April 23, 2017

Maine Harvest Festival a Feast for the Senses

The sweet, spicy and savory delights of VitaminSea

Janine Pineo Photo | The sweet, spicy and savory delights of VitaminSea

• By Janine Pineo •

The smell of foods – lots of food – hits before you even walk through the doors of the Cross Insurance Center for the 2013 Maine Harvest Festival.

Three vendors were cooking near the entrance behind the Paul Bunyan statue Saturday on Main Street in Bangor when I arrived. Once through the doors, more delicious odors assailed you, not surprising when you realize the majority of the vendors at this weekend’s festival are producing some type of food. You could probably eat a full meal simply by taking samples from all the businesses offering a taste test. And get dessert, too.

It was wall-to-wall people looking at scores of Maine businesses that showcase everything from produce to finished products. And it is a golden opportunity to be amazed at the creativity overflowing here in the state.

"The Barns of Maine" by Don Perkins

Janine Pineo Photo | “The Barns of Maine” by Don Perkins

My first stop was an unexpected moment. I saw a book, “The Barns of Maine,” and realized the author was there to sign and sell copies. Don Perkins is “The Barn Guy,” and he published this labor of love last year, with the book in its second printing this year.

I introduced myself and he signed my copy before I remembered that I had donated to his Kickstarter campaign. Lo and behold, there was my name in the front of his book.

It made me grin.

Then I was off to admire yarn and wool and roving and felting kits, before checking out the wooden goods from Peterson Woodworking, where I fell hard for a new rolling pin, silky smooth with its delicate grain of wood.

I stopped at River Wind Woolies and chatted at length with Robin Byrne who makes felted goods that look like artwork. We talked buttons, too, and how the perfect button can make a piece sing.

At the far end of the row, I discovered Pure Pops and Tanya Rosenberg. She had ice-cold smoothies and popsicles for sale. I was unable to resist the temptation of the blueberry-lemonade popsicle, especially after hearing that she dreamed of doing this while hanging out in the jungle. Go ahead and ask her.

As I ate my popsicle, I stopped to talk to the guy at Maine Original Tea. I failed to get a name, but the website leads me to believe I spoke with Jay Lombard, who was looking to create an alternative to commercial soda. He is bottling tea concentrate. Yes, you read that correctly. The concentrate is used to make iced tea, cutting down on waste in landfills by letting you mix up your drink instead.

Clever idea.

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Scores of vendors were in the main room, and I wandered wherever I could, picking up a glorious bag of doughnuts from Elaine’s Cafe & Bakery in Milo, some maple sugar delights from Kinney’s Sugarhouse in Knox, and a Bakewell Cream cookbook from New England Cupboard of Hampden.

I sampled tea from Tea Maineia, which will hold its grand opening at 115 Main St. in Winterport on Nov. 23. The flavor, by the way, was apple fig black tea and it was marvelous.

Then came the Sandolini Buckwheat Crackers, billed as an alternative to eating bread. The combination of buckwheat and seeds is delicious, both nutty and crunchy. And there might even be boxes of chocolates involved somehow, in case those might interest you.

The siren song of the cranberry bog called to me from Sugar Hill Cranberry Co. out of Columbia. Not only are there bags of fresh berries but a number of cranberry products for sale.

Not far away was another siren song, that of VitaminSea of Buxton, which sells seaweed products. I had a long chat with Tom Roth about seaweed as I eyed the bowls of samples set up. You’ve got to love a business where they describe seaweed as majestic and graceful in its natural surroundings of the ocean (it’s on their website and I agree).

I asked Tom about the samples and found out it is something new he is trying: flavored toasted sea vegetables in sweet, spicy and savory.

I tried all three. I liked all three. I brought home six bags of the stuff.

The product is so new, it isn’t even up on their website. I urge you to stock up as I did.

I rounded the corner, my courtesy totebag straining under the weight of all I had picked up. But I couldn’t resist stopping to say hi to Shannon Bissonnette of Better Than Average LLC, whom I met last month during Maine Made (read about it here). Shannon is the woman who cooked up Moxie jelly for the world. So I got another jar of it along with her raspberry jalapeno jam.

I like to live dangerously.

The good news is that, despite my overflowing totebag, I was able to climb the hill to my car.

Even better news is that you still have Sunday to go see all these vendors and dozens more so you can bring home your own goodies.

For a list of vendors and more about Maine Harvest Festival, click here.