My Semi-Secret Source for Delicious Deep Fried Fish
It’s pretty much Slow Food city around here and always has been. Home grown, local, artisanal, sustainable – choose your anti-industrial buzzword and it’s likely to apply. So I feel I speak with some authority when I say that deep fried fast food can be a wonderful thing.
All you have to do is get it from Finest Fried Maine Seafood, where the succulent, crisp crusted haddock, scallops, clam strips and shrimp are the platonic ideals of their kind and it’s probably better not to speak of the homemade potato chips.
FFMS is genuinely fast. Even when the lines are long, as they generally are, it only takes a few minutes to get your order. And it’s genuinely food, in the slow food sense. The haddock, scallops, clams and potatoes are fresh. The shrimp, being local Maine shrimp, were frozen in shrimp season (Any restaurant that sells “fresh Maine shrimp” between roughly April and November is lying in its teeth.)
And of course it’s fried. All of it. The seafood of choice is dipped in flour, egg and milk wash and plain, unseasoned unpreserved cracker crumbs, then passed through a frialator filled with frequently changed peanut oil. The whole potatoes are machine peeled and spiral cut, not quite to order but pretty damn close, before their hot oil moment.
End of description. You can buy soft drinks and bottled water. There’s a condiments table with salt and pepper, bottled hot sauce, vinegar and lemon wedges as well as catsup, presumably for the chips, and a vat of undistinguished but not horrible commercial tartar sauce with which you can pollute your seafood should you be inclined.
This being a hard world there is of course a catch in it – several, actually, all connected to access. FFMS is a one-outlet family operation, started by Chuck Huus in 1982. It only operates in summer. And there is no fixed location; the restaurant is a concession stand that travels on the Maine fair circuit; the only way to get at the eats is to go to the fair(s).
Still to come:
Union Fair August 22-28
Windsor Fair August 29 – September 6
Common Ground Fair September 24-26
Fryeburg Fair Oct 3-10
Then that’s it until June 2011.
The fair websites give a good idea of what to expect from each. Union, Windsor, and Fryeburg are all in their own ways “worth the journey” if you’ve never been to a big, old fashioned agricultural fair, and Common Ground is double “worth the journey” if you have.
Full disclosure: FFMS is owned and run by old friends and although it’s been about a decade since we saw each other outside of the fairs, affection is undiminished. If you don’t know me very well you might think this is relevant.
Photos by Bill Bakaitis