There are no cabbages on Cabbage Island. There are cabbage roses heavy with rose hips and deep pink blooms. Most of all, there are lobsters, clams and loads of trimmings served in a tranquil retreat atop rocky shores laced with the hospitality and charm of Bennie Moore and her family.
Committed travel foodies, we seek out distinctive dining discoveries on every trip. As lobster lovers, we wanted to experience an authentic Downeast Clambake during a visit to Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Phil and Laura Chapman, owners of Blue Heron Seaside Inn, recommended the Cabbage Island Clambake. Often, "mass feedings" are overpriced and undervalued. The Cabbage Island Clambake is not in that category. We were delighted, not disappointed. Let us whet your appetite for an afternoon of scenic and savory seaside eats and treats.
Our clambake adventure begins when we board the Argo for a harbor cruise enroute to Cabbage Island, forty-five minutes away. Narrated facts and folklore about the area accompanies close up views of historic lighthouses, magnificent homes clinging to the towering rocky cliffs, marine wildlife and lobstermen working their traps.
Cabbage Island is a private 5 1/2-acre island located in the heart of Linekin Bay. It is owned by the Moore family and the clambake has been a family affair for over 17 years. Bennie Moore, the clambake "Mom," handles the hospitality and charms her guests as she visits each table. Brothers Wayne and Bob Moore are the brains and brawn of the operation overseeing a crew of sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.
As the Argo approaches the dock, the Moore family is out in force to greet their disembarking guests. Steam is rising from the nearby lobster pit and our taste buds are primed. Rustic picnic tables perch along the sloping, shady lawn overlooking Linekin Bay. The lodge has welcoming front porch and inside dining room with a large fireplace for rare days when days when Mother Nature brings rain or fog to the island.
Hundreds of bright lobster buoys mark each lobster trap dotting the bay waters like colorful confetti. (Each lobsterman has distinctive multi-colored buoysmarking his individual traps.) What a view!
What a feast! We thought we would share a tray of two lobsters and a dozen clams. Wrong. Each person receives two lobsters, a dozen steamed clams, corn, a potato, an onion and a boiled egg. Declaring that there is "no way we can eat it all," we savor every bite. (Tip: Light eaters bring a small cooler to take home leftovers.) Groans ring out as three-inch high towers of fresh blueberry cake arrive for dessert. Again, we devour every crumb.
Following the clambake, there is time to work off the calories exploring the island or with a game of volleyball, or simply sit and soak in the scenery.
Wayne Moore is a wealth of information about lobstering along the coast and patiently answers all our questions. We learn that each licensed lobsterman is allowed to have up to 700 traps. This explains the thousands of bright trap buoys dotting coves, harbors and bays in every direction. Most lobstermen check from one half to one third of their traps each day. Getting one "keeper" out of each trap is considered a good day’s catch. There is strict regulation on legal lobster sizes in Maine. On average, a legal lobster is over one pound and under four to five pounds. Legality is judged with a small device called a "clicker" that measures the lobster carapace. (The 18-20lb. giant lobsters you see in movies come from waters off Nova Scotia, not Maine.) Most days at Cabbage Island, 350-375 pounds of lobster are served along with 1800 clams, 150 ears of corn and an equal number of potatoes, onions, and eggs.
The Moore family bid warm farewells as we "waddle" on-board the Argo for our return trip to Boothbay Harbor. Cabbage Island Clambakes operate from early June through early September. Clambakes are held Monday through Friday leaving Boothbay Harbor at 12:30pm and returning at 4:30pm (there are also evening clambakes from 5pm until dark on Saturdays and Sundays). Including the harbor cruise, the cost is $44.95 per person. We agree this could become one of our must-do annual getaways!
Plan ahead. Reservations are a must especially on weekends. For more information or reservations, visit www.cabbageislandclambakes.com or call 207/633-7200.