The Maine Dish: Local Dining
Sarah Hebbel-Stone Jun 26, 2011 Restaurant Beat 0 comments
Anthony Bourdain may be known best for eating outrageous food in exotic places, but on his first trip to coastal Maine he sought out Primo, a restaurant whose world-class cuisine inspired by its terroir is far from exotic.
Executive Chef and Co-Owner Melissa Kelly has created a hyper-local food paradise in Rockland. The restaurant’s greenhouses and gardens supply most of the produce for the kitchen from May until the season ends and the restaurant closes early each winter. A chalkboard in the entrance of the dining room lists what’s fresh from the garden and the menu changes nightly to reflect the day’s harvest. Other ingredients are sourced from local organic farms.
Chef Kelly discovered her love for local, seasonal food while working for Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse fame) from whom she learned to let the ingredients in each dish shine by keeping them fresh and her cooking simple. Her Mediterranean inspired cooking has earned her a James Beard award among many other distinctions.
The restaurant is housed in a large Victorian home surrounded by an acre and a half of kitchen gardens that grow herbs for cooking and tea, berries, edible flowers and vegetables. On a recent trip I saw a cook step out the kitchen door mid-service to harvest some herbs in the garden. Vegetable beds separate two greenhouses from chicken coops, and Kelly keeps bees whose delicious honey is used in cocktails and desserts. The grounds are also home to heritage breed pigs that provide the restaurant with house-cured pork each fall.
Primo’s website describes its mix of organic, biodynamic and biological growing methods as “nutritional agriculture”—a perfect description for sustainable farming that sustains healthy people and a healthy environment. Waste from the restaurant even provides food for the pigs and compost for the plants.
Fresh, organic, delicious food. You can’t get any more local than Primo. It’s amazing to see what farm to plate can be when the farm is just out the window.
See more great images of Primo's gardens on our flickr page!
by Sarah Hebbel-Stone