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Where's Jonny? Care to dine with me? You would think that 11 years of daily food tasting for a living might put me off?......au contraire! Chomp away with me across 6 continents. Seduced like a bloodhound to the scent of good food, I anticipate the misty waft of steaming broths, the satisfying crunch of mudbugs and the vibrant aroma of freshly pulverised lemongrass. Buon appetito

A cracking Birthday

USA | Monday, 29 October 2007 | Views [995]

Two MAINE attractions, but I prefer Maria without seafood sauce

Two MAINE attractions, but I prefer Maria without seafood sauce

The fog in Ogunquit, Maine, was so think that the local diners were using it to top their sundaes.  I peered outside, barely able to see the maple tree which grew next to the window.  This was dense.

Despite the visability of a James Herbert novel I was determined to celebrate my 35th birthday by cracking into one of Maine's most famous crustaceans.

I don't look 35 by the way.  Hell no.  According to the liquor store in Cape Cod, I look well under 21 and had to provide all manner of legal documentation before they would allow me to walk away with a small bottle of cider.

So I took my age-defying face to the harbour at York with a rented fly rod, two feathery lures and a large bucket of hope.

A brown-freckled seagull sat assessing my efforts, unintimidated by the rods action.  The strangely calm sea was erupting into activity as shoals of baitfish broke the surface.  Huge patterns were created by thousands of tiny leaps, all identical.  Something below was driving them upwards. 

The stumpy lighthouse let out long trombone notes as I cast into the splashing fish.  As I allowed the lure to sink into the depths, graphite- grey gull shapes emerged one by one from the fog.  The cold moisture left itself on my skin but, encouraged by the diving gannets I cast again, retrieving the line slowly through thumb and forefinger.

Before I left home, two target-orientated business colleagues (you know who you are) challenged me to catch a fish in every continent.  My trip was about food and the discovery of a new species, so catching fish was not essential.

However, pondering alone, surrounded by thick fog I began to drift......

FLASHBACK - I felt the humidity of the Amazon where I had caught Pirhanas using chunks of meat,  - FLASH - I remembered casting upstream into glacial aquamarine currents in New Zealand for rainbow trout, -  FLASH - I was chest deep in the peat stained waters of the Spey, Scotland and hooking an Atlantic salmon.........and now........

......a sharp tug on the line, the rod doubled over.  It felt strong, very strong.

A long silver bar flashed from the clear depths below me.  Careful not to slip on the seaweed I took another look.  It was a striper!  My first striped bass.  What a birthday present.

Content with my efforts at the harbour I caught up with Maria for my Birthday dinner.  "Roberts restaurant," looked the best of the bunch despite the faux lighthouse (this is America)

From the menu we ordered an eclectic mix of shells, valves, tubes and clawed creatures.  There was also, "kalabasa," - a chunky, smoked sausage that apparently went well with lobster.

Three kinds of native oyster arrived on a bed of ice.  All fantastically fresh.  In fact AMAZING.  A brief word on oysters.  Like so many things that Americans like to ruin (the environment, our health, our language, free enterprise, the world, etc etc) my oysters arrived with pots of piquant sauce, mayo and other ghastly abominations.  DONT DO IT.  LEAVE THEM ALONE.

Squeeze on a little lemon juice and you'll be transported to the sounds of clacking shells being tossed aboard small vessels in the salty breeze.  A delicate ruggedness in your palm, the zincy metallic freshness and soft juiciness, the taste of natures most sensual harvests.  The best oysters I have ever eaten.

I have never been a lobster lover, no, the sweet taste of crab has me shelling out, however, the lobsters of Maine are indeed well worth tasting.  Just keep it simple. 

The fog was ebbing away as we left the restaurant and a full moon began to emerge.

Halloween displays on every porch were cast in an eerie pearl-like light.

I glanced into the rear view mirror and noticed a change.  Was it the light or were there more hairs than usual on my face?

"Where have all the hairs come from?" I asked Maria.

"It's just your age," she replied, "I'll get you a nose trimmer when we get back to England."

Maybe the guy in the liquor store thought I was Teen Wolf?   

Tags: Food & eating

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