Lea Wait, to share a growing Portland tradition: Harvest on the Harbor.
Harvest celebration are certainly nothing new. But — on the harbor? Some wonderful marketing folks in Portland thought this one up a few years ago as one way to entice people from away to come to Maine between the boating and skiing seasons, and they hit on a great formula. Portland had already been named one of the newest “foodie” destinations by several travel and cooking magazines, so why not focus on one of our best-known products? (And it’s not just lobster anymore!)
This year the fifth annual Harvest on the Harbor will be held October 24-27. There’s still time to get your reservations in, although some of the events may be sold out by now. (I’m writing this a couple of days before it will be posted.) http://www.harvestontheharbor.com
Two years ago my husband and I, encouraged by cousins from New Jersey who’d read about the event in a travel magazine and who decided to make our house home base for the event, were talked into attending the entire event. So — been there, done that. Loved it. My only advice? Maybe going to EVERY event on the schedule was not a wise idea. My diet wasn’t the same for a month afterward. But choosing
which events to leave out? That would be hard.
What is Harvest on the Harbor? Four days of eating and drinking; tastings; learning about Maine food and beverages; culinary competitions; and, most of all, having fun.
Each year the events are slightly different. This year there are three competitions in which the audience (seated and served generous portions of all the dishes, plus appetizers and appropriate wines) determines the winner. The first is a culinary student competition in which three student teams
compete to create dishes used farmed raised salmon. The second is the “Top of the Crop: Maine Farm-To-Table” competition in which four chefs prepare dishes using local, organic, farm-raised beef, lamb, chicken, pork, or venison. And the third competition, the “Lobster Chef of the Year” (my favorite the year Bob and I attended) also features local chefs preparing — guess what? The year we attended Chef Kelly Patrick, a native of Boothbay Harbor who is a chef at the Azure Cafe in Freeport, won.
In addition, there are Grand Tasting events — which basically means tables and tables of samples of appetizers and wines, with participants free to wander and sample. The cocktail party of your dreams, as long as you are dreaming of wines, not mixed drinks. And on Saturday, the “Savory Samplings” tents, with food and beverage vendors from all over Maine set up to display their wares, and, yes, give out samples. I’ll admit that the year I went, by Saturday we were a bit food and wined out — and the Saturday even was much less formal, with (yes, I’ll say it,) less elegant and less generous samples. But it did cost less than the other events, too.
Schedules don’t look promising for me to attend Harvest in the Harbor this year. But I have very good memories. If you’re in the area — or want an excuse to come to Maine for a few days — make your reservations now. I definitely recommend it as a fun, if a bit caloric, way, to taste your way to understanding the foodie side of Maine.
I won’t give up my steamed lobsters and clams. But sometimes it’s fun to cross over to the more elegant side of the food world. Maine can provide restaurants that do that, too, and Harvest on the Harbor is a place to sample their offerings.