The Maine Attraction

Chef Amanda Freitag is often seen on TV shows like Chopped and Unique Eats, when she's not traveling the world and eating amazing food. Now, we're happy to announce, she'll be contributing dispatches to Food Republic, starting with a trip to Maine this past summer.

During my many culinary adventures, it feels like I have two personalities. I definitely don't need to see a doctor for this, but I do need to honor my cravings. You know what it's likeā€”one day the only thing you can think about is biting into a juicy burger with ketchup, mayo and beef fat running down your wrists, washed down with a beer. The next day the obsession is a ribeye at a white tablecloth favorite with a ridiculously expensive Zinfandel. A summer trip to Maine completely satisfied all of my fantasies, romantic and warrior.

Lobster and Maine are synonymous and countless articles and recipes have been written linking the two. (Edit: We have a few here ourselves). But I am going to let the lobster be the thread that sews together two amazing locations in Maine that soothes the Jekyll & Hyde in me. That both happen to cook lobster with the passion and skill of an honorable Mainer and Chef.

Earth at Hidden Pond Resort is the latest restaurant venture from Boston's famous chef Ken Oringer. When you finally find Hidden Pond and enter the driveway, the first sign you will see commands you to "breathe deeply"...and now you know you have just fallen down the rabbit hole. The surroundings are ethereal, secluded and sublime. I continue to be obedient and follow the hand carved sign to "Earth". You may think you are already on earth, but we so often forget to stop and realize where we are. Opening the front door to the restaurant you get the message: you are being taken away, you are on vacation, suddenly, even if it's just for this one meal.

Our server met us happily and welcomed us like old friends. Lunch was quiet and she offered us the tour before we sat. We walked through the garden, gawked at the gorgeous wildflowers and bulging tomatoes and then she pointed to a shed. Now I grew up in New Jersey. Where I come from, a "shed" is where you put all the junk you have no room for and leave it to live amongst the spiders. She opened the door to the shed and it was a dining room, tricked out in lanterns, ceramic Italian pots and serenity. "You can eat in here," she said, it seemed as if the rest of the world suddenly melted away and I was royalty.

And this is where I found the first lobster worth making the trip for. An entire lobster, split in half roasted in the wood oven. Only the deft hand of a skilled chef could perfect this aggressive cooking method for such a delicate creature. The lobster was tender; it was drizzled with green curry butter and topped with glistening garden greens. The complex flavors of the green curry with the sweetness of the lobster came together like two star-crossed lovers. This is the romance; this is the chic flick with a few actions scenes thrown in.

After eating this lobster you will long for it days and weeks after. Maybe it was the soft breeze or exclusive dining experience, or it could have been the wine with lunch. But I fell in love. I am in love with "Earth" and the way they made me feel about a Maine lobster by way of Thailand.

Oddly enough, the following day's lunch takes me from a shed on "Earth" to a shack on the bridge. The Clam Shack is no stranger to fame and fanatics. This is the quintessential favorite for locals, tourists, families and foodies. Steve Kingston the owner can be found on the premises from May to October and there is a reason for his diligence. He is incredibly passionate about lobster, his lobster, and in my mind he is a true chef.

Steve goes to great lengths to make sure he is only using the best seafood and preparing them in their truest form. He is a scientist of sorts not unlike many other chefs and he has his formulas down pat. He boils his lobster in seawater, nature's stock. He has a taste for the salinity of the water, but will check himself against a hydrometer just to make sure the salt levels are correct.

His method of cooking insures the most flavor and tenderness for the meat, something he deals with in thousands of pounds each season. So yes, this is one of the best lobster rolls around, but don't skip the perfectly fried clams or the outstanding clam chowder. But most of all I implore you to try the fried haddock. You MUST try it, the crumb on the outside is flavorful and crisp, and the flesh of the haddock is glistening and moist with clean flavor and free of any oil residue. It was unforgettable.