointment. It was worth waiting in line for almost an hour to have it.
After a week of eating non-stop, I couldn't wait to come home and detox. I immediately made a summer minestrone and also a vegetarian corn and tomato chowder. Been eating it for days, dreaming of Maine.
ROASTED CORN AND TOMATO CHOWDER
Use the corn cobs to make a stock. For a heartier soup, use chicken or vegetable stock. Add some lobster or clams if you want to feel like you're in Maine.
4 cups water
5 medium new yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
4 ears shucked corn
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ripe san marzano or plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded lemon basil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Fill a pot with four cups of cold water. Add the potatoes, corn cobs, and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then let simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 25 minutes. Toss the corn cobs and bay leaf. Set aside.
While the broth is simmering, put the tomatoes and corn kernels on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with a ½ teaspoon salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss with your hands and roast for about 15 minutes.
In a soup pot, heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and a ½ teaspoon of salt. Saute for about 10 minutes, until translucent.
Add the carrots, fennel and garlic. Saute for another 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are softened.
Add the potatoes and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the roasted corn and tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes.
With an immersion blender, puree half of the soup. (Puree more if you like it less chunky)
Taste and add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with lemon basil.