Moving over to MaineTravelMaven.com

June 9, 2010

I’ve been working on this new site for a few months, and—deep breath—I’m finally ready to flip the switch and make the move to MaineTravelMaven.com. I do hope you’ll all follow.

Please, let me know your thoughts. Is it easier to navigate? Any glitches? It’s still a bit of a work in progress, so bear with me, please, as I move forward.

Glendarragh Farm Lavender’s new Camden store is heaven scent

June 7, 2010

I’m a huge lavender fan, not just for the scent, but also the taste. Lavender Earl Grey tea, lavender shortbread, lavender chocolate, lavender chicken… if the ingredients list lavender, I’m a goner. No surprise, then that my nose drew me into Glendarragh Farm Lavender’s new store in downtown Camden, and trust me, for lavender fans, this place truly is heaven scent: lotions, sachets, bath salts, soaps, teas, sweets, sachets, dried lavender, lavender plants; it’s all here perfuming the store and the street outside its front door.

The name Glendarragh, Gaelic for “Glen of the Oaks,” honors owners Lorie and Patrick Costigan’s Irish ancestry and refers to the oak forests that line the fields and pathways of theit 26-acre riverfront family farm in Appleton, where they grew multiple varieties of both French and English lavender. With the move to Camden, the farm is no longer regularly open to visitors except for special harvest events.

And did I mention it sells a lavender cookbook?

Bar Harbor shopping/activity update

June 5, 2010

Sorry to report that All Fired Up, that rainy day godsend for craft-minded folks and families, has closed i’s doors. Replacing it, according to Jeff Anderholm, innkeeper at the lovely Bass Cottage Inn, is Simply Natural: “a high end clothing and accessories shop featuring fine woolens, alpaca and sheepskin items.” Jeff says his wife, Teri (one of the inn’s culinary wiz’s) was impressed. Me thinks I definitely need to investigate this shop.

Rockland dining report: In Good Company and Big Fish

June 5, 2010

Dined earlier this week at two Rockland restaurants: One night meeting an old friend at In Good Company and another with friends at  the Big Fish Cafe; completely different experiences, but both delivered good food and a fun time.

In Good Company

Smack downtown in Rockland’s version of a restaurant row, In Good Company has built a strong following by excelling at  delivering what it promises. Chef/owner Melody Wofertz, a Culinary Institute of America grad, has created an equally chic and casual wine and tapas bar, an inviting space with bar, tables, even couch seating (be sure to look up the ceiling, with its elegant relief design.

We married a mix of tapas selections, including a charcuterie plate, stuffed peppers, and the day’s cheese selections, along with glasses of wine. Service was prompt, efficient, and friendly; food was delicious and plentiful (we split leftovers), and the atmosphere? Well, two hours passed in no time. This remains one of my go-to faves for a lighter meal (although there are larger plates, too), paired with nice wines.

Big Fish

On Route 1, just south of downtown, Big Fish is far less refined, but no less fun. Enter to a nice, somewhat cozy room with booths and tables. Here’s the secret: Ask for seating in the lounge, which has been decorated to make you feel as if you’re in a sunken ship (right down to the glowing portholes).

Big Fish specializes in—yeah, tough one here—seafood, although there are chicken, beef, and veggie choices. There’s a bit of a southwestern accent to some of the dishes—shrimp cocktail Yucatan, rockin’ lobstah nachos, fish tacos,  crab and shrimp quesadilla—thanks to the owners’ California roots.

We began with a couple of starters for the table: crab rangoon with a sweet chile dipping sauce and fiesty fried mushrooms with ranch dip. Nothing earth shattering, but both were above average, which set the tone for the night, food wise. We were warned that our entrees would take a while, since a number of tables had come in a the same time. After the starters, we waited. And waited. And waited.

End game, it was worth the wait. On a friend’s recommendation, I had the clams linguini, which came with a garden salad and garlic bread. Big Fish makes its own dressings, and my bleu cheese vinaigrette enhanced a fresh, mixed-greens side salad. Unfortunately, my garlic bread was MIA, but before I could request it, a friend volunteered his, as he wasn’t going to eat it. In hindsight, I wish I’d had both his and my own as it was perfect for mopping up linguini juices. Mmmmm.

Newsy bits and pieces from all over Maine

June 3, 2010

TONIGHT: It’s not too late to Eat for Pete’s Sake, a Humane Society of Knox County fund raiser to benefit homeless animals . See previous posting.

FREE! Don’t you love that word? The National Park Service has waived entrance fees to Acadia National Park this weekend, June 5 and 6, as well as Aug. 14-15, Sept. 25, and Nov. 1. Saturday, June 5, is National Trails Day, so go hike one of the park’s rehabbed classics in its honor.

CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: “Winslow Homer and the Poetics of Place” opens at the Portland Museum of Art on June 5 and remains on display through Sept. 6. The exhibit, in honor of the centennial of Homer’s death, showcases PMA’s collection of about 20 watercolors and oils by the noted artist. It’s the first time since 1988 that all the works will be on view in the Charles Shipman Payson building. The museum owns Homer’s Prouts Neck studio, which is undergoing restoration and expected to reopen in 2012.

HUT, TWO, THREEMaine Huts & Trails has begun construction on its third full-service, back-country hut. This one’s about two miles below Grand Falls on the Dead River, and will be accessible by foot, bike, ski/snowshoe, and self-propelled boat .  “Construction of Grand Falls Hut, more than 15 miles of new trails and a spectacular 200-foot pedestrian bridge over the Dead River completes the first phase of our vision,” Herring said.

ISLAND ESCAPE: Nebo Lodge, on North Haven Island, has undergone a renovation and expansion, which included the addition of a new bar and fireplace, new deck and courtyard, new entryway, enlarged kitchen, expansion of two guest rooms. The lodge, owned by congresswoman Chellie Pingree, is open to the public for dinner. Its teamed with Equinox Island Transport to offer roundtrip transportation on the last two Fridays in June, and every Thursday in July and August. Depart Rockland, have dinner, and return the same evening; transportation is $20 pp. 

TWEET! Aroostook State Park is hosting a Birding Festival, Saturday, June 12. Highlights include: guided hikes led by seven of Maine’s top bird; birding by boat from Echo Lake; a live-bird demonstration of raptors; bird-house building for youngsters; and a group of artisan wood carvers demonstrating nature and bird carving. According to Park Manager Scott Thompson, this year’s festival emphasizes diverse birding experiences. “We’re here for more than just fishing and hiking; there’s a whole world of nature to explore and to learn how this park relates to Maine and the park system.”

FEELING BLUE? You might want to ink the Saddleback Bluegrass Festival on your calendar for the weekend of Aug. 6-8. Featured performers on Saturday include: The Jerks of Grass; Darol Anger, Scott Law, Sharon Gilchrist and Sam Grisman; The Stowaways; The Infamous Stringdusters; Mason Strunk; The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience; and The Del McCoury Band. Additional performances over the weekend will include The Mueller Family and Erica Brown & The Bluegrass Connection.

Ogunquit Restaurant Week starts June 7

June 2, 2010

Ogunquit has wakened from its winter slumber and is encouraging visitors to come hang out on its beaches, browse its art galleries and museum, and mosey the Marginal Way, and rewarding them with Restaurant Week Ogunquit deals. From June 7-15, participating restaurants (see below) are offering breakfast-for-two for $15, lunch-for-two for $20; and a three-course dinner for $25 pp. In addition, diners will be given a Discount Card to be used at other businesses throughout town (see way below).

Participating restaurants:

Alisson’s Restaurant: dinner
Amore Breakfast: breakfast
Angelina’s Ristorante: dinner
Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant: lunch, dinner
Beach House Grill: dinner
BeachFire Bar & Grille: dinner
Bintliff’s Restaurant: breakfast, lunch, dinner
The Blue Elephant: dinner
Blue Water Inn: dinner
Cape Neddick Inn: dinner
Cape Neddick Lobster Pound: dinner
Chowders: lunch
Clay Hill Farm Restaurant:dinner
Egg & I: breakfast, lunch
Feile Restaurant & Pub: brunch Sun, dinner all week
Fisherman’s Catch: lunch, dinner
Five-O Shore Road: breakfast Sat, brunch Sun, dinner all week
The Front Porch: dinner
Gourmet Express: lunch & dinner
The Hayloft Restaurant:breakfast, lunch, dinner
Jake’s Seafood Restaurant: breakfast & lunch
Jonathan’s Restaurant: dinner
Katie’s on Shore Road: dinner
Old Village Inn: breakfast & dinner
Post Road Tavern: lunch & dinner
Prime Restaurant: dinner
Raspberri’s Restaurant: breakfast
Roberto’s: dinner
Roost Cafe & Bistro: breakfast, lunch, dinner Thurs – Sat
Tapas & Tinis:Wild Blueberry Cafe: lunch, dinner

Businesses offering discounts on the Discount Card

Animal Instinct: 20% off
Baby Instincts: 20% off
Breaking New Grounds: 25% off
Caffe Prego: buy one gelato, get one free
Cape Neddick Country Club: 15% off pro shop purchases
Emporium Gifts & Collectibles: 20% off **
Genesis Day Spa: 20% off
Gorges Grant Hotel: 15% off full room rate (excludes packages, promos, and other discounts)**
H&M Crumpets: 20% off
Harbor Candy Shop: 20% off
Julie’s Ristorante & Provisto: 10% – 50% off select items
Juniper Hill Inn: 15% off
Maine Limousine Service: 10% off
Mariner Reosrt: 5% off
Massage Studio: 20% off
Ogunquit Museum of American Art: $1 off admission and 10% off in shop
On The Main Jewelry & Gifts: 15% off (excludes Pandora jewelry) **
Pizza Napoli: 10% off
Sacred Movement Yoga: 15% off
Scotch Hill Inn: 10% off
Spoiled Rotten: 15% off
Sundaes at the Beach: 20% off cones or sundaes
Wells-Ogunquit Resort Motel: 5% off
Yardarm Village Inn Wine & Cheese Shop: 15% off
Your Body Works Massage & Day Spa: $10 off any one-hour treatment
**other exceptions may apply
cannot be combined with other promotions

Share our Strength Portland event a foodie must

June 2, 2010

Eat well and support a fine cause at Portland’s 2010 Taste of the Nation event on June 27, 4:30-8 p.m., at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. More than 25 of Maine’s top chefs will be dishing samples, wineries and breweries will be pouring wines and brews, and mixologists will be concocting cocktails all in a mission to help end childhood hunger. All ticket proceeds benefit Preble Street Teen Center, East End Kids Katering, Good Shepherd Food Bank, and Cultivating Communities.

General admissionickets are $95 advance /$125 at the door for  (yes it’s a splurge, but remember, this is a fund-raising event, and a chance to nibble your way through Maine’s best all under one tent). VIP tickets ($250 advance/$300 door) provide early access (3 p.m.), gift bag, and opportunity to participate in an auction.

Participating restaurants (Really, this is an amazing lineup, folks):

Back Bay Grill (Larry Matthews, Honorary Chef)
Bresca (Krista Desjarlais)
Cinque Terre/Vignola (Lee Skawinski/Chris Geer)
David’s (David Turin)
The Edge (Bryan Dame)
El Camino (Eloise Humphrey/Daphne Conaskey)
Evangeline (Erik Desjarlais)
Eve’s at the Garden (Earl Morse) Morse is no longer at Eve’s, and according to my source, Eve’s has canceled participating.
The Farmer’s Table (Jeff Landry)
Five Fifty Five (Steve Corry)
Fore Street (Sam Hayward, Honorary Chef)
Francine Bistro (Brian Hill)
The Front Room/Corner Room/Grill Room (Harding Lee Smith)
Hugo’s (Rob Evans, Honorary Chef)
Local 188/Sonny’s (Jay Vilani)
Lily Bistro (Lynette Mosher/Robert Krajewski)
Miyake (Karl Duber/Masa Miyake)
Natalie’s at The Camden Harbour Hotel (Lawrence Klang)
Primo (Melissa Kelly /Price Kushner)
The Salt Exchange (Charlie/Martha Bryon)
Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea (Mitch Kaldrovich)
Standard Baking Company (Matt James)
Stonewall Kitchen (Patty Roche)
Swan’s Way Catering (Stacey Glassman)

Pour more MOO

May 31, 2010

Have you heard of MOOMilk? When H.P. Hood stopped buying organic milk from 10 Maine family dairy farms, those farms formed a cooperative, Maine’s Own Organic Milk Company, and began producing MOOMilk.

Happy kid, happy cow: MOOMilk photo.

MOO has been struggling, due to a higher price point in relationship to out-of-state brands. In mid May, Hannaford (my favorite supermarket chain for this and many other reasons) came to the rescue. It lowered the price by 30-cents to $3.99 per half gallon, keeping it in line with other organic milks from out of state.

If you’re an organic milk drinker, choose MOO; if you’re not, at least give it a try. Yes, I recognize it might be a budget stretch, but by doing so, even only once in a while, you’re helping keep Maine’s organic family dairy farms in biz.

Dine out for a doggone good cause

May 30, 2010

Dine out Thursday and help Pete and his pals, Humane Society of Knox County photo.

If you’re in the Greater Camden/Rockland region on Thursday, June 3, consider dining out at a participating Dine Out for Pete’s Sake restaurant (see participating restaurants, below) to help the Humane Society of Knox County.

This is a great organization that not only places local strays and unwanteds, but also takes dogs in from overcrowded shelters around the country. Its policy: Animals are not euthanized unless severe physical or behavior problems exist that cannont be resolved, they’re never euthanized for time or space

It’s success in its mission, so successful that it takes in dogs from more challenged shelters. Recently, 13 chihuahuas arrived from Los Angeles Animal Services, which receives over 300 chihuahuas a month but it doesn’t have enough homes for them all. (Adoption fee for these special dogs is $325. See more on the website.)

To help support these and other animals being cared for by the shelter, have lunch, dinner, or both at one of these participating restaurants (There are some excellent choices). FYI: My guys, Bernie and Dooley, give this event four paws up.

LUNCH

Amalfi on the Water
Big Fish
Blue Sky Cantina
Brass Compass
Harbor View Tavern
Home Kitchen Cafe
Prism Restaurant and Gallery
Thomaston Cafe

DINNER

Amalfi on the Water
Athens Pizzeria
Atlantica
Badger Cafe and Pub
Big Fish
Blue Sky Cantina
Brevetto
Cafe Miranda
Ephemere
Harbor Gawker
The Haven Restaurant
In Good Company
Mc-Hales Restaurant & Pub
The Offshore Restaurant
Park Street Grille
Peter Otts
Pizza Hut
Primo
Prism Restaurant and Gallery
Rockland Cafe
Silver Lane Bistro

A Cold River night at Walter’s

May 29, 2010

I love the new Walter‘s, and I’m not alone. When I met a friend there on a Wednesday evening in early May, I didn’t expect to need reservations, but I should have made them. The place was mobbed. We were fortunate when a table opened in the lounge area, and we were able to snag it.

The old Walter’s feasted on the Old Port’s retro 1980s brick-walled  fern bar meets urban Victorian vibe; the new Walter’s redefines urban chic in Portland. It’s sleek, casual, comfortable, and decorated with contemporary flair; for once, brick is not the defining element.

What hasn’t changed is the food. Walter’s still turns out excellent fusion fare, melding Mediterranean, Asian, and Caribbean flavors with a Maine accent, and presenting them with flair.  (You nonfoodies need that translated? Damn good food crafted from eclectic ingredients you might not be familiar with but will come together in a happy dance on your tastebuds; not only that, but when it arrives, it looks too good to eat).

On Thursday, June 3, Walter’s is teaming with Cold River Vodka on a multi-course affair. It opens with a cocktail hour featuring Cold River drinks paired with passed appetizers, then continues with a four-course dinner ($75 per person, plus tax/gratuity).

Jeff Buerhaus, Walter’s owner and executive chef, is designing the evening’s menu to feature Cold River Vodka in select dishes, while Walter’s Bar Manager Steve Lovenguth will present attendees with a specially created array of Cold River cocktails.  One guest, drawn at random during the evening, will win a gift basket full of items from Maine Distilleries and Walter’s.

Menu highlights include:

• pastrami-cured duck breast appetizer

• roasted spring lamb chop

• vodka-based pasta dish with crumbled Greek farm cheese

• blueberry vodka cheesecake for dessert.

Cold River specialty cocktails include the Nor’easter, featuring Cold River’s Blueberry Vodka and HoneyMaker Blueberry Mead, and the Far East River, made with lemongrass-infused Cold River vodka and ginger liqueur.

In a nod to the evening’s culinary focus, Walter’s and Cold River Vodka will make a joint donation to the Maine Restaurant Association Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to deserving students pursuing post-secondary degrees in Culinary Arts or Hospitality Management programs. Nice touch.

And take it from me, when you go, whether for this event or on another night, do make a reservation.


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