Rising Tide Co-op Lobster Bake
By Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine
It's not every day that we get invited to small town Maine to go out on a lobster boat, eat local blueberry pies and have a lobster bake. But that's what happened when we opened our inbox a couple months back and saw an email from Christine Stout of Rising Tide Community Market in Damariscotta, Maine. It was one of those rare opportunities where we would have been fools to say no. So, we jumped at the chance and decided to head over to Maine and film our visit.
Christine set us up with the Pemaquid Lobster Co-op to take us out on the water. She also planned and promoted the Rising Tide co-op's Lobster Bake, which a whopping 70 people to attended. But maybe the most impressive feat was that she put us up in her beautiful, old farmhouse for our stay—complete with an adorable, rambunctious, 4 year old daughter (Jade), and wonderful dog (Pakunah) to boot.
Damariscotta is quite possibly one of the cutest towns we visited on our trip…with really friendly people, a charming downtown area right on the river and a very cool co-op focused on promoting and supporting local producers. Christine is an 11 year veteran of co-ops around the country and she really knows her stuff, the Grocery Manager (Alan MacQueen) is a farmer himself, and the whole staff—including co-General Managers Scott Cooper & Maryanne Seredynski—are truly passionate about the co-op community and local food scene.
The area around Pemaquid, a village about ten miles south of Damariscotta, is steeped in the rich history of fishing, lobstering and boat building. It's one of the last working harbors remaining along the mid-coast. And no one knows the area better than the lobstermen of the Pemaquid Lobster Co-op, which is the country's oldest known fishing cooperative in the country.
The group consists of 30 lobstermen ranging from 21-92 years old who work the harbor each day. Louis Cameron took Daniel out for the morning before the lobster bake to catch some dinner. While Mirra stayed back to bake 8 blueberry pies (with fresh ingredients from the Rising Tide Co-op and the undeniable help of sous-chef, 4-year old Jade).
The day of the lobster bake, Daniel woke up at 4am to get on the boat. The original invite was for 2pm, but Daniel wanted the "real" experience—which meant brutal hours, but an unbeatable sunrise from the ocean. Louie brought along his teenage daughter for the trip, as he does many mornings in the summer. The waves had white caps and the wind was blowing (so it was good that Mirra—who has a penchant for seasickness—didn't come) as the crew started bringing up traps. It's amazing how many lobsters get thrown back in the water. Louie compared it to farming: they feed the lobsters until they are of size to harvest, but 9 out of 10 don't make it onto the boat for sale, either because they are too big or too small. Louie had a lot to say about the frustrating regulations that the state of Maine puts on the fisherman. Because of which, despite the huge number of lobsters, this was not the hay day of making money. And of course there was a lot of talk about how Maine lobsters are infinitely better than any other.
By 5pm that night, we all met up back at Pemaquid Co-op dock to set up the lobster bake—a process that us non-Easterners had never seen before. Wayne Dighton manned the "grill", which consisted of a huge metal container set on cement blocks over firewood. In the pot, Wayne and his wife layered the following ingredients: one layer of seaweed, 90 lbs of live lobster from the day's catch, 70 or so foil wrapped potatoes, 70 bags of Maine clams, foil wrapped corn on the cob and then more seaweed. All the ingredients were covered with large steaming paper to keep in the moisture, then one more layer of seaweed before the wood underneath was set afire and a long stream of smoke began to fill the seafood-scented air.
The lobster was a big hit, as were the accoutrements and dessert (blueberry pie). And once the sun went down, episodes of The Perennial Plate road trip were projected onto the large screen the co-op had set up. To say that we had an evening to remember would be an understatement. We don't know how to thank Christine, Rising Tide and the Pemaquid Lobster Co-op enough for such a great stay. All we can say, is that we can't wait to come back to visit again.
Check out Mirra Fine's blueberry pie recipe.