It is truly an old-fashioned pleasure to have a picnic. The word itself dates back to the 18th century, and the idea of enjoying a simple yet elegant meal outside is a tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages. And what better place to plan a picnic than in Maine, with its abundance of both natural beauty and seriously delicious homegrown foods? Peruse a farmers market or local shop, and the meats, cheeses, breads, produce, condiments and sweet treats all made in Maine will start to jump out at you. Most Mainers value supporting local businesses — and covet their secret spots on the coast or in the woods that are just perfect for a picnic.
To help get you started, here’s our list of Maine-made food items that we packed in a nontraditional “basket” of sorts — a FarmME tote. From blueberry lemonade to smoked seafood, from local cheese to traditional Maine pickles, this list should get you started. A few things require a little sleuthing to track down, and others are available at supermarkets and convenience stores statewide. You’re sure to have some of your own favorites too that we’d love to hear about. If you don’t have a spot in mind, we’ve added a list of potential places for you to lay your blanket down, and hope you’ll share some of your secret (or not-so-secret) spots with us.
Our thanks to State Street Wine Cellar and Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. in Bangor, and Maine Maven in Orono for lending us some of the items listed.
1. Little Lad Popcorn (Little Lad Bakeries, Corinth)
This Maine-made snack has been a staple of co-ops and health food stores for years, but its addictive flavor is one of the state’s best-kept snack secrets. Popcorn popped in soybean oil and coated in a savory mixture of salt, dill, other spices and nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast long popular with vegans for its resemblance, tastewise, to Parmesan cheese. Once you open a bag, there’s a good chance you will finish it within five minutes.
Small bags $2, large bags $4; available at Giacomo’s and the Natural Living Center in Bangor, Belfast Co-op, Blue Hill Co-op, Whole Foods in Portland and many other locations.
2. Dill and Garlic Chevre (Seal Cove Farm, Lamoine)
Ah, goat cheese. Some hate it, but others relish even a tiny taste of the tangy cheese. It’s creamy yet crumbly and takes well to herbs and spices. There are lots of goat farmers in Maine who make their own cheese, so be sure to check out some others, but we like Seal Cove Farm’s variety — 11 different flavors of fresh chevre, from plain to pesto. We chose their dill and garlic variety because it pairs especially well with the smoked shrimp and focaccia on our list.
Get it for $10 for 5 ounces; available at Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. and State Street Wine Cellar in Bangor, the Belfast Co-op, the Market Basket in Rockport, Pine Tree Market in Northeast Harbor, John Edwards Market in Ellsworth and others; www.mainegoatcheese.com.
3. Pineland Farms Sharp Cheddar (Pineland Farms Creamery, New Gloucester)
We’ve got a goat cheese, but how about a cow cheese? Cheddar might be the most popular cheese out there, and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester makes a glorious cheddary cheddar that’s good on everything — crackers, bread, apples, cured meats, the list goes on. It’s the cheddar of choice for a number of Maine restaurants, but we think this cheese with ham and mustard on a roll is a simple, perfect picnic pick.
Roughly $5 for a half-pound block; available at most Hannaford grocery stores in Maine.
4. Little Notch Focaccia (Little Notch Bakeries, Southwest Harbor)
You could, conceivably, eat Little Notch Bakery’s simple, flavorful rosemary and sea salt focaccia on its own, but that would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it? Put a schmear of goat cheese and a slice of smoked salmon on it, and voila — Maine-made yumminess. Little Notch has been baking breads, rolls and sweet treats in its Southwest Harbor bakery for years, and a few years ago, they began selling their bread at select Hannaford stores.
Small focaccia $2.69, large $4.69; available at Little Notch in Southwest Harbor or at Hannaford stores in Bangor, Brewer and Belfast.
5. Brick Oven Rolls (Brick Oven Bakery, Bangor)
Brick Oven rolls are as Bangor as Stephen King and Paul Bunyan. They’re also the perfect sandwich roll: soft but not too soft; slightly sweet, slightly yeasty; dense enough to hold up but still easy to take a big bite out of. You can buy them straight from the bakery on Hancock Street in Bangor, but you also can get them at Hannaford.
$2.50 for a half-dozen; available at select Hannaford stores and at Brick Oven Bakery on Hancock Street in Bangor.
6. Morse’s Sour Mustard Pickles (Morse’s Sauerkraut and European Deli, 3856 Washington Road, Waldoboro)
These pickles may be a little harder to find — but trust us, they are so worth it. Anyone who has a yen for pickles, sauerkraut and German food would be well-served to take a day trip to this fabulous deli and restaurant tucked away in Lincoln County. The sour mustard pickles, made from a generations-old Maine recipe, are the best. It’s pickle heaven. Morse’s does only mail-order during the colder months, but you can buy them at the store, and they also sell a small amount at the Belfast Co-op; online at www.morsessauerkraut.com.
7. Raye’s Mustard (Raye’s Mustard, Eastport)
There’s a reason Raye’s is a gold medal-winning condiment — it’s just perfect. It has been made in the same, old-fashioned mustard mill in Eastport for more than 100 years. With many flavors available, you just have to pick which variety works for you. Will it be Maple Horseradish? Brown Ginger? The ever-popular Down East Schooner? Garlic Honey Wine? Old World Gourmet? Mmm. Mustard.
$2.99-$3.99; available at Shaw’s, Hannaford and Renys stores, and countless small retailers; online at www.rayesmustard.com.
8. Smith’s Smokehouse Blackstrap Molasses Ham (Smith’s Log Smokehouse, corner of Routes 139 and 141, Monroe)
You might want to make a visit to Smith’s just to see what they have — which is smoked everything. Beef, pork, poultry, seafood, cheese and more. We recommend the chorizo sausage, the venison summer sausage, their to-die-for bacon or, for ultimate picnicking ease, their blackstrap molasses ham, sliced thin and served on a sandwich.
$12 a pound; available at Smith’s, various farmers markets around the state, Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. in Bangor and online at www.logsmokehouse.net.
9. Grindstone Neck Smoked Shrimp (Grindstone Neck of Maine, Gouldsboro)
It always feels decadent to open up a package of smoked seafood — especially when it’s made right in Down East Maine. Grindstone Neck has been making fine smoked seafood for a few years now, in their family-owned operation in Gouldsboro. We like everything they make, but the smoked Maine shrimp is particularly tasty.
$8 for a 6-ounce package of shrimp. Available at State Street Wine Cellar, McLaughlin’s Seafood and Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. in Bangor; Hampden Natural Foods; John Edwards Market and Global Beverage Warehouse in Ellsworth; the Blue Hill Co-op; French & Brawn in Camden; online at www.grindstoneneck.com.
10. Marnee’s Cookies (Marnee’s Cookies, Bath)
Marnee Robinson knows her cookies — and man, are they good. For the past six years, she has made a mouthwatering array of cookies in 14 flavors that are, in a word, amazing. They are mail-order only, and they make a great gift, as well as a sweet ending to a perfect picnic. We recommend the Nirvana cookie, made with semisweet chocolate and toffee, the Karma cookie, made with white chocolate and pecans, and the Rhapsody, with ginger, toffee and molasses.
$17 for a dozen; available online at www.marnees.com.
11. World Harbors Lemon Pepper and Garlic Marinated Farmer’s Market Veggies (World Harbors, Auburn)
Step 1: Go to a farmers market and purchase any and all vegetables that you see — zucchini, onions, corn, green beans, broccoli, peppers — and bring it home. Step 2: Chop up your veggies and douse with the Maine-made World Harbors Maine’s Own Lemon Pepper and Garlic Marinade. Let sit for a few hours in the fridge. Step 3: Cook veggies in your preferred fashion — roasted, sauteed or grilled. Let them cool before putting them in a sealed container. 4. Bring them along on your picnic for some farm-fresh nutrition. Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free friends will appreciate it.
World Harbors Maine’s Own Lemon Pepper and Garlic Marinade, $2.99, at all Hannaford and Shaw’s stores; vegetables, market price.
12. Blueberry Lemonade (Oakhurst Lemonade, Portland, and Wyman’s of Maine Blueberry Juice, Milbridge)
Take two parts lemonade, made by Maine’s own Oakhurst Dairy, and one part blueberry juice, made by Wyman’s of Maine, based in Milbridge. Serve over ice, and with a few mint leaves if you’re feelin’ fancy. That might just be the true taste of summer in Maine. For an adult option, you could add a shot or two of Houlton’s own Twenty2 Vodka, available at most Maine liquor stores.
Oakhurst Lemonade, half-gallon, $1.99; Wyman’s Blueberry Juice, 48 ounces, $4.99; available at Hannaford and Shaw’s stores.
13. Bartlett’s Coastal White (Bartlett Maine Estate Winery, Gouldsboro)
If you’re picnic site is OK with you bringing alcoholic beverages on the property (check first), and you feel like bringing some Maine wine along, try Bartlett’s Coastal White. For nearly 30 years, Bartlett’s has been producing beautiful wine from Maine fruit. Coastal White, made from apples and pears, is lovely, light and fruity without being too sweet. It tastes like a sun-dappled orchard.
$12.99; available at the Natural Living Center, State Street Wine Cellar and Bangor Wine and Cheese Co. in Bangor; Burby & Bates in Orono; the Belfast Co-op; the Blue Hill Co-op; House Wine in Bar Harbor.
14. Maine Beer Co. Lunch IPA (Maine Beer Co., Portland)
More in the mood for beer? Try Maine Beer Co.’s brand-new Lunch IPA. It’s a hazy, copper-colored beer with hints of citrus and pine, and it’s hop-flavored without being too “hoppy.” Maine Beer Co. is one of the best new breweries in the state, and this recent addition to its small but impressive lineup is a summertime winner.
Available at State Street Wine Cellar and Bangor Wine & Cheese in Bangor; Burby and Bates in Orono; Belfast Co-op; Whole Foods in Portland.
15. FarmME Tote Bag (BeerME Maine Inspired T-Shirts and Apparel, Portland)
Need something to carry all your goodies? Try the FarmME tote from BeerME, an apparel company out of Portland that makes T-shirts, hoodies, hats, mugs, coozies and bags branded with logos such as “BeerME,” “BikeME,” “SailME” and “LoveME.” It’s cute, hip and casual, and Maine-made.
Tote bag $15; available at Maine Maven in Orono, MadGirl in Portland, and online at www.beermemaine.com.