Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seaside Discovery

While staying a while in South Bristol, Maine this last June, I had a confectionery discovery. South Bristol is a small fishing village about an hour or so north of Portland.

One afternoon I walked into town and found Island Grocery, a self-proclaimed "country store" full of specialty groceries, everyday necessities, appetizing deli selections and (my favorite) homemade baked goods. There was a new pie on the counter every day, never the same flavor, and always a variety of freshly baked cookies. The cookies had excellent texture and were always moist. In the deli case was usually a combination of chicken salads, potato salads and other nice side dishes, along with pre-packaged ready-to-grill chicken breast and salmon or house-baked ham.

But the confectionery discovery I made had nothing to do with the home-made pastries or cookies. My favorite thing that I found there was Bequet Caramels. I'm always crazy about caramels, and love to try the freshly made candies at any stand or grocery that I can--the same way I like to try the pie or ice cream. I think it's a good measure of the place. And though these caramels were not made on site, they are made by hand in small batches. You can read thoroughly than what I've provided here and order them online. I highly recommend the Celtic Sea Salt and the Chipotle. Both are subtle and the added flavor does not overpower the texture or natural flavor of the caramel. The aftertaste is excellent, in fact I think it's the best I've ever had. There's no sugary sweetness rolling around the mouth, just a salty, buttery goodness.

Another nice surprise at Island Grocery was the fresh Frozen Custard. Growing up in Wisconsin, my taste for all things dairy and frozen is pretty snobby and I was excited to find it had the right density, intensity of creamy texture, without sacrificing flavor over to sugar. The flavor of the day the second time I went was something like Toffee Chip...I'm sure that wasn't exactly what it was called, but it was excellent. The staff was even kind enough to turn the machine on for us and get it ready, even though no one else was asking for it. It only took about 7 minutes, and it was worth every second.

Frozen Custard at Island Grocery

The only downside to the Island Grocery seems to be that the cost of many items caters more to the summering guests with a little more cash in the bank. There are little treats and mixes, sauces and condiments, sometimes at $16 a pop--which is hard to imagine spending on a container of cookies that might only last a day. In this area, Island Grocery should really be approached more as a gourmet grocery rather than a country store. But as long as you walk in knowing your adventure will be a treat with a little more on the price tag, you'll be happy with what you get!