Just Back From the Maine Coast (Long)
Just back from a week on the Maine coast. Had a great time and ate really well, to boot. I must say that I have to thank the New England Hounds for lots of good advise on where to eat. We had only one meal in a "real" restaurant ( in Castine) ; otherwise it was Lobster shacks and pounds, many with breathtaking views.
I must give special thanks to Passadumkeg, Mainegal and Irwin for their comments and advise. This is especially true for Passadumkeg; your tips were especially helpful and insightful.
Sunday- Yarmouth-near Motel, Freeport Inn -Dinner
Lynne- small lobster : 1 lb & a 1/8th
Mel- Fried clam roll
Small Lobster shack, near Muddy Rudder, drizzly and damp for eating outside but whatever....
Lobster was good but we ordered one too small; my clams were good,with the small bellies I soon realized would be the norm in Maine ( on L.I., fried clams and "steamers" are usually a mix of small and big bellies.)
Then a quick run into Freeport to L.L. Bean; Fleece for my BH, and hiking socks for me.
Monday- Stockton Springs on the way to Acadia
Lunch- Just Barb’s (Thank you , Thank you, Passadunkeg)
Lynne- Lobster Roll- the best of the trip
Mel- Crab roll; shredded not chunks but okay
We were the only out of state plates in the busy parking lot; I love when that happens! The lobster roll became the standard against which all others were measured. My only regret was that we weren't able to return on the way back to get the fried clams and another lobster roll. Afterward we drove to Fort Point Light; our first chance to get off Rt. 1 and do some exploring. Time well spent.
Dinner- Acadia: Beal’s Lobster Pound; SW Harbor
Lynne- Lobster in the Rough We both had shedders
Mel- Lobster in the Rough
We arrive in Bar Harbor and quickly see it's not our thing: Too touristy and Tee-shirty and busy. We buy the week pass for Acadia, get some info and head out for SW Harbor, where we're staying. Check into The Moorings B & B; Great view of the harbor but our corner room, the "Friendship" room, which came with very little privacy due to it having L-shaped large windows. . For the next three days we try to balance view and privacy. Time for dinner. Beals is out of hardshell so we get two shedders. We learn afterward the differences between them and henceforth try for "hards" only. Nonetheless, the lobsters are really good, if a bit watery. We also realize that cooking them in salt water and being served salted butter to dip them into plays a crucial role in their taste. We learn that, sometimes, too much butter means a very salty lobster.
After dinner: Flash in the Pan Steel Band at the local SW fund raiser; lots of fun.
Lunch- Thurston’s Lobster Pound, Bass Harbor
Lynne: Lobster in the Rough
Mel: Fish Chowder (lots of herbs) and Steamers
Great hike to Great Head, by way of Sand Beach. What the book called moderate was by our standards, moderate to hard. Book said it'd take an hour--took us almost two. But worth it.
Lynne's hardshell was real good; One and three quarters. My chowder was a fish chowder with lots of herbs...too much thyme? and potatoes that still had the skin on. That did not affect taste but did give the chowder a "Gray" tone. Steamers were great; I realize I don't have them often enough at home and really should. They are a favorite (BH won't touch them)
Lynne-Fried Maine shrimp
Mel- Fried Clams
The Maine shrimp are really small, which we knew they'd be. More like popcorn shrimp and given ratio of breading to shrimp not a whole lot of taste. I'm not sure this can be avoided, given their size. Fried clams are really good and I'm getting used to small bellies.
Also: It's interesting that the young workers at Beal's are Russian; I guess since Ireland is doing well economically that vacuum has been filled by Eastern Europeans. A couple we met later in the trip told us they found a restaurant with only Polish workers.
After dinner, we discover the Claremont Hotel: Home of Championship croquet; Kind of weird to find this out-of-the-way beautiful hotel with a croquet fetish.
Wednesday-Acadia; Jordan pond walk/hike and nature trail; nice
Lunch: Turkey sandwiches at Seawall Beach
Pre-Dinner Cocktails at the Dock at the Claremont;
Lynne & Mel both have hard shell lobsters
Blueberry pie a la mode at the SW Harbor Café
After Jordan's, we take a break from shell fish; take sandwiches to Seawall camp grounds and eat by the beach. I was last here in 1972 when I hitchhiked thru New England for the summer.
We read that the Claremont has a bar at their dock and we check it out. A bit on the expensive side but charming and serene to sit and watch the sun set...really nice
Thurston's- we sit upstairs again with the view of the harbor as darkness settles in. Lobsters are hardshell and good; 0ne and three quarters for BH and one and a quarter for myself.
A huge piece of blueberry pie ala mode back in SW Harbor....I wonder if the blueberries are fresh or is it too early? and they're using frozen? Yet later we see fresh blueberries for sale on the roadside.
Thursday- On the way to Castine by way of Blue Hill
Lunch: The Fish Net
Lynne- Lobster Roll
Mel- Scallop chowder
BH's lobster roll is really good, and still does not quite measure up to Just Barb's. My scallop chowder is really good; big pieces of scallop and peeled potatoes. Good ratio.
Dinner: Castine; Stella’s-even with a reservation, we eat at the bar
Margerita Pizza and crab cakes
We stay at the Castine Inn...a great old hotel...nice room....simple and tasteful....a real contrast to the Moorings which was so chotchskied up. Interesting that the hotel has showers and a sauna for yachters to use on a per diem basis. I had never seen anything like this. I'm told that often time marinas now provide these facilities for boaters. This is a throwback to an earlier time?
The town itself was so beautiful. We often visit family in Conn. and have to drive thru Litchfield; which is often touted as the quintessential N.E. village. Well, Castine makes Litchfield look small time. Loved it!
No real place for lobster in the rough in Castine; so we just get into Stella's but have to sit at he bar; no problem. Behind the bar is a wood-burning oven (or brick-oven?) for pizzas...thinnish crust and crunchy ...good. Crab-cakes were okay; I prefer junks of crab meat, this was shredded crab; aioli had a nice kick.
Friday: On the way to Spruce Head and Port Clyde
We both have Lobster Rolls at Waterman’s Beach; Great View –we sit right on the water; Served on round hamburger toasted rolls, very good
Drove thru Camden and didn't stop...A very different town from 30-some years ago. Did stop to view the Norumbega B & B. Remembered it from my hitching days when it was a private home. Still a Wow!. Waterman's Beach lobster rolls were a bit different, being toasted and round. But the ratio of lobster to bread was really good. But again being that the meat was chunked instead of almost whole, bigger pieces (Just Barb's), it fell a tad short. But the view was great.
Dinner: Cod End Cookhouse in Tenant’s Harbor
Lynne- Lobster in the Rough
Mel- Fish Chowder and clams and mussels
A bit hard to find, Cod End was good. Lobster was a hard-shell and we were given a rock to crack the shell with....not the easiest method. Mussels were ughon the small side but okay; wondered if they were wild or farmed as we saw a sign for a mussel farm off the road.
Saturday; Monhegan Island
Lunch: The Fish House Market at Fish Beach
Lynne: Lobster Roll
Mel- Fish Chowder
Dinner: The Dip Net- Port Clyde
Lynne- Sauteed Scallops with French Fries;
Lynne says they’re the best she’s ever had!
Mel- Bouillabaisse: Lobster claws, shrimp,
Mussels, clams, grilled haddock & scallops!
The trip on the way to Monhegan was in total fog until we got there and then it lifted. Great hiking and gallery browsing. Lunch was on the "beach" at the Fish House. Lobster was good; in the middling range. Chowder was chunky with fish and spuds...good, good.
Dinner went from the boat to Dip Net. BH loved her scallops. While not the diver scallops listed as an appetizer special , they were giant sea scallops that were sliced into thick silver dollar sized pieces and then sauteed (instead of fried) and served with fries. My bouillabaisse was all I could ask for, although, based on shell fish rather than fin fish which, I think, is more traditional. Note: I'm not complaining, just noting for the record. Also , the one piece of fin fish (Haddock ?) was lightly blackened, which gave it an interesting taste and there was no aioli or toast points also traditional. Those cavils aside,it was great.
Sunday: On the way to Portland
Lunch- Red’s has a line with 40 people waiting!
We go to Five Island Lobster Pound with the most
Amazing view we’ve seen so far; we share a
Lobster Roll- good but not great
Then it’s on to Sarah’s Dockside down the most amazing dirt road around the point from Five Islands; Made with some parsley and a touch of red onion, not bad at all
I really wanted to have the Lobster roll at Red's as a comparison to the others we'd had but there was no way we'd wait on that line ( full of out-of-staters I'm sure! Somehow I didn't see ourselves quite as out-of-state as I assumed they were, although the Felix Unger thing with assuming could well apply here....whatever..... as my students used to say.)
Loved the ride to 5 island and there was so much going on ( it was Sunday) and the view was so unreal that the lobster roll almost took a back seat. It was very good to be sure and probably second to JB's. In the name of science we shared one. Then on to Sarah's. I could not believe the dirt road that you need to take there! OMG! How do they stay in business? It was dead compared to 5 Island, even tho just around the point. They did say they have a lot of boat trade from Booth Bay, so maybe that explain it. Lobster roll was different in that it had parsley (easy to taste) and red onion ( hard to detect) and tomato and lettuce. Good, in the middle of the pack. Nice serene view.
Portland...Dinner:The Front Room
We eat outside b/c its too warm inside. BH has a scallop with bacon appy and a side of veggy risotto. Scallops and bacon: A match made in heaven, but keep the bacon w/in reason and the risotto was mild at best. I had grilled dorode (sp?) on a base of soft polenta, topped with sauted spinach, the fish and a black olive tapenade. Quite good.
And that's basically it....breakfast at Becky's, no big deal and then to the Cape. All in all a really good time was had by all.
I'm no expert on Astoria but based on observation, reading and word of mouth I'd say a good deal of it is still Greek. There are still many Greek restaurants and many get good press. At the same time change has also started. First of all, many Greeks have moved to Long Island. Second, my wife and I almost always drive to Astoria to catch the subway to Manhattan. We go into the city at least once a week during the Fall, winter and Spring....much less so in the summer. The train is invariably a moving UN. You hear every language you can think of. Third, as Manhattan rents, etc. get crazier and crazier, and likewise the discovered parts of Brooklyn, more and more young people are discovering Astoria. Relatively speaking the housing there is more affordable. So the train at night is also full of these young hipsters who have found Astoria.
In Astoria, in recent months we've eaten Greek "tapas", Greek seafood, Brazilian, Thai, French Bistro, Spanish and Czech. In some respects the restaurant scene reflects some of the changes I listed above.
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Glad you enjoyed your trip. The Claremont Hotel is a special place as is Just Barb's at the other end of the spectrum. Wifie and I have had a lot of drinks on the Claremont's dock. We lived within walking distance. Billy Joel and Kristie Brinkley were regular guests at The Moorings. The bar/restaurant next door had a great view for drinks too.
Next time add Jordan's Snack Bar in Ellsworth (our bench mark for fried clams, but mediocre lobster rolls), Ruth & Wimpies and Tidal Falls Restaurant in Hancock.
Life is full of ironies. While you were up here gorging on lobster, I was down in the tristate area w/ 2 grown expat. sons and a Korean daughter-in-law. We ate what we don't get here, Chile dogs in Worcester, Greek in Mt Kisco, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Russian, Turkish and soft shell crab in NJ, a noodle shop in China Town, Korean dumplings on 34th St., Bolivian in Sunnyside, Queens and West side Malasian. Ct. dogs and pizza on the way back. Oh yes, Jewish deli Ruebens too.
Ruth & Wimpies, Tidal Falls and Union River were on my list but we had more places to try than we did days to eat. As it was we shared L. R.'s at Five Islands and Sarah's because they were so close to each other. Oh, the sacrifices we have to make! Your foray into the Tristate sounds amazing... Let me know the next time you're going to be in Queens ....although I'm now on L.I., I was born and raised there and consider it my second home....especially Flushing for regional Chinese. It and Jackson Heights are the epicenters for Queens Hounds. I read somewhere that the
Census Bureau has reported that there are more foreign languages spoken in Queens county than any other county in the country ... I 'd bet that's also more or less true of the number of cuisines you can find there....A true Chowhound paradise. Anyway enjoy the rest of August before the three R's calls again.
I could just go to NYC and take the 7 subway to Queens and get off every stop along Roosevelt Ave and be in Chowhound heaven. It is truly amazing the variety of great foods in such a small area. I was in the VA hospital in Astoria 40 years ago and it was much, much different. Not bad NYC chow guiding for a Maine kayak guide.
We went to Jordan's today and were disappointed; even the fried clams were average.
Don't forget Young's lobster pound near Belfast, and for breakfast try the lobster Benedict at Chester Pikes Galley on Rt. 1 in Sullivan.
I live in Rockport, and eat at the Dip Net all the time. I think you don't know that diver scallops are the large sea scallops. What diver means is that they are hand picked from the ocean floor by divers, usually urchin divers. They are the best scallops to get and that is one of the Dip Net's specialities. Thank you for the detailed report.