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Make the most of local food when traveling

The joy of traveling lies in getting to know new places. When I travel, local food is an important element of experiencing a place — not so much restaurant food, which can be very good or can be a miss or generic.

I love to cook. So when I spend time in a new town or city a stop at a grocery store or farmers market is at the top of my list.

Recently my family and I visited the Biddeford area of Maine. When I was growing up we went there every year to visit grandparents. At that time I had less interest in local food. So this visit proved to be a new experience even though I was familiar with the area.

We arrived to our rental cottage on a Sunday evening when I couldn’t hit up a farmers market for our first round of food. Instead I went to Hanneford, a grocery store chain, for dinner and breakfast supplies.

Making my list I opted to focus on items like pasta and cheese, which I would be less likely to find at a farmers market anyway.

On my way to the cheese aisle I passed a stand with craft sodas, and picked up a pack of ginger beer. I noticed the soda was the store brand, and made locally.

At the wide selection of cheeses a label caught my eye. It said “Maine Cows. Maine Milk. Maine Cheese.”

The label gave information about some of the brand’s farming practices, which all sounded healthy. So I grabbed a cheddar and Colby Jack to make grilled cheese sandwiches.

Needing bread for the sandwiches I headed over to the bakery section of the store. Prominently displayed was a rack of multiple brands of Maine-made breads. These were sliced sandwich breads. I selected a sourdough.

Later when planning a day in Portland I saw mention of a local distillery called Cold River. Checking its website I learned it is located a little farther north, so I couldn’t squeeze a visit into my itinerary. But the product sounded interesting. Made with Maine river water and Maine-grown potatoes, the primary product is vodka.

The distillery uses the vodka as a base for gin, adding botanicals. I found a bottle at the grocery store, and shared it with my extended family to taste in gin and tonics. Liking it, and thinking it would be good gifts for a friend and my sister, I went back to the store to pick up a couple more bottles.

This time I noticed four other Maine made gins from other local distilleries.

I didn’t check out Hanneford’s produce, because I planned to stop at a nearby farm shop for seasonal produce.

The farm, called Frinklepod, runs a lovely little shop against the backdrop of the working farm. They sell their own seasonal produce along with other organic and whole foods, soft serve ice cream, a few locally crafted gifts and other products.

Their produce, organically grown, was very tasty and obviously fresh. I went back to the farm store a second time, to get more veggies and berries since we gobbled up the first batch in no time.

I was quite impressed how easy it was to find local food. It was so accessible in the grocery store — I wonder how much more I could have found with a more extensive search. I feel like I had a pretty good taste of the area.

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email