Good stories and good food make for memorable summers. This year I’ve been lucky. Summer 2012 will be remembered because of a few books and restaurants.
Canada from Richard Ford, Home from Toni Morrison, Unsaid from Neil Abramson and Monument 14 from Emmy Laybourne are so far my favorites.
In terms of food it is hard since I spent some time in France. Food there was of course au rendezvous.
Sometimes however amazing food comes unexpectedly. Tonight my eighteen-year-old daughter, her father and I spent the day raking leaves in our yard. Since we are in Maine only in the summer, it means that fall yard work happens in July. The weather was gorgeous and we got the work done just in time for dinner. A long day of work deserves a reward. The three of us love food and although we are faithful to a few favorites, we enjoy new places. I was told of an Asian fusion restaurant in Brunswick, twenty minutes away from our summer home.
Brunswick is home to Bowdoin, the renowned liberal art college, to Gelato Fiasco, a cool ice cream/coffee place, to Seadog, a brasserie style restaurant on the river dam, to Henry and Marty, a relaxed and yet refined restaurant with an interesting array of entrees that can satisfy the meat lover and the vegetarian alike, to a variety of small shops and boutiques, to the largest main street in the state, called Maine Street, and to Tao restaurant.
Being from France and living in California, Asian food is one of our favorite cuisines. When we are in Maine, we favor lobster, clams and mussels, cornbread, clam or lobster bisque, blueberries and strawberry shortcakes to Asian food.
Who would expect a Maine restaurant that offers Asian food to top a Californian restaurant?
And yet, Tao, located a block off Maine Street, only a few blocks away from the College, is one of the best new places I tried in a long time.
The restaurant is housed in a former house. The décor is sleek with a distinct elegant Asian touch, Painted screens separate the bar and the sitting area from the main dining room. Black chopsticks, small votives, green and white dishes, water glasses, which look like antique glass yogurt containers and a water carafe, sit on each table. The young waitress was welcoming and attentive. The dining room where we sat was empty and I only hoped that it didn’t hint for trouble. Our last culinary experience in Brunswick hadn’t been exactly successful. We had an 8 o’clock reservation at Clemetine, the hot spot in town. But by 8:30 we were asked to wait some more for a hypothetical table. We ended up across the street at good old Henry and Marty where food and service never disappointed us.
But the empty dining room at Tao wasn’t synonym of disaster. Au contraire!
The menu, elegantly printed on beige paper, suggests picking three to four dishes per person between a selection of cold and hot entrees so guests can share.
We each chose three dishes; and between the tuna tartar, the turnip cakes, the bean buns, the grilled goat cheese, the red fruit pane cotta, the flourless chocolate cake and the excellent coffee, we enjoyed one of the best meals of our summer, and definitely the best Asian food in ages. Flavors matched the impeccable presentation.
The restaurant opened less than two months ago and the chef, a local native, has been trained n Paris at Le Cordon Bleu. We spoke before dessert and she shared her plans for a green house so she can grow her greens and herbs year long in a state where summer is sometimes only a brief pause before winter.
She carried poise and unusual professionalism for someone so young.
We can only root for her and whisk the gourmets, tired of waiting for a table at Clementine, toward Tao, nestled near the post office and library, to get ready for a memorable culinary journey.
As for us, we’ve already made the promise to return when my son’s summer camp is over. The only bad news is that we will have to share more dishes. and at the cost of about six dollars each, we better keep raking our fall leaves on our own before hiring some help.
Ah! What would the French do for good food!