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Midcoast Maine

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by westie, Aug 24, 2014.

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  1. westie

    westie VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Kensington, CT
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    My Trip Report

    Countdown to 40
    August 13 – 20, 2014

    August 13 - the weather forecast for today unfortunately proved accurate, a heavy downpour continued for over 24 hours. We departed home with Brody at around 10AM with the first stop at Beaverbrook Animal Hospital where he held a reservation for an air conditioned suite. I am not sure if it were he or Ann who had the more luggage, but his included one of his lounging pads, a pillow, a variety of snacks, 2 stuffed toys, a T-shirt of mine, kibble and a can of pumpkin (don't ask).

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    We then set off in search of a cooler climate and hopefully better weather with an interim stop in Marlborough, MA for lunch. We chose to bypass a couple of chain restaurants, as well as the Main Street Cafe where we lunched last year, in favor of Welly's Restaurant on Main Street. A few trophies for best clam chowder were on display in the entry way so we both ordered a bowl of New England chowdah that proved to be creamy, but largely devoid of any clam flavor.

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    In retrospect, I derived a modicum of comfort knowing we now have experienced Marlborough's finest. ($14.73, 2.5 Spoons)

    Our first night's lodging was the Fairfield Inn Portsmouth Seacoast which proved to be a substantial improvement over its counterpart in Scarborough, ME where we stayed the prior 3 years. I used Marriott points so this night was a freebie.

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    After checking-in and a short nap, we set off for the Bridge Street Bistrot and Wine Bar in downtown Portsmouth where our arrival coincided with the beginning of happy hour, but first we needed to figure out how to use the parking meters. As we stood in the pouring rain, we were baffled as to how to work the meter that only accepts credit cards. If this had been a reality show, this evening's episode would likely be titled “The Berlin Hillbillies Meet the 21st Century”.

    We started off at the first floor wine bar by ordering a pair of merlots and an appetizer of mussels muscadet (PEI mussels steamed with herbs, garlic, tomatoes and white wine). Our server offered to serve us dinner as well, but we declined in favor of the upstairs dining room. As she mentioned, in either case she would be serving us.

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    We ordered additional glasses of wine while we perused the menu. Ann selected the daily provencal with king whiting which sounds more inviting than hake as it better known. The fish was roasted along with asparagus, capers, garlic, tomatoes, lemon, white wine and olive oil.

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    I chose a seafood stew with gulf shrimp, salmon, hake, sea scallops and PEI mussels in a red pepper, tomato, lobster and saffron laced bouillon. My entree also included potatoes, carrots and green beans plus aioli and rouille canapes.

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    The seafood in both dishes was perfectly cooked so it was flavorful and moist. I used a 50% off a 2nd entree coupon that I found on the restaurant's website. ($92.12, 4.5 Forks)

    August 14 – I was up before dawn so I spent some time on the motel's computer before setting off for downtown Portsmouth on a beautiful and crystal clear morning. A breakfast buffet is included in our room rate so we enjoyed orange juice, fresh fruit & yogurt, scrambled eggs plus sausage patties before making the short drive to Ogunquit, ME.

    As we approached Perkins Cove, I passed on the opportunity to park in a private lot for $15 in favor of $7 for 2 hours in the town-owned lot. Had we continued on another 15 yards, we would have found 2 free parking spaces. Perkins Cove is picturesque but very small so after taking a few photos from the wooden bridge, we headed off for the equally picturesque Marginal Way.

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    I found this gravel pathway that hugs the rugged coastline for over a mile to be even more impressive than the Cliff Walk in Newport.

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    On our return to the parking lot, Ann attempted to pass our parking receipt on to another visitor but was caught in the act by the lot attendant and duly admonished.

    We stopped in the Bread & Roses Bakery on our way out of town, but neither of us found anything of interest though later in the afternoon we both regretted not purchasing one of their highly acclaimed whoopie pies.

    Next stop was the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells. We followed the Carson trail which proved to be an easy one mile walk along an upland edge with a continuous view of the protected marsh and tidal river.

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    After departing the NWR, we continued on heavily congested and not particularly scenic Route 1 north until we reached Warren where we connected to Route 90 allowing us to bypass Rockland. The next 3 nights lodging were in the Schooner Bay Motor Inn in Rockport.

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    This is an older motel that has a well deserved reputation for being immaculately clean, well maintained and friendly. At check-in we were greeted by the owner and a pair of golden retrievers. I mentioned that one of our favorite authors, David Rosenfelt, had relocated to this area with 25 rescues including a number of goldies a few years ago, but the owner was not familiar with him.

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    After unpacking and a short rest, we drove to Rockland arriving in time for the 4-6PM happy hour at 3 Crow, but the door was closed at 4:45PM. The bartender (Justin) signaled that the opening hour is now 5PM so we took a short walk before returning. This bar/restaurant enjoys the same ownership as Camden's 40 Paper Co but the happy hour is limited to $2 off drinks and appetizers are not discounted. We both opted for glasses of merlot.

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    We asked for directions to Conte's 1894 Restaurant which Justin assured us was walkable. After a long trek we finally arrived though it was difficult to be certain as it is located in a residential area with little signage. The only menu is hand written on a board at the entry way and largely illegible.

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    A kindly server provided assistance explaining one chooses a protein and then a sauce since all dishes are served over pasta. Ann ordered salmon with a gorgonzola, garlic and oil sauce. I requested scallops with sausage after being told I could not order scallops straight up with a spicy sauce of garlic and olive oil.

    In lieu of fine linen tablecloths, the eccentric owner/chef provides newspapers with a bowl of salad and basket of in-house baked bread with each table setting. We opted for glasses of wine with choices apparently limited to red or white, each being approximately 8 ounces. The dressed salad was primarily of romaine lettuce with some tomato chunk topped with a little white cabbage that looked like cheese. Our bread was overdone so little was consumed.

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    Another server brought our entrees and said Conte did not want me to have the requested sauce with marinara substituted. Both entrees included copious amounts of pasta and protein.

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    Several minutes into my meal I received a smaller plate that included 7 more scallops, sausage in sauce I originally requested. Conte prepared it for comparison purposes and he was right, it was better with the marinara sauce.

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    It is unlikely anyone short of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut could finish a meal at Conte's so we observed a steady stream of patrons exiting with freezer bags full of pasta. This evening proved to be a one of a kind dining experience that we will not be repeating. ($75.25, 2.5 Forks)

    August 15 – my early morning travels included downtown Rockport's harbor area.

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    On my return to the room, I realized I had left our camera battery charger and back-up battery in Portsmouth.

    Breakfast was again included though the selection was somewhat limited. We enjoyed orange juice, fresh fruit including native blueberries plus mini quiches.

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    Much of the morning was spent running around in search of a battery charger, finally locating one in a Wal-Mart in Thomaston. The charger was functional, but too bulky so I returned it when we got home.

    We also visited a few shops and art galleries in Rockland before stopping at Wasses Hot Dogs.

    $130,000 painting?

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    There always seems to be a line but service at the window is pretty fast. These hot dogs come on a grilled New England style roll to which we added mustard, relish and grilled onions.

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    The quality and flavor were very good and you can count on them being fresh. ($4, 3 Buns)

    On returning to the room, we took a short nap before it was time to head off for 40 Paper Co's 4-6PM happy hour that features an assortment of $5 appetizers and ½ priced drinks. We parked in the municipal lot and noticed a beautiful rainbow framed the building housing the police and fire departments.

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    This being a Friday, the bar and patio were both crowded with locals though we managed to find seats at the bar. Ann ordered a pesca (bourbon, fresh lemon and basil, brown sugar, peach bitters and seltzer) while I sort comfort in a Moscow Mule (Tito's vodka, fresh lime juice, grapefruit bitters and ginger beer). Ann's was a winner, mine was disappointing when compared to the ones served by same duo of bartenders last year.

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    On the second round we both requested pescas along with an order of arancini that were delicious. ($34.10)

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    We held a 6:30PM reservation at recently opened Valentina Coastal Maine Kitchen which is located about 30 yards from 40 Paper Co. The owner warmly greeted us at the door and led us to a corner table. Dave, our server, started us off with some foccacia and a delicious olive tapenade. We decided to fore-go entrees in favor of shared small plates starting off with a salad of spring vegetables that included slivers of grilled green and white asparagus, snap and sugar peas, marinated ricotta crumbles, assorted cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs dressed lightly with a vinaigrette.

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    Next we ordered seared Bay of Fundy scallops with a celery root puree, spiced mirpoix and bacon juice as well as sweet glazed locally raised pork skewers with an apple dressed radicchio coleslaw.

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    We savored each and every bite because portion size was ridiculously small given the high menu prices. ($44.88, 4 Forks)

    08/16 – my early morning drive included watching the sun rise over Clam Cove in Rockport which is undeniably beautiful but too polluted to harvest its namesake mollusks. My tour also included Rockland and Rockport harbors.

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    Our breakfast again included OJ, fruit and quiche though the latter were more the consistency of muffins.

    We then drove up the auto road to Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park which provided an exceptional view of Camden Harbor and several islands in Penobscot Bay. I thought access to the Maiden Cliff trail was via the auto road, but subsequently learned it is off Route 52. Plan B was the easy and less scenic shoreline trail.

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    Next stop was Rockport Marine Park where we visited Andre the Seal (sculpture) and otherwise enjoyed the harbor traffic while sitting on a picnic bench.

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    On exiting, we drove to Camden where we visited the local farmers market in search of fresh fruit, but none were currently available except for wild blueberries.

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    Since we have been sugar deprived on this trip, we stopped by Laugh Loud Smile Big bakery in Rockport which specializes in cupcakes. There were several tables covered with pink boxes filled with cupcakes destined for 3 different wedding receptions to be held that day. Since we were not on anyone's guest list, we purchased a pair of cupcakes, a salted caramel and a white wedding lemon curd which we grudgingly shared.

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    These cupcakes are baked fresh daily and offer a nice balance between icing and cake. Each was delicious and might have proved to be addictive had we visited on our first day in town. ($4.50, 3.5 Napkins)

    After a short nap, we returned to 40 Paper Co for happy hour. On the first round Ann chose the pesca while I opted for a ginger (liqueur) cilantro margarita. Round two included a cab/merlot blend for the lady and Festina Peche, a white ale brewed with peaches brewed by Dogfish Head Brewery for her escort.

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    Undecided between two appetizers, we ordered both - stuffed baby artichokes with goat cheese and pancetta plus a roasted beet with goat cheese and caramelized onion flatbread. Both titillated our taste buds. ($36.05, 4 Forks)

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    Dinner, yes we still had room, was at the nearby Long Grain, an excellent Thai restaurant requiring advance reservations. We were tardy in making ours because no one there seems to answer the phone, so we were seated at the counter. Not a problem though a back-up in the kitchen developed causing us to wait approximately 45 minutes for our entrees to arrive. Ann ordered pad seaw (sweet soy stir fry with chicken, organic kale and flat noodles). I countered with pad kemao, aka drunken noodles (spicy stir fried pork belly with Thai basil, mushrooms, organic kale and flat noodles).

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    I know I have been repeating myself in this trip report, but once again both entrees were delicious. ($34.16, 4.5 Forks)

    August 17 – the big day finally arrived – our 40th wedding anniversary. The weather was not accommodating as I made an early morning drive to Lincolnville Beach in a steady drizzle.

    I decided to surprise Ann with a couple of donuts this morning only to discover the Willow Bake Shop that has been serving old fashioned donuts since 1949 serves no one on Sundays. Plan B was more of the same (e.g. OJ, fruit and quiche) at Schooner Bay.

    We were packed, checked-out and on the road by mid-morning with our first stop at Recycle Art Sculpture Garden and Outdoor Gallery in Waldoboro. It had stopped drizzling, but the ground remained wet so I toured much of the 5 acre garden alone while Ann sat in the car. Art or junk? It is debatable, but I found it interesting and would have spent more time walking the grounds had the weather been a bit better.

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    We continued on to Tenants Harbor and then returned to Route 1 near the center of Damiscotta. From there it was a short drive to the turnoff for Boothbay Harbor via River Road. There was a crafts show on Boothbay Commons so we stopped and “tent” shopped for several minutes.

    Next stop was Dunton's Dog House in Boothbay Harbor where we eventually found a parking spot and ordered 2 hot dogs with mustard, relish and chopped onions. These were smaller, slightly more expensive and not as good as those served at Wasses, but they warded off our hunger pangs.

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    We were once again staying at Fisherman's Wharf Inn for 3 nights in the honeymoon suite, aka room 218, with a view of the bay from our balcony. I had specifically requested this room as well as the anniversary discount (15%) back in January. The room is nothing special with outdated furniture, a small bathroom and old TV, but it is hard to beat the combination of location and price.

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    The best happy hour in Boothbay Harbor is held nightly from 5-6PM in the Thistle Inn's Dory Pub so we set out in a round about fashion via the footbridge to the east side of the harbor. We arrived about 10 minutes early, but there were already a few locals waiting for the door to open.

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    Sasha was once again behind the bar serving up drinks so we ordered our usual chocolate mint mojitos only to learn the chocolate mint crop failed this year. Not to be denied, we ordered traditional mojitos that turned out to be fairly ordinary. An order of PEI mussels in white wine, tomato and onion sauce accompanied by grilled bread turned out to be both both generous and delicious though the bellies, the mussels, not mine, were on the small size.

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    Ann's second drink was a Pennywise pinot noir while I chose a Daniel Gehrs cabernet – hers was okay, mine was full bodied, delicious and a veritable steal at the $4 per glass happy hour price. ($33.08, 4 Forks)

    Our choice for dinner this evening was what is arguably the best restaurant in Boothbay, Ports of Italy. We held a reservation at this northern Italian restaurant and were seated in a booth by the maitre d cum owner. I was surprised how large this 2nd floor restaurant was since it appears much smaller when viewed from the street. We requested glasses of Ramsey cabernet while we read the menu. Shortly thereafter we were served warm crusty bread along with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dipping sauce and a pair of fresh tomato/basil canapes.

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    For an entree Ann choose tagelieri alle vongole (house made angel hair pasta with local (farm raised?) little necks, garlic, white wine and olive oil).

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    My entree was chitarucci neri frutti di mare (house made black ink pasta topped with (6) mussels, (4) little neck clams, (1) medium size shrimp, (1) scallop and squid. I should have brought a few leftover scallops from Conte's. We took a pass on salads in favor of a very blah tasting contorni of spinach with garlic and Parmesan cheese.

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    Prices are relatively high, but food quality is very good as was the service. ($89.76, 4.5 Forks)

    The stars were shining as we exited so we made one circuit around town before wishing Mrs. Calabash a good night.

    August 18th – I spent the early morning hours on the internet followed by a walk around town. It had rained overnight, but the skies magically cleared by 7AM.

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    Our room rate included a breakfast buffet so we refueled with me choosing OJ, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and ham.

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    We drove to the east side of the harbor and located Barrett Park which overlooks Linikin Bay. The view from almost anywhere in the park is wonderful and there are tables scattered throughout that would be perfect for a picnic lunch.

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    Next stop was Ocean Point in East Boothbay where we parked and strolled along the road that hugs the rugged coast line. Many of the property owners take pride in the their flower gardens and the Wilson Memorial Chapel is always worth a short visit.

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    On our return to Boothbay Harbor, we parked and then took a stroll around town taking time to visit a few art galleries as well as do a little window shopping.

    When the bell struck 4:50PM we departed our room and headed for the Thistle Inn only to discover to our disappointment that it was Sasha's day off, but Ryan proved to be a capable though far less attractive back-up. We ordered a total of 3 glasses of Daniel Gehrs cabernet sauvignon with me breaking ranks on the second round by ordering a cocktail, the name escaped me, that included muddled cucumber and lemon rind.

    Dinner was at the Fisherman's Wharf Inn solely because I had an old Restaurant.com certificate that management agreed to accept. We opted to dine on the outside patio since the weather was perfect. Ann ordered an entree of 3 mini crab cakes with aioli plus boiled red potatoes and coleslaw. I opted for the twin soft shelled lobsters ($21.99) special that included coleslaw, but no tatas. We enjoyed both entrees though neither scaled any culinary heights. Service was good.

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    ($27.46, 2.5 Forks)

    After exiting the property, we walked around town with Ann stopping at clothes store while I proceeded across the street to a book store. I departed without making a purchase, the same can not be said for Ann.

    As we were on our way back to the hotel, someone took hold of my arm and led me to the Downeast Ice Cream Factory. The line was relatively short this evening so we were soon seated with single scoop cones of Bailey Island ice cream. ($5.31, 4 Scoops)

    August 19 – our last full day. I again spent the early morning hours on the internet followed by another walk around town including the east side.

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    For breakfast I chose my usual fruit and juice plus a made-by-me Belgian waffle.

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    Today we drove to Ovens Mouth Preserve which is a Boothbay Regional Land Trust property. The protected acreage totals 146 divided into east and west sections. The trail on the east side where we parked is a 1.1 mile loop along the coast that is rated as easy. We started off on the trail, but crossed a bridge and mistakenly began to follow the shore trail in the west section which is rated moderately difficult. This would have been fine had we known we were in the west section and taken our trekking poles out of the car.

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    We took another look at our map and realized our mistake but were not sure how to get back to the car without retracing our steps. Fortunately we ran into another couple who had a better sense of direction. I thanked the couple for their assistance and asked them bring food and water should we meet up again. Sure enough, shortly after we made it back to the bridge via the inland blue trail, the couple showed up having taken the longer and more difficult western shore trail.

    Though tired, we ended up completing the eastern shoreline trail back to our car though both of us were bushed. Total estimate mileage covered seemed like 15, but more likely not much more than 3.

    On our return we planned on stopping again at Dunton's but could not find a parking spot so we parked the car at the inn and considered our options. Neither of us could face the short, but steep walk up the hill to Dunton's so we made the much shorter crawl to the Red Cup Cafe. This is a very casual, family friendly cafe that was pretty busy. We shared a diet coke and curry chicken salad wrap that featured fresh ingredients. ($9.67, 3 Forks)

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    We were both exhausted so a nap was prescribed before we ventured off again in the early afternoon. I was not sure if we were up for another walk around town, but we mustered just enough strength to visit a few shops and an art gallery before stopping at the Downeast Fudge Company, aka Downeast Candies, for a square of chocolate and walnut fudge. We immediately consumed half at a nearby picnic table and discovered it was good, but a little on the stale side. ($5, 2.5 Forks)

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    Once again we retreated to our room until the chimes struck 4:45PM when it was time to drag our sorry bodies off to the Thistle Inn. Ryan was again manning the dory and he pronounced us honorary members of his crew. Ann started off with a blueberry lemonade martini with me countering with a pomegranate martini. We also devoured an order of crab cakes that were as pleasing to the palate as to our pupils.

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    On the next round we ordered glasses of Daniel Gehrs cabernet sauvignon which we enjoyed with orders of Cobb salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. The salads were beautifully plated with parallel rows of baby greens, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, bacon, blue cheese and grilled chicken. ($79.04, 4 Forks)

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    We again toured the town before stopping in at the Downeast Ice Cream Factory where we each ordered single scoops of chocolate lovers (Ann) and jamocha almond (me). ($5.31, 3.5 Spoons)

    August 20 – I again spent the predawn hours on the internet followed by one last walk around town under crystal clear skies. After packing the car, we visited the breakfast buffet with me ordering the same old, same old.

    Since we were on a mission for Brody, there were only a few short pit stops on our way home including one at Paul's Pizza Restaurant in Vernon, CT where we shared an 8” combination grinder that was consumed in the car. ($9.50, 2.5 Forks)

    I knew our cupboard at home was bare so we also made a short stop at the nearby Adams Polish Food market where we picked up a pair of golabkis and a ½ dozen pierogis for our evening meal. ($12.97, 3 Forks)

    Our last interim stop was to pick-up Brody who was so excited at seeing us that he tinkled on the floor at the Vet's. I had the same urge, but showed restraint by holding off until we arrived home.

    If you came to the conclusion after reading this trip report that we consumed an inordinate amount of good food and drink, you are correct.

    “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

    -------------------W.C. Fields----------------
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2014
  2. ShepherdDon

    ShepherdDon Tourist

    Joined:
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    Another great trip report. Thanks,

    Don
     
  3. M0rtyC

    M0rtyC Low-Roller

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Enjoyed the report. You visited a beautiful area for the big 40. Congrats.

    We dined at Brazo in Portsmouth last night. Great food town but it pales in comparison to Portland, ME.
     
    Bonus early day Downtown
    Annual end of the rodeo trip
  4. Joe

    Joe VIP Whale

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    Another terrific trip report, but now I'm hungry. Congratulations on #40.:thumbsup:

    I liked the sign at the restaurant that everything is fresh, we don't own a freezer!

    We spent 5 days in Portland last year and I really enjoyed it. I want to get back to that area again.
     
    Christmas
  5. queuetee

    queuetee High-Roller

    Joined:
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    I've done that route...so I enjoyed the pictures. I don't think we ate quite as much as you did....LOL. Glad you enjoyed it all.
     
  6. RockyBalboa

    RockyBalboa VIP Whale

    Joined:
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    Great report - thanks for sharing and Happy Anniversary!
     
  7. wam

    wam Low-Roller

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    frank, what an excellent trip report, five stars. happy 40th anniversary, those martinis looked real good. glad you held off on the mimosas.
     
  8. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

    Joined:
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    Good report! One of the best without gambling! Damn geographic location... ;)
     
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