The Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil is a delightful mix of travel, food, and interesting local stories and people—hosted by the quirky, lovable Phil Rosenthal. It’s a must watch and one of those shows that I am always telling fellow travel-lovers to check out.
Being originally from Maine (and having a slight
obsession love affair with my home state), I was so excited to see that one of the Season 5 Somebody Feed Phil episodes was in Maine—the perfect download for my flight home to New England.
I charged up my battery, downloaded the episode, and popped my headphones in as we said goodbye to Florida’s palm trees and humidity.
Entertaining as always, Phil captured some great experiences of Maine life—from a lobster boat to a quiet rural farm to the incredible cuisine of the foodie city of Portland. (Props that he pointed out that Portland, Maine came first—and Portland, Oregon was named after it. I get a little salty when it comes to the Portlands.)
Maine Lobster Rolls
Of course, it wouldn’t be a show about Maine food without featuring lobster rolls, and Phil actually visited two stands.
This brings me to my first qualm. I’m probably a bit of a purist when it comes to lobster rolls, but I can overlook the idea of a wasabi or curry roll. I guess it appeals to a certain crowd. My issue is that the unsuspecting tourist might watch this Somebody Feed Phil episode and think that Maine lobster rolls are drenched in butter. No, no no.
Served on a split-top bun (lightly buttered and toasted or grilled), the superior lobster roll is cool with mayonnaise—sort of a lobster salad but with giant chunks of lobster meat and not too much mayo.
Okay, it’s my opinion that the mayo version is superior. And in fact, it’s the classic “Maine lobster roll.” The butter-drenched version is the Connecticut style, although there is (inexplicably) a fan base for this in Maine.
The problem is that Phil didn’t even mention the distinction between the two types of lobster rolls, and the fact that each fan base holds its position firmly. You’d be forgiven if you wanted to try the buttery lobster roll, but you simply can’t visit Maine thinking that’s the only version there is.
Wild Maine Blueberries
My second issue is that he completely skipped over wild Maine blueberries.
It’s true that I’m so head-over-heels for wild blueberries that I tell everyone visiting Maine that they must try some, but it’s not just the flavor that’s so great (read: the best blueberry you’ve ever tasted).
Wild Maine blueberries are important historically, ecologically, and culturally. For millennia before Europeans arrived to what we now know as Maine, these tiny berries served as a source of food and medicines for the Wabanaki peoples. They continue to thrive in the shallow, acidic soil of Downeast Maine (though they grow in many areas of the state), and picking them is a Maine summer rite of passage.
And while the pinnacle of flavor and variety of uses is found when they’re in season (usually late July–August), they’re also sold frozen, so delicious jams, syrups, and baked goods can be found year round in Maine.
Lastly, the lowly potato.
Or, at least, The Holy Donut.
Let me explain.
Maine is more than just Portland and the coast, and vast rolling farmland in northern Maine has been dedicated to potato farming for many decades.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve listened to my mom’s woes about picking potatoes as a kid (most kids growing up in Aroostook County pitched in on harvest break), but I see it as an important piece of Maine culture.
While potatoes in and of themselves are a little boring, I would have loved to see a stop at The Holy Donut, where they make potato donuts from scratch using Maine potatoes and a (tweaked) northern Maine potato donut recipe. I love how they’re bringing a piece of less-talked-about northern Maine culture to the more populated southern Maine crowds (in a mouthwatering package).
Of course, Phil and his team obviously couldn’t cover every aspect of Maine food. In all his episodes, he does more than just rattle off lists of foodie facts about a place—he spends time on the story or background of the things he covers. It’s one of the reasons I’m a die-hard fan of the show.
So I know it would be impossible for him to capture all of Maine food and culture in a one-hour show. But if I were his fixer (Phil, call me next time you visit), these are some Maine foodie experiences I’d arrange. Since I’m not, hopefully this inspires you to give these foods a try when you visit Maine! There are lots of others I didn’t even mention–from fiddleheads to maple syrup to whoopie pies to all kinds of chowdah.
What would make your list of must-try Maine foods?