Sunday, August 26, 2007
Lobsta - Maine style!
More than 25 years ago my family discovered a wonderful little spot hidden on a quiet inlet in the pretty town of Kittery, in southern Maine. We'd been visiting the beach in Ogunquit for many years and would often drive the local backroads. One day we happened across a small pier in Kittery that led to a dock with a tempting sign: "Chauncey Creek, Lobsters."
Lobster sounded mighty good, so we headed down the wooden gangway onto the floating dock where a few picnic tables were scattered about, overlooking the pine-shaded briney inlet. Lobster traps were piled along the sides, the fragrance from the open kitchen was somewhat like that of a warm aquarium, and the ten or so people at the tables were busy cracking, butter-dipping, and savoring their boiled lobsters. We joined them that day and so began a long-standing annual tradition.
Today, not much has changed... you still have to pretty much know the back road in. There are a few more picnic tables on the dock, each year painted in fresh, bright colors. Most of the dock is open air; a covered shelter holds about 8-10 tables for those summer storms. You bring your own side dishes, desserts, and wine or beer (or the making for whatever drinks you like to enjoy. You can get fries at Chauncey's now, and even tuna sandwiches for those who aren't into lobsters... but personally I ignore all of that.
My mother has always baked a chocolate roll for our desserts there, and we almost always bring along a cucumber and tomato salad, and lots of good, crusty bread. Together, we go into the little room with the live lobster holding tanks, reverentially look them over with awe and wonder (trying to discreetly wipe the drool off our faces), point to the one with our name on it and go back to our table... and wait.
Meanwhile, the lobsters are taken "to the back" and yes, boiled in large pots of Atlantic sea water. A sad fate if you stop to really think about it, but one that I can somehow always manage to "move past" emotionally.
Out come the friendly staff bearing cardboard trays, plastic bibs with a big red lobster picture, the necessary nutcrackers, fork picks, and lots of napkins. Oh and the melted butter. We talk, have a drink and behave in a (mostly) patient and civilized manner for about 15-20 minutes. Then back come the friendly staff, trays piled high with bright red pound-and-a-halfers -- and yes, those are what I consider the perfect personal-sized crustacean of the lobster variety.
Chauncey Creek has never let me down. I know that on this tiny dock in a picturesque Maine village, surrounded by a watery inlet bordered by pines, bobbing trap buoys just off the dock, with the perfume of steaming brine in the air -- and my family around me -- I will lose track of time and worries for a perfectly delicious couple of hours.
I am also happy to report that now three generations of my family make the annual pilgrimage to Chauncey's. And oh... if you want to do as the local do, here "down east Maine"... order a LOBSTA.
For the record, Chauncey's is located 16 Chauncey Creek Road, Kittery Point, Maine. Phone 207-439-1030.