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10 Great Things About Maine Food

As Told by Someone Who Knows: Kerry Altiero, Owner and Chef of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, Maine

Honesty and integrity.

These are two words you hear a lot from Kerry Altiero, owner and chef at Cafe Miranda in Rockland, Maine and author of the book “Adventures in Comfort Food.”

And, when it comes to Maine food, they are two words he keeps coming back to. “(Food served in Maine) was really accepted because there’s honesty and integrity and there’s passion and there’s heart in it,” says Kerry. Truer words may have never been spoken.

As for the things that get Kerry excited about Maine food, there is no shortage of his aforementioned passion. So here, in no particular order are some of the highlights of a food scene that is poised to explode (if it hasn’t already).

  1. Fresh Ingredients – Although Kerry acknowledges that in Maine, farm-to-table is just the way they have always done things, there is no doubt that the food that comes from Maine’s rich land is undeniably amazing. “(In Maine) people are used to going to a farm they know,” says Kerry, “I get the zucchini, I get the rhubarb, I get the strawberries in the spring.” Among his favorites, he includes Schoolhouse Farms in Warren, Beth’s Farm Market in Union, Weskeag Farms in Thomaston, and his own Headacre Farm in Owl’s Head.

  2. Affordability – “It’s not just highbrow food everywhere, it’s not just the $40 steak,” Kerry says. He cites a few places close to his heart that bring together a low price tag and a little history. “Wasses Hot Dogs in Rockland is a great local thing … you can experience local, you can experience history, for $2.50 a crack, and they’re really good.” He also cites Willow Bake Shop in Rockland, Red’s Eats in Wiscasset and says you can’t go wrong with just about any old diner in Portland.

  3. Catering – “There are so many great caterers in Maine,” Kerry says. “Compared to having your wedding or your event in New York, you’re paying like a quarter of that price for great quality in a fantastic setting. How can you beat that? You can go to a Samoset Resort or you can have it on the ocean front at Waterman’s Beach Lobster … Maine is a great wedding destination –the summers are gorgeous and September is fantastic.” For notable caterers, he includes Trillium, Stacey Glassman (Swan’s Way), Laura Cabot and Megunticook Market & Catering in Camden.

  4. James Beard Award Winners – Kerry cites among his favorites Francine Bistro in Camden, Chase’s Daily in Belfast and Primo in Rockland – but he acknowledges there’s an incredibly high concentration of food professionals in the state (including himself of course) that welcome visitors who want to experience really great food.

  5. Desserts – Kerry wastes no time here – “We have the best blueberries on earth.” A visit to Maine just wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a dessert that includes Maine blueberries.

  6. Fairs and Events – Speaking of blueberries, Kerry says a visit to the Union Fair is in order if you want a taste of that iconic Maine Blueberry Pie. He also includes Fryeburg Fair, the Common Ground Country Fair and Maine Fare in Belfast as places to not just enjoy Maine’s fresh, organic food, and get a glimpse into Maine’s food culture too.

  7. Beer – Maine is a hotbed of activity when it comes to craft breweries, and it has been thriving sine the beginning of the movement back to the 1980s. For Kerry, it’s tough to narrow down all the great brewery options (you really can’t go wrong), but he cites Geary’s, Rock Harbor Pub & Brewery, Peak Organic Brewing Co., Marshall Wharf Brewery, Oxbow, Atlantic Brewing Company and Sebago.

  8. Coffee – Coffee Roasters are also experiencing a resurgence in Maine (not surprising considering the handcrafted culture permeates the entire food movement here). He likes Rock City Coffee Roasters in his hometown of Rockland, and Coffee By Design, a fixture in Maine coffee for over 20 years.

  9. Lobster – it kind of goes without saying, right?

  10. As an honorable mention, about Maine restaurants in general, Kerry uses the metaphor of those moments years ago when he would go shopping at a record store:

“When I was going to the (record store), back in the day, I stop at Show Tunes, I stop at Jazz, I stop at New Age, I stop at the Progressive Rock, I stop at Classic Rock, I stopped at Reggae…I can never make up my mind. And that’s the kind of thing that people who are visiting the state will not only not have a problem finding something they like, they’re going to be deluged with hundreds of options. Just in the MidCoast, there are easily twenty places that would exist in any urban area…am I going to Comida in Camden, am I going to Francine Bistro…am I going to Portland, am I going to Miyake, am I going to Eventide, am I going to Duck Fat? From a sandwich to oysters to go figure, you know?”

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