Monday, July 13, 2009

summer -at last! - in Maine

FINALLY, Day 4 of sun, blue skies and warmth after about a month of chilly rain! With any luck, the heat, sun and dry air will discourage the horrifying swarms of black flies.

"Summer in Maine"
For me, nothing says "summer in Maine" more perfectly than lunch on the lawn at the Jordan Pond House - open for lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner - on Mt. Desert Island. In an exquisite setting of Maine cottage design, glorious gardens, broad expanse of lawn sloping down to Jordan Pond with the view to the Bubbles, the perfect lunch is served. I like to have a garden salad with excellent blue cheese dressing, but the main event is a bowl of lobster stew accompanied by hot popovers. The lobster stew is full of big chunks of lobster meat, and is absolute simplicity - lobster, butter, cream and little else. The popovers are huge and hot, served with butter and good strawberry jam. I like to have one of the two popovers that comes with lunch alongside my stew, and the second with jam for dessert. Either lemonade or iced tea is lovely to drink with this lunch, but a short but good selection of beer and wine is also available. If you happen to have room left for dessert, wild blueberry crisp with Jordan Pond vanilla ice cream is wonderful. Linger and enjoy the view and the lovely afternoon.
If you have a dog, dogs are welcome on the lawn and waitstaff will bring a bowl of water to keep your pet comfortable.
After lunch, you can take a pleasant stroll down to or around the pond, depending on your energy level.

Near Northeast Harbor, don't miss Thuja Gardens, one of the finest public gardens I've ever seen. There is a small parking lot just to the right beyond the Asticou Inn, and you can take a short hike up to the gardens with views over Northeast Harbor and several attractive benches and pavillions at which to rest. The gardens themselves are extensive and magnificent, with huge rhododendrons, water features, manicured pink granite paths, wonderful trees, perennial borders. The small Arts-and-Crafts influenced cottage is worth a visit if it's open, and is home to an extensive botanical library. Paths from the gardens connect to trails of the rest of the island's system - good for a hike that can be as long and as challenging as you wish. Thuja Garden is one of the best examples of landscape design that you're likely to find. If you're a gardener, be sure to bring a camera, sketchbook and notepad to record ideas for your own garden.

Wasse's Hot Dogs Rt. 3 headed towards Augusta in Belfast, also in Rockland
Great grilled dogs with properly steamed rolls (warm, not soggy!), available with sauerkraut and good mustard, fried onions, with chili and/or cheese. Yes, it's Cheese Whiz. Yes, you want it on your chili dog. (Sophie, my spoiled-rotten greyhound says not to forget to get a plain dog for your puppy). Wicked cheap and wicked good. Also in Rockland.

Jordan's, Rt. 1 on left headed down east, just east of Ellsworth
First-rate fried seafood lunches and dinners, good coleslaw and buttered Parker House rolls! Everything at Jordan's is good, and they have ice cream, but the fried seafood is especially fine. There are tables inside and out, or you can get your food to go and drive down to Lamoine State Park for a picnic.

Joshy's, Rt. 1, Milbridge
Still the best - and best value - crabmeat rolls around. Toasted hot dog roll, a little lettuce, the freshest, sweetest crabmeat, a bit of mayonnaise, paprika on top. Perfection!

Be sure to spend some time in downtown Ellsworth, wandering the shops and having lunch or dinner at the fantastic Cleonice on Main Street - everything is delicious, but the tapas are great, varied - both classic and creative kinds. The sangria is wonderful. My favorite shops are the Grasshopper on Main Street / Rt. 1 South, a few doors north of Cleonice - also in Searsport, Rockland and Bangor - and Rooster Brother, just across the bridge on Rt. 1 South, a cook's and food-lover's dream come true.

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