Happy as a Clam

We are right at home in a rustic cottage on a tiny privately owned island, Little Lazygut, just off of Deer Isle on the Maine coast. At high tide, Little Lazygut is only about 300 yards wide, but there are nice beaches all around and it’s been all ours for the past few nights (cottage renters only here, kind of nice). We came over from nearby Stonington by boat shuttle and brought a tandem kayak along, which has been great for exploring nearby islands and coves.

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We’ve had killer sunsets, a full moon, outdoor fires, and lots of wildlife (birds, deer, even a mink). As for the cottage, there’s no electricity or running water, but there’s a propane powered fridge, stove, and oven, which has been the ticket to some great meals. And now that we are on day three, the name Lazygut seems to fit.

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Mainers seem to have their own vocabulary, and we are starting to catch on a bit. And in addition to learning some new expressions, we are also learning a bit about old expressions. For instance, the saying “happy as a clam” is actually abbreviated. It’s really supposed to be “happy as a clam at high tide.” And now I know why.

Clamming is most certainly a low tide affair, which was at 6:30pm yesterday. Just 50 yards from our front porch, there’s a long sandy beach that was just perfect. Basically you look for air holes or squirts of water and then dig down six inches or so with a clamming rake (we brought a garden rake along and it worked just fine). We had a half dozen clams in less than 20 minutes and set our sites on dinner.

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To clean up the clams, you scrub the shells and then soak them in salt water with a bit of corn meal (the clams eat the corn meal, which helps rid them of sand). Another 30 minutes of prep and we were looking at the freshest of appetizers, clams casino.

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Clams casino is an old fashioned recipe (think 1970s dinner parties) that comes in a lot of variations, and there’s a reason it’s still around. We used shallots, red bell pepper, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and pancetta. It’s a bit of effort to shell the raw clams, but this is an excellent dish and in particular was good using a fresh catch. One taste of these and we were happy as clams (at low tide).

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Down East

We are up north, but apparently we’re also down east. The coast of Maine is called “down east” because ships back in the day sailing from Boston to ports in Maine—which are actually to the east of Boston–generally found prevailing winds at their backs. We drove up here for vacation a few days ago, so we didn’t really notice the wind.

Souzz has spent a lot of time down east. Me, not so much, so I’m learning as I go– including the local lingo. For starters, lobsters are often called “bugs,” and awesome things are almost always called “wicked.” In Portland, Souzz’s friend Kim showed us around as only a local can do, with stops at Eve’s at the Garden and Liquid Riot Bottling Company followed by dinner at Street and Company and dessert at Grace, an old church converted to a restaurant/bar. Portland is the liveliest city of 66,000 I’ve ever visited, that’s for sure.

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Eve’s at the Garden
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The distillery at Liquid Riot
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The open kitchen at Street and Company
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Is this a church, or a restaurant?
Grace restaurant
It’s definitely a restaurant

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Then we moved onto Bar Harbor, where our good friends Brian and Catherine run a lovely B&B called Hearthside Inn. After lunch down on the water, we took a nice bike ride on one of the carriage roads in Acadia National Park (that were built by John Rockefeller) and then had popovers and tea at the historic Jordan Pond House.

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We followed Acadia with dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound in nearby Bernard. Thurston’s has been around since 1946, and it’s worth the 20 minute drive around Mount Desert Island. No way would we have found this place without help from our local friends…but it was well worth it. We enjoyed a lovely moonrise on the back deck while being schooled on the art of lobster eating from folks that have done that a few times over the years.

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Only two days into our trip, we’ve had the good fortune of great friends, great food, and great adventure. As the sign says, Maine is the way life should be. And yes, the bugs are wicked up here.

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