Posts Tagged ‘Dining’

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.


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


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

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.

Grazing through Portland: Evangeline

April 8, 2010

Earlier this week, I enjoyed a $30 three-course fixed menu (available only on Monday night) at Evangeline. Easy to understand why Chef Eric Desjarlais (who teams with his wife, Krista Kerns Desjarlais, of Bresca, on this Monday night special) is increasingly gaining national attention for his French-inspired fare crafted with locally sourced ingredients.

I was a fan back in Desjarlais’  Bandol days (his former, heavily French restaurant on Exchange St.), but  I like Evangeline, in the Arts District, even more: well trained servers and white-tablecloth dining, but decorated in a light, playful style, so casual, not stiff. Result is an inviting, comfortable space that encourages lingering. My seat had a direct eye-view to the back and into the kitchen (I think it’s a plus to get a peek into the kitchen, and I like it when there’s the confidence to provide it, not hide it).

Meal began with a teaser, a gougere, a mouthful of cheese-accented pastry air; followed by crusty bread. I had the most amazing endive salad, made with endive, Roquefort, pear, and pistachio crumble; then confit duck legs with lentils du puy, wilted rainbow chard, and duck jus (a bit salty, but then I always find duck confit salty, so it must be my tastebuds, not the chef’s). I would have liked a bit more chard, but the duck portion was more than adequate. Grand finale: warm bose pear crumble with mascarpone ice cream; easy to see Krista Kerns Desjarlais’ hand in this light and delicious dessert. Equally easy to understand why both chefs are gaining national attention.

Arrows’ chefs named 2010 James Beard finalist

March 22, 2010

Many are called, few are chosen sums up the 2010 James Beard award nominees from Maine. Although a number of Maine chefs and restaurants made the semi-final cut, only the talented duo of Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, from Arrows, in Ogunquit, made the final cut for Best Chef in the Northeast. Winners will be announced Monday, May 3.

Restaurant Week Maine continues for some

March 11, 2010

A number of restaurants are extending their Restaurant Week Maine specials. These are listed with links on the Restaurant Week Maine site.

Anglers Seafood (3)




Five Fifty-Five Lounge

Harraseeket Inn

Johnny’s Bistro & Bar

Pepperclub/Good Egg Cafe

Slate’s Restaurant and Bakery

Thomaston Café

In addition, Natalie‘s, at the Camden Harbour Inn, just announced that it plans to continue its $20.10 bar menu and its $40.10 fine dining menu through March.

For all, be sure to call first to confirm availability and details.

Grazing through Portland: Susan’s Fish & Chips

March 11, 2010

What’s not to like about Susan’s Fish & Chips? This garage-turned-fish shack evokes the sea, from the mermaids and fish painted on the exterior to the netting hanging over the counter inside. But don’t expect a fishy odor, Susan’s is clean, efficient, and dishes out some of Portland’s best and cheapest fried seafood. Order at the counter, snag a table, booth, or seat at the counter, and a few minutes later, the order is delivered.

Service is speedy, but while waiting for your order, peruse the photos on the back wall or the wall of fame, decorated with plentiful Best Of awards.

The dinnahs, which come with choice of fries, potato or pasta salad, and slaw, are the big-sellers here, ranging from fish-n-chips ($7.99) to a seafood platter ($18.99). But check out the daily specials, and consider the made-fresh-daily chowdah ($2.99-$4.99). Trust me, everything’s mighty good, fresh, flavorful, crispy, yet moist.

Some folks think Susan’s is the best lobstah roll ($10.99, with fries) around. And, should you manage to land a whopper of your own, Susan’s proclaims “You catch it, we’ll cook it for $5, with a two-pound limit.”

And, if traveling with folks who don’t eat fish, there are options, including fried veggie boats, burgers and dogs.

No puzzle to Conundrum Wine Bistro’s buzz

March 10, 2010

For years, I’ve heard whispers and rumors about Conundrum, a wine bistro in Freeport that has a cult-like local following.  It’s located at the Big Indian, that you-know-it-when-you-see-it Freeport landmark on Route 1, but it slips under the radar screen of most visitors. Locals, however, have embraced this place. I moseyed in for dinner tonight, and now I understand its popularity.

Conundrum serves a blend of plus-sized tapas and comfort foods, familiar fare gussied and presented with care, along with an impressive selection of wines, both by the bottle and the glass.  The service is bang on: efficient, friendly, and without pretension; the setting is inviting: cozy, comfy, and casual. It’s equally suited for easy dining or grabbing drinks and quick eats. Snag a seat at the bar or a hightop, in the  dining area with regular tables as well as couches, or on the enclosed and heated outdoor terrace, with tables as well as couches by a fireplace; nice!

The wine menu, with about 60 choices by the glass and nearly 500 by the bottle, is bound into a cover; “Tell me what you like, and I’ll make some suggestions,” said my waiter as my eyes glazed over the possibilities.

The food menu is a far less complicated, just a single sheet of paper, with appetizers on one side, entrees on the other. Appetizers ($7-11)  include smoked salmon crostini, bruschetta, antipasto, chicken liver pate, chicken soup with cream cheese dumplings, salads, and cheeses. Entrees ($12-27) range from a bacon Swiss burger to a 12 oz. NY sirloin. The menu changes regularly, and a new one will debut shortly.

Although I dithered over the appetizers—the soup and a 1,000-day Gouda cheese were particularly intriguing—I assuaged being on the road alone with the homemade meatloaf topped with brown gravy ($14), reeled in by its accompaniments—bleu cheese mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. The thick slab of meatloaf was dense, moist, flavorful, and seared on two sides; the potatoes were rich and smooth, with occasional small chunks of potato and a large dollop of bleu cheese on top, which melted in nicely; and the asparagus retained its snap. The whole easily could have fed two, which was dangerous because it was so good that I could have forced myself through it all. Thank goodness the waiter had warned me in advance and offered to pack any leftovers.

And here’s a tip from same waiter: Conundrum is holding a free wine tasting as it switches over its menus later this month; call (207-865-0303) and ask for the specifics, there’s no web site.

Call me a new member of the Conundrum cult.

Natalie’s at the Camden Harbour Inn reopens, launches new menu

February 10, 2010

Natalie’s Restaurant at The Camden Harbour Inn reopened tonight, after a seasonal siesta, with a LOVE-themed party featuring tastings from its new menu. Suffice to say, one bite was nowhere near enough. Natalie’s at the Camden Harbour Inn makes Camden a winter dining destination, a fine choice for a romantic winter escape.

But let me tell you more about the new menu.

While listening to a Beatles tribute band, I tasted a sampling of appetizers:

• house-cured salmon gravlax, poached quail eggs, white dressing, endive ($12)

• crispy veal sweetbreads, rosemary, Aleppo pepper aioli, serrano ($10)

• seared diver scallops, scallop and spinach springroll, reisling saffron limeleaf nage ($14)

and entrees:

• grilled double chop rock of lamb, stuffed piquillo peppers, coffee cumin lamb just ($32)

• seared duck breas and leg confit, red wine braised porcini mushrooms, potato souffle, sauce salmis ($30)

• slow poached Maine lobster, whipped cauliflower, bacon, black truffle ($market)

So, you probably want to know which one was best. Truth? I can’t decide. Each time I thought it couldn’t get better, it did. If I had to pick faves, hmmm, I guest the sweetbreads and the scallops appetizers, followed by the duck breast, although that lobster was damn good.

Bottom line: Lawrence Klang has turned out a fabulous seasonal menu worth a special visit to Camden.

Damariscotta River Grille’s Chef Rick Hisch named Chef of the Year

February 6, 2010

The Maine Restaurant Association has named Rick Hirsch, chef of the the Damariscotta River Grill, in Damariscotta, and The Anchor Inn, in Round Pond, as its 2010 Chef of the Year. Hirsch owns and operates both water-front or -view restaurants on mid-coast Maine’s Pemaquid peninsula with his wife, Jean Kerrigan. The duo opened the harborfront Anchor Inn in the mid 1980 sand opened the downtown Damariscotta River Grill in 2004.

Anchor Inn

We became fans of the Anchor Inn back in the early ’90s, while living in what passes as downtown Round Pond, an aptly named Bristol village on the east side of the Pemaquid Peninsula. Round Pond is one of those coastal gems you hope to stumble upon when noodling about Maine’s back roads, a postcard-perfect town with artisan’s studios, two lobster-in-the-rough shacks, and  a store selling ice cream, penny candy, doodads, and whatchamacallits.

Smack dab on the waterfront, overlooking the round-shaped, boat-filled harbor protected by Loud’s Island, is the seasonal Anchor Inn. Neither fussy, nor fancy, the inn serves damn good food, especially seafood, with a bit of creative flair and a sense of humor (especially when Bobby Whear is tending bar).

Damariscotta River Grill

When Hirsch and Kerrigan opened the Damariscotta River Grill, locals rejoiced; finally a place to get Rick’s fab food year round. I’ve made many a meal off the appetizers alone (the artichoke fondue is alone worth a visit). The Grill is less rustic in decor than the Anchor. The menu focuses on fresh and local (okay, really, this is Maine, what restaurant doesn’t these days?), and it’s wine list has won an award from Wine Spectator.

Bottom line

Many restaurants achieve longevity with mediocrity, not so for these two coastal Maine restaurant gems. Although The Anchor Inn is closed for the winter, this time of year at the Grill, you’ll find such enticing entrees as duck confit risotto, Thai fish stew, and lobster cakes on the menu. Don’t miss the Pemaquid oysters as a starter. And by the way, the Grill is also open for lunch and Sunday brunch.

Camden in winter? Sure!

January 29, 2010

Read my Boston Globe story about some of the wonderful reasons to visit Camden in Winter.