The bell rings, one of the Berry Manor Pie Mom calls for the raising of the forks, and the call comes out. “Let’s eat some pie!” And off we go onto a calorie-laden three-hour forage for crust and filling, 40 flavors in all, at 27 bed-and-breakfasts, galleries, shops that on regular days serve up spa treatments and gourmet olive oils and yarns.
Though this is the 10th annual Pies on Parade festival in
Downtown Rockland, it is our first romp through a glorious feast of tarts, pies, quiches, pizzas, pastry shells and cobblers in just about every sweet and savory combination imaginable. pecan, raspberry, blueberry, cinnamon, pumpkin,
artichoke and spinach, goat cheese, roasted turkey, bacon and apple, seafood, lemon meringue. Cornish lamb with rhubarb chutney. Shepherd’s pie. Even blue barky pup-pies for the canine set. And of course, this being Maine, whoopie pies.
Though the Berry Manor moms, Capt. Lindsey’s Ken and Ellen Barnes, and Bobby Flay-nemesis Lynn Archer posed tough competition, our favorites came from the Artspace cooperative, where five artists turned their talents to a yummy pair of pastries, one made from apple, sausage and cheese, and the other of apricot and almonds — Yum! — serving up 50 pies in all.
The pie parade is a fundraiser for the local food pantry. This year’s event was a sell-out, with more than 600 buying the $25 tickets, and a not-a-prayer waiting list.
Yeah, I can hear you thinking. But really, is this reason enough to leave your home in warm-and-sunny Miami for wicked cold (that would be 18 too-cold-to-snow degrees) in Midcoast Maine?
Really, once you pull on long johns, jeans, and four layers of arctic wear and down courtesy of L.L. Bean, Icebreaker and Uniglo, it’s not bad.
If you REALLY want cold, come up the weekend after the Super Bowl for the annual National Toboggan Championships. (The year we went, it was so cold that even the Flaming Hot Menopausal Mamas sledding team members huddled by the bonfire and hid out in the Chowder Competition tent.)
For that, you definitely need to fortify yourself with a hearty breakfast at Home Kitchen Cafe and dinner at Shepherd’s Pie, our favorite local restaurants. Or heck, you could just burrow in front of the fireplace at the Camden Harbour Inn and sip a Winter’s Wrath at Natalie’s restaurant and bar. A couple of cocktails, and you won’t care about what’s happening outside.
Celebrating winter in midcoast Maine (near Rockland and Camden, by Penobscot Bay):
- Pies on Parade: Last Sunday each January in Rockland; 2015 date is Jan. 25. Tickets go on sale the day after Thanksgiving and cost $25; proceeds go to the Area Interfaith Outreach food pantry.
- Winterfest Carnival: Ice-carving, snow games and snowboard and ski competitions are part of the fun at this annual week-long event, this year beginning Feb. 1.
- National Toboggan Championships, Feb. 7-9, 2014: The culmination of Winterfest held annually the week after Super Bowl, this three-day celebration of athleticism and insanity features costumes, tailgate parties and teams from around the globe and benefits the Camden Snow Bowl, the local public slope.
- Camden Conference, Feb. 21-23, 2014: This annual conference focusing on world events offers a more intellectual approach to winter. This year’s topic: the global politics of food and water.
- Smelt fishing: Several camps rent out shacks complete with a wood-burning stove and electric lights so you can the fish in the hole. Experienced anglers suggest asking for a flat-top stove and bringing a skillet so you can fry the fish soon as you snag them. Well-known camps include Baker’s Smelt Camps, Worthing Camps and Jim’s Camps
- Maine Restaurant Week, March 1-10, 2014: Fine restaurants around the state offer prix fixe meals. Midcoast faves include Natalies and Hartstone Inn