I recently returned from a six day vacation to Maine. It was very special to have this luxurious amount of time with my husband and son while enjoying 70 to 80 degree summer temperatures and low humidity. We stayed near Kennebunkport for three nights and in Portland for three nights.
Our son is one and a half years old. When we travel lately, it’s to see family and friends, and those trips feel very scheduled. This time, we had few commitments. There was a lot of eating, of course, and there was a lot of sleeping. There were nice walks and drives each day. We took a boat ride and went to a farmers’ market and to the beach several times.
During our vacation, I didn’t really have any, ‘If I were starting a food tour here in Maine, this is what I would do’ moments. OK, so maybe I had a few. But what really struck me was how often I found myself wondering whether our tours are true, or true enough, to what I envisioned and whether they are accomplishing what they are supposed to. Because I really, really love good restaurants, and I love to share my favorite finds.
As the owner of a food tour company, I want people to discover places and to discover cities. I want them to feel welcome when they walk into a restaurant or food shop or bar, and I want the food to be delicious. I want them to learn something cool and to meet awesome people. And I want them to be so excited about the restaurants that they visit on our tours, they feel giddy all over and can’t wait to go back. We had many fantastic foodie moments like that in Maine. Here is where and what we ate:
Over the first three days, we ate clam chowder, fried haddock, and lobster rolls at three different places: The Cape Pier Chowder House and The Ramp in Cape Porpoise, and The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport. We loved all of them. The Chowder House served the best fried fish ever, and the lobster roll in butter hit the spot. Our son loved the clam chowder so much, he was talking about it later on in his sleep. We sat at the edge of a dock overlooking some small islands and peninsulas and felt the stress of our day of delayed flights melt away. The employees were friendly and many of the patrons had their gorgeous dogs lounging below the picnic tables. My mouth is seriously watering right now thinking about the fried local haddock.
The Ramp was an obsession of mine. It is located next door to the Cape Pier Chowder House and has seven tables and a small bar. It fills up for dinner promptly at 5pm, and twice we got there too late to get in. On our last day in Kennebunkport we arrived for lunch at 11:15 so that we would be first in line when it opened at 11:30 (there wasn’t really a line, but we were first anyway). Here, our lobster salad roll was amazing and huge, the clam chowder had a more complex flavor than the one we had the previous night, and the traditionally British fried fish – again haddock – was very satisfying. THIS was the best fried fish I’ve ever had. We were officially addicted to this cuisine.
It was no different at The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport. We sat outside along the busy tourist path and people-watched. The fried fish was delicious. The lobster roll, a simple sandwich on a round bun, not a long one, included giant pieces of lobster dressed lightly in mayonnaise and butter.
We had one of the most memorable breakfasts we’ve ever had at the 1927 dining car restaurant, Palace Diner, in Biddeford. This is where we celebrated my husband’s birthday with corned beef hash and eggs and blueberry pancakes. Everything there is made from scratch, and the family that runs it is very sweet. We looooved this place.
We also were able to stay out unusually late one night, and so we had drinks and dessert at The Tides Beach Club in Goose Rocks Beach. Blueberry pie, of course, was what was recommended – we didn’t tire of blueberries on this trip and neither did our son, who calls them ‘baby apples’. We sat on the porch across the street from the ocean and let our son run around in his overtired state on a lovely green lawn. I would like go back to stay and eat here, especially for a special occasion.
In Portland, we all enjoyed Standard Baking Company’s croissants and ricotta pound cake. Later, as part of a yummy and filling dinner, we had an amazing appetizer at The Front Room: pastrami-cured salmon over homemade brown bread with mustard, crème fresh and pickled onions.
But it was on our last night in Maine, my birthday, when we hit our foodie jackpot. I was in search of a quintessential, seafood-oriented, Maine birthday dinner and discovered a restaurant that had only been open a couple of weeks, Eventide Oyster Co. We walked in and fell in love immediately. There was a large bar with a chalkboard menu, counter window seating, and two indoor picnic tables. The walls were white and aqua and the menu was perfect. We ordered a lobster roll in brown butter, oysters, fried fish, charcuterie, croquettes of some kind, local carrots, and, later, another lobster roll, this one with mayo. If we had discovered this gem on the first day we were in town, we would have gone back again. I was giddy all over. Still am.