La Primavera

Lake view IIAperol Spritz at Hotel BelvedereHappy Hour

It’s late afternoon here in Argegno. I sip an Aperol spritz; my daughter Rachel sips Campari. It’s an honor to introduce millennial mini-me to the fine Italian custom (always in English) of Happy Hour at Hotel Villa Belvedere. We enjoy the glorious lakeside primavera through floor-to-ceiling windows, and admire the shelves of Martini & Rossi, Aperol, Campari and mysterious Fernet Branca behind the sleek hotel bar.

Classic Spritz Cocktail                                                                                           3 oz. prosecco
1½ oz. Aperol or Campari
1½ oz. soda water
Orange slice to garnish
Combine prosecco, liqueur and soda water in a tall glass filled with ice; garnish with orange – Rachel prefers a blood orange.

Campari 1Prices often rise during happy hour. This is understandable. Here in Argegno, the vast sea of complimentary aperitivi at Cafè Colombo includes panini, chunks of Parmigiano, ribbons of pink prosciutto, puffy pizzette and warm squares of polenta. At Pensavo Meglio, they deliver a similar assortment on a plate. At Bar Motta, it’s olives or my weakness, potato chips. The happy hour crowd spills into the Piazza Roma. No one is in a hurry. A proper Italian happy hour often stretches into evening.

Boating to Bellagio

Janie GelatoBelieve it or not, it can get a little boring sitting around eating and drinking. Our group, which has grown from 3 to 10 over the last few days, decides to take a day-boat to Bellagio, the “Pearl of the Lake.” With indoor and outdoor seating, views are spectacular. The lake is a necklace of small jewels, towns with stone bell towers, grand villas and tranquil gardens. A day-ticket allows you to visit as many as you’d like. Of course, we disembark at Bellagio, utterly beautiful once you escape the touristy center.  We pass Cadenabbia, Varenna, Tremezzo and Lenno, and admire glorious Villa del Balbianello with its panoramic terraced gardens, bellissimo.

Tessa AhoyOur magical mystery tour has made us us sleepy. Back on the boat, tucked along the wall, we doze. Our viaggio ends in Menaggio at Bar Constantin, a central restaurant crowded with locals. I adore the verde pizza with spinach, topped with fresh arugula. Meatier pizzas include a tasty “speck” pie. Share a pitcher or two of the heavy red wine, “it feels like a Seder,” says Rachel. Bar Constantin closes around 2:00 each afternoon for la pausa (the time of day when Italian businesses shut down), so don’t be late.

Menaggio Seder IIEaster mass in ComoOne Rainy Day

Fog and drizzle provide an opening for a urban exploration of historic Como center. Some of us attend a very crowded Easter mass, redolent of incense, that makes me a little teary. We stroll the fashion-forward centro and admire styles from Armani and Missoni. We hit the renaissance Palazzo Giovio, now an archaeological museum, chock full of local antiquities, historical artifacts, and surprising kitchy paintings.

DSCN4211Pines and Palms

Pines and Palms IIRachel observes that the ideal climate features both pine and palm trees. We agree. Lake Como has an abundance of pines and palms, plus flowering plants, fragrant herbs, warm breezes and sunshine. And it is several miserable-weather weeks ahead of our home in snowy northern New England. Is it Maine? I confess I can barely remember.

At midday we sprawl like lizards in the sun on our stone patio amid fragrant rosemary. Mid-afternoon, we chat over glasses of Vermentino at Pensavo Meglio. Later, we enjoy a passeggiata, or evening stroll, and return to our pebbled courtyard with the little terracotta fire pit high on Via Schignano. Life is good.

Via Schignano

Felice Compleanno

Maggie & Mark IIOne of us is celebrating a decade-birthday, I will not say who. This is maggiore. We decide to celebrate at a charming nearby restaurant, La P’Osteria, a beloved riverside spot that served as Argegno’s post office in the 1800s. Rustic starters of salumi are wonderful — don’t miss the polenta sticks.


Rachel in Argegno

Regional specialties include lake fish, duck, meaty agnolotti and tagliatelle pastas. I especially enjoy an unconventional broccoli and bottarga dish. Yes, dried fish eggs. Delicious. Our thoughtful friend Barrie Webb creates an authentic, not-too-sweet Tiramisu for the occasion. Rachel adds a crazy candle that resembles a roadside flare, and it’s a sparkling celebration.

Our languid lakeside spell has been a tranquil vacanza da poesia, a poetic holiday. Arrivederci, Argegno

Birthday Tira Misu from Barrie WebbTiramisu                                                                                                                   6 large egg yolks, at room temperature                                                             1/4 cup sugar                                                                                                            1/2 cup dark rum, divided
1- 1/2 cups brewed espresso, divided
16 to 17 oz. mascarpone cheese
30 Italian ladyfingers, or savoiardi
Grated bittersweet chocolate
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer whisk attachment on high for about 5 minutes until thick and light yellow. Lower the speed and add 1/4 cup rum, 1/4 cup espresso, the mascarpone cheese and whisk until smooth.
Combine the remaining 1/4 cup rum and 1- 1/4 cups espresso in a shallow bowl. Lightly dip one side of each ladyfinger in the espresso/rum mix and line the bottom of a 9 by 12 by 2-inch dish with them. Pour half the espresso cream mixture evenly on top. Dip one side of the remaining ladyfingers in the espresso/rum, and place them in a second layer in the dish. Pour the rest of the espresso cream over the top. Smooth surface and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Mm.
Sports fans at P'osteria

Badgers fans at La P’Osteria



Posted in Art and Culture, Food and Wine, International, Italian Travel, Lake Como, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tempo Dulu

tugu-tempo-duluAfter an interminable Maine winter, my husband and I need a relaxing trip within a few hours drive. When we hear that Camden Harbour Inn is having a pop-up preview of their new Southeast Asian restaurant, Tempo Dulu, we jump at the chance.

Raymond & OscarInnkeepers Oscar Verest and Raymond Brunyanszky have at last expanded to Portland with their purchase of The Danforth. The handsome couple met in Indonesia and have named the inn’s restaurant Tempo Dulu, which loosely translates to “olden days,” a flavorful homage to their early romance. Best of all, they have placed multi-talented chef Lawrence Klang is at the helm — brilliant.


We arrive as guests are settling in for cocktails. Barman Mac McGaw is the devilish mastermind behind the popular Mainehattan cocktail, flavored with both Maine maple syrup and lavender essence from Glendarragh Farms — local sourcing at its best. I know sommelier Micah Wells is doing the wine pairings, so I hold back. A little.

Scallop CHIAmid twinkling votive candles and red roses, we’re served a Weskeag oyster with mignonette — a first succulent bite of pure ocean. Smoked trout with papaya follows for a robust local taste with an exotic finish. A perfectly seared Maine diver scallop with beet, jalapeno, pineapple, fermented soybean, and seaweed is a stand-out, and the beautiful Balinese duck with a lemongrass Sambal and chewy yellow rice is rich and satisfyingly sticky. All courses feature delicate, distinctive and unexpected flavors of Southeast Asia paired with the robust essence of Maine.

I look forward to having Chef Klang in my neck of the woods, and to more of this exquisite, surprisingly light and unfussy fare. Proximity rules.

Posh and Private

Signature roses CHIOver the years, Oscar and Raymond have transformed the Camden Harbour Inn into a cosmopolitan boutique hotel, recently named one of the World’s Best Hotels in Travel & Leisure, along with AAA Four Diamonds and coveted Relais & Chateau status. Each distinctive room has stunning views of blue ocean, craggy islands and evergreens from wraparound porches and large windows.

This tranquil oasis of comfort and perfection rocks the concept of personal service. During our first visit, my white dinner napkin was replaced with black to match my dress.  Astonishing.  To quote myself, “The service at both inn and restaurant goes beyond impeccable to almost clairvoyant.”

I am confident that they will achieve the same level of elegance and supreme comfort here in Portland at The Danforth.


Chef Klang CHIWe first met executive chef Lawrence Klang at Camden Harbour Inn in 2008. His sumptuous dinner was the highlight of our stay. Featuring both Maine ingredients and local wines, Klang’s distinctive lobster preparations earned him the 2008 Maine Lobster Chef People’s Choice award, as well as accolades from the James Beard Foundation. Since leaving the inn in 2010, he has continued to hone his astonishing culinary skills at hotel restaurants in Thailand and Indonesia.

Most Important Meal of the Day

Matilda celebrates the inn’s “perfectly poached eggs!”

Don’t skip breakfast. Each morning, guests are offered a generous, European-style breakfast. The sideboard is laden with cheeses, yogurt, croissants and fruit. Lobster Benedict is as velvety and unctuous as you’d imagine. I love the Open Faced Breakfast Sandwich, a gooey preparation of house-made bread topped with spinach, mushrooms, fried egg and magic sauce. Go ahead, lick the plate.

My jazzy favorite at CHI








Oscar and Raymond possess a winning combination: a superb sense of design, color and style, and a reverence for romance. Their welcome is as warm and genuine as their smiles. The Camden showplace is my ultimate go-to for deeply restorative R&R — highly recommended. Spring specials make it more accessible to year-round Mainers.

I know their transformation of The Danforth will create a sophisticated and stylish oasis here in Portland … perhaps a bit more “uptown.” And Tempo Dulu will bring us Southeast Asian fine dining, a long-awaited and welcome addition to our vibrant restaurant scene. •

The Danforth

The Danforth – Portland, Maine


Posted in East Coast Travel, Farm-to-Table, Food and Wine, Maine, Maine Travel, New England Travel, Sustainable Travel, The Other Portland, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

La Dolce Vita on the High Seas

Positano view

View of Positano

I may have to turn in my indie traveler badge. I have spent the last week contemplating a cruise. Yes, a cruise.

Let’s Go

With several feet of dirty snow on the ground, I’m yearning for some intense Mediterranean sun, lazy touring, swimming, and maybe even a bit of yoga. What I don’t want is packing and unpacking, cooking and cleaning, or finding a new restaurant every evening.

A savvy friend surprises me by suggesting a cruise. “The beauty of a cruise is that all your needs are taken care of,” she says, “so you can concentrate on relaxing and honing your ‘far niente’ skills.” Hm.

cer2_1397059301I imagine the sun-soaked cliffs of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. Meandering to the picturesque fishing village of Positano for brightly painted majolica. Exploring the friendly seaside village of Amalfi. Grazing the upscale boutiques of Capri. Savoring limoncello on Ischia, Italy’s most romantic island.

Port of Call

Think about it. You visit your favorite places, and unpack only once. Of course, you’ll spend some time at sea, but you’ll be en route to several beautiful Italian ports of call — what could be easier?

Italian immersions are available through different cruising companies who specialize in travelers doing their own thing “in most ports,” which appeals to indie travelers like me. They suggest doing some research beforehand, and kindly remind passengers that shuttles and guides are there to help.

Thomson in BrindisiFlourish

Best of all, healthy cruising is no longer an oxymoron. Salads, sushi, grilled vegetables, and poached salmon are now standard guilt-free fare. Along with decadent treats and the legendary ship’s buffets.

Healthful amenities include massage, spa treatments, sauna, and yoga — four personal faves. Swimming pools and whirlpools beckon, whether you’re into laps, dog paddle or a lazy float. Some offer poolside movie screenings by day, or from a comfy chaise and cozy blanket at night.

Stroll or stride the promenade deck for uninterrupted stretches of walking or jogging space with incredible Mediterranean views. Or bust a move on the dance floor. Learn a smooth tango or foxtrot from the dance professionals who are often on board.

Tasting & Touring

iStock_000000886907MediumNeapolitan pizzaSpend a gritty and magical day in Naples, the essence of southern Italy, where Vespas weave and sputter through winding streets and hanging laundry flutters between ancient buildings. Grab a slice of incomparable pizza and explore ornate palaces, cathedrals and monasteries — the authentic essence of the centro. Don’t miss the world-class archeological museum, whose stunning collection includes treasures from Pompeii and Herculaneum, frozen in time by the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius. And don’t be afraid to push yourself. Remember that a comfortable ship’s cabin awaits.

Refresh & Recharge

After a day of touring, have a swim, massage or spa treatment. Enjoy complimentary cabin toiletries, from high-end spa products to basic whitening toothpaste. You don’t have to worry about what’s not in your Dopp kit. While you’ve been touring, your cabin will have been cleaned, towels freshened and bed made.


The sight of a red sun dropping into the Mediterranean is one of the most beautiful in the world.  Stand at the railing and savor the romantic recharge of a fiery sunset on the ocean.  Love is still in the air with fine wines, creative cuisine, and a nightly decadent dessert. If you’re a night owl, you’ll find intriguing nightlife within walking distance of your cabin — including theater, comedy, music and a hopping bar-scene.

As you begin to yawn, you will find that your bed is smooth and turned down for a great night’s rest. Now that’s a vacation!  •

View of Florence, Italy

View of Florence, Italy

Posted in Art and Culture, Cruise, Italian Travel, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sustainable Urbanism By Design

Cumberland5Originally published © the Portland Press Herald 2012, photos by Derek Davis

Intrepid homesteaders ascend Portland’s Munjoy Hill reviving once-neglected neighborhoods with creative housing concepts.

Sometimes it’s co-housing. Sometimes it’s a condominium.  It’s often collaborative living, but doesn’t quite conform to that definition. And it’s not an “intentional community,” a term that Portland architect Dick Reed would eschew as too precious, anyway.

Separate But Equal

When Dick Reed and his wife, Gunnel Larsdotter, decided it was time to consolidate their Peaks Island summer place, in-town home and architectural offices, their journey took them to Cumberland Avenue on Munjoy Hill.  Part of the quest was a parking spot for their beloved yellow motorcycle.

Yellow Motorcycle REEDReed’s friend Chris Roberts was seeking a site for an art studio, workshop and garden with his wife, Mere. Reed describes the goal as “do-it-yourself condo – you preselect the company and make your own rules.”

When Mere and Gunnel found a hidden green space with antique brick wall behind the run-down urban property, the “secret garden,” they declared the site perfect.  With their enthusiastic stamp of approval, the two couples purchased the property together.

Original cinderblock walls from 1945 are recycled from the building’s humble origins as a cement one-story garage. “I like the cinder block,” says Reed. “I was told it was made right here on Munjoy Hill.”

Original cinderblock walls from 1945 are recycled from the building’s humble origins as a cement one-story garage. “I like the cinder block,” says Reed. “I was told it was made right here on Munjoy Hill.”

The families appreciated the urban setting midway up Munjoy Hill, a working-class neighborhood of modest homes, apartments and tenements. The Hill’s legendary rough and gritty reputation persisted until gentrification began its relentless creep up the Eastern Prom in the 1980s and 1990s.

Reed rebuilt the existing five-bay cinderblock garage into a three-story residential space with office and guest quarters.  Chris and Mere rebuilt the former “carriage house” as an artist studio with living space overlooking the garden. The Reed home has ground floor entry, studio-office, guest quarters and garage. It opens onto a beautiful brick-walled courtyard with elegant Asian-style garden – an urban oasis.

Urban Tree House

Cumberland2The soaring, multidimensional space has salvaged walls of original cinderblock from the former garage, echoing the structure’s original use. On the exterior, the home is a warm shade of salmon, nearly identical to the historic Portland Observatory, combined with slate shingles in soft gray-green.

Inside, abundant windows give an open, loft-like feel.  The Reeds’ living/working space is a soaring 2,200 square feet, with open living room, dining room, and small but very efficient European kitchen, much of which was sourced at IKEA. Upstairs, their 3rd floor bedroom feels like an urban treehouse. Bath, laundry and exercise spaces flow seamlessly. The stairway features graceful wooden hand-rails for safety – smooth and round – each with a hand-finished ball at the end. Low lights illuminate the steps at night for safety.

Cumberland6Sweat Equity

Reed installed the glowing floors of recycled bleacher-seats himself, a Herculean effort. Reed’s DIY sensibility and elbow grease created both room in the budget and a feeling of accomplishment — the best combination of savvy, sweat equity and sustainability.

The couples incorporated sustainable building concepts like highly insulated SIP panels to minimize heat loss, LED lighting, and recycled flooring and original cinder block in the garage. The couples future plans include a green roof.

The views from the home are enviable — the soaring triple-decker has dramatic vistas on three sides. The Reeds enjoy the Munjoy Hill Observatory from the living room, plus twinkling lights of Back Cove from the lofty 3rd floor bedroom.  On clear days, they have a stellar view of Mt. Washington.  “It’s beautiful up here at night,” Gunnel says.

Although they laugh at being in their “Golden Years,” the Reeds have thoughtfully installed a residential elevator to enjoy the vertical life they have created.  I’m impressed — this romantic couple has done some serious forward-thinking. “Two couples together make it work — we couldn’t have done it on our own.”

Downsizing Up

Waterville_1The Reeds are not alone in seeking alternative forms of sustainable urbanism. Others on the Hill are making similar choices.

Developer Peter Bass and two architects, David Lloyd of Archetype and Jenny Scheu of Redhouse Architects, plus builder John Ryan of Wright-Ryan Construction, teamed up to build a three-unit on a vacant lot at on Waterville Street in the East End. “We can do this — we can downsize to a single story,” said Jenny Scheu, who with her husband John Ryan, downsized-up on the top floor.

David Lloyd by LibbyArchitect David Lloyd, left, and his wife Nancy Adams took the ground floor, and Peter Bass and his wife, artist Lin Lisberger, took the second. Now the “Waterville Triad” occupies three stacked modern condo units. “We knew it was a group that was fun and good humored. Everybody was on the same page. None of us wanted fancy place, we wanted the building  to be practical – not an ‘Architectural Statement.’”

Good Neighbors

With architects, developer and builder in the mix, the building was an obvious “go.”  Scheu says the vacant urban property was love at first sight. “I love the way the Hill falls away, overlooking the city. We love to watch the boats in the harbor coming and going.”

This accomplished, cooperative design-build group has common sense to spare. After careful consideration, a condo-model seemed the best way to go. The trio drew up documents and scheduled an annual condo meeting. Common spaces include hallways that also function as informal art galleries.  There is an elevator, and below, a handy multi-car garage. Outdoor common gardens are left up to artists Adams and Lisberger.

Waterville_4“The design process was a nice balance,” says Scheu.“shaping the overall vision of what the space would be – a lot of back and forth.”

Part of the goal was protecting the environment. The result is a tight building with thoughtful insulation and smart details that minimize heat loss, like triple glazed widows. “Wright Ryan gets the credit for knowing that these details don’t have to be too expensive,” said Scheu.  The Waterville Triad also walks the walk – literally. “We love being able to walk everywhere,” and there are 12 bicycles in the basement. “Our heating bill is less than our cable bill – by quite a bit!”says Scheu. “It feels great to have a lighter footprint. It’s resoundingly pleasant for all of us.”

Waterville_PanMulti-Generational Homesteading

Housing costs, a struggling economy and aging parents have inspired some urban homesteaders to join forces across generations. Studies show the number of multi-generational households has recently risen dramatically. Some urban homesteaders find that creating separate-but-equal multigenerational households under the same roof can both bring rewards and create new bonds.

Pam and Peter Macomber on share their building on St Lawrence St. with Pam’s mother. With separate apartments in the same building, there is both privacy and closeness. “It’s a delicate balance with Mom’s space on the first floor and our space on the second and third – but we all make it work. Boundaries!” says Pam.

Co-housing with an aging parent can have unexpected benefits. “Mom always knew we were looking out for her best interests,” says Pam, “now I she really believes it. She even offers to dog-sit!”

Portland Maine Rooftops

The upscale renovation features all new windows, decks, private parking and a residential elevator. A small outdoor green space admits light, but with nothing to mow. “Maybe a few potted plants.” says Pam. “We want Mom to be able to come and go, and not struggle with stairs, snow or parking. She has nice views and no fuss.”

Upstairs, the Macombers enjoy private panoramic views of Portland Harbor from two levels, with lots of glass and multiple decks facing the water. “We loved our home in Deering, but this is a lot more convenient to our work and downtown,” says Peter.

“And a lot more fun,” says Pam.

Walk The Walk

Walkability is key to sustainable urbanism, and a major factor in all the couples’ housing choices. You will see Peter Macomber rollerblading along Fore Street; Lisberger and Bass dog-walking on the Eastern Prom; and run into Scheu at Rosemont Market. The Reeds enjoy walking to films and exhibitions at Portland Museum of Art.  It’s a chorus: “From here, we can walk anywhere – we love it!”

Something wondrous is happening as urban homesteaders create old-fashioned communities using sustainable building concepts, upcycling, and contemporary design ideas, one unpolished gem at a time.  •



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Nor’easter: Survival Fare

DSCN3920A blizzard is coming. My first thought is, “What can I not live without for 48 hours?”  I head for 171 Cumberland Avenue, early, for some savory, soul-satisfying 10-10 pié.  I go for the Kale Feta Savory with carmelized onion, leeks, pumpkin and feta. They’re hand pies, right?  So I get one for each hand.DSCN3914

DSCN6502bottle_rb-grigioAt Hilltop Market, I grab a bottle of light, crisp pinot grigio from sunny California that distills coastal climate, fertile soils and enviably WARM weather into a crisp, hand-pie friendly bianco-rosso. Cheers! I conjure tropical thoughts of a trip to Nevis with my writerly pal, Necee Regis.  Let it snow!  •

DSCN6963Beach shacks Nevis copy


Posted in East Coast Travel, Food and Wine, Maine Travel, New England Travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Maine: Mother-Daughter Blue Highway

Bright blue sky and sunny tales of summer, originally published in the Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald in June, July & August of 2013.

I hear there’s a street called Pineo Court in Bar Harbor. “Roadtrip!” says my daughter Sarah, who’s visiting from Portland, Oregon. Our mother-daughter Blue Highway zig-zags from Portland to Belgrade, through Damariscotta and Rockland, and all the way up to stunning Deer Isle, then Downeast to Bar Harbor.

DSCN9300Homegrown and Homemade

DSCN9411Our intergenerational ramble starts just north of Augusta at Wings Hill B&B in Belgrade Lake. A recent rain soaks the garden and everything is lush and green. Tall trees form a leafy canopy overhead. Fragrant herbs grow in terra cotta pots. Chef-owner chef Chris Anderson is hip and welcoming in his kilt and clogs. Part supper club and part B&B, locally sourced fare rules at Wings Hill. Seasonal produce comes from Flying Point, Buttermilk Hill and Songbird Farms. The Andersons insist on sustainable fish and Mercer free-range chickens. Wings Hill is blessedly BYOB, and we toast our adventure with Tree Spirits apple sparkling wine, dry and bubbly. From the York Hill goat cheese starter right through to the succulent roasted Anson pheasant and rhubarb cobbler, our meal is farm-to-table fabulous.

Green Spot in Oakland

DSCN9415We hit the road and spot a seasonal yellow roadside store, almost a shack, the Green Spot in Oakland. Savvy sisters Brenda and Tanya Athanus lure passersby with exquisite cheeses, homemade pasta, breads and baguettes, fresh produce, artisanal beer and great wines, lobsters and fish, elegant sauces and savory pestos, roasted vegetables and prepared foods and salads … all with a hit of Provencal flair. Well worth the U-turn.

N.C. Wyeth, The Hunter (detail), 1906; oil on canvas, 38 7/8 x 26 5/8 in.; collection of the Brandywine River Museum

N.C. Wyeth, “The Hunter” (detail), 1906; oil on canvas; collection of the Brandywine River Museum

Wondrous Wyeths

On the road again, we indulge in a ramble through the venerable Farnsworth in Rockland for “Every Picture Tells A Story.” The exhibition of 30 paintings by N. C. Wyeth spans four decades of his book and magazine illustrations. Viewers get the backstory for each work – an intimate and enlightening museum experience. My daughter agrees, “it’s a gas.”

OystersBountiful  Bivalves

Our journey continues north on Route 1 to Damariscotta where the humble oyster reigns. My bivalve buddy Bill Thomas recommends Damariscotta River Grill on Main Street as a great spot to savor a half dozen (okay, a dozen) Pemaquids on ice, briny and sweet.  Later, the Thomases prepare a lakeside feast of local Maine lamb and grilled vegetables. We sleep like babies despite the haunting cry of the loons.

Sarah at HaystackCoastal Craft

DSCN9487Sarah has always wanted to see Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, the coastal school and artist’s retreat in Deer Isle. Why not? This wooded Maine treasure nurtures artists local and “from away,” with studios open day and night to support the intensely creative process. A summer auction features works by faculty and students, and tours are offered to the public Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. in summer, and studio tours for a small donation. Otherwise, studios are closed – no peeking.


Another sweet treat on Deer Isle is Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies. Sarah likes the strawberry rhubarb conserve; I dig the Blue Razz. Don’t miss the whimsical outdoor sculpture and signage by Nellie’s husband, artist Peter Beerits.

Vintage Sign AcadiaTransformative

Ah, Acadia.  Follow the Park Loop Road and meander to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard, topped by incomparable ocean views. Rent bikes and explore the 27 miles of paths and carriage trails through wooded pine groves. The people-watching at is pretty great, too.


Or seek out Bar Harbor’s serene Asticou Azalea Garden with its artfully composed plantings of pines, hemlocks, firs, Japanese maples, and of course, azaleas around an elegant reflecting pond. Blocks of pristine Maine granite glow on raked white sand. The mood is Zen, exquisitely free of crowds.

DSCN9498Farm to Vine

We love farmer’s markets, and Bar Harbor’s outdoor Eden Market is no exception. The array of dewy vegetables, fruits and flowers, fresh seafood, smoked meats, goat cheese and local wild berries is a sensory feast. Go early to catch the aroma of 44 North Coffee whose artisanal flavors mix with salty Maine air to outstanding effect.


Visit College of the Atlantic, an expansive Maine gem nestled on the craggy coast.  After graduation, the college is serenity itself, another great spot for a picnic or seaside stroll. Originally the headquarters of Acadia National Park, the little onsite Museum of Natural History displays the natural world of Maine in exhibits designed by college students.  Call ahead to make sure they are open – hours are quirky.


Our favorite off-the-beaten-track breakfast is at Café This Way. Hang out with locals under paintings of cows by Monmouth artist Neiley Harris, moo. Try the smoked trout eggs Benedict  or The Harney, corned beef hash with poached eggs. The café’s enormous breakfasts will cure whatever ails you – just show up hungry.

Fiore IITasteful Tides

Lined with small steel casks of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars, Fiore offers samples of artisanal blends and infusions. Choose a favorite – my newest passion is the cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar, sweetly aromatic – a bright, tasty mixer or “shrub” for vinegar cocktails.

Northeast Harbor’s Fiore outlet has added a gourmet shop, Tasteful Tides, where we sourced a beautiful picnic of crusty bread, smoked bleu cheese, robust lentil cakes and briny olives. Nothing beats a beach picnic on a summer afternoon. Northeast Harbor can also be a soothing respite from the sometimes-overwhelming Bar Harbor crowds.

stay_suite800600Nautical and Nice

When Sarah and her sisters were little, we camped at beautiful Mount Desert campground. Times change, and sleeping on the ground no longer has the same appeal. Fortunately, there is a wide range of accommodations in the area — from the elegant downtown West Street Hotel, with its unique rooftop pool and views of Frenchman’s Bay, to self-catering “green” cabins in lovely Southwest Harbor. The beauty of being a Mainer is the off-season, when out-of-reach accommodations become affordable, and Main Street is ours again.

DSCN9227Sip and Savor

Enjoy a true Downeast feast at Stewman’s Lobster Pound. Although there’s nothing amazing here, Stewman’s offers an authentically messy Maine lobster feed – imagine lobster juice dripping from your elbows and a view of lovely Frenchman’s Bay. Put on your lobster bib and go for it.

End the day under the romantic twinkling lights in the garden of McKays pub. If you’re feeling very brave, taste the jalapeno infused vodka and wait for the delayed reaction.

DSCN9243Yep, it’s right there, Pineo Court, behind the China Joy on Main Street – a great excuse for a memorable intergenerational roadtrip. •

Posted in East Coast Travel, Farm-to-Table, Food and Wine, Lobster, Maine Travel, New England Travel, Retro-Travel, Sustainable Travel, The Other Portland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Savor the SoPo Strip

DSCN2676Another tasty summer DIY tour was an afternoon stroll of SoPo’s Cottage Avenue “strip.”

Terra cotta CapreseOur mostly-walking tour begins at Terra Cotta, a gourmet market and take-out mecca saving busy people from Ramen and Lean Cuisine one delectable meal at a time. The menu features handmade pastas and prepared foods like lasagna, alfredo, picatta and parmegiano, plus creative veggie-driven indulgences like eggplant napoleons. Tasting is encouraged — we sample velvety balsamic vinegar and dark green olive oil.

20140327_893138.xml-otto3We pop into a refurbished gas station just up the road to find beloved Otto’s Pizza. The butternut squash, ricotta & cranberry pizza, above, tastes just as good across the bridge as it does downtown. The potato-rosemary is also a bridge-worthy favorite. Otto-SoPo’s filling-station ambiance is hip and retro, and it’s fun to sit semi-outside with the “garage bays” rolled up.

elsemere BBQAcross the road is Elsemere BBQ with tasty pulled pork, chicken and brisket. My clever daughter theorizes that barbecue is perfect recession food — flavorful, abundant, feeds a family. I would add that it’s satisfying and decadent — right up my alley. Elsemere’s creators, native Mainers, have nailed recession-buster fare beautifully — a great addition to the So-Po strip.


Or settle in for a wine-soaked dinner at Enio’s (formerly Rachel’s in Old Port and Woodfords incarnations). Owners Bob and Laura Butler have created a familiar yet surprising menu. Don’t miss the silky chicken liver in a jar. Their calamari sauté is my long-time go-to — comforting, and cheaper than a therapist. Laura’s orecchiette with sausage is generous and robust. Bob’s a real “wine guy” and delights in sharing his savvy, table side — he is the relaxed, anti-sommelier. I am so glad this dynamic duo is back!  •


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