Posts Tagged ‘Mount Desert Island’

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.”

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.

MDI foodie reruns

September 24, 2009

We finished our visit to Mount Desert Island with two returns, Mache Bistro for a dinner and Jordan Pond House for lunch.

Once again, Mache did everything right. Chef/owner Karl Yarborough knows how to put out excellent food and how to keep the front of the house running smoothly. Our table of six ordered two cassoulets, two salmon specials, one scallops, and one mix of appetizers (calmari salad and the lobster/crab cakes), and none of us was disappointed in any way. We each kept raving, and for the most part, refused to share. One friend, a regular at Hammersley’s in Boston’s South End, proclaimed this cassoulet better, quite an accomplishment. The only complaint at our table was the need for a bit more light (and perhaps larger print on the menu—yeah, we’re all in denial about the glasses thing). You definitely want to make reservations; this place is very small and very popular.

Visiting MDI without having lunch at Jordan Pond House is like visiting the park without touring the park loop. Four of us went, and while we each had at least one popover, or lunch choices were varied. One cranberry island salad, made with greens, dried cranberries, pecans, and apples tossed with the house vinaigrette. Two orders of the soup of the day, a golden pea with butternut squash that was rich and delicious and quite flavorful. And one order of the lobster stew, served with big pieces of lobster meat. Now all that’s quite fine, but for me, it’s the popovers that make this place sing. Call me a sucker for tradition, but I just love ’em. And here’s a hint, if you’re not offered the blueberry jam, ask for it—it’s thick and rich and tastes just like fresh-picked blueberries. So good, you might just want to skip the popover and just eat it by the spoonful.

Lose the ‘tude, dude

September 21, 2009

Back on MDI for a couple of nights of R&R after the book deadline. Last night, we went to Town Hill Bistro, with my foodie friend E and her boyfriend. It’s a cozy, small restaurant, with a rustic, barn-like decor; fireplace at one end, bar at the other.

We began with the mussels, grown in Hulls Cove using a Dutch technique. Oh my, these were delightful. We ended up requesting more bread to sop up the juices. Bread was hot from the oven, potato bread. Mmmmm.

For entrées, we each had a different choice. My pork loin stuffed with prosciutto was enough to make me return. Ditto for R’s  gnocchi with bacon (pancetta) and mushroom mix in a light Pecorino cream sauce (there’s an oxymoron for you). E couldn’t stop raving about her Statler chicken breast, and T’s veggie lasagne was divine.

Truly one of the best meals I’ve had on the island. Now, if only the waiters would lose the bordering-on-arrogance aloofness. Geez, guys, sorry we’re not locals. Hope to return sometime and repeat, without the ‘tude.

Bar Harbor dining and lodging with a view

August 20, 2009

IMG_3420Views! Views! Views! I spent the last few days at the Bluenose, in Bar Harbor. While there may be a few other places that can compete for such lofty, panoramic views over Bar Harbor, the Porcupine Islands, and Frenchman Bay, I don’t think any come close for comfort and service. This is a four-diamond property with all the whistles and bells that come with it.

Rooms are divided between two buildings, an older one with more modest accommodations and outside corridors, and the newer Mizzentop, which rises four stories and has rooms and suites with private balconies (and many with fireplaces, too). All have those gulls-eye views.

Downstairs in the Mizzentop is The Great Room, an expansive  lounge where pianist Bill Trowell plays from 7 to 11 nightly. Anyone can attend these free concerts and savor the views along with the music. Although there’s a bar here, guests tend to honor Trowell with rapt attention, creating a concert hall atmosphere.

Side note: I’m guessing the folks sitting by the fireplace, which was cranking, must have been from Florida, Texas, or similar parts, given the temps and humidity during my visit.

IMG_3422The Eden Spa, at the Bluenose is a boutique day spa, which is open to the general public by reservation. Come for a massage (if you’re staying elsewhere, ask about discount coupons), and spend the afternoon enjoying the pool, whirlpool, steam room, and fitness center. And views. Stick around for a drink in The Great Room , then dinner.

There’s no restaurant at the Bluenose, but a short walk takes you to the glass-walled Looking Glass Restaurant at the adjacent sister property, Wonder View Inn and Suites. Previously known as the Rhinehart Pavillion, the Looking Glass is sporting a new look and new menus crafted by Chef Arturo Montes (if you’re from Bangor, you’re probably familiar with his cafe and catering services). Montes has an Old World style that favors sauces and strong flavors: his oysters Rockefeller are alone worth the visit. The menu ranges from lighter fare to lobster diners, and there’s a children’s menu, too. One caveat: desserts are pricey, at $9.95 each, but there’s ice cream, if you request it.

Here’s another idea: If you’re rising to catch sunrise from Cadillac, come here afterward for breakfast and continue to feast on the views.

By the way, if the rates at the Bluenose give pause, the Wonder View is a reasonable alternative with many of the advantages, but far fewer frills. It comprises four older motels tiered up the hill on estate-like grounds with grassy lawns and mature shade trees, and there’s an outdoor pool. You can always sample the good life by taking in that nightly concert at the Blue Nose.

Frenchboro news

July 5, 2009

Lots of new doings in Frenchboro, a fishng village on Long Island, eight miles off Mt. Desert.

• First things first, the date of this year’s Lobster Festival: Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009. The Maine State Ferry service makes  a special run that day for visitors to take part in the festivities and enjoy a lobster dinner, served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All proceeds benefit the Outer Long Island Congregational Church.

• The Frenchboro Bakery: Baked goods (biscotti, whoppie pies, cookies), jams and jellies, and handmade chocolates (truffles! caramels, filled chocolates, English toffee).

• The Offshore Store and More: The basics and then some, including brownies, stews, lobster rolls, sandwiches, homemade pies, live lobsters (cooked at no charge) and more. Also a rental cottage.

Of course, Lunt’s Dockside Deli (a treasure)  is still going strong, and I  highly recommend taking Kim Strauss’s  Morning Lunch Cruise to Frenchboro, departing from Bass Harbor, as a perfect way top sample the island.

A most unVictorian Victorian

June 25, 2009

IMG_0955When you like the concept of a B&B but dislike the forced camaraderie. When you love Victorians but loathe clutter and frou frou. When you prefer a convenient intown location but despise traffic and noise, the Bass Cottage Inn, in Bar Harbor, is the solution.

Owners Jeff and Terri Anderholm acquired this diamond about seven years, but it was no gem then. One of Bar Harbor’s original cottages, it had, to put it gently, seen better years, better decades.

IMG_0919They gutted it and turned it into an unVictorian, honoring the architectural integrity, but decorating with a light hand and adding all those little amenities that make a place sing. And air-conditioning. And inroom phones and TVs. And a DVD library. And a guest pantry, where cookies appear every afternoon. And wine and hors d’oeuvres on the sunporch in the afternoon And, well you get the idea.

IMG_0912The location: It’s smack downtown, but it’s not. It’s tucked between Main Street and the Shore Path, on a li’l dirt lane called The Field. You’ll need directions to find it. So do the masses, which keeps it all rather quiet.

Oh, and about that breakfast… Every morning there are two choices, one savory, one sweet, as well a muffins and a fruit course. Creme brulé French toast. Need I say more?

207 tonight: MDI on a budget

June 23, 2009

IMG_6646I’ll be on the 207 show tonight (WCSH 6, Portland’s NBC affiliate, 7 p.m.) discussing visiting Mount Desert Island on a budget. Conventional wisdom says it’s a pricey place, but truth is, there are bargains to be found and once you’ve purchased your Acadia National Park Pass, both your recreation and your transportation is free. And, this year, the park is providing free access on the third weekend of June, July, and August (June 20–21    July 18–19, August 15–16).


The Island Explorer buses circulate around the island and onto the mainland, and ridership for people and bikes is free with a park pass. Not only is this a green option, it also eliminates the hassles of finding parking near a trail head or intown.

Cheap Activities

IMG_5605Acadia is a natural playground, with trails for hiking, carriage roads for biking or walking, lake and ocean beaches for sunning and swimming, cliffs for scaling, and so much more.

• Pick up a Beaver Log, the park’s newspaper upon arrival and use it to plan activities. Don’t miss the park ranger programs. Most are free and include activites such as guided hikes, birdwatching, tide-pooling.

A sampling of other free activities:

• sunbathe/swim at Sand Beach or swim in Echo Lake or one of the swimming holes, such as Lake Wood.

IMG_6664• nature programs and wildflower gardens at Sieur de Monts Springs

Jackson Lab and MDI Bio Lab, both world renowned scientific labs, offer tours, lectures, and other public programs

• walk Bar Harbor’s Shore Path; walk out to Bar Island at low tide; mosey along West Street and admire the “cottages” that survived the Great Fire

• most of the island historical society museums are free or request a small donation, and there’s some really cool stuff to be seen.

Asticou and Thuya Gardens, okay, these aren’t free, but they are by donation, so quite reasonable.

• Admire the 10 Tiffany windows at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, in Bar Harbor. Pick up a brochure in the church to tour on your own, or ask about scheduled tours.

IMG_5712• visit the Whale Museum: run by the researchers from Allied Whale and chockful of interesting exhibits as well as a mesmerizing video of whales in their habitat.

Festivals and concerts: there’s almost always something going on in Bar Harbor: town band concerts, Native American Festival, arts programs, lecture series, etc.

Now that’s just the freebies. If you’re willing to spend a bit, you’ll find plenty more. Expand the options by bringing or renting bicycles and/or kayaks.

IMG_6475Cheap Sleeps:

Mom-and-pop motels pepper Route 3 into Bar Harbor, and I’ve seen signs out front of these with rates as low as $26 per night. Now don’t go expecting breakfast or fancy linens, but if all you crave is a bed and clean bathroom, these fit the bill without adding to it. Beyond these, check here for rooms that are a bit nicer but still come in at less than $100 per night, sometimes with a few perks included.

B&Bs tend to be pricier, usually starting around $150 per room, double, but the rate usually includes a breakfast that can tide many folks over to dinner and perhaps afternoon snacks, so if you’re budget isn’t too tight, worth considering.

Cheap Eats:

Plenty of places offer early-bird specials, usually beginning around 4:30 p.m. and going to 6ish. Two good choices for early bird or later are:

Poor Boy’s Gourmet Restaurant, Main Street, Bar Harbor
(Early Bird between 4:30 and 6:30: $8.95: about 9 entrees plus another 10 all-you-can-eat pastas)

DeMuro’s Top of the Hill, Rte. 102, Southwest Harbor

IMG_0701Other choices for budget meals:

• College of the Atlantic’s Blair Dining Hall, not only cheap, but healthful! Call for summer hours as they vary with programs: 288-5015

• Cheapest breakfasts, white-bread lunches, or ice cream: West End Drug, Main St., Bar Harbor.

• Wander down Rodick Street for a good selection of inexpensive restaurants, many with an ethnic accent.

• check the local papers for notices re:  Bean, chowder, potluck suppers, pancake breakfasts, etc.

Hannaford’s, downtown Bar Harbor.

And if you want entertainment with dinner, consider Reel Pizza (tix $6; pizzas begin at $9 or $2.50 per slice; go early, grab a couch, order a pie, and enjoy.

Loving Pectic Seafood

June 21, 2009

I’m back on Mount Desert Island, but en route this time, I stopped at Pectic Seafood, on Route 3, in Trenton. Honestly, that wasn’t my first choice. I’d planned to stop into Angler’s or  Just Barb’s, but both had long lines with families taking dad for dinner. Next I aimed for the Maine Grind in Ellsworth or Martha’s, both were closed. Then I remembered Pectic.

Founded by Paul and Teresa Cecere at their home in Hulls Cove, sons Matt and P.J. decided to move Pectic to this location just about one year ago. It’s a welcome respite on Route 3. It’s new, it’s spotless, the service is grade A+ (seriously, it’s rare to find such customer awareness, friendliness, genuine desire to assist).

Pectic’s a hybrid: combo fish and meat market, bakery and pizza shop, clam shack and lobster joint, eat in/take-out. The selections of baked goods, sandwiches, pizza, hot foods, prepared foods, soups and chowders, meats and seafood, are plentiful; and nearly everything is made in house from scratch. Although it’s mostly a to-go place, there is limited seating and there are clean, clean, clean restrooms.

For lunch, I had one of the day’s specials, a chicken quesedilla; excellent and quite filling. I’ll be stopping again en route home in a few days to pick up some prepared foods for dinner. Whether you need a quick food fix or need to pick up fresh or prepared foods for a cottage, this is a smart stop.

Feel the breeze

May 23, 2009

If wind is the future, College of the Atlantic is feeling the breeze. On Wednesday, COA is hosting a public reception at Beech Hill Farm, its organic farm in Mount Desert, to celebrate the building and installation of its wind turbine. The reception is at 9:30 a.m.

According to info supplied by COA: The college believes it is the first freestanding wind turbine on Mount Desert Island and the first turbine on a college campus created by students in the state. The turbine is expected to meet the electricity needs of the farm’s combined farmhouse and office.

The turbine,named Valkyrie by the students, was actually  installed on May 12. The celebration on Wednesday will include presentations by faculty and students.