Tide Mill Farm To Table
(mid august. number 41.)
I travelled to Maine this August, way "down east," to Washington County, in the area nearest to Eastport, the easternmost incorporated town in the United States, to visit my good friends Asher Woodworth and Marit Wilson. I documented the experience heavily by keeping a travelogue called Visiting The Good Life.
Asher helped with Secret Restaurant Portland #4, way back in the day (2010), and the next time I saw him, in 2011, in New Hampshire at The Runnymede Project, I was able to cook for him and for Marit many times. In 2012, before we went to Europe, I stayed with them and cooked many meals as well. They had the idea of doing a Secret Restaurant during my visit this year. They work some days, for food trade, on an 8th generation family (the Bells) farm– Tide Mill Farm in Edmonds, near Perry (where they live) and Eastport (where most of their current community is based). This place was the natural choice for our location.
I was able to meet Aaron Bell and Carly DelSignore, the husband/wife who run the farm. I was also able to meet and work with Rachel Bell, also one of the Bell family, who runs Tide Mill Creamery (a separate operation using the milk from Tide Mill Cows). They all helped make this dinner a possibility by providing the ingredients, space, and support.
Asher and Marit did all the inviting/organizing (it was a dream, for me, to skip that part!) and also helped gather ingredients, do prep work, and execute the event. In the end it was the largest Secret Restaurant event I've ever done (30 diners), and an extra challenge for me, as the only cook working on each dish from idea-to-table.
All produce (aside from lemons, which obviously do not grow in the area- and blueberries, which were raked wild by one of our guests) and dairy was from Tide Mill Farms.
Our apologies that there were no truly successful photographs of the food. I was too occupied in the kitchen to really attempt it myself, and the guests with cameras (thank you Ethan, from the Creamery, who resides in the farmhouse, for taking some of the better ones) focused more on capturing the atmosphere.
Youthful yellow crookneck squash
Breaded in cornmeal (even the eggs used as a binder were from the chickens kept next door) and fried up in a giant, two-burner cast iron.
Served with a sauce to dollop on each piece; Tide Mill Creamery's fromage blanc, greek yogurt, and whole milk, blitzed with raw garlic, a selection of fresh herbs, cracked black pepper, and salt.
Celery salad, camembert, poppyseed crackers
Thin youthful celery blanched briefly, sliced into smaller pieces, combined with toasted walnut pieces and italian parsley leaves, then tossed in walnut oil and lemon juice.
Camembert made by Tide Mill Creamery especially for the occasion.
Handmade poppyseed crackers featuring maine grown whole wheat.
Salt mackerel, salsa verde, new potatoes, green beans, sherry onions
Mackerel caught down by the breakwaters in Eastport that afternoon by Asher and an old timer who he chatted up down there when getting desperate. Salt baked to delicious affect.
New potatoes poached in milk, then cooled. Green beans blanched, then cooled. Sherry onions pickled cold. Tossed together with little adornment, a backbone of textures and flavor for the fish and sauce.
Salsa verde made with all the culinary herbs on hand, capers, green olives, chile flakes, and anchovies.
Single small carrots from Asher & Marit's garden in Perry, blanched, cut down the middle, and caramelized on one side with sweet cream butter and the the faintest tossing of sugar. A slightly silly, delicious transition from dinner to dessert.
Wild blueberry & lemon curd rustic tart
Extra flaky tart dough made using the Tide Mill greek yogurt in addition to butter. Lemon curd made with local eggs, spread on the bottom layers. Half the blueberries were stewed with sugar and lemon juice, the other half added raw and smashed together. The tart baked and cooled, each piece was slathered with another layer of lemon curd before serving. These folks eat a lot of wild blueberry pie every summer, and people seemed to be delighted by the change of pace.
Alchemy Dry Gin from Maine Craft Distilling, herby simple syrup, assorted herbs, club soda. Did I mention herbs?
Gin, tonic, lime.
From Water Avenue Coffee Company in my own Portland. Roaster Aaron Baker gave me this coffee to bring out to Maine with me. Here's what he had to say about it: "I picked out the El Salvador San Luis, which is one of our Farm Direct coffees, meaning we work directly with the farmer's growing it, bypassing any middlemen like importers or green coffee brokers. It is grown by the Menendez Family in the Ataco region. It is a Red Bourbon varietal that is naturally processed and patio dried. I love this coffee because it has tons of sweet fruit (think strawberry jam) like typical natural's do, but it is balanced by enough rich chocolate and tart acidity to make it just a great all around drinking coffee."