Maine Fare to serve up feast of food, thought

Posted Sept. 03, 2009, at 8:17 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — Here’s a recipe for success.

Take one successful celebration of Maine food and drink, add top local chefs and liberally dollop with discussions about sustainability.

Garnish with delicious dinners, decadent desserts and locally produced wines and spirits — even a cocktail made with Moxie — and enjoy.

That is exactly what organizers of the fourth Maine Fare gathering in Camden Sept. 11-13 at the Knox Mill expect everyone from foodies to farmers will do.

“There’s a ton of fun things going on, and it’s very approachable,” said James Britt, Maine Fare volunteer and public relations professional.

One of the goals of this year’s celebration is to attract “passionate food leaders” from around Maine, and certainly the 2009 keynote panel — called “Can Maine Feed Itself” — fits the bill. Participants include renowned author and farmer Eliot Coleman, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Russell Libby, Glen Libby of the Midcoast Fishermen’s Association and others.

The panelists will discuss sustainability, specifically whether or not Maine’s farmers, foragers, fishermen and producers could feed the entire state.

“From my perspective, the real issue is how do we build a shared understanding of what’s possible,” said Russell Libby. “Maine Fare as an event builds an understanding of the possibilities that exist in Maine — or could exist, if we work together to create them.”

Libby said that this conversation is not just for a few people at Maine Fare.

“It’s a larger one that everybody in Maine has to be part of,” he said. “Or we can continue on the path of getting anything we want from around the world.”

Britt also encouraged those interested in eating well to taste their way through some of Maine’s finest restaurants at Friday evening’s gala opening reception, “Tastings,” at the Camden Yacht Club. For $75, an ambitious gourmand could nibble food from restaurants including Chase’s Daily in Belfast, Francine Bistro in Rock-land, The Burning Tree of Mount Desert, Natalie’s in Camden, El El Frijoles in Sargentville, Cleonice in Ellsworth and Fore Street in Portland.

Diners then can wash it all down with wine and spirits from Bartlett’s in Gouldsboro, Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville, Cold River Vodka in Freeport, Penobscot Bay Brewing and Winterport Winery, both in Winterport, and the Sweetgrass Winery in Union and others.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the nonprofit MOFGA.

“It’s the biggest and the best, so to speak, along with the smallest — all of which are doing amazing things and committed to serving as much Maine product as possible.”

Britt said organizers think that local foods will be paired only with local drinks for the first time in Maine.

“It’s soup to nuts — it’s really an unbeatable deal,” he said. “Also, you get to overlook Camden Harbor.”

Maine food is not a magnet only for eaters, but also for writers, said Don Lindgren, owner of Portland’s Rabelais Books. He will lead a panel discussion Sunday that’s called “Telling the Maine Food Story” and features a number of area food writers.

“It’s everything from the history of food in Maine to the current state of food in Maine,” Lindgren said. “I think the audience is potentially anybody who’s interested in eating, which is pretty large.”

He said that while the state might be off the beaten path, food writers here are published in The New York Times, Saveur, and Gourmet Magazine as well as in local newspapers and magazines. As the national interest in local food surges, so does the number of column inches devoted to writing about food.

“I’ll be asking them what are some of the hard stories to tell and what are the stories that aren’t being told,” Lindgren said.

Maine Fare is a great event, he said, because it treats Maine food “with the respect that food in Maine deserves.”

“There are a lot of people who work very hard to put food on the table in Maine, whether it’s farmers, fishermen or bread makers,” Lindgren said. “I find that people in Maine take that job really seriously … and Maine Fare celebrates the whole equation of what we have here in Maine.”

For more information, go to http://www.mainefare.com.

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