Saturday, October 6, 2012

Brady goes to Maine

Generally my travel posts are a little more about food and a little less about the destination, but this time I think the post has to be a little more about the destination for a number of reasons.  First, I didn't really take any pictures of the food.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  I did take some pictures but none of them really turned out (including one picture of a delicious popover that looked suspiciously like a turd).  So I'm not using them.  But between Alex and I we managed to take some WONDERFUL pictures of the dog (hence the title of the post) and the scenery on Mount Desert Island.  For those of you who don't know anything about Maine (and until last week I certainly would have counted myself among you), Mount Desert Island is in the Gulf of Maine and Bar Harbor is on the island.  If you have ever seen restaurant menus talking about oysters or other seafood from Frenchman's Bay, that's right there too.  We happen to have some friends who have a place on Mount Desert Island (or MDI for short) and they invited us to come and visit.  So we booked ourselves a rental car and made the 8-9 hour drive from Manhattan to MDI this past weekend for some friends, food and fun. 

If you can't tell from the picture above, Brady had an amazing time in Maine.  During our brief visit he got to swim in a pond, a creek and the ocean/the sound.  He spent a lot of time getting wet, before drying and then getting wet all over again.  It didn't help that the first few days we were there it rained on and off the whole time so not only was he swimming, he was running around in the rain (and mud puddles) too.  Beyond his escapades in various bodies of water, Brady also got to go on a number of long walks and hikes through the woods.  He was in heaven.  Acadia State Park has 45 miles of carriage roads, which you can hike, bike or ride horses on.  There is also one section of the carriage roads that is privately owned by the Rockefellers near the park and it is dog friendly - which means no leash 24/7. Brady had a blast wandering around in there.  Alex declared our trip Brady's best vacation ever and I am pretty sure he was right.  Just look how happy he is in the picture after the jump!

More after the jump!

Now it's time to move on into the food.  Upon the recommendations of our hosts we ate at a number of different restaurants in MDI and during our drive there.  And looking back on it, our friends really know their food.  Not everything blew me away but it was all very good.  My favorite meals of the trip are as listed below in order:
  1. Lobster stew with popovers at Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park.  I was a little skeptical about this place when we pulled up in the car because it was jam packed full of tourists.  But the lobster stew (which was similar to a bisque but without the tomato) was amazing.  It was rich and creamy and flavorful, with huge chunks of lobster in it.  It is a $20 plus bowl of soup, but it was well worth it.  The popovers were lovely and served with a wonderful homemade strawberry jam.  They also have delicious fresh lemonade.  The ice cream flavors are heavy on fruit, but they were also quite good.  Between the four of us we had one scoop each of peach and raspberry.  According to our hosts, their dinner leaves something to be desired but lunch and tea are fabulous.  You definitely need to make reservations because the line was somewhat ridiculous, but it is well worth the trip.
  2. Grandpa Jack sandwich at Mother's Kitchen in Town Hill.  The fact that this was my second favorite meal is somewhat ridiculous for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, we ordered this sandwich on the way out of town and ate it 2 1/2 hours down the road in the car.  Second, it's a meatloaf sandwich.  Neither Alex nor I are big meatloaf eaters.  But it was delicious.  I can only imagine how much better it would have been when freshly made.  Everything, from the toasted sourdough bread (which was obviously no longer toasted and crunchy by the time we ate it) to the homemade meatloaf to the "special sauce" (some sort of flavored mayonnaise) was perfect.  I wish Mother's Kitchen were in NYC so I could eat it more often!  We also got an order of their homemade donut holes, which were much lighter and less greasy than your average donut.  Yum.
  3. Whole lobsters from Beal's Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor.  This was the first time I tried a "soft shell" lobster.  The meat was really sweet, but I don't know if that was because it was a soft shell, or because the lobsters were just that fresh.  But the soft shell meant that you could more easily break the shell apart with your bare hands without risking a multitude of cuts and slices from the hard lobster shell.  We also tried their fried clams, clam chowder and onion rings.  We had better friend clams during our drive back at Al's Seafood Restaurant in New Hampshire (more about those later), but these were nothing to scoff at.  All things considered a very good meal.
  4. Turkey club sandwiches and pie from Moody's Diner in Waldoboro, Maine (not on the island, but on the drive there).  It's strange, but yet another take-out meal made our list.  The turkey club sandwiches here were made with roasted slabs of thick cut turkey breast and what tasted like homemade mayonnaise (it had that extra tang and a different consistency than store-bought mayonnaise).  It also had good tomatoes and nice crispy bacon.  It was the best club sandwich I think I have ever tasted.  And that four-berry pie was to die for.  I was told that their seafood chowder and cream pies are also delicious, but we didn't get a chance to try those.  We also sampled one of their dinner plate-sized whoopie pies.  They had traditional whoopie pies and pumpkin but I decided to go traditional.  It was so big that we had it for dessert on Saturday and then had a bit for breakfast on Sunday and finally finished off Sunday afternoon.  Yum.
Our hosts also made us a delicious homemade meal with a roast organic chicken from Tide Mill Organic Farm (one of the best simple roast chickens I have ever had - juicy and flavorful) and the last heirloom tomatoes of the season.  They also served us an amazing goat cheese that they promised us we can purchase at Zabar's.  I have already forgotten the name, but I will haunt Zabar's until I figure it out!

We had two other meals that I am not referencing above as my "favorite" meals in Maine, but I think also deserve some love.  The first was BBQ at Mainely Meats.  Strangely enough, my favorite thing there was the wings.  They were really nicely cooked and served unsauced.  You had your option to dunk them in ranch or blue cheese dressing or slather them in either the sweet or spicy BBQ sauce.  I tried all of the dunking/slathering options and decided that I liked the BBQ sauces better than the dressing.  The ribs and pulled pork were both ok, but nothing super special.  Our last meal of the trip was Al's Seafood.  We stopped there on the drive back and had their lobster roll and their fried clams.  The lobster roll was jam-packed with tons of lobster, but I can get better lobster rolls in NYC.  Their fried clams on the other hand were delicious.  I was a huge fan of those clams.  Yum.

Mount Desert Island was a long drive for us - by far the longest car ride Brady has ever gone on and the longest that Alex and I have ever done together, but it was totally worth it.  The island is beautiful and people in Mount Desert totally know how to eat.  The food we had wasn't fancy (although I am sure there are plenty of fancy restaurants on the island too - including one called Red Sky that our hosts said was worth the visit), but it was delicious.  Our hosts invited us back up next summer and said if we make it up there in July we need to check out a Mexican restaurant called XYZ Restaurant.  We happened to be in Maine right after the restaurant closed for the off season so we couldn't check it out this visit, but the menu looks delicious!

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