Pemaquid peninsula, Maine in August

A culinary cruise down Mid-coast Maine

A culinary cruise down Mid-coast Maine

Typical of this lovely mid-coast peninsula is the Penaquid Point Lighthouse almost directly north of Provincetown on Cape Cod. Driving down Route 32 from Waldoboro you pass this pretty cottage and the old Bremen Town Hall.

Text by Walter Brooks, photos by Patricia Brooks

The Publick House in Newcastle.

Round Pond harbor.

When I hunger for the Cape Cod of my youth, I go to mid-coast Maine for a few days and remember.

My parents started bringing me to Cape Cod in the 1940s, and I can recall when The Cape was a lot like Maine except we had sand and they had rocks.

It's instructive to remember that Maine was once a part of Massachusetts until 1820. It was given its independent statehood as part of the Missouri Compromise.

The Bay State had pretty much ignored the needs of the people in what is today's State of Maine while we owned it, and congress separated them from us as a "free state" when it also made Missouri a "Slave State" thus keeping an uneasy balance which ended in 1860 with our Civil War.

The rain in Maine

The  long, cold winters in the Pinetree State may explain why the population is low, but that same harsh climate accounts for Maine's unique and strongly held attitude about the land.

As Parker Stevenson , a summer resident on Islesboro Island Maine, said, "I looked along the San Juan Islands and the coast of California, but I couldn't find the palette of green, granite, and dark blue that you can only find in Maine."

It is a singularly beautiful part of New England, especially when you get off the highways and head down one of Maine peninsulas turning ever east or west to the sea.

Ode to The Wiscassett traffic jam

Red 's Eats' traffic is so bad in Wiscassett,
While unspoken, is acknowledgly tacit.
   If you're headed for Maine,
   It can be a real pain,
So if given the chance you should pass it.

So a few weeks ago Pat and I ran up to her brother's cottage in Round Pond on the eastern shore of this spit. The first night we drove up to Newcastle for dinner.

If you've ever traveled on Route 1 east of Bath Maine in summer, you look as we do with trepidation at the traffic jams in Wiscassett a few miles ahead.

It is so bad that the NY Times recent did a feature on it, and we wrote the limerick on the right.

The Newcastle Publick House

We have long admired this restaurant building on our annual pilgrimage to the Newcastle-Damarisotta area, but this was our first visit to eat there.

Yes, this is Maine, and it is not an Asian restaurant, but Pat said the chicken satay grilled and marinated in ginger and garlic was the best she ever tasted, $7.

We shared Angry Al's Penaquid jumbo oysters with bacon, spinach, gorgonsola and hot sauce which were superb, six of them for $11.

I finished with a great beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon and topped with gorgonsola and roasted garlic demi glace, $24, while Pat had the Shepherd's Pie of lamb shanks braised in Geary’s London porter and topped with cheddar and scallion whipped potato, $15.

Both were well worth the cost. Newcastle Publick House, 52 Main Street, Newcastle.

Oysters, tenderloin and satay at the Publick House in Newcastle.

The Cupboard Cafe for breakfast

Use your GPS to find this spot, and it's worth it. This is the fifth generation of country cooking by this family in this town.

Starting with their fresh sandwich breads, meats, soups, traditional Maine chowders, luncheon specials, salad dressings, breakfast pastries, aka, "the buns" and ending with desserts, just about everything here is homemade.

We had hash and poached eggs, a spicy omelet, and of course, the fabulous sticky buns on the right in all their sticky glory.

The Cupboard Cafe is on Huddle Road which is a right off Route 130 before you reach New Harbor.

The Salt Bay Cafe for dinner.

The Salt Bay Cafe is an excellent restaurant in the middle of the charming  seaside village of Damarisotta on Route 1 halfway between Bath and Camden. It is the head of Pemaquid peninsula.

You can literally close your eyes and point to any spot on its menu to be pleasantly surprised.

We started with a great jerk chicken quesadilla and crab cakes, segued into Cajun chicken with Maine blueberry chutney and a scallop pasta in a Spanish style.

Since it was all mouth-wateringly good, we will only show you the piece de resistance, the homemade blueberry pie and espresso we had for dessert.

Annie O'Rourkes for another great meal

So you're in mid coast Maine, and looking for some good, inexpensive comfort food, and locals tell us to get up to Annie O'Roukes which is at the top of the Route 1 hill before you get to Moody's Diner on the next hill.

And what a pleasant surprise it was.

Pat tried the Spicy Mussels - $9.25, sauteed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, white wine and lemon garlic butter. Served with a roll for dipping. She said they were the best she'd ever had, and she's had it a thousand times.

I then went for the Irish Shepherd's Pie - $10.95. Annie's special recipe is outstanding! Ground beef, lamb, corn and real mashed potatoes served with rolls.

Pat ended with Limerick Chicken - $11.95. It was a half chicken rubbed with fresh spices, slow roasted, served with real mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and vegetable.

Below are the mussels, ribs, Shepard's Pie and Limerick Chicken at O'Rourkes.

Annie O'Rourkes, don't miss it. 816 Atlantic Hwy, Route 1, Waldoboro, 207-832-2000

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