Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lobster Land Recap

Hi there!  I'm back.

We sure had a blast in Lobster Land last week. I ate more than a dozen lobsters! Maine is a lovely state and it was so great to be near the sea (sigh). There are a few pics below, but not many of the lobsters (I don't like taking pictures in restaurants) so you just have to go there yourself and experience that part of it.

Here's the Lobster Land/Lobster Eating recap...enjoy!

Kennebunk, ME
First part of the trip: We arrived in Kennebunk, checked in, unpacked and then drove over to Portland, Maine. No lobster, but an amazing Fiona Apple concert at the State Theater. Pre-concert, we found some local beer, the best veggie burger ever made, and a BLT on flatbread that was insanely delish, across the street at the Downtown Lounge. Happy hours indeed. (606 Congress Street, Portland)

On day two, we explored the Kennebunkport area. It's a sunny, friendly beach community and the weather was perfect for walking around. We strolled a few miles the first day just enjoying the sea, the beautiful beach houses, flower gardens and cute shops. We started our day drinking coffee and eating croissants up on the rocks at Gooch's Beach, watching people walk their dogs and the surfers catch some morning early waves.
Gooch's Beach: Old School Changing House
For lunch, lobster! We were so excited about our first lobster roll of the trip! We waited in line for about 25 minutes in the hot sun, for The Clam Shack's lobster roll, and I'm glad we did. Over 1lb. of fresh lobster -- claws and tail on top of a buttered and lightly mayoed, toasted yet pillowy, round bun. Heaven! We were too full to take advantage of the fried clams that they were selling by the pint and quart, but people ahead of us in line were loaded up with buckets of them. (2 Western Avenue, Kennebunk)

After another long walk we found some room for dessert. Sharing a piece of peanut butter pie at Mabel's Lobster Claw was a pretty great way to end the afternoon. (124 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport)

We spent the evening enjoying the tasting menu, with wines, at The White Barn Inn's restaurant. It's a gorgeous, rustic space, serving lovely food. I will forever remember the minute they pulled the lid off of my Butter Poached Smoked Lobster course and all the lovely smoky goodness escaped. Smoked lobster = crazy good. It smelled like a campfire at the beach and the lobster was perfect. The Brioche Encased Veal Filet and Crisp Sweetbreads with a Potato "Chest" of Madeira Sauce course was pretty amazing, too.  (37 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk Beach)
 White Barn Inn: A welcome sight.
Castine, ME
After a few days in Kennebunk, we checked out of the White Barn Inn and headed towards Castine, Maine, our next destination. On the way, we stopped at Red's Eats in Wiscasset. Several friends and colleagues told us Red's is a must and they were right. Red's wins for BEST Lobster Roll of the week. Hands down. Each roll contains the meat of more than one whole lobster (my sandwich had two tails) and is served with a plastic cup of melted butter and/or mayo on the side. It's what a lobster roll should be. Toasted bun, chilled lobster, melted butter and maybe a swipe of mayo on the roll. It was Maine served up on a plastic tray. No fuss, so fresh, and ah-mazing. Definitely worth more than an hour's wait in line. (41 Water Street, Wiscasset)
Red's Eats: Lobster Roll
After a lovely drive down windy coastal roads, we arrived in Castine, Maine. It's one of the oldest towns in New England (older than Plymouth!) and home of the Maine Maritime Academy. A quaint, picturesque historic town, Castine was the perfect place to spend the Fourth of July. There was a parade in the morning, followed by festivities in the town square for the kids. Potato sack races, tug-o-war, firetruck rides, a blueberry pie eating contest -- everyone wearing red, white and blue -- can you say Norman Rockwell? We even did a walking tour of the town and there were more than 100 historic sites marked along the way, including the country's oldest post office! Who knew?

Dennett's Wharf is a bustling waterfront restaurant that serves fresh seafood and tasty cocktails to the yachters and landlubbers alike.  We visited it a few times during our stay and enjoyed their Lobster Quesadillas, Fried Clam Strips, Maine Shrimp Scampi, and Seafood Linguine (with scallops, shrimp, mussels, haddock, and of course, lobster). We even asked if they would put lobster on a pizza for us, one day for lunch--they did, and wowee, it was yum.  And, of course we couldn't leave without a piece of Maine blueberry pie. (15 Sea Street, Castine)

The Pentagoet Inn is the place to stay in Castine.  If you're smart like us, you'll ask for Room #3 -- the one with the balcony.  It would have been the prime spot to watch the town's July 4th fireworks, but they were canceled due to fog. (Oh, the perils of waterfront living.) The Pentagoet restaurant served lovely, seasonal and local food. Chris, tiring of lobster chose a tender, juicy Ribeye while I of course, opted for more lobster. This time, in a lovely Bouillabaisse. Oui! Happy Fourth! (26 Main Street, Castine)
Castine, Maine: Pentagoet Inn
Pentagoet Inn: Room 3
Southwest Harbor, ME/Acadia National Park
We left Castine and headed toward the Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park area. On our way, we buzzed past the Kisma Preserve, which had a sign showing a picture of a huge tiger. (In Maine?) And, seeing that this was a road trip, which means we brake for the strange and fascinating, we promptly turned around and checked it out. For a small fee, we received a nearly private tour of the grounds by two hunky brothers who seem to run the place -- and rather well.  They rescue/raise wolves, tigers, lions, bears, bobcats, gibbons, ravens, owls, etc., and seem to have a personal, yet respectful relationship with each.  Apparently, their bear-sized Rottweiler is famous for raising an orphaned wolf pup. Love it! (Route 3, Trenton, Maine)

Back on the road, we headed toward Acadia National Park.

Now, if you know me well, you know I have an aversion to physical exercise/sports as well as to sportswear. It's not that I don't like to be active, but I don't think people should 1) sweat in public
and 2) wear spandex in public. So, you can imagine how excited I was to be at a National Park, where everyone is sweating and spandexing all over the place. Oh joy.

However, it is supposedly tradition to stop at the Jordan Pond House while in Acadia, for popovers and tea.  Nearly everyone who knew we were going to Lobster Land told us to go experience it.  I thought sure, a peaceful, outdoor lunch overlooking the pond and park sounds fun. I must say though, sometimes it's better to ignore traditions.

After a chaotic and noisy one-hour wait, the Jordan Pond House was anything but peaceful. I find it unsettling to eat popovers and lobster while there's a sweaty, muddy, athletic-wear clad party of 14 people--not counting their barking dog--at the next table, but that's just me.  But, the popovers were tasty and my lobster tail atop salad greens, cucumbers and tomatoes was refreshing on a very hot day, if a bit bland and boring.  Chris's lobster roll, however, was just sad.  Three measly ounces of chopped lobster meat mixed with mayo on a soggy roll -- come on, Acadia. I can get that kind of lobster roll back home!  I want the real deal.  Maybe Red's and the Clam Shack have ruined "lobster rolls" for me now that I know what one should look and taste like, but it just didn't sit right with me. Chris didn't seem to mind too much, but then again, he's not the lobster aficionado in the family. Still, the one thing the Jordan Pond House restaurant did right, was the lobster stew with sherry and cream. It was delectable, and if you decide to give in to tradition, be sure to get a bowl of it.

Once we left the chaos of the park, we headed towards the cute town of Southwest Harbor, ME: The Claremont Hotel is an old-school summer hotel (it is on the National Register of Historic Places) right on the water, complete with rocking chairs on the porch, its own dock and a boat house bar that serves up treats like blueberry beer (bottled in Maine), and blueberry lemonade with blueberry vodka.  A couple of those tasty cocktails, and the Jordan Pond House was a distant memory.

Trivia: The Claremont Hotel also takes croquet very seriously -- there are three permanent courts on the lawn, and they have hosted the annual Claremont Croquet Classic for 35 years. (22 Claremont Road, Southwest Harbor)
Southwest Harbor: The Claremont Hotel
Onward and upward. We got up very early the next morning and headed back into Acadia, to Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and is the first place to view sunrise in the United States. And, since it was Chris's birthday, he wanted to see the sun rise first. By 4:00 a.m. it was light enough outside I could have written this blog from there. By 5:00 a.m. the sun was peeking above the clouds. It was a magical way to start celebrating a very special day.
Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain: July 6, 2012
After watching the sun rise to its rightful spot in the sky, we headed back down the mountain and found our way to Sand Beach, where we spotted some wildlife.  No moose, seals or puffins for us. But, we did see several deer and this cute little guy:
Acadia Wildlife
Sand Beach Profile
We went back to the hotel and had a lovely breakfast (waffles!), then we ventured into the pretty, but touristy town of Bar Harbor for some window-shopping and a waterfront stroll via the Ocean Trail.
Bar Harbor Ship
For lunch, we headed over to the super cute  Side Street Cafe, where I took full advantage of their offer to "add lobster to anything on the menu"and promptly ordered a B.L.A.T wrap with lobster (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato). Chris ordered a crab and Swiss melt on pita bread and we shared half and half. And, instead of fries, we each got a cup of lobster stew on the side. Yum and yum. I was stuffed, so I never sampled the famous Maine blueberry ice cream or the Whoopie Pies that seemed to be on every menu and in every souvenir shop -- but I was there for lobster, so I don't really feel so bad. (49 Rodick Street, Bar Harbor)

Back home to The Claremont Hotel, where we prepped for our final Maine meal -- and Chris's birthday dinner.  The hotel's restaurant Xanthus did not disappoint. We had Prosecco on the porch before heading into the lovely dining room overlooking the water and a croquet match. We shared local oysters and then Chris ordered a duck confit salad and I chose one with grilled octopus. For our mains, Chris chose a lovely tuna with wasabi potatoes and seaweed salad, and then I decided to do a little celebrating of my own: I ordered the 3lb. lobster that was on the menu.

Yes, three whole pounds of lobster goodness. When it came of out the kitchen, everyone stopped what they were doing and watched the waiter bring the lobster to me. It was bright red, still steaming and HUGE. I tied my plastic bib around my neck and went at it.  Maybe a bit too eagerly, because the first claw was still hot and when I went to pull the meat out of it, the piece went flying across the room. Chris, who had stopped eating his own meal, mesmerized by mine, motioned to the waiter and he picked up the piece with a wink. The table behind us had a good chuckle. I, however, was unfazed and moved on to the rest of the beast, cracking it open and picking it clean. I even sucked the lovely brine from the legs and devoured the rest of it -- saving the huge, succulent tail for the end. It was the best lobster I've ever eaten, and eating it was terrific fun. Apparently, later in the evening, the sous chef did a happy dance and told Chris the kitchen was so excited when I ordered the lobster, as they only had two three-pounders available that night, and it's not always on the menu.  Now, all I can think of is the entire crew watching from the kitchen as I tackled it.  What a happy, happy day! (22 Claremont Road, Southwest Harbor)
My Bib
Back Home
I slept off my 3lb. lobster coma and we packed up the car and headed for home. On the way back through the Kennebunkport area, we stopped at a hidden gem, Merriland Farm Cafe for lunch. After a cup each of clam chowder, we got down to business. I ordered the Lobster Club (lobster chunks on a sub roll with mayo, bacon, lettuce and tomato) and Chris ordered a Haddock Reuben (lightly breaded haddock, Dijon mustard, Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing and creamy coleslaw, on rye) which was both an amazing culinary creation and absolutely tasty. (591 Coles Hill Road, Wells)

We made it safely home, and celebrated the finale of a successful, fun vacation with a 10,000 Maniacs concert at City Winery. It was also my lobster finale. I ordered the grilled tuna dish which was served with a tamarind-lobster sauce.  (Chris, who has had it with lobster, chose a tasty tofu dish.) It was a lovely way to say "Goodbye vacation. Hello, real world." But, as Chris likes to remind me, "You can't go on vacation unless you go to work." (155 Varick Street, New York)

xoxoxxo


P.S. And yes, it's been three days and I'm definitely in lobster withdrawal...I've been having the shakes. Lucky for me, Oceana's Lobster Roll Stand is right across the street from my office...it won't be the same, but it might have to do.


Photos (c) JPC/NTC.

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