Hi, again. I’m back from Maine, and now we have a lot to talk about, and I mean a lot, so wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I do hope you’re comfortable, maybe with something nice to drink nearby, because, brace yourself, this post is going to be a long one.
Four days before I turned three-years-from-30, I hopped on a plane bound for Philadelphia, to connect with another plane bound for Portland, Maine, (not Montreal like we’d originally planned, which was too expensive) because my dad gave my brother and me his credit card rewards points (i.e., FREE FLIGHTS and one free hotel night) and I had vacation time stored up and so did he, and it was about to be my birthday and, in my opinion at least, when you’re about to be 27 and have the time and resources, you really ought to go anywhere and everywhere you’re given the chance to, so we did.
The first night there, we stayed at what was arguably the nicest accommodations of the whole trip, The Danforth Inn, in a charming room on the third floor with twin beds topped by coverlets and a bathroom where you stepped up to the tiled shower, steps from the building’s rooftop cupola overlooking the water and downtown Portland. They gave us citrus ade and banana bread when we entered and a breakfast of eggs Benedict with lobster, fruit and oven potatoes when we left, so I liked them very much.
Downtown Portland feels so small to me, like a neighborhood more than a big city, but at least it’s a neighborhood that knows its food very well.
Friday night we ate at five fifty-five, a highly acclaimed restaurant known for its emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, and we split a “knuckle sandwich” of fried green tomatoes and lobster meat (I just saw online that you can watch the chef prepare this meal, if you’re into that sort of thing, here), and I got a salad with goat cheese (and didn’t mind it at all, with its creamy and rich texture, aha!) and, of course, blueberries, which are very, very big in Maine. Then for dessert was a trio of house-churned ice creams, with interesting flavors such as chili chocolate, lemon blueberry and pina colada curry.
Saturday we drove to Bar Harbor, making stops along the way at antique shops and scenic overlooks and for lunch in Wiscasset, at a diner called Sarah’s Cafe. Originally, we went inside because the line at Red’s, across the street, was too long and outside and it was hot (!), plus Sarah’s had a sign showing all the media outlets it had been featured in, so we thought, Why not?
This was a good decision because those crab cakes above? Best thing ever. I didn’t even know I liked crab cakes until I had them, but their crisp, fried crusts and soft, creamy insides won me over, totally and completely, and if I am ever in Wiscasset again, I will go there and order exactly the same thing.
That goes for the blueberry crumb pie, too, by the way, which had a sweet, brown-sugary, oatmeal-type crumble mixed with gobs and gobs of fresh blueberries, all crowned with vanilla ice cream, and I ate every bite, until I was beyond full, and I walked slowly out to the pier outside, where we watched boats and the water.
Dinner that night was a little forgettable, so we’ll move right on to breakfast the next morning, at Jeannie’s in Bar Harbor, where we both ordered the blueberry pancakes featured on the menu with a former customer’s quote about their being the best, and they were huge (!) and especially good topped with the homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam on the tables.
Sunday night, after we CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN (and I’ll have to tell you that story later), we drove through the rainstorm effects of Hurricane Bill to Camden for my favorite meal of the entire trip. In both the mountain and the rain, I feared for my life, I really did, and I like to think Paolina’s was the reward at the end of the struggle. (We took these pictures the next day, when all was quiet and sunny and peaceful.)
It is an all-local, all-fresh, all-organic restaurant that I love, as thoroughly as possible, first because of the kind staff that made us feel like friends while we waited for a table (our soon-to-be waitress came and introduced herself and asked if she could get our drinks, even before we were in her section).
And then because of the food (not only natural and fresh, but also some of the best steak, tender and flavored with rosemary, and crisp oven potatoes I have had, ever) and finally the atmosphere, as we watched the owner come out and sit with guests, surprising someone with a special meatball, for which the table cheered and smiled, turning the music up loudly when someone liked a song, and we received our bill, tucked into a laminated card with this written on it, which makes me crazy happy.
So you know, if I were going to have a restaurant, I’d want it to be just like Paolina’s, and, if you ever have the chance, you have to go there and see what I mean. Please promise me.
OK, so we’re nearing the end of our eating in Maine—have I lost you yet? I hope not, because the last dinner was really something special and not just because Adam treated (happy birthday to me!).
While we were looking at the posted menu in the lobby of Fore Street, a stranger came up behind us and said, in the way that friendly Maine people do, it seems, that we absolutely had to eat at this restaurant, it is amazing, it is the best food in the nation, and, now having eaten there, I think I see what he means.
First of all, this place is gorgeous. Like, GORGEOUS. Exposed brick walls, huge windows that create stunning natural light, tables that give you a view right over to where the food is being prepared. As far as food, everything on the menu has been chosen with the mindset that local is better and that the less time between farm and table, the more intense and real the flavors will be. I ordered a roast chicken, and, given that I have been reading Julia Child’s My Life in France over the last few days, I still had her words, “It should taste good and chickeny” in my mind, and that’s what this was: a celebration of the natural goodness of what a chicken should taste like, right next to a sweet piece of cornbread and eaten with the side we ordered, salted fingerling potatoes in a white-hot cast iron skillet.
We also shared a tomato tart as an appetizer, which was a puff pastry topped by perfectly ripe sauteed tomatoes and the richest, creamiest goat cheese mixed with herbs; and a chocolate dessert so rich and creamy that all I can fully remember from the daze it put me into is that it had a chocolate cookie crust and came with pistachio ice cream or gelato, and, honestly, it was too good to put my fork down once I started eating.
Actually, you could say I didn’t put my fork down once since we arrived, as even now I’m leaving out great breakfasts we had at other inns, chocolate cookies from Standard Baking Company below Fore Street, my first donut from a Tim Horton’s and my first Chik-Fil-A fries since 2001.
Or really, maybe I still haven’t put my fork down, even after turning 27 yesterday and returning to routine today, because, at least as long as I’m able, I hope I never will.
For more photos of what and where we ate in Maine, click here.
Places featured in this post:
Bar Harbor, ME: