AFTER ALL THAT RAIN Black trumpets and other gourmet wild mushrooms like chanterelles are especially plentiful this year.
Maine’s edible bounty, particularly come high summer, can be something truly to behold. The abundant wild mushrooms and ramps, the scallops and steamers and sourdough, the perennial rhubarb and raspberries, and new potatoes unearthed despite the beetles especially thrill me. Chef Sam Hayward even recently declared the basil tastes better here — assuming plants under stress release more aromatic compounds.
In Maine, lobster and exotic mushrooms remain affordable and commonplace, and often even unwanted. Sure, I’ll take the culls (lobsters missing a claw) the tourists shun at Allen’s Seafood in Harpswell for $3.25 a pound. And, on a hike in Central Maine, I found a profusion of black trumpet and golden chanterelle mushrooms that many a Mainer avoid. I don’t feel I’m competing with as many fellow foragers here, as sometimes happened when I lived in the Pacific Northwest. It helps that the mushrooms are particularly plentiful this wet summer, a relief after last year’s drought. A beginner can carry home black trumpet basketfuls.
Or you can order black trumpet quesadillas and lobster-chanterelle tacos with roasted fingerling potatoes, sautéed corn, and more black trumpets at the ever-reliable El Camino in Brunswick. El Camino’s co-owner and chef Eloise Humphrey finds the foraged booty here outweighs that of picked-over Northern California. At home, Humphrey sautés those meaty chanterelles for topping localicious cheeseburgers, made with Caldwell Family Farm organic beef and York Hill Farm’s aged goat cheese (similar to Bucheron). She loves how wild blueberries mingle so prettily together in a bag with those amber chanterelles this time of year. At El Camino, she marries the berries with a cornmeal-lime biscuit, passionfruit curd, and whipped cream for a fresh take on shortcake.
Here are other foodstuffs floating my boat in these full days of summer:
ONE FISH, TWO FISH Think you’re sick of lobster? You haven’t tried lobster in a Brazilian moqueca, a tangy, coconut milk-based seafood stew, with hake or any other fresh and cheap whitefish. Check out Hallowell Seafood and Produce (known as Justin’s) for Maine Bluefin tuna (eat sparingly). And look for also sushi-grade Maine yellowtail, also known as hiramasa or amberjack, just starting to be raised under a recirculating onshore aquaculture system that promises to be less polluting than most fish farms.
BREAD ALONE At the Kneading Conference, Hayward also showed off Standard Bakery’s redeveloped Maine miche, an airy loaf with bite made of local wheat milled in Skowhegan. It’s good enough to go in Fore Street’s bread baskets. I also can’t get enough of the nutty and sweet 100-percent-rye peasant loaves Barak Olins of Zu Bakery always sells out of early at the Saturday market in Brunswick.
THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE When York Hill Farm in New Sharon started making chèvre in 1984, Maine wasn’t buying it. The Duncans had to ship 90 percent of their cheese out of state. Now, 90 percent of it’s sold in state, and they make a lot more cheese. Their aged Capriano (grated like Parmesan) just won third place in the American Cheese Society’s farmstead goat category. Joining them at the Belgrade Lakes Sunday market is Echo Ridge Cheese, which makes some of the finest (and smelliest, in a good way) French-style organic cow’s milk cheeses around.