While summer isn’t officially over until Sept. 22, if you’re like us, you feel the season’s clock tick, tick, tick, and turn, this weekend. Even the name of the holiday, Labor Day, suggests we are getting back to the more serious matters of fall and winter. Do take yourself out for one more food fling before summer ends. We asked our team of food writers to tell us about 10 items to eat or drink that mean summer to them.

Grilled corn: Caramelized, complex and a little smoky. Serhii Ivashchuk/Shutterstock


Farm-fresh sweet corn is one of the simplest delights of the late-summer season. Boiled or steamed, those golden ears make the quintessential backyard barbecue side.

But cook the corn over flames, and the magic begins.

Fresh corn kernels plump up with sugary juices when boiled or steamed, but grilling takes the process a step further. It caramelizes those sugars in the plumped kernels, making the corn taste deeper, more complex and slightly smoky, in the same way burnt sugar on the top of creme brulee offers more flavor and textural interest than plain sugar alone.

Two schools of thought dominate the grilled corn conversation. There are those who leave the husks on the ears (though they remove the corn silk) while grilling, so the corn partly steams. The thinking here is that the husk wrapping keeps the corn moist as it grills.


But I’ve never had a problem with dry grilled corn, so I favor the husks-off grilling method. Only when you expose the ears to the flame can you get the delectable, toasty dark brown and black charred kernels dotting the ear like some kind of flint corn. Those charred spots build sumptuous flavor contrasts by balancing the corn’s natural sweetness with little hits of pleasant bitterness.

If you grill your corn without the husks, just take care to check and turn it regularly so the charring dots the ears evenly. A few minutes over medium or medium-high heat should do – too much flame and they’ll taste burnt (and even get dry).

The toppings are up to you. Lightly charred corn can handle more assertive flavorings like an herby chimichurri or even Mexican street corn toppings like mayo, cheese and chilies.

But ask me, the flame-kissed flavor shines with just a coating of melted butter, some salt and pepper. Plain, simple, perfect. — TIM CEBULA, Press Herald food writer

Allagash’s lambic-style Coolship Resurgam Photo courtesy of Allagash


There are plenty of great Maine summer beers, but if it’s uncomfortably hot out, I’m craving a Lambic-style beer — tart and refreshing, while complex enough to distract the mind from the body’s suffering.


The term “Lambic” technically refers to a style of beer brewed around Brussels. There was a time, long ago, when brewers had to dump their steaming wort into large, shallow pans (called “coolships”) to cool the hot liquid, preparing it for incoming, heat-sensitive yeast. As cooling technologies advanced, nearly all brewers ditched this traditional technique, which had a tendency to produce unpredictable results as open exposure resulted in ambient yeast and other invisible microflora settling into the beer. These interlopers made their own contributions to the brew in this process known as “spontaneous fermentation.”

Allagash Brewing Co. pioneered the American adaptations on the style, building the country’s first coolship in 2007. Today, the brewery produces a series of Lambic-style beers that make for great companions to the dog days of summer.

Coolship Resurgam (6.3% ABV) is modeled after a particular type of unfruited Lambic known as “gueuze,” which is a blend of one-, two- and three-year coolship beers. Made with raw wheat, whole leaf hops and wild Maine yeast, it is aged in French oak wine barrels. It unfurls itself within and across sips: apricot and lemon, a bit of oak, traces of wooly funk, a sizzling tartness and a refreshingly dry finish.

The base beer for Resurgam also serves as the foundation for a range of Lambic-style variations made with fruit. Coolship Red (5.6%) is aged on local raspberries. Locally grown Montmorency and Balaton cherries are added at a rate of 100 pounds per barrel to Coolship Cerise (6.0% ABV). And the mesmerizing Coolship Pomme (7.6% ABV) spends four months on a blend of local Golden Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, Northern Spy and Winesap apples — a medley forecasting cooler days ahead. — BEN LISLE, Press Herald beer columnist


Steamers have been my prized summer protein since childhood.


I don’t remember the first bucket I ever dared dive into, or how I managed to get past the gnarly black sheath that covers the clam neck without losing my finicky young appetite. But they quickly became my summer vacation ritual.

My parents weren’t cooks, and wouldn’t dare prepare steamers at home. Lucky for me, we spent plenty of time on Cape Cod in the summer.

Whenever we dined out, I’d gorge myself on a pound or two of steamers, which would be the entirety of my meal. I was smitten by their explosively briny flavor, delightful chew and unctuous clarified butter coating. If my parents had let me, I’d have ordered another bucket for dessert. Ten-year-olds don’t know or care about palate fatigue.

Of course, the tableside preparation ritual is a big part of steamers’ appeal. Pulling off the sheath, dunking the slippery little clam into the little plastic cup of clam juice to cleanse it of any lingering impurities and grit, a kind of baptism for bivalves, then into the warm, golden butter for the finishing touch. Hardcore steamer fans insist that the proper way to finish a soft-shell feast is to pour the remaining broth – taking care to leave gritty sediment in the bottom of the cup – into any remaining butter and to down the combo as a shot.

As an adult now who cooks, I make a pile of steamers for myself a couple times a summer, usually at the beginning and end as a way of saluting the season. But I confess to meddling slightly with the dish. Instead of skimming milk solids away from melted butter to make it clarified, I serve my steamers with version of beurre monte by blending a little lemon juice with whole butter into a creamy emulsion, a sauce that takes the treat to the next level.

I’m not big on the broth-clarified butter shot, because butter without its milk solids has a greasy mouthfeel. But mix that broth into some lemony beurre monte, and it’s bottoms-up time. It may be good for my health that summer doesn’t last all year. — TIM CEBULA



Junie and Sal Halvorson sell lemonade this summer from their house in Portland’s Back Cove neighborhood. Photo by Sheryl Anderson

I don’t even like lemonade that much, especially from a mix, but a drink from a lemonade stand operated by small children is a Must Do on my annual summer checklist.

This year, I lucked out one hot day in July when I happened to cycle by S, S + J’s Lemonade on Carlyle Road in Back Bay. S + J were all present and accounted for – that would be siblings Sal, 8, and Junie, 5, Halvorson, who live there. I can’t remember if S No. 2 was there, their cousin Solomon Shartar-Howe, 11, who lives in New Hampshire and suggested they open a lemonade stand in the first place.

The kids were selling organic lemonade sweetened with maple syrup, just the way they drink it at home and a definite step up from the usual lemonade stand fare. “We are very responsible,” their grandfather, Neal Shartar, later told me with a laugh. “We only want to serve people what we’d drink ourselves.” A glass cost 50 cents, even more of a bargain than I realized at the time, given that Shartar said the ingredients alone cost 40 cents per glass.

The kids, apparently, made it up in tips. The stand made about $100 over the course of the summer, according to Sal, who seemed to be the spokesman. The best tip the kids got was $10. On a 50-cent lemonade — not too shabby! With a little guidance from mom, they gave 10 percent of their takings to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. (Their own dog, Ruby, comes from the Humane Society in New Hampshire.)

Sal, who said they established their business because “we didn’t really have anything to do,” has spent most of the money he’s earned on remote-controlled motorcycles and balloons. Junie has used her share to buy two scrunchies, she said. Sal amended that, adding that his little sister also bought “a lot of jewelry.” (Later, her father said that, actually, Junie has saved most of her money.)


Running a lemonade stand taught him patience, Sal said. “You never know when a car will come, and you never know if they’ll stop.”

Shartar, proud grandfather, summed up my own experience at S, S + J Lemonade in speaking about his grandchildren: The lemonade was good, the salesmanship even better. “These two kids,” Shartar said, “they are the goodwill ambassadors on the road. They talk to everyone.” — PEGGY GRODINSKY, Press Herald food editor

Is it even possible to eat too many tomatoes at this time of year? We don’t think so. Tomato sandwiches and tomato pie are among their highest uses. Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer


I used to be a fresh tomato purist of the minimalist mindset, believing there was no better preparation for a juicy, meaty late-summer tomato than a sprinkle of sea salt, some fresh pepper and a splash of good olive oil.

Tomato season is brief in New England, and I may have figured the varieties I favored – like deep, dark-flavored Cherokee Purples, sweet Brandywines, even sweeter Sun Golds, or big, meaty beefsteaks – didn’t need any more adornment.

It wasn’t until I lived in the Deep South, where good tomatoes are available for most of the summer and early fall, that I discovered the heavenly pleasures of tomato sandwiches and pies.


The tomato sandwich made sense to me, being a minimalist concept. Sliced tomato, salt and pepper, mayo, bread – nothing that could mask or distract from the fruit’s beguiling balance of sweetness and acid or its intensely satisfying umami richness.

My version differed from traditional Southern takes, which often involved plain white bread and Duke’s mayonnaise. Duke’s is the favored mayo in those parts, but it’s too tangy for my taste, so I go with Hellmann’s (or Japanese brand Kewpie, made with all egg yolks and no white, if I can score some).

I also couldn’t subject my tomatoes to Wonder bread, so I’d get a loaf of fresh bakery bread, cut thick slices and toast or grill them. These days, back home in New England, I have the luxury of grabbing some sourdough from one of the area’s outstanding bakeries like Scratch Baking Co. or Standard Baking Co., bread worthy of holding a great summer tomato.

The version that will convert any skeptics to Tomato Pie Photo by Julie Grimes

Tomato pie is a dish I didn’t even know about before moving South. I’d never eaten it up here, might have even passed on it if offered, for fear the fresh tomatoes would be cooked to mush and overwhelmed by the rest of the pie filling, which is often heavy on salty Parmesan cheese and involves way more mayo than I’d personally like, even if I used Kewpie.

But maybe 10 years ago, I tried a tomato pie from my colleague at the time, Julie Grimes, a former editor at Cooking Light and Southern Living magazine. I became an instant convert.

Grimes puts the cheese (a blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and gruyere) into her standout, buttery, flaky crust where it enhances the tomato flavor. Her filling is an eggy, creamy custard that similarly complements the tomatoes without overwhelming them.


The South’s vaunted lifestyle magazine, Garden & Gun, called it “The Only Tomato Pie Recipe You’ll Ever Need.” As a tomato purist, I can vouch for that.


Recipe courtesy of Julie Grimes. If pressed for time, it’s okay to use prepared pie dough. In September, Grimes says she makes an extra pie or two and freezes them “to enjoy a little taste of sunshine” later in the year.

2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
4-6 tablespoons ice-cold water
Cooking spray

1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 large eggs

2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1 large ripe red beefsteak tomato
3 medium-size multi-color heirloom tomatoes
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cornmeal
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh basil or chives, for garnish, optional

Prepare the crust: Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, cornstarch, cheeses, cornmeal and salt and pepper in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the paddle attached; mix on low speed to blend.

With the mixer running, gradually add the butter 2-3 pieces at a time, beating at low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the yolk and mix until incorporated. Add cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough begins to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth. Shape the dough into a round disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to two days).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a 14-inch circle. Gently transfer the dough into a 9-inch springform pan lightly coated with cooking spray, pushing the dough into corners and up the sides of pan, pressing lightly to adhere. Pierce dough several times with a fork; freeze for 15 minutes. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Shield the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans.

Blind bake (baked unfilled) for about 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned. Remove the weights and discard the parchment. (If you see any visible cracks in the shell or fear it may leak, seal it up by brushing raw egg white all over the inside of the blind-baked crust while it’s still hot.)


Meanwhile, prepare the custard: Combine the cream and half-and-half. Separately whisk together the mayo and eggs, stirring until smooth. Stir the egg mixture into cream mixture.

Prepare the oil: Combine the herbs, shallots and garlic; stir in the olive oil.

Prepare the tomatoes and remaining ingredients: Core the tomatoes, and slice about 1/8 inch off of tops and bottoms of each tomato. Slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. (Grimes doesn’t always peel the tomatoes, but if the skins are especially tough, you may want to peel them before slicing.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Set aside 2 slices from the red tomato; arrange the remaining red tomato slices in a circle on top of prepared crust, overlapping slices slightly. Combine the salt, cornmeal and pepper; stir well. Sprinkle half of salt mixture evenly over red tomato slices; drizzle evenly with half of the oil mixture. Layer the remaining tomato slices over top, alternating colors and overlapping slices slightly. Sprinkle the tomatoes evenly with the remaining salt mixture and drizzle with the remaining oil mixture. Carefully pour custard around tomatoes, leaving most of the top layer of tomatoes visible.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until custard is just set and slightly browned. Let the pie stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Gently release from the pan and remove the ring. Slide the pie onto a cake stand or cake circle. Sprinkle it with fresh basil or chives.

Slice into wedges and serve warm. — TIM CEBULA


Customers order food at the counter at Higgins Beach Market in August. The market has evolved since Big Tree Hospitality bought it, and now sells delicious beach snacks, including critic Andrew Ross’ favorite, the crab roll. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


When the Big Tree Hospitality Group, owners of Hugo’s, The Honey Paw and both locations of Eventide Oyster Bar, bought the understated, shack-like Higgins Beach Market a few years ago, nobody knew what to expect. But uncertainty didn’t stop visitors (from Maine and from away) swarming the roadside storefront on every sunny day, creating miniature traffic jams on Spurwink Road in Scarborough.

I’ve been among them several times.

Watching the evolution of the market has been fascinating. It started out as more of a supplies-and-wine shop offering a selection of their fantastic Big Tree Grocery and Little Spruce Bakery favorites, including scones and blueberry muffins. But until this year, the balance never felt quite right for the growing hordes of beachbound customers.

Now the market has hit its stride, it is more or less an upgraded snack bar. Stop by and pick up a pizza (pepperoni or sausage-and-caramelized onion are both sure things), a side of tangy cole slaw, or my favorite portable item: the crab roll.

The format isn’t groundbreaking: a butter-brushed, split-top bun grilled and filled with fresh-picked Maine crab folded into dill mayonnaise, a squirt of lemon juice. But the simplicity is intentional here, drawing your focus to the superb quality of every ingredient.


For a full-body experience, I’d suggest buying a crab roll, walking down to the waterfront and eating it barefoot on the sand while listening to the waves lap the shore. But truthfully, I can’t make it farther than a block without devouring a Higgins Beach Market crab roll, so maybe buy two. — ANDREW ROSS, Press Herald Dine Out restaurant reviewer

Allan and Tiffany Buotte work the counter at Pier French Fries, the business they own in Old Orchard Beach, in summer, 2021. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


What is it about summer and fried food? All the fried whole belly clams, fried shellfish platters, fish and chips and fried chicken, not to mention fried dough and other offerings at outdoor fairs and festivals, where if a foodstuff can be fastened onto a stick, it’ll be deep-fried and devoured.

French fries are usually taken much less seriously. They’re more of an afterthought, a plate-filler taken for granted by customers and servers alike. But not in Old Orchard Beach, where Pier French Fries sells about 250,000 pounds of their legendary fries – and only fries – in their six-month business season each year. Over a busy summer weekend alone, they’ll move 7,500 pounds of fries out the door.

“It’s the focal point here,” said manager Thomas Fregeau, whose parents, Allan and Tiffany Buotte own Pier French Fries.

Fregeau explained the key factors that set Pier fries apart from others, making them a draw in Old Orchard Beach since 1932. Top-quality spuds come first. Pier buys potatoes from Green Meadow Farms in Mapleton for most of the year, and importantly, they purchase the crop from the previous year because the potato starches have converted to sugars, helping the fries brown better and giving them a natural, earthy sweetness.


Pier fries are hand-cut on the same equipment they’ve used for decades. “Our cutters are so old you can barely find parts for them anymore,” Fregeau said, adding the crinkle-cut produces more surface area on the fry, which boosts browning.

Pier French Fries also filters its soybean frying oil nightly, and rotates the oil in the fryers three times a week. They don’t fry anything but the potatoes, so every order is fully gluten free and untainted by off-flavors from fried fish, for instance.

Walk past the Pier French Fries window, and you’re treated to a heady aromatic cloud of crisp fries topped with salt, ketchup and vinegar, the most popular flavoring combo, according to Fregeau. The shop’s poutine fries, with beef gravy and cheddar cheese curds from Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, are popular with both Canadian tourists and locals.

Treat yourself to a cup, pint, or full box of fries from a place that takes its spuds seriously, because you can taste the difference. “I was always taught, all we have is fries,” Fregeau said. “And if we can’t do that right, what are we doing at all?” — TIM CEBULA

Corn Mochi Cake. Do not let summer end without baking this. Photograph by Andrew Ross


Chef and former Bon Appetit Test Kitchen superstar Sohla El-Waylly is one of the food celebrities I trust most. During her time in the Condé Nast kitchens, she became known as the person the BA social media stars would beckon over when they couldn’t figure out a cooking problem. “Hey, Sohla!” they’d yell during a video, and like magic, El-Waylly would improvise an elegant solution. She never took, nor received, much credit for her contributions.


On her own and in the foreground where she belongs, El-Waylly is now inventing and concocting in the wackiest, tastiest ways. This May, I caught up with her recent Food 52 video series, “Off-Script with Sohla,” and watched as she blitzed pecorino, rice flour, eggs and corn kernels into a savory, gluten-free cake that she promised was both “better than cornbread” and “the tastiest thing I’ve ever made.” I was sold.

Then I tried it myself. First on my own in May, then for guests in June, then again in July, and as fresh corn became more widely available, the recipe kept getting better. And better. When it’s warm, the dish has the texture of a custardy corn pudding, but when chilled overnight in the fridge, leftover squares transform into irresistible midnight snacks. I’ve eaten more than my body weight in mochi cornbread this year. I regret nothing.

Lucky you, now is the ideal time to make this dish. Use Maine corn if you can. The best corn I’ve bought in years comes from The Farmer’s Cupboard at Trish’s Pie Bakery farm stand in Phippsburg. It’s so sweet that I cut the sugar in Sohla’s recipe by half. Oh, and shave the pecorino yourself — don’t use pregrated. The improvement in texture when you use the fluffy curls makes the extra prep time worth every second. Enjoy! — ANDREW ROSS


One of most iconic and irresistible sights, sounds and smells of summer? Burgers sizzling on the backyard grill.

The beefy, fatty, smoky aroma alone triggers a Pavlovian response in the burger lovers among us. Even folks who are cutting back on meat in their diets can succumb to the lure.


It’s likely that burgers were one of the first items you grilled this summer. It’s fitting to make them one of the last meals of the season, too, before we capitulate to colder weather and months of indoor cooking.

The upside to burgers cooked in a pan, particularly a cast-iron pan, is that they pick up delectable crust while searing against the hot metal. Beef patties can’t develop the same crunchy exterior over open flames, but the unmistakable char and irresistibly smoky flavor of a grilled burger more than compensate.

People don’t usually need recipes for burgers, but some purchasing tips can be helpful. Be aware that the leanest ground beef (more than 90 percent lean) will be hard to keep from drying out as it cooks. The optimum lean-to-fat ratio is 80/20 or 85/15, enough fat to keep the patties dripping with juice.

And consider treating yourself to a premium grind from a local butcher like Pat’s Meat Market on Stevens Avenue, where they sell a ground tenderloin blend for about the same price as premium ground beef at the supermarket. Even if it cost twice as much, an excellent end-of-summer burger is worth the splurge. — TIM CEBULA

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