BAR HARBOR — It’s the flavors of the sea that guide the hands of Drew Smith and Cindy Bridges as they prepare daily meals at their Main Street specialty seafood and food store, Peektoe Provisions.
Monkfish roasted and mixed with creamy mac ’n cheese, Haddock lightly sautéed and wrapped in savory tacos and thick clam chowder made from scratch are just a few of the specialties on offer on any given day. The lunch menu changes with the catch, the seasons and the weather, as Smith and Bridges strive to stay local with their sources and get creative with the abundance at hand.
“We get such fresh, nice product, it has an incredible flavor,” Smith said on a recent morning as he bustled behind the line, preparing to open up for the day. “That’s why I don’t want to drown it in sauce; I want people to taste that freshness.”
Fresh on the menu today: sushi-grade yellowfin tuna panini. Smith says he likes yellowfin because it is the most sustainably harvested type of tuna. Peekytoe sells the fish by the pound, as it does with all its seafood products, and Smith was looking for a novel way to present it in a meal. The panini was his take on the classic tuna sandwich, in a way.
Rather than relish, it’s got homemade pickled red onion. Instead of mayonnaise, a wasabi aioli moistens the fish. The tangy, spicy flavors support the distinctive taste of the yellowfin.
The fish is just about raw, cooking ever so slightly as the sandwich is heated in the panini press. To Smith, this is the best way to feature the flavor. Otherwise, you might as well be eating tuna out of a can.
With the pickled onions and the panini bread, “you still have the crunch of the sandwich and the warmth. It doesn’t feel like you’re biting into a raw piece of meat,” Smith says. “At the same time, it’s got that flavor that most people are looking for.”
Since the shop opened this fall, fish tacos have become the hottest menu item. An alternative to the ever-popular haddock sandwich, the dish was inspired by Smith’s visits to Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as an extended stint in Utah, “where there’s a lot of good, true Mexican food,” he says.
Smith uses a breading of Panko breadcrumbs and seasoning, ground down into a fine consistency, and just enough to hold the fish together while it is sautéed. The fish, typically haddock or pollock, is sautéed in a light amount of oil fresh for each order.
The flaky white fish is laid out on small, soft flour tortillas and matched with a roasted corn salsa (from local corn when that’s in season) and avocado lime crema. The tangy sour cream and cooling avocado provide an excellent counterpoint to the hot, tender pieces of fresh-cooked fish.
All of the entrees are served with a surprisingly satisfying helping of house coleslaw. Thin-sliced red and green cabbage is tossed with a honey mustard dressing to make up the slaw, and the bright flavors and smart crunch complement the hot sandwiches.
Peekytoe Provisions is located at 244 Main St. in Bar Harbor. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more info, call 801-9161 and visit Peekytoe’s Facebook page.
Monkfish Mac ’n Cheese
1 lb. monkfish fillet
2 Tbsps. butter
1 qt. milk
8 oz. State of Maine Cheese Co.’s Roaring Brook Sage Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
8 oz. sharp Cheddar, grated
1 chipotle pepper, ground
1 orange, yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 lb. macaroni
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Hot smoked paprika
Cook 1 lb. of macaroni, very al dente. It will cook more in the oven.
Cover both sides of monkfish with salt, wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for 45 minutes. This will draw excess moisture out of the fish.
Wash and dry fish. Season with black pepper and lemon juice and roast at 350 degrees F 8-10 minutes until firm to touch. Do not cook fish all the way through.
For the cheese sauce, begin by making a roux. Melt the butter and add flour to the desired consistency. Add milk, and stir until the roux begins to thicken. Turn off the heat and add cheese and ground chipotle (save some cheese to sprinkle on top). Mix in Old Bay, paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
Cube up monkfish and mix into cheese sauce, along with bell pepper and shallot. Place macaroni in a casserole dish and pour cheese sauce on top. Mix together. Cover casserole with breadcrumbs, grated cheese and paprika. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 45 minutes or until bubbly and delicious.