White Barn Inn now managing Acadia’s Asticou

May 28, 2010

Big news for Acadia fans: US Hotels Group, owner of the haute, haute, haute White Barn Inn, in Kennebunkport, and the Windham Hill Inn, in Vermont, is now managing Northeast Harbor’s chi chi Asticou Inn. When I last spoke with White Barn Inn Executive Chef Jonathan Cartwright, he told me US Hotels was in an acquisition mode, and this management deal is testament to that. This should also help breath new life into a somewhat tired property that catered to the newly wed and nearly dead.

According to a press release, US Hotels plans to update the inn’s infrastructure and add its signature hospitality ethos and style to the Asticou while preserving the property’s classic charm.

The oceanfront inn, designed by prominent 19th-century architect Fred L. Savage, has been an area landmark since 1883, when the island became a seasonal retreat for wealthy vacationers, sailing enthusiasts, and summer residents from major urban centers.The inn overlooks well protected yacht-filled Northeast Harbor, which remains a tony summer destination (lots of Lilly Pulitzer, Docksiders, Chinos, and sherbet colors here). It is adjacent to the magnificent azalea gardens of the same name (which, by the way, are in bloom now).

Cartwright is overseeing the rejuvenation of the inn’s dining room’s menu. “Our plans include implementing an extended season for casual lunch service as well as the creation of new menus in the scenic cocktail lounge, which affords the perfect setting for enjoying harbor sunsets.”

US Hotels is a member of the Libra Group, which is privately owned by the Logothetis family and has hospitality interests in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It manages eight New England properties, of which it owns seven, divided into Signature and Elite Properties. Signature Properties represent the ‘best of breed’ across a number of service categories from an informal Italian bistro to a range of hotels, spas and banqueting facilities. Elite Properties represent exclusive hotels providing world class accommodation, cuisine, and service (think White Barn Inn and Windham Hill Inn).

“US Hotels is proud to add the Asticou Inn to our collection,” says Paul Hanley, group CEO. “As with our other New England properties, it offers guests traditional values in a historic setting and offers the same culinary excellence that has won our group numerous plaudits. We plan to wrap ourselves in the heritage of this special property. We believe the property will benefit from the rich experience of its new General Manager, Nicholas Squire, who was trained at our own White Barn Inn and other world class hotels. Furthermore the partnership with this hotel  exemplifies the type of growth one can expect from US Hotels in the coming months with expansion planned both through management arrangements, like the Asticou, as well as acquisitions.”

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Bike-friendly Maine

May 21, 2010

Maine is the third most bike-friendly state in the nation, according to the The League of American Bicyclists. Good recognition for the efforts the state’s made to be more welcoming to cyclists.

Planning a cycling trip? Check the resources of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. It’s one-stop shopping for events, trails, rides, recommended routes, advocacy, and more. Another good resource is the Maine Department of Transportation’s Explore site, with detailed routes by region, complete with maps. Also here are details on the Maine sections of the East Coast Greenway.

Good bets for cyclists of all abilities include the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park, Acadia’s Park Loop Road (before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to avoid the heavy duty tourist crowds), the Schoodic Loop, and on Maine’s offshore islands, especially Vinalhaven and North Haven. Inland, the Maine Huts and Trails network is great for mountain biking, with full-service huts spaced at 10-12 mile intervals–so far, just two, but construction of the third was just approved.

Love-it-or-leave-it Conte’s rises again

May 16, 2010

I don’t think any other restaurant in Maine (okay, maybe J’s Oyster, in Portland) inspires such love/hate as Conte’s. Those in the love-it camp were crushed when it closed earlier this year (this after Anthony Bourdain paid it a visit and filmed it last fall). Take heart, folks.

Innkeeper Cheryl Michaelsen, of the Berry Manor Inn, in Rockland, reports:

Just so you know Conte’s is alive and well at its new location on Rt. 73 – South Main Street.  Same funky decor, same funky cook and same great food.  A lot brighter (windows are still clean).  Just for fun he hasn’t decided if he will put a sign out front or not.  It is located immediately after Primrose Framing at 156 S. Main Street.  Just thought you would like to know. When I went last week he was serving a dessert that was 1/2 carrot cake (bottom layer) with a cheese cake on top!!

Uhm, okay, Cheryl. I’m going to give you a holler one of these days and meet you there.

Bohemian Mama’s Bakery is a delicious find

May 15, 2010

Ben Walter, co-owner of Oceanside Meadows, a lovely inn in Prospect Harbor, just called me with a tip: Bohemian Mama’s Bakery. “The croissants are so good, you’ll ask yourself: Am I really in America?”

That coming from the well-traveled Ben got my attention.  Tell me more, I replied. Here’s the scoop, along with photos Ben took on his iPhone.

Bohemian Mama’s Bakery had its roots in Milbridge, but moved to Addison late last summer. It’s  hidden gem, tucked one mile off Route 1 on Ridge Road. Inside, Linda Clouser, her daughter Desiree and son Adrian, bake exquisite breads (whole grain, country white, Anadama, etc.), fruit pies, eclairs, cream puffs, fruit and cheese buns, French cruellers, biscotti, gourmet cupcakes, personal pies, and those amazing croissants, to name a few items.

“We just installed a wood-fired oven, and we’re making pizza, strombelli, and subs, too,” Adrian told me over the phone. Don’t let the Clouser name fool you. “We come from long line of cooking Sicilians,” Adrian says. “My mom was in the wedding cake business before moving to Maine from Reading, Penn., last year. This place is her creation, and she’s done a great job.”

The bakery has a handful of tables and Wifi. Although it’s only open Fridays and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., it’s already becoming a local gathering spot.

“We haven’t really advertised it, we want to let the place work its magic, ” Adrian says. Judging from Ben’s excitement on the phone, it already is.

Wings, Waves, & Woods returns to Deer Isle

May 10, 2010

Birders and art fans are invited to Deer Isle for the fourth annual Wings, Waves, & Woods, May 21-23. The festival, timed to coincide with early migration, is sponsored by the Island Heritage Trust, and a brochure detailing the event can be downloaded from its website.

Bob Duchesne, founder of the Maine Birding Trail, author of Maine Birding Trail, and a Maine Audubon trip leader for more than 20 years,  is this year’s special guest.

The festival opens with a reception Friday evening at the Pearson Legacy Gallery  showcasing bird-related artwork by more than 40 artists.

On Saturday and Sunday, experts will lead walks (free, donations appreciated), guide boat trips (fee), and give presentations and demonstrations. Here’s a sampling:

Warbler Walk, Settlement Quarry Preserve

Scotts Landing Bird Walk

Birding by Kayak, kayaks provided, $60

Nesting Eagles and Their Neighbors, Causeway Beach

Introduction to Birding

Puffins & Pelagics, cruise to Seal Island with Bob Duschesne, $60

Create Birdbaths & Planters, $35

Birdhouse Building for Kids, $5 includes materials and snack

Studio Demo & Tour (with the mega-talented Missy Greene and Eric Ziner)

Birding Identification Made Easy, Bob Duschesne

Lily Pond Walk

Found Objects Sculptures, demonstration, with Peter Beerits at Nervous Nellie’s Jams & Jellies (one of my all-time favorite places)

Local Foods Chowder Supper will be available on Saturday night (seating limited; $12).

Where to stay: There are some wonderful accommodations available on Deer Isle. My favorite is the aptly named Inn on the Harbor, in Stonington. Both the Pilgrim’s Inn and The Inn at Ferry Landing are lovely B&Bs in Deer Isle. To really get in the spirit of the birding weekend, book a cabin at the oceanfront Goose Cove Resort, in Sunset, which borders the Barred Island Preserve. On a budget? Boyce’s Motel, in downtown Stonington, has clean rooms, some with kitchenettes. For dirt cheap accommodations, book a bunk at the rustic-bordering-on-primitive Deer Isle Hostel.

Splurge and save at the Inn by the Sea

May 8, 2010

Through May 26, write a $35 check to Habitat for Humanity, and save 50 percent, Sundays through Thursdays, on a two-bedroom beach, cottage, or loft cottage at the chic, ultra-green, four-diamond, oceanfront Inn by the Sea, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. With the donation, rates range $134.50-$169.50. While you won’t see the special advertised on the site, the rate pops up when you click on reservations and enter potential dates for an overnight or two.

Act quickly, and apply your savings toward the Chef Tasting Menu, served through May 15, in the inn’s ocean-view Sea Glass Restaurant. Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich prepared this six-course New England with a Twist dinner at the James Beard House in New York in February 2010. The price is  $75 per person, or $110 with wine flight, and includes:

amuse bouche
• lobster and seafood ceviche
• roasted beet carpaccio
• pan-seared jumbo scallops
• Atlantic cod and lobster “chowder”
• red wine braised beef cheeks
• local apple crostata

Alternatively, you might splurge at the inn’s spa. Or just reap the savings and enjoy beach strolls, walking through inn’s certified butterfly and bird plantings, or simply plunking down in a lawn chair and enjoying the serenity of listening to waves rolling into shore and birds singing. A boardwalk above a marsh and path through the dunes connects the inn to Crescent Beach; really, it’s quite idyllic.

And here’s a tip: If you stay overnight, order the crab cakes Benedict for breakfast, then keep in the seafood mode with lunch at the nearby Lobster Shack at Two Lights.

Tiptoe through 45,000 tulips and other blooms

May 6, 2010

This Saturday, May 8, the W. P. Stewart estate in Northeast Harbor, Maine,  opens its gorgeous grounds—with 45,000 (!) flowering spring bulbs—to the public as a fund-raiser for the Camp Beech Cliff. Daffodils, tulips, anemones, hyacinths, and rare specialty bulbs are all peaking for the 2010 Spring Bulb Tour, which takes places on  landscaped grounds edging Somes Sound. It’s not only a rare sight in Maine, but a rare opportunity to visit one of Mount Desert Island’s estates. Take Mom for a day-before-Mother’s Day treat. Admission is $15; kids younger than 12 are free with paying adult.

May midweek spa special at Stage Neck Inn

May 4, 2010

If you’re itching to take advantage of this early season warm spell and want to enjoy a bit of pampering, too, check out this deal at the oceanfront Stage Neck Inn, a AAA four-diamond resort property in York Harbor. The midweek spa package includes overnight lodging, with spa treatment (choose from four), hot buffet breakfast,  four-course dinner, and use of resort facilities (indoor atrium pool and Jacuzzi, fitness room with co-ed sauna, seasonal outdoor pool and clay tennis courts, beach, and 18-hole private golf club privileges), at rates beginning at $205 per person based on double occupancy, $295 single. Package is available Sunday through Thursday, through May 29.

This is a great location for prowling around the Southern Coast: walking and sunning on the beaches, shopping Kittery’s outlets, admiring the region’s historic architecture, and visiting historic sites and forts.

Bridesmaids no longer: Arrows wins Beard award

May 3, 2010

Finally, in their sixth nomination, Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, chef/owners of Arrows, in Ogunquit, win the big kahoona: The James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef in the Northeast award. Congrats, guys!

Maine bits and pieces: news and chatter

May 3, 2010

Here’s a quick round-up of interesting news bits that have come across my desk:

Chebeague Island Inn reopening under new ownership

A favorite destination for travelers and day-trippers since the 1880s, the inn, restored in 2003-04, will re-open May 14 under the new ownership of the Prentice family of Yarmouth, Maine. With the May re-launch, the Prentices will be adding a more stylish, up-to-date ambiance.

One notable change is the inn’s restaurant, now under the direction of Executive Chef Justin Rowe, a veteran of 555 and Fore Street. The contemporary American menu, rooted in Maine and New England, will focus on locally/regionally sourced foods and beverages.

Here’s wishing the new owners success. I’m hoping to visit soon to see what’s happening.

• Unveiling of the Calves

You’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls, well Aldemere Farm, a 136-acres saltwater farm in Rockport, offers a far gentler experience. This Saturday, May 8, is its ninth annual Calf Unveiling Day. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. , you can  tour the Farm and visit with the newly born Belted Galloway calves (nicknamed the Oreo cookie cows for their distinctive white belt). Aldermere staff and volunteers will be on site speaking with visitors and providing information about the Farm and the herd.

Several other local farms will also be on site offering information regarding the goods they produce. These include:

• Sunnyside Farm with goats

• lueberry Farm and Blue Sky Farm with alpacas

• Ells Farm and Terra Optima will be selling meat

• Savage Oakes and Coastal Mountains Land Trust will have information about their operations

• Tanglewood 4-H Camp will present about their many agricultural offerings.

Other activities include the Rusty Hinges band performing (around 11 a.m.) and the Aldermere Achievers 4-H Club working throughout the day with their animals.

• Best Chef in the Northeast

Tonight, the James Beard Foundation will name the winner of the coveted Best Chef in the Northeast award. Chef/owners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, of Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, have been nominated seven times. Here’s hoping that these perennial bridesmaids finally win; they certainly deserve it.

No. 10 Water Street opens tonight

No. 10 Water Street, the new restaurant at Brunswick’s Capt. Daniel Stone Inn, opens tonight, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Brunswick is getting to be an increasingly interesting food town, with a nice choice of inexpensive to moderate restaurants.

• Zip-line adventure park opening in Wiscasset

Monkey C Monkey Do, a Zipline family adventure park, is under construction on Route 1 in Wiscasset.