ROCKLAND—Ten years ago, negative Trip Advisor reviews were stating about Rockland: “There’s nothing to do here.”
Cut to the present, when Rockland has been named “Best Small Town for Food” in The Huffington Post, as well as on CNN as one of “America’s Coolest Small Towns.” Numerous articles have lauded its revived downtown scene, particularly focusing on Rockland’s food and culture.
Pamela Laskey, the director of Maine Foodie Tours which operates in Portland, Kennebunkport, and Bar Harbor, decided to open a new branch in Rockland this summer.
"Rockland lays claim to the creation of the lobster roll, the first ‘coffee break’ and and the hole in the donut,” said Laskey. “There is a lot of culinary history to share that is truly fun and it’s very exciting to showcase their talents with our new tours in town."
“It’s more than just tastings,” added Robin McIntosh, the Rockland tour manager. “It’s talking with chefs and food producers about the farm-to-table and ocean-to-table process, locally produced beer and locally grown grapes for wine.”
On June 13, Maine Foodie Tours launched Rockland’s first walking tour taking eight people all around to a number of downtown establishments for a walk-talk-and-taste. At Terra Optima, the owner, Cheryl Denz, came in from her morning farm chores to make up a special batch of savory popovers with sausage made from pigs she’d raised. At The Landings, tour guests listened to chef Max Miller talk about some great local stories around lobstering industry while sampling a lobster bisque that took 24 hours to prepare.
“He’s really into sustainable fisheries and all that goes into it and he’s got his own stories about growing up in the restaurant business,” said McIntosh.
Beer lovers got to try a flight from Rock Harbor Brewing Company while owner Dan Pease showed them the brewing equipment on site. They sampled his locally brewed beers while trying handmade french fires and ketchup to go with it. For wines, they got to sample Breakwater Vineyards varietals at their Main Street location paired with Bixby Bar chocolates, also manufactured downtown.
Every tour and tastings will be different, but will last somewhere between two and a half to three hours. The tour is designed to be small from 2-14 people who will walk 1.7 miles with an interactive guide, enjoying tastes at six to seven various locations.
“Just enough to burn off everything you’ve tasted,” joked McIntosh.
In this first season for Rockland, Laskey is offering the daily culinary walking tour, and there is much room for growth. In other towns, Maine Foodie Tours offers educational tours by boat, cooking classes, and happy hour tours — something Rockland might see in the future.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org