On our second night out in Maine, we drove to Rockland for dinner at Primo. Like Francine, Primo is located in a renovated house, but this time the house in question is a restored Victorian on one and half acres of working farmland. In a way, it’s like the old L’Espalier, but with a farm-to-table spin; about eighty percent of the current menu at Primo comes from the restaurant’s own gardens. Apparently the gardens are expanded each growing season, and right around this time of year, the piglets are brought in; come fall, they’ll provide the kitchen with prosciutto, pancetta and other salumi. During our trip, Keith and I were a bit too early for a piglet visit, much to my disappointment, but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying our meal.
I was still riding high on my shellfish craze, so once I saw the appetizer of “oysters two ways,” I put ($13.00) down my menu (in spite of the fact that a little bit of me truly hates menu items that are two ways or three ways, or — even worse — things like duets). Way one (bottom right corner) was roasted with wild leek butter and tomatoes, and way two (bottom left corner) was alluvium with lovage and white balsamic vinaigrette. Both, as you can see, were served on ice, and even though I clearly read the word roasted in the description, still I was surprised to feel the heat of the roasted oyster on my tongue. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, of course; in fact, in my opinion, it surpassed its stunningly briny and tangy counterpart, which I would have gleefully traded my three cold oysters for three more roasted.
I went with one of the night’s specials as my main; it was a veal chop with potato “risotto” and roasted vegetables ($32.00). (Allow me to take a moment to say I also dislike things in quotation marks like faux descriptives. It’s a peeve.) Regardless of how unPC it is to admit this, I must express how much I love veal, the main reason why I ordered the last chop Primo had that night. Keeping this in mind, imagine how disappointed I was to receive a chewy, underseasoned piece of meat. Keith suggested I send my plate back for some adjusting; it’s something I’ve only done once and hated doing, so instead I focused mainly on the potatoes and vegetables, which were both very nice.
When it comes to desserts, I normally like to keep things simple with a gelato or an ice cream, which is why I picked three of Primo’s offerings to finish off my meal: chocolate, mango and brandied pear ($8.00). The chocolate I chose because, to me, no dessert is complete without some chocolate; this sorbet was so luscious and rich I wouldn’t have been surprised if our server had rushed up, apologizing that she had accidentally given me a custard. The mango was a perfect balance of tart and sweet, but the true star of the plate was the brandied pear — honeyed, with the taste of brandy hovering at its edges. Had it been possible, I would have asked for a pint to take back to the cottage.
With our checks came a few after-dinner sweets: passion fruit marshmallows and two different kinds of cookies. I can only describe the marshmallows as perfect, so perfect in fact, that I quizzed our server relentlessly on the chef’s technique until she ushered Keith and me into the kitchen to find out for ourselves. The secret, it seems, is in whipping the egg whites.
Though I found my food was a bit uneven, I still think Primo is a lovely place to spend an evening, stretching the night out over a series of courses. As we were leaving, Keith and I climbed the tall and narrow stairs to the bar on the second floor. It’s a very relaxed and laid-back environment with some exciting food on the menu, making the two of us wish that we had more time in our week for a return trip.
2 South Main Street
Rockland, Maine 04841