When you have a garden, it's so easy to get spoiled by all the top quality produce that you grow. Dining out can often be disappointing because its clear many restaurants don't feel the way about fresh vegetables as you do. Chase's Daily is the exception, and the place in Belfast, Maine to head for local food on the menu. The Chase family owns and operates a 500-acre farm in nearby Freedom, and grows a large portion of the produce they serve in this breakfast and lunch spot. Dinners are only served on Fridays, and are top notch, as is the in-house bakery.
June is still on the cusp of the growing season in Maine, and our fresh produce choices at this time of year mostly include greens of all kinds, a "complaint" of many ELC-ers in May. After months of living off the root cellar, jars of canned goods and the freezer, we've been delighted to see the tender greens of early summer, although after a while, we're left craving more substantial veggies. Unfortunately for us, even peas are still a couple of weeks away!
Once summer arrives in earnest (any day now, please), the choices are abundant, as is the Chase Farm produce sold in the farmstand that occupies the rear half of the space. While not organic, the Chases do believe in sustainably growing a stunning array of vegetables, and the farmstand teems with good eats: heirloom tomatoes, eggplant of all shapes and sizes, squashes, turnips, beets and more. Paintings adorn the walls of the restaurant, but are more concentrated in the farmstand area, which doubles as an art gallery.
The vegetarian menu reflects the seasons. One of my favorite wintertime lunch items, butternut squash and black bean tacos with red cabbage slaw, is off the menu as soon as the Chases run out of their store of squash and cabbage. Fried jasmine rice with tofu is a menu staple, and it comes with vegetables ranging from pumpkin to cauliflower to peas, depending on what they have available. A cheesemaker friend's ricotta was recently featured in a pasta special of penne with garlic, ricotta and fresh herbs.
Last week, we found ourselves in town and hungry at the right time and made a beeline for Chase's Daily. Because it's on the small side, it's a good idea to get there early, say 11:30 or so, for a table. The room is light-filled and open, with a high tin ceiling, and it never feels crowded, even when the restaurant is humming.
Menu choices that day included noodles with Asian greens and peanut butter, a mushroom omlette, and kale and potato soup, but after seeing the gorgeous broccoli raab in the farmstand, I knew I had to have the pasta special of farfalle with raab, soldier beans, garlic and parmesan. My husband went for the less-local sounding falafel and hummus pita sandwich, which did come stuffed with tender Chase Farm lettuce and a pile of young carrots and radishes for munching.
It was, as usual, delicious. We've yet to be disappointed by a meal at Chase's, perhaps because the menu changes often to feature seasonal foods or because they are using some of the freshest vegetables around. While not everyone can successfully combine a productive farm with a busy restaurant, Chase's Daily sets an example of featuring local produce that I wish more area restaurants would follow. And we're pleased to know that there is one restaurant nearby where we can enjoy a meal just as good as we can have at home.
Liz lives in Maine on Pocket Farm, where she tends to a large garden, a flock of laying ducks and some chickens when not spinning wool into yarn.