A Taste of Maine in San Diego

My wife and I walk around Liberty Station, in San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood during some weekends, because the open pavilion with dirt paths around grassy center reminds us of the National Mall, Washington, D.C. The arts, entertainment, and shopping facility feels oddly constructed, for it is. The destination was once the Naval Training Center San Diego, and the architecture and vastness between buildings is homage to the heritage.

The military base closed with many others, as part of vast downsizing two decades ago, during Bill Clinton’s presidency (I wonder if his wife won’t wield the closure hatchet yet again, should she be elected later this year). The complex shuttered in 1997, and like many others underwent redevelopment. Something similar happened to Loring Air Force Base, located about 16 km (10 miles) from my hometown in Northern Maine. Loring’s redevelopment was nowhere nearly as successful as the San Diego training center. Location. Location. Location. 

Last weekend, Annie and I discovered Liberty Public Market, which is located in the Station’s Arts district. The foodery is rustic, but pricey, packed with people going from stall to stall buying all kinds of baked, cooked, or fresh eats. We strolled through when quite crowded, on first visit. This morning, we rolled in after 10, as many shops set up for the day, while others had just opened. We could explore.

As we more leisurely moved through the Market, I spotted something so seemingly out of place for San Diego: Sign advertising whoopie pies, and chilled bakery display of different varieties. Whoa. We had come upon the stall for Wicked Maine Lobster. In October 2014, Southern Maine brothers Eric and Alex Howard started selling lobster rolls and other Down East fare at San Diego farmers markets under the WML name. They continue making the circuit, after setting up permanent location at Liberty Public Market, which this week celebrated its first month of operation.

I couldn’t resist buying a whoopie pie, even though I stopped eating confections of this kind (or any other) nearly three years. I spoke with two Wicked Maine Lobster employees, who frenetically prepared for what surely would be a lunch rush. Said I had to buy a whoopie pie, being from Maine. The young main asked where. “Aroostook County. Caribou”. He knows it. Before me an Old Orchard Beach, Maine-native hustled.

The young woman who cashed the sale also is a Mainer—from Oxford Hills. She is a San Diego newbie, who moved here just two months ago. But I would never have guessed. She is inked like a native-Californian. Makes me wonder: Perhaps she has found her cultural homeland. I would have gotten their names or talked longer, but I could see how rushed they were.

The 156 gram (5.5-ounce) whoopie pie is as Maine as they come—toxic waste for the health, but so sinfully, sugary tasty you couldn’t care until the last swallow. Then the guilt sets in, and how could it not from this behemoth called Wicked Whoopie.

I have long called the cookie cake halves with filling between them: diabetes bombs. Looking at the nutritional info on the one purchased today, there are 26 grams of sugar and 45 grams of carbohydrates per serving. But, whoa, this thing is two servings. Eat a whole one, and c`mon who wouldn’t, and that’s 52 grams of sugar. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has less (39 grams—more than 9 teaspoons).

Whoopie Pie is Maine’s state treat, which shouldn’t be confused with the official dessert: blueberry pie. Yum to both. I have long said that the confection single-handedly is the root cause of obesity in Maine; more than 28 percent of adults.

Now, before you get the wrong idea about Wicked Maine Lobster—that the Howard family exports dietary death to unsuspecting San Deigans—the menu is much broader. I arrived before employees could put out the finer delicacies, which include several variety of lobster rolls (I arrived before the official 11 a.m. opening). Other tastes include: crab or shrimp rolls, lobster mac `n cheese, lobster taco, New England clam chowder, and OMG traditional red dogs from Maine (on the kids menu).