Location: 218 Main Street, Rockland
Notes: It seems like there are two main types of people who get into the food business. There are the cynics, who coldly calculate that it will take 16 months to break even on adding a commercial French Fry cooker to their business, assuming they can sling at least ten orders of Sisco crinkle-cuts per day at a 600% markup, and if it doesn’t work out, well, they can always use it to deep fry the chicken tenders.
Then, there are the brilliant food weirdos, who wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night, all cropped hair and random tattoos, wondering what it would be like to bulk-prepare 50 pounds of duck confit at a time, and whether their regulars would be interested in seeing it made into a daily special.
It can be a lot of fun to eat at this second type of establishment.
It’s in this second category, then, that we find the “Sweets & Meats Market” in Rockland’s South End. It’s a deceptively large deli and specialty food store wedged into a corner space in a mostly residential part of town (a handwritten letter from a neighbor posted to the shop’s wall begs them to keep baking delicious smelling cakes at night, but please, no more bacon) that specializes in the kinds of foods the owners clearly hold dear, with little to tie the different items together thematically.
There should be sandwiches, owner Julia McClure must have decided. But there should also be freshly baked cinnamon rolls. And whoopie pies. Oh, and we’ll sell fine meats and cheeses from the deli. And a cooler full of Pellegrino and chilled wine. And a dining room for people to sit and have lunch. And what if we made a macaroni and cheese using the ends of the taleggio, Spanish manchego, and the Humboldt Fog that we have in the case? Oh! And we should have bulk spices for sale from huge Mason jars behind the cash register. Menus? No, no menus…we’ll just write everything in six inch letters on giant chalkboards.
This kind of specialty store is exactly the kind of place I cherish, the kind of place that seems to only have started popping up in the last couple of years. There’s not much in the way of structure, but an absolute passion for food and cooking permeates every aspect of the shop. You get the sense that McClure is cooking exactly what she feels like, when she feels like it, and if people happen to wander by and want to purchase some of it, well, that’s just a bonus.
The “Maggi Blue” which I sampled today was exactly the kind of lunchtime option I have been looking for in Rockland. The Maggi Blue is like an old school liverwurst sandwich elevated to its maximum possible glorious potential. Instead of four inches of mushy bulk liverwurst, the Maggi Blue uses a layer of pate topped with thinly sliced brie, with a swipe of whole grain mustard and some crunchy lettuce. The supreme fattiness of the pate and the brie is almost overwhelming, but the mustard arrives in the nick of time to provide sharp contrast, and the baguette is sufficiently chewy to keep you from wolfing the whole thing down too quickly. It’s a completely over-the-top, decadent sandwich that feels fancy, but at just seven dollars, manages to be affordable.
Aside from the ambitious but ultimately disappointing creations in the local coffee shops, and the almost laughably wretched Amato’s outpost nearby, Rockland simply wasn’t, I didn’t think, a sandwich town. The Sweets & Meats Market proved me wrong. Every single item on their sandwich menu reflects a creativity and a love of the form that you just don’t see every day; creative layers of flavor, quality, unusual ingredients piled proportionately between slices of crusty, crackly baguette. It’s my new go-to, when I can’t quite put my finger on what I want for lunch; I know that whatever they’re cooking at the Sweets & Meats Market on a given day, it’s going to be a surprise, and it’s going to be incredible.
Sweets & Meats Market: 218 Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 594-2070; Sweets & Meats on Facebook