The Brooklin Inn, which features “real food, classically prepared,” sits in the middle of arguably the most literary town in Maine.
E.B White, Katharine Sergeant White, Roger Angell, Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Anne River Siddons, Ellen Booraem, Peter Behrens and John Hodgman are just a few of the published authors who have either lived or make their home now in this quiet seaside town. (Brooklin also is known as the boatbuilding capital of the world.)
So it makes sense that the only year-round restaurant in town, the Brooklin Inn’s dining room, would weave verse into its weekly menu.
Chip Angell, who owns the restaurant/inn with his wife, Gail, composes the chef’s offerings for the week ahead.
“There are some really great poets out there,” Angell said. “I’m a rhyming poet.”
“It was just a way to get something out weekly,” he said. “It’s seasonal, so it has to fit what’s happening that period.”
Consider this excerpt from the restaurant’s April 26 menu:
Sure some crocuses and now a dandelion or two
But don’t take that to mean the winter’s through
Checking our farmers, there’s stlll time to wait
For asparagus, peas, lettuce…you’re looking at a late May date
Blue Zee’s blueberry fields just got burned,
His compost was cooking and that he turned.
Andy’s run out of dried beans to sell,
King Hill is out of carrots, as well.
Blue Hill Blondes are down to short ribs and liver
While 5 Star Nursery’s at barrel bottom of Blanche d’Hiver
But hold on there, not everything is discouraging
Jennifer at Carding Brook has the news most encouraging!
From her hoop house on Benjamin River,
She has lettuce and more all ready to deliver!
While Barbara and Eliot always have stuff to sell,
Kohlrabi Turnips, Spinach and the new Blooming Kale!
So, our scallops, haddock, Arctic char and yes, short ribs won’t look lonely
On plates with nice vegetables from nearby farms, only!
The Brookin Inn….
We do things differently and sometimes its hectic,
Serving dinner each night, classically eclectic.
Angell, a lifelong sailor and former wine merchant, was inspired and took his cue from the Burma Shave signs of yore.
“That’s essentially what this [menu] poem is, it’s a Burma Shave sign,” Angell said. “That’s the concept in my mind that started this.”
The Burma-Vita Co., which touted its pre-aerosol “brushless” shaving cream, posted a series of small signs, spaced for sequential reading, along highways up until the early 1960s. Here’s a classic that was posted on Route 66:
Rely on Horn
Instead of Brake
Getting diners in the door in the dead of winter is why Angell turned to verse. Each week in late fall and winter, Angell composes a new poem or reaches into the archives. He then sends it out to a mailing list of hundreds of customers.
“There’s certain people that respond almost every time,” he said. “It’s like any advertising. You put your name in front of them and something will happen.”
And, since it is 2017, Angell also posts the rhyme on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
The first week of May brought wild salmon, so Angell developed a two-line stanza to entice customers.
“It always helps to have a little humor in it,” he said. “Make people think about salmon and want to come have some.”
The Brooklin Inn’s dining room is open daily during the summer and features “eclectically organic” meals, including produce, beef, lamb and poultry. The specialty is fresh seafood, caught in local waters. Angell sources all the ingredients locally as much as possible.
So, the verses feature local farmers and growers.
Here’s a smattering of who provides what to the inn:
Brooklin fisherman Randy Eaton supplies the inn with lobsters.
Cecil Holden, another Brooklin fisherman, brings scallops.
Hollander and de Koning harvest mussels from Frenchman Bay.
Halibut arrives from a variety of local fishermen who happen to catch one.
Moving on to meat, Dr. John Tyler and his Blue Hill Blondes supply steaks.
Lambs, beans and vegetables hail from Andy Birdsall at Horsepower Farm in Penobscot.
Angell has been buying organic beef from Caldwell Farms in Turner for many years.
“It just has a real flavor to it,” he said.
Still more vegetables land on the plate from Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch’s Four Season Farm in Brooksville as well as Jennifer Schroth’s Carding Brook Farm in Brooklin.
Courtenay Haight delivers greens from Haight Farm in Blue Hill.
Penobscot’s Blue Zee Farm and King Hill Farm also are counted on.
Five Star Nursery in Brooklin supplies much fruit — apples, pears, berries — and vinegar.
Angell also gets kimchi and slaw as well as produce from Bill Raiten and Elena Bourakovsky’s Back Stage Farm in Blue Hill.
The inn has an extensive wine list, helped by the fact that Angell was a wine dealer in a previous life. A full bar also is available.
The Brooklin Inn is located at 22 Reach Road in Brooklin. Tel: 359-2777, www.brooklininn.com.