Maine Cruise 2018 – Deer Isle and Our Very Own Personal Chefs

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Rody on watch again, as we round Whitehead Island at the southern entrance to Muscle Ridge Channel.  The fog flirted with us, but eventually ran away.

Leaving Tenants Harbor, we were on a mission.  Friends from Jamestown were staying on the north shore of Deer Isle along the Eggemoggin Reach, had a deep water dock to offer, and had invited us for a visit.  And there was just a two-day window to catch up with them.  So off we went, up Muscle Ridge Channel, north the length of Penobscot Bay, and into Eggemoggin Reach.  With the exception of a little fog at the entrance to Muscle Ridge, it was a gorgeous day to be out on the water.  We had a great ride, and the views were beautiful.  By 3:00 pm we were alongside the dock on The Reach, and Enzo and Renata were there to meet us.

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Esmeralde lies at the deepwater dock on Eggemoggin Reach.

When it comes to enjoying life, Enzo and Renata know how to do it.  We love spending time with them.  The simple pleasures take over, and life is good.  It’s useful, of course, that they enjoy good food.  As an Italian-born former restauranteur-turned-personal-chef, Enzo knows his way around food, and Renata, originally from Poland, is blessed with similar credentials.  As a team, they are incomparable.  As hosts…well, they are the best!

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After we finished the pizza, Enzo brings out the bread and cheese.

I don’t really know where to start in describing our two-day visit.  So I’ll start with food.  Once we had the boat settled and ourselves cleaned up, we grabbed the pups and walked up the lovely shady paths and dirt drive to their log cabin looking out over the cove.  There can’t be a better spot anywhere on the coast of Maine.  Especially since this one came with wine, fresh homemade pizza (four different kinds) hot out of the oven, great company and extraordinary views.  Followed by hot bread and lovely local cheeses.  And this was just the afternoon snack!  We sat on their deck soaking it all in, while Giovanni the chipmunk scampered nearby, taunting the pups. We had arrived in heaven.  Pinch me.

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Maine’s finest.

As we discussed the list of possibilities for the next two days, lobster rose to the top of the list.  Enzo had a plan.  We piled into his truck and headed off on a mission.  We took the indirect route around Deer Island to do some sightseeing (Bruce and I had never been on the island, inspite of countless trips along its shores), and eventually ended up at the Jones Lobster Company.  This was apparently not Enzo’s first visit, as we were welcomed like family.  The lobsters were piled high on the scale, we settled up, and off we went, back in the truck and back to the log cabin.

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Catching dinner at the Jones Lobster Company on Deer Isle.

I think somewhere in there we all took a nap, but it’s a bit of a blur at this point.  What I do remember clearly is regrouping around the table as the sun went down, inside this time, to escape the skeeters but with the breeze blowing in through the wide screen doors to the porch.  What followed was a treat that I haven’t enjoyed in years, and one of Bruce’s favorite meals: veal parmesan, exquisitely finished.  This was followed by Renata’s berry cobbler and cake.  Aaahhh.  We were happy.  It was with complete contentment that we retraced our steps through the dark back to the dock and Esmeralde.  We slept very well.

To break the spell, I got up very early to go for a run.  We had an early date to go explore the area with Enzo and Renata, and I wanted to beat the heat and work off the food.  What a great place for a run: beautiful, bucolic country roads, zero traffic, and delightful clean cool air.  I could run forever.  As I returned down the long driveway, I spooked a doe and her two freckled fawns.  I know that sounds like a bad romance novel, but I swear it’s true!  They bounded off into the woods as I approached.

Bruce and I and the dogs met Enzo and Renata back at the cabin where we tossed back a couple of espressos before piling back into the truck.  Before we left I asked Enzo if the lobsters were happy after their night in the refrigerator.  I was concerned that they would have been more content in the lobster crate in the water down at the dock.  Um.  Oh.  Errr.  Enzo stammered.  Well, the lobsters might not be all that happy…  I was confused.  He opened the fridge door: there they were, meat only, par-cooked.  Enzo had been hard at work and the lobsters, well, they didn’t know nuthin.  Dinner prep had already begun.  More on that later.

Off to play!  We once again drove around the island, with Enzo and Renata pointing out the sites and arguing about how to get where we were going.  It didn’t really matter what roads we took: it was an island, and it was all quite beautiful.   We walked around “downtown” Stonington, an eclectic working waterfront village with shops, galleries, wharves and a few restaurants.  It was HOT, so we cut it short, largely for the sake of our shaggy black pups who loved the smells but were not thrilled with the temps.

Back in the truck, we had two destinations in mind.  Would it surprise you to learn that both were for food?  We had lengthy discussions about what to have for lunch: mexican or seafood.  The winner?  Both!

6D0J3kjGSMS6Ss2wq+EN8QWe crossed over the stately Eggemoggin Reach Bridge, or Deer Isle Bridge, that Bruce and I have cruised beneath countless times, but never crossed.  The bridge is the only auto connection to Deer Island.  Renata pointed out the eagles nesting on the top of the northern tower, perched on their nest and looking out while the babies reached up with their beaks.

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The north tower, with the eagle’s nest barely visible on the right hand side.

Completed in 1939, the bridge itself was an interesting engineering challenge.  It encountered wind stability problems that were similar to those of the Whitestone Bridge and the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which collapsed shortly after it opened (and which we cruised under with Esmeralde on our Pacific Northwest shakedown cruise).

Because the Eggemoggin Reach Bridge crossed a very busy navigable waterway (“the Reach”), it had to have a minimum height clearance of 85-feet and a 200-foot-wide channel at mid-span.  The bridge, according to Wikipedia, “is notable for the innovation of its designers and contractors in creating a durable, long-span, high-level structure across a navigable arm of the Atlantic at minimal cost. Unprecedented use of prefabricated and previously used materials simplified construction and minimized costs, and much of the outdoor work was completed under poor weather conditions.”  The wiki page makes an interesting read.

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Fried whole-belly clams at the Bagaduce lunch.

So.  Food.  First stop was an historic seafood shack that has been around for.ever.  The Bagaduce Lunch was opened in 1946 by Sidney and Bernice Snow. It as been run by the same family ever since, and the menu has never changed.  In 2008 it won a James Beard America’s Classics award.  Sitting at a picnic table in the shade by the water, we shared a plate of their signature item, fried whole-belly clams.

Our next stop was Blue Hill, where we did a bit of shopping at the funky Blue Hill Co-Op, an excellent resource and one that I love visiting when we cruise to Blue Hill on the boat.  We also stopped at the Tradewinds Marketplace, which is a full service grocery store.  It’s a bit of a walk if you’re on a boat, which is probably why we have never been there before, but it is doable if you need provisions while cruising.  Today, we needed wine!  Another great stop in Blue Hill is Bucklyn Coffee, but unfortunately they were closed when we arrived.

OK, so by now we were hungry again.  Can you imagine???  When in Maine, what do you eat?  Why, Mexican, of course.  Off to El El Frijoles, another family-run, seasonal, and locally-sourced destination.  I secured a picnic table in the shade with the pups while Enzo, Renata and Bruce went inside to study the menu and place an order.  Bruce and I ended up sharing a lobster taco that was delicious, complete with a fresh home made tortilla.  Enzo and Renata chose a quesadilla.  Excellent spot.  You have to be quick, though, because they close whenever they run out of food each day, and you never know when that will be.

After finishing up [our second] lunch, we piled back into the faithful truck and headed back to the log cabin, with a brief stop at the goat farm next door to the cabin, where we picked up some fresh salad greens (we had to wait, as they were just picking them in the field) and their own goat cheese.  Time for siesta.  Until it was time for wine.

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Steamed mussels on the deck.

We joined Enzo and Renata and a couple of bottles of wine and Giovanni (the chipmunk) on the porch and soaked up the evening air, cooling breeze and lovely views.  So special. Giovanni chattered away constantly, entertained us, and drove the pups bonkers.  They could never figure out where he was–but they knew he was there!

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Steamed mussels on the deck.

Dinner was epic Maine.  Enzo whipped up some steamed mussels in wine and garlic, which we enjoyed outside on the deck.  The skeeters emerged while he was preparing the rest of dinner so we retreated inside, were he then brought out the salad greens, fresh local grilled corn and eggplant, and the centerpiece, lobster poached in butter and wine.

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Saluti!

Enzo doesn’t like the idea of steaming the lobsters whole because of the possibility that the “undesirables” in the body will taint the purity of the meat.  I agree!  So he strips the meat out of the bodies before cooking it. I can only imagine that’s a bit of a nasty job.  That’s what he had just finished doing when I had asked, earlier that morning, if the lobsters were “happy”.  Which explained his stammered response to my question…  “Um, maybe, um, not exactly.”

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Lobster poached in butter.

As you can imagine, it was all quite remarkably delicious.

I realize this post is getting rather long, but i’m not done yet!  We had another mission the next morning.  Bread and scones.  There’s this wood-fired bakery in Brooksville called Tinder Hearth and their scones are legendary.  The problem is that it takes almost an hour to get there, they open at 8:00 a.m., and they sell out by, oh, maybe 8:30 a.m.  They also have wood fired pizza a few nights a week, and you have to not only reserve a table, but also reserve exactly what pizzas you want, and you can’t order more or differently once you get there.  All this is rather confusing to us as a business model, but on the coast of Maine it is what it is, and we roll with it.

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One last trip up the dirt drive to the log cabin.

So I got up even earlier to go for an even longer run (all that food, you know), then Bruce and the pups and I took one last walk to gather again at the log cabin, tossed back a few more espressos, and piled back in the truck to go in search of more food!

It was a lovely drive.  The setting for Tinder Hearth is a handsome old farmhouse on a hillside.  There was a line of people outside when we arrived, but we crossed our fingers and got in line.  As luck would have it, there was ONE scone left when it was our turn!  We grabbed that one, added a couple of tartlets and a loaf of bread, and off we went, back to the log cabin to enjoy one last repast on the deck before this incredible visit drew to a close.

We knew before we cast off our lines at mid-day that this was the highlight of our 2018 Maine Cruise.  Really.  Maine is still nice, but this was the best.  Good friends, fine food, fabulous location.  We are so very fortunate to have been able to enjoy such a special visit.

 

 

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