Oyster Notes from Maine
I love Maine. It’s as simple as that. Its pristine waters, its rocky coastline, its charming way of life. The world moves at half the pace and with twice the sincerity. B and I trekked as far north as Acadia National Park and as far seaward as Chebeague Island. We found our dream wedding venue, put a dent in the lobster population, and of course, enjoyed some of the state’s best oysters.
In my opinion, Maine is one of the last “frontiers” of the East. With just a population of 1.3 million (2010), it is set among the top 10 least populated states in the US. Maine’s unspoiled nature is just as fertile as it is beautiful. They are reputed with having some of the best tasting oysters on the east coast. I can personally vouch for that, as you’ll read about later. It’s no secret either. A couple thousand years ago, Native Americans were all about the wild oysters from Damariscotta River — and they left their tab behind for all to see. Today, most of Maine’s most prominent oyster farms are stationed along the Damariscotta, including Glidden Point, Pemaquid, and Cape Blue. If you’re really lucky, you can also find yourself a wild Belon!
On this trip, we were able to get our hands on some fantastic local favorites. Before hopping on the ferry to Chebeague Island, I headed over to buy oysters from the Harbor Fish Market, a reputable seafood market that attracts both locals and visitors. The selection and knowledge of the fishmongers was indeed extensive. I picked up four different varieties — three from Maine, one from Massachusetts.
John’s River from South Bristol, Maine
Flavor: 9 | Salinity: 7 | Sweetness: 6 | Texture: Plump, slightly chewy, meaty
This deliciously complex oysters was by far everyone’s favorite. It had a great balance of brininess, sweetness, and earthiness.
Winterpoint from Mill Cove, Maine
Flavor: 8 | Salinity: 8 | Sweetness: 4 | Texture: Soft, very meaty
The largest of the bunch, but also the most straightforward in taste. Winterpoints were difficult to shuck (due to size) — I actually had to use force!
Damariscotta from Maine
Flavor: 5 | Salinity: 5 | Sweetness: 3 | Texture: Slightly meaty, a bit thin
Simple sea flavor with a little bit of earthiness, relatively clean finish.
Duxbury from DuxburyBay, Massachusetts
Flavor: 7 | Salinity: 8 | Sweetness: 5 | Texture: Thin, soft, tender
These oysters had a rather pungent undertone, relatively briny, with a lingering salty finish.
The four dozen oysters disappeared quickly amongst the eight of us. Some opted to drizzle a little lemon juice on theirs, but I encouraged everyone to try at least one naked. That’s really the only true way to fully appreciate the fresh and vibrant taste of Maine. The more fresh the oyster, the less garnish you need.
Of course, that’s not all that we ate during the weekend. This season, there was a glut of lobster. While having excess is certainly better than the opposite, the reality of this surplus doesn’t help everyone. While we giddily scarfed down lobster wherever we went, we learned that lobstermen up and down the Maine coast were challenged to sell their excess product at a fair price. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. To think of it, I didn’t really see any dramatic price cuts in NYC for lobster either, with exception to the $6.99/lb sale at Citarella’s. (We’ve seen it as high as $16.99/lb there!)
On a more positive note, I experienced my first authentic lobster bake on the island. Family friends of our friend’s family hosted the most quintessential afternoon lobster bake and party that I’ve ever been to. Their charming plot of island comes with access to the water, a lush lawn, a breathtaking view of the southwest, and and insanely gorgeous summer house. Mental note: that’s what I want in 20 years.
This was my first Maine island vacation, but there will be many more to come! We also were able to lock down our wedding venue earlier in the trip, which I will leave as a relative secret until our website is up.
Check out my Flickr gallery for the full vacation set.