Friday, December 17, 2010

A New England Christmas

The holidays have, for some, become a political statement, a religious affront or a cultural slight. There are others who see the end of the year as the last celebration of the year; the last fling before the hard months of hunkering down for three months of cold, dark and waiting.

In large cities, like New York, Chicago and Miami, secular Christmas is about retail therapy, too much glitz and lots of faux glam. In New England holiday decorations are traditionally simple. It is the norm to see every window graced with a simple green wreath and a single candlelight that glows in the night. New England homes, for the most part, (yes there are tasteless pockets of blow up Santas and enough lights to heat Croatia) have been decorated in this simple style for generations.

Midcoast and Down East Maine add one element unique to the people who live and work here. Our town Christmas trees are built from lobster traps, festooned with fresh greens and hung with the buoys, each unique, of local fishermen. The tree topper, a lobster sculpture, shines over the harbors that are fished throughout the year and the seas that brought home too many for the last time.

The decorations don’t go up until Thanksgiving weekend. What a concept! We avoid the disconnect apparent in stores when Christmas decorations appear before Halloween. Thanksgiving Friday the children line the harbors to see Santa arrive by boat. As dusk falls scarves are rewound for warmth and the tree is lit. It is a moment reminiscent of Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. Marvel and delight permeates town as the tree a monument to community, the celebration of the holidays, Yankee ingenuity and the fishermen who risk their lives every year to bring lobster to tables across the county radiates through the night. It is a beacon of hope, wonder and respect.

Whatever your feelings about the holidays step away from the noise of it for a moment and celebrate it in a way that is true to your heart. It doesn’t have to be the inundation of commercials or painful trips to malls. Find someplace that celebrates the season with simplicity and honors its community. The simplicity is peaceful and true.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lobstering with Captain Dan

We have had an unbelievable summer. The weather has been consistently sunny and in the 80’s since May. It’s been so good we didn’t have our normal fifth season, mud, this year. Whether it has been the long hot days, the calm seas or a secret of Mother Nature our catch has been very good. We normally throw back as many as we keep. Not this year; for the most part there were consistent catches of 5 – 6 lobsters in each trap, most averaging 1 ¼ to 1 ½ lbs per lobster. Now we did see a brief slow down with the approach of hurricanes Earl and Igor. But the threats were more than the impact and the lobsters are returning.

It is important to note at Crate to Plate your catch is lobsters not pounds. A half season harvest of 20 – 30 lobsters is 30 to 45 pounds. That is a party. So come see us. Fall may be upon us, but it is still a great time to put on your boots, roll up your sleeves and join Captain Dan on the Fisher Girl. There is nothing like the first hand experience of hauling up a trap. Come see how lobster are caught and more importantly sustained.

Image by Annie Higbee of imagewright, on behalf of Meandering Maine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lobster in Maine is Great!

You may have heard a lot of negative press out of Massachusetts regarding this year’s catch but that is in Massachusetts. Maine harvests 80% of the annual lobster harvest and not because we are lucky or that Maine is a better habitat for lobster. It is because Maine lobstermen have for generations fished with an eye to the future. They never keep below weight, female with eggs or over large species because canny frugal Mainers know that what isn’t protected today won’t be available tomorrow. Lobstering is not sport it is a way of life that father’s have taught sons (and now daughters) since the first settlement. For many it is the desired livelihood of the future. To ensure that future every fisherman on the water in Maine is a conservationist.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teach a Child to Eat a Lobster…

We live in an age where we believe children will only eat white food. Not just white food, but white food with no flavor. What was the last white food you saw growing in nature? There are a few that beneath their skin have white hearts but they are not foods served to children. We imagine what a child will or will not eat. The decisions made on his behalf will either stifle or educate his palate. As these children mature they no longer know if the memories and likes or dislikes they have are their own or if they are remnants of what they have been taught.

Even if parents are adventuresome eaters they often don’t make the leap to allow their children to try new flavors and textures. Our food choices for our children are sometimes based on perceptions rather than reality. Take lobster as an example. We assume they will be afraid of the way it looks. In most cases not true. Children have imagination and are fascinated by the prehistoric nature of lobster. They see a compatriot of dinosaurs and other creatures from story books. They view them with a mix of horror and thrill. It is a sea creature that the child can feel an authority over.


Every year at the Lobster Festival in Rockland, six to ten year olds compete to see who can eat the most lobster. They attack the shells like young warriors and eat the meat with gusto. They leave the stage with a sense of victory over nature and with the thrill of shocking the audience with their own audacity. They know there are adults in the crowd who view their success with wonder. They hear the whispers, “Can you imagine a child that eats lobster?”

Yes, imagine. A child will eat lobster, not only eat it but enjoy it.

Monday, June 28, 2010


There is a myth that lobster is fancy. The degree of fanciness or some might say stuffiness is based on the cooking method. Regardless of your view of lobster one thing that must be true, always, is the freshness of the lobster and the ingredients used to enhance it.

An additional myth is that to be indulged we must be overdressed, have waiters fawning over us and have an exorbitant bill at the end of the meal. Forget that. Throw your jeans on, go barefoot and be indulged in a state of one hundred per cent casualness.

A perfect example of indulgent casualness is the Brass Compass in Rockland , Maine . The Compass is the domain of chef/owner Lynn Archer. Lynn starts her day with the baking of fresh bread, a selection of pies and cakes and muffins the size of a good sized winch. She takes pride in what she serves and she treats both her customers and staff as extended members of the family.

Last fall she was challenged by Bobby Flay for a throw down. Poor Bobby. He didn’t stand a chance. Why? She bakes the bread, she knows the minute the lobsters are pulled from the sea, she knows who smoked the bacon and she only uses real mayonnaise. Most importantly, she knows that lobster can be enhanced but it should never be overpowered. Regardless of the dish, it is the freshness of the lobster you should taste first. Here is her recipe.

Lynn Archer, The Brass Compass Café
“The sweetness of the lobster should not be overpowered
by the mayo, so go light on it. I use the lobster to stick the
sandwich together.”
1¼ pound Maine lobster, cooked and meat removed, lightly mixed
with real mayonnaise, just enough to hold lobster meat together
2 Tablespoons real mayonnaise
3 thick slices homemade white bread
3-4 slices crisp cooked slab bacon
Few pieces crisp green leaf lettuce
1-2 slices thinly sliced large ripe tomato
Toast all bread slices lightly. On first piece, spread mayonnaise,
bacon, lettuce, and tomato and top with the second slice
of bread. Add all the lobster meat and top with mayonnaise
spread on the third slice. Cut in half diagonally, and enjoy!
You’ll have a huge lobster club, fit for a king (or queen).\

If you’re ever in the Midcoast stop in at the Brass Compass and prepare to indulge yourself. If you can’t make it to one of Lynn ’s tables than catch a rerun of the Lobster Club throw down on the Food Network. Neither will disappoint.

Monday, June 21, 2010


A down economy and the joy of summer do not mix. In past downturns skirts have lengthened, belts were tightened and meatloaf was served. Summer, regardless of economic trends, is sundresses, sandals and mojitos. While burgers and dogs from the grill are fun, occasionally a touch of luxury and indulgence is called for. Chill the wine, call eight to ten of your best girlfriends, have a fresh baguette and a beautiful salad at the ready. Where’s the indulgence? The most sumptuous, sinful, delicious lobster cakes you’ve ever had will complete a perfect night of food, friends and treats. Though the following recipe has lots of ingredients, it is easy to make. Your friends will never forget this shared indulgence. Learn, Savor, Enjoy!


• 14 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 bunch scallions, sliced into thin rings
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 whole eggs, cold
• 2 cups heavy cream, icy cold
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
• 1 tablespoon Tabasco
• 1 pound fresh cooked lobster meat
• 2 tablespoons olive oil

Chill the shrimp along with the bowl and blade of a food processor in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Sauté the scallions in 1 tablespoon butter until just wilted. Set aside to cool.

Place the shrimp in the processor and puree on high speed for 1 minute or until smooth and shiny. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then add the eggs. Process until the mixture is smooth and shiny, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl again. With the machine running, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Scrape the bowl and process again to make sure the cream is completely incorporated. Remove the mixture and place in a bowl. Stir in the mustard, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, and then gently fold in the cooled scallions and the crabmeat.

If serving as an appetizer, shape into two inch patties. If serving as a main course shape, into four inch patties. Over medium heat, cook the lobster cakes until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through. Remove the lobster cakes from the pan. Repeat the procedure until all of cakes have been cooked. (The cakes may be made up to 1 day ahead, up to this point, and refrigerated.)

Serve over fresh mixed greens with vinaigrette made from good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Lobstermen are an individualistic lot. They are independent, self sufficient and sometimes cantankerous. They often feel put upon by government and underappreciated by those ignorant of the amount of work necessary to achieve a season’s catch.

They are also nature lovers, conservationists by instinct and have a work ethic to match any original settler. There isn’t much whimsy in their work. Playfulness can lead to an error and an error can lead to an accident. That same accident can end a season and the livelihood of a fisherman.

There is one exception Lobster buoys. Each color set, each color placement, stripe, polka dot or color block is unique to each fisherman. The buoys are practical, colorful, whimsical and an indication of territory. Local lobstermen know the buoys of other lobstermen in their area and with rate exception respect the fishing territory they mark.

A primary pre-season task is to replace lost buoys from the previous year. Each buoy must be painted with its unique design before it can be used. Think about the labor involved in painting up to a hundred buoys per season with a usual minimum of three colors. Even if you like to paint it is tedious work. Yet the lobstermen take pride in their buoys as the brand of their work. It as iconic to a fisherman as a polo pony is to Ralph Lauren.

Friday, May 28, 2010


You're shaking your head, maybe snickering a little but it's true! Think about it. You can hold a cupcake in one hand. The main ingredients remain consistent while the flavorings can vary. Each bite is rewarding and simultaneously sinful. For the cook it is a relatively simple construction with endless possibilities for variety. You can feel guilty and mildly defiant or for those endowed with the princess gene entitled and indulged as you eat it.

Lobster rolls like great cupcakes must be made with the best ingredients. The most important being lobster. Please do not use one of those tired, bewildered crustaceans heaped in the corner of a stale tank at the grocery store. Lobster fresh from the sea, steamed and shelled is the way to go. It takes less than a half hour to cook and shell the meat. Good bread, think croissant, ciabbatta, brioche or go traditional and use a New England hot dog bun is the equivalent of an edible cupcake paper.

Keep it simple and traditional or summon your inner Julia Child as you mix the ingredients for the filling. Indulge yourself and your friends with a treat that is special and simple and always a treat.

(Initial idea for our version of this blog from

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mac & Cheese

In case you need a recipe for something different than steaming...

Friday, May 7, 2010

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination


Maine and Washington are continental bookends. Each hugs its coast with perspicacity and neither allows you to be complacent about its landscape. On clear days in Seattle when Mt Rainier looms or on summer nights when the ferries cross the sound their lights speak of magic rather than direction. It is not unusual on a point A to point B trip to suddenly be astounded by unexpected beauty.

Point A to point B trips are the lifeblood of our days. We have to pick up the kids, drop off the laundry, take the dog to the groomer. Rushing up Route 1 in midcoast Maine to run the same errands we experience a series of speed zones: 25 through town, 35 on the edge and 55 in between. There's a stretch of road north of Camden that winds through tall pines where you can catch a glimpse of the occasional house, antique stores are prolific and coveys of summer cottages perch on the hills to claim a sea view, if only, when you step on your tiptoes. Clipping along on a two lane road at 55 (65 with the ten mile unwritten leeway) is almost meditative until the Reduced Speed ahead signs begin to appear.

The need to slow down is not immediately apparent. The wind of the road and the tall pines continue. Until you reach Lincolnville Beach a town that consists of a post office, B&B, four or five shops, two lobster shacks and two restaurants. One has a sign that says “best pizza in town”. As the only pizza in town it is an indisputable claim. But it isn't the availability of postage or pizza that makes you want to slow down. It is the open water dotted with pristine lobster boats and the backdrop of Islesboro. It is a postcard moment. A scene stopped in time. SeasmokeSunrise, high tide or light squall lobster boats have anchored and fished from here for two hundred years. Men and boys have risked their lives for centuries hauling traps. It takes little imagination to feel the timelessness of the spot, the continuity wraps around you like a comforter knit by your grandmother. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iconic Symbols

Every city has an iconic start to spring. In Chicago it’s opening day for the Cubs or Sox. In Seattle it is when the Azaleas that populate the landscape of the University of Washington explode in pops of pink to the horizon. In Rockland, Main our spring icon is in its second season. You might question the word icon in the context of a two year stint. But our icon has a past. It is Robert Indiana’s EAT sculpture first displayed at the New York’s World Fair in 1964. The art installation was mistaken for a restaurant sign and hundreds of people waited in line for what they believed would be a forthcoming lunch. Fair organizers had the sign removed and returned to Mr. Indiana. It remained in his possession until the spring of 2009 when it was installed on the roof of the Farnsworth Art Museum. Locals have adopted the sign with the same love and seasonal recognition as the annual Christmas tree made from lobster crates and buoys.

Like the tree it invokes celebration, joy and hope. It says Eat life; Eat art; Eat the bounty of the season. Celebrate the lobsters pulled from the sea; the boats on the water; the clambakes on the shore. Eat it or miss out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Season Getting Started

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, except in Maine.  A normal spring here is heralded by mud and forsythia.  This spring has been different.  Instead of mud, green, ready to mow grass is in abundance.  In Saturday Cove the early spring days have been spent repairing traps, painting buoys and working on our lobster boat the Fisher Girl.


Like any meaningful relationship your boat requires love, attention and respect. Spring is the time to scrape barnacles, paint and polish in preparation for launch and the beginning of the lobster season. Our launch took place last week, a month ahead of schedule.

We look forward to every new season and the surprises it will bring. The things that remain constant are the methods of fishing, our belief in eco friendly harvests, knowing our customers and providing the freshest lobster at the height of its season.

Fast food and harvesting lobster are mutually exclusive. It takes time and expertise to fish for lobster. Early mornings spent at sea baiting and dropping traps followed by pulling up traps dropped earlier become a rhythm, a tango between man and sea. The first trap to bear fruit each season is exhilarating. Hints of clambakes with friends gathered on an open beach spring to mind. That first trap like a spring robin is a harbinger of the promise that the season holds.