beyond the cantilever

I did not think Maine would inspire with doughnuts—but then, Maine is full of surprises.

old-fashioned sugar doughnuts

The Willow Bake Shoppe opens early, to close at noon, in the accepted local practice of quirky business hours,

Willow Bake Shoppe in Maine

and I walked in last Monday morning to the smell of baking, of warm classic buttermilk and molasses doughnuts, some rolled in sugar.

old-fashioned sugar doughnuts

buttermilk doughnuts from Willow Bake Shoppe

When you visit, go for the chocolate glazed (code for chocolate cake baked into circles with a shiver of icing) at this little shop.

After work in the quiet office, my wonderful friend Keryn and I walked up Beech Hill Preserve to watch the clouds,

beech hill preserve

beech hill preserve

and the water.

beech hill preserve

Keryn pointed out the sod roof on the house at the top of the hill, another old-fashioned Maine surprise, as even a roof can spring to life.

sod roof at beech hill preserve

beech hill preserve

clouds at beech hill preserve

beech hill preserve

beech hill preserve

Mornings in Maine tend to be equally serene,

Maine

Maine coast

birds winging their way across ripples,

Maine birds

the still Camden harbor waters sparkling,

Camden harbor

local products being produced, to later be found at the wonderful Farmers Fare in Rockport, Maine: Keene Dairy raw milk (my favorite of the area raw milks), Maine Natural Oils’s potent mustard oil, mint water (not quite sure how I’ll use this), Dolcelinos excellent ice cream sandwiches (try the ginger-lemon), and Farmers Fare Frozen Joy (a product they are still perfecting).

Maine products: Keene Dairy raw milk, Maine Natural Oils mustard oil, Mint Water, dolcelinos sandwich, Farmer Fare Frozen Joy

On Friday night, the Maine Farmland Trust gallery in Belfast featured Keryn’s friend Lily’s work, and so we went to see her clean images of Maine farmers with their lovely scrubbed vegetables, before heading to (“life-changing,” as Keryn’s friend Rachel told us as we walked through the door) Pemaquid oysters at Three Tides, where they serve Harbor Wharf Brewing Co. beer produced next door.

oysters at Three Tides

The next morning, we pulled out Keryn’s copy of the Maine Gazetteer (Maine has their own version of most things—for a road atlas, the Gazetteer, for Craig’s List, Uncle Henry’s)—and headed toward sauerkraut.

the Gazetteer

Morse’s Sauerkraut is an institution,

Morse's Sauerkraut

offering foods in the restaurant that complement their sauerkraut and pickles, adjacent to a comprehensive European foodstuffs store.

Morse's Sauerkraut

Keryn ordered the refined Swedish pancakes with lingonberries (on top and also within the folds), while I embraced what might be the only Reuben omelette I have the great pleasure of ordering, filled with sauerkraut, swiss, and corned beef next to potatoes and sauce, rye bread.

Keryn's swedish pancakes with lingonberries and my reuben omelette (corned beef, swiss, kraut) with rye and potatoes with sauce

We lingered in the shop, talking to the store owner who promised to carry Spekuloos soon (the gingerbread cookie spread that the Waffle Truck in NY is making famous), and who introduced us to pear and apple stroop, coffee candies, and chalk licorice.

treats from Morse's Sauerkraut store

We found our way to Liberty Tool, wandering among three floors of collected tools of all sorts,

Liberty Tool in Maine

at liberty tool

wondering what a Mirroscope might be (looks like a proper projector and maybe one that uses internal mirrors to reflect?),

mirrorscope at Liberty Tool

and Keryn illustrated how a blueberry rake (missing its handle) works.

blueberry tool

Passing old cars, Keryn drove us from Liberty back to Camden,

in Liberty, Maine

where we secured a few large bags of the addictive Little Lad’s popcorn as sustenance for our friend Jen,

Keryn is a Little Lad's ad

who is rebuilding a house of her very own.

the purple work belt

A herculean effort, Jen’s strength of purpose showed as she talked with affection about installing the beautiful tub,

the beautiful bathtub

working on this room that hasn’t been a focus yet,

plastic for now

the vintage stove she bought years ago (that I would like to cook on someday),

the vintage stove I want to cook on

and I would say we left Jen musing about the possibilities,

Jen and her house

but knowing her better than that, more likely, she went back inside to find employment for her beloved power tools and some pieces of siding or trim, whirring away into the afternoon.

Jen's house

Gloriously free of tools, and not needing the Gazetteer for the nearest food markets, I wandered back to the small working farm behind Farmers Fare,

Farmer's Fare working farm out back in Maine

and, of course, inside the space full of local products and a cafe, ordering what turned out to be the best charcuterie plate I’ve ever had of smoked mussels, smoked day boat scallops, Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse‘s incredible roasted smoked salmon, and local apples, good salami, mustard, Morse’s pickles, and a house-made relish.

best charcuterie plate I've ever had at Farmer's Fare in Maine

Back at Keryn and Mike’s house, we made a garlic paste for cooked cannellini beans, smoothed it into a spread, and headed over to Ladleah and Shane’s house, where the fire was starting and the table was being set,

the fire started and the table was being set

daffodils and quince branches from their friend Peels were waiting on the dinner guests,

daffodils and quince branches from Peels

Keryn placed napkins,

Keryn set the table

and Ladleah and her friend Rodney (who will be working at Primo) were prepping goat chorizo, mushrooms, and shells for the big paella pan,

beautiful, beautiful chorizo and shells for the paella

that steamed with all the good things in it under the careful watch of its expert handlers.

clams and mussels opened

Ladleah told me how she had just enough eggs for her soft, fresh pasta; the rest of the eggs were promised for Sunday’s Supper at Salt Water Farm, like the wonderful one I attended the week before (one of the many reasons I stayed an extra week in Maine).

fresh pasta with Ladleah's chicken eggs

Having completed their egg duty earlier, the chickens inspected the table,

chickens inspecting the table area

before everyone shooed them away (conspiratorially taking my arm, Ladleah showed me how they roost in their quarters),

Ladleah showed me the chickens and what they were up to

and everyone helped place the bowls on the table (at right is the fascinating Evan Strusinski, who forages lovely things for local restaurants and a few in New York with impossible reservation lists),

the table as the sun set

as the sun faded (at left in the foreground is Annemarie, the inspiring chef at Salt Water Farm who has made the transition from Brooklyn to Maine beautifully, and who shared her excitement about new offerings from local fish purveyors).

all these beautiful people

Jen, sans power tools, was on my left, across were Keryn and Mike, and all these beautiful people with their beautiful energy passed the wooden bowls, served each other, and their laughter rang out.

the table

As the best dinners do, everyone moved around the table, making sure to talk to everyone else, and much later, dessert crêpes appeared, then a guitar that Rodney skillfully played in the living room by the kitchen,

for dessert, mango crepes

and I stole outside in a borrowed jacket and scarf to warm my hands at the fire, look up at the stars, knowing I had to leave so I could return.

Suddenly, and with her usual grace, Keryn was next to me, and then her talented group of friends (that she generously included me as part of all week) joined us at the fire, and I knew I was smitten with this group, firm in their conviction they can shape the lives they want in this place.

halved fiddlehead ferns

I drove back to a rainy Brooklyn on Sunday, the trees as green as the Maine fiddleheads I split and sautéed, stirred into pasta with roasted asparagus and ramps, shaved pecorino, and a simple cream sauce for dinner with my wise friend Solana, who forgave me for missing her birthday party when she heard about my coastal adventures.

pasta with fiddleheads, asparagus, ramps, and pecorino (cream sauce)

We finished a Chenin Blanc and dipped warm stroopwafels from the Maine woods into vanilla pudding (recipe) and talked of the summer, extending stays in places you grow to love,

stroopwafel and vanilla pudding

and I thought about how my life is like the spiral of fiddlehead ferns, about to unfurl in ways I cannot even imagine…

Related posts:

  1. sunday supper at salt water farm
  2. green on and off the island
  3. a return to charming maine