In 1981, I spent a summer working in Key West. Way back then, the “Conch Republic” was still a blissfully ribald, tropical version of the Wild West, with treasure divers searching for sunken Spanish galleons, a raging gay party scene, and regular landings by the Coast Guard of “square grouper” — trashbag-wrapped bales of pot abandoned in the ocean by smugglers.
I had a room at a B & B, where I worked as the chambermaid and set out breakfast in the garden each morning. At night, I wore a batik-print dress and served drinks on the deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at The Pier House, at the time the only hotel at the end of Duval Street, the main thoroughfare of the (then) sleepy downtown.
Waterside restaurants are scattered liberally along Maine’s 3,478 miles of coastline, most of them tucked into harbors and coves. Only a handful offer the stunning view of the open Atlantic you’ll find at Ocean, the restaurant at the Cape Arundel Inn in Kennebunkport.
The circa 1895 inn shares serpentine Ocean Avenue with some of Kennebunkport’s most spectacular summer homes, including the Bush compound on Walker Point just a short distance down the road. My first visit to Ocean was last March with then-Portland Press Herald restaurant critic John Golden (of the blog The Golden Dish), who was reviewing the restaurant. Shortly after we were seated, George and Barbara Bush — who we discovered are regular guests — came in for dinner, accompanied by two other couples and Secret Service agents. I have to admit, it was a thrill, although it was also sad to see the former President not looking terribly well.
No one bothered the Bushes, which is I’m sure part of why they like dining at Ocean. The restaurant is serene, a bit Old World (in the best way), and with all the hubbub over the Maine food scene, under the radar — at least for non-locals.
Our recent evening there offered proof that it deserves to be more of a destination.
The weather this week has reminded me of Al Pacino’s famous line from “The Godfather, Part III”: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” Last week’s 50+ degree day was such a tease. I’m not a violent person, but if I could put a hit on winter and kill the foot of snow still hanging around in our yard, I absolutely would.
Five years ago, when we first started doing Spoon & Shutter (holy cow, did I just write that?!) one of our early posts was a riff on our individual childhood St. Patrick’s Day memories and a recipe for Grasshopper Pie — the oddball St. Paddy’s Day treat I made when my own son was a kid.
On Saturday, Ted and I taught a “one day intensive” food blogging class at our home via the Maine College of Art’s (MECA) continuing ed program. We’ve each taught multi-week courses at MECA — in food photography and food writing, respectively — this latest opportunity was a welcome challenge to collaborate and share what we love and know. As a bonus, we got to do it at home, where we have lots of space and beautiful light, instead of in a MECA classroom.
The students were asked to bring their cameras, so part of the class was spent showing how we photograph the steps of a recipe. I chose to make an unusual rice pudding, both for its complexity and to take advantage of the abundance of fresh eggs our friends Jennifer and Jeff brought us from their farm in Limerick recently.