From Connecticut’s soft sandy beaches to Maine’s rugged granite shores, our Atlantic coastline is a place of beauty and wonder, lapping along five of the six New England states and drawing visitors from around the world. This week, we start in Ogunquit, Maine, named by Yankee magazine as the best beach town in New England. Next, we travel north to a rocky cove near Acadia National Park, where we create an authentic Maine clambake (right down to the Red Snapper hot dogs). And then it’s back to New England basics with a lesson in traditional boatbuilding in Newport, Rhode Island.
There were semifinalists, then finalists, and finally winners: Tonight during a ceremony in Chicago, the James Beard Foundation announced and feted the 2017 awards recipients in the chef and restaurant categories. James Beard Foundation Awards are one of the highest honors in the American hospitality industry.
You know you’re headed in the right direction when every Maineiac’s recommendation for his or her favorite raw bar steers you toward the same place. Eventide Oyster Col is the local go-to for briny bivalves. The rotating roster of more than a dozen fresh catches can include Maine favorites such as Flying Point,, Otter Cove, and John’s River Oysters; South of the Border riffs like fluke ceviche with pique de piña (a spicy pineapple flavored vinegar); and homestyle favorites like battered Gulf of Maine hake or a traditional New England clambake overflowing with steamers, lobster and mussels.
Yes, the city’s been a food town for a while, since Eventide rolled in with its 18 varieties of oysters and lobster rolls on steamed Chinese buns, Duckfat got famous for its eponymously fried Maine potatoes, and The Holy Donut revolutionized a breakfast food (get there early, ask for chocolate sea salt).
The exuberant seafood phenom that sets the standard for the modern oyster bar — not only in New England but for all of America. Eventide is no secret: No matter what time of year you arrive, or at what time of day, there will likely be at least a short wait. WHY: Nearly 20 varieties of craggy, pristine oysters from Maine and throughout the region sit piled on ice atop a hollowed-out slab of granite. Their names reflect their geography, etching maps in the mind: Pleasant Bay, John’s River, Basket Island, Dodge Cove. Eat them plain and then dabbed with accompaniments both classic (red wine mignonette) and newfangled (ices made from horseradish or kimchi). Trust that blackboard specials like fish crudos and octopus terrine will deliver, though the marquee remains the signature lobster roll umami-blasted by an unlikely triumvirate: browned butter, dried milk powder, and lemon. — B.A.
And, of course, not every New Englander is married to the classics. Bob’s Clam Hut owner Michael Landgarten, for one, fancies the lobster on a steamed bun at Portland’s Eventide Oyster Co. and the lobster sliders on biscuits at Kittery’s Robert’s Maine Grill almost as much as his own.
How would you’d describe your cuisine? Is it fusion?
I would say that most American restaurants could fall under the category of fusion. The culture diversity of this country has ensured that we have developed a vast repertoire of culinary influences, drawing from many different places. There term itself has developed a negative connotation over the years, possibly because many restaurants have failed to merge different cuisines in a thoughtful manner. At The Honey Paw, we strive to draw inspiration from previous knowledge and experiences to create dishes in which the ingredients work well together in new and exciting ways.
Ever notice what’s on the bookshelf at your favorite restaurants? Owner-Chef Mike Wiley talks about Hugo's Bookshelf.
Chefs/co-owners of Eventide Oyster Co. Andrew Taylor, 36, and Mike Wiley, 35, recently won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast for their wildly popular eatery in Portland, Maine and they’re set to open a Boston outpost in Fenway in August. The pair met as colleagues at Hugo’s in Portland, which they jointly purchased in 2012. Their company, Big Tree Hospitality, also operates the Honey Paw, an Asian-inflected restaurant, as well as a commissary, Big Tree Foods, in Biddeford, Maine.
Kim Rodgers, executive pastry chef at Hugo’s in Portland, Maine, sought to re-envision Waldorf salad for a dessert application. With lemon olive oil cake and cucumber ice cream as the foundation, she considered how she could work in the common Waldorf salad ingredients. Her conclusion was to add torn pieces of red butter lettuce, candied walnuts, shaved apple slices twisted into a cone, almost like a flower, and local green grapes juiced and turned into a foam. She also added Earl Grey mousse line, cucumber blossoms, lemon balm and Ruby Moon bean blossoms.
With the restaurants Hugo’s, Eventide and Honey Paw, the partners of Big Tree Hospitality have achieved remarkable success. This week we speak with Arlin Smith, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor about their own stories, winning the 2017 James Beard Award, and what life is like as they expand their business outside of Portland.
It’s perfectly acceptable to take a day trip to Portland for a lobster roll alone, but don’t stop there. Try the fresh crudo and oysters (ten varieties are from Maine) at Eventide Oyster Co., where the chef/owner duo just took home the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northeast.
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