Monthly Archives: February 2011

Bar Harbor

Yesterday, on my semi-day off, I spent way too much time lost in the addictive abysmal vintage online shopper’s delight, that is Etsy.  I swooned over vintage espadrille wedges , French striped boatneck shirts and red leather Bandolino flats that are two sizes too small for me.  You don’t even want to know how long I spent in a zombie-like daze, browsing these vintage treasures that I am such a sucker for.  Let’s just say, when both my middle fingers grew numb from using my laptop’s mouse for so long and I had to switch to my index fingers, I realized my afternoon had somehow dissipated and I should have been blogging and telling you all about the heavenly food I had in Bar Harbor last summer.

So Without further ado (or more nautical-inspired, coveted vintage finds), I’ll get serious now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part IIII. Bar Harbor, Maine

 

When my dad moved to Bar Harbor a few years ago, to take a job, I had no earthly idea what “Bar Harbor” was or where it was located.  I immediately googled images of it and my heart began to take flight.  My dad was moving to one of the most beautiful spots in the country!  Lucky for me, I’ve gotten to visit twice so far (both times in the summer, when it is the prettiest and the temperature is an ideal 70 something degrees – save for last summer when it was unusually hot – in the 90s).

Bar Harbor is a beautiful marriage of mountains and water, everywhere you look and a nature lover’s paradise.  In the summertime, flowers can be found everywhere.   It’s a quaint and charming, walkable small town with adorable little b & b’s, shops and restaurants that mostly hibernate during the fall, winter and spring months and rejuvenate with the arrival of summer.  The town becomes a lively, effervescent place to be and the ideal summer vacation destination for travelers from all over the world – some, who come there just to see the beautiful stars in perfect, clear focus in the dark northern Maine sky.

This past summer, we happened to visit during the exact same time the Obama’s were vacationing and the hype and buzz surrounding their visit was exciting and evident throughout town.  There were road detours and friendly welcoming signs in store windows, and gossip about the Presidential family’s whereabouts during their brief stint.  We hoped to catch a glimpse of them but the closest we got were some secret service agents when we were walking into town for dinner.  The better side of the street was blocked off, because the President and his elegant wife were on a date at the romantic, intimate Cuban spot,  Havana’s.  We curiously gathered on the sidewalk with other onlookers, trying to peer ahead toward the restaurant for a possible sighting of an entrance or exit.  We never saw them but the energy was contagious and we enjoyed reading about their visits about town in the local papers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did some hiking in the gorgeous Acadia National Park, watched the waves at Thunder Hole and kayaked around islands.  I’m not even a big nature person and yet I loved every minute of it.  We walked around town and had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  When we first arrived, we went to my favorite outdoor spot (a must for Bar Harbor visitors, especially first-timers) – Jordan Pond House, located in Acadia National Park.  It’s been in business since the late 1800s and provides a breathtaking, sunny view of  the pond, Penobscot Mountain and other mountains fondly known as “the bubbles.”  Both times I’ve been there, we’ve eaten on the lawn at picnic tables under the sun, dining on their famous popovers and fresh-squeezed lemonade (the raspberry lemonade is my pick).  Fresh, hot, buttered popovers with homemade strawberry jam and homemade lemonade are the perfect greeters for the beginning of a Bar Harbor vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to an amazing place that delivers new meaning to the term “dinner and a movie,” – a movie theatre called Reel Pizza (my second time there), to see Inception and chow down on pizzas of our own inception while we watched it.  They only have a couple screens but have an excellent pizza menu with an infinite list of unique toppings of the freshest quality and a wine and beer menu to boot.  You can either sit in regular movie theater seats or in old couches and chairs and eat your dinner off foldable trays.  An antique Bingo board lights up with your ticket number when your food is ready.  How adorably clever is that?  It’s a must if you’re in Bar Harbor.

 

At Lompoc Cafe, we dined on dijon chili cream mussels with toasty ciabatta and draft beer, under a partially-covered outdoor patio and watched people playing bocci ball.  They have a unique and vegetarian-friendly menu with creative casual fare and a great environment to sit outside and enjoy the weather and some drinks in.  It’s a popular after-work spot and a great place to meet friends and get a couple games of bocci ball in (if you’re lucky).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dad introduced us to a beautiful artisan olive oil & vinegar shop, relatively new to town, called Fiore, which is Italian for “blossoming”.  I had a great chat with the owner who was so genuine and nice and decided I’d love to write an article about them.  (Several months later, I’m still working on it but need to get back on the ball and see what local papers in that area might be interested).  It’s such a wonderful concept, similar to wine tasting, except with olive oils and vinegars!

There are these elegant silver vats of oils and vinegars with labels like “summer peach white balsamic,” “blood orange extra virgin olive oil,” and “white truffle oil,” with tasting cups and little pieces of bread for sampling.  We tried just about everything in the store and it was all incredible.  We were dying to take home several bottles but tried to be good and just left with one – a rich, flavorful fig balsamic (aged 12 years).  We’ve been cherishing and savoring it since we got it.  I love using it in salads or making a syrup with it and eating it over vanilla ice cream with fresh caramelized figs – mmm!  Anyway, they are definitely on to something at Fiore.  It’s a beautiful shop with truly incredible products and they’re one of the few stores in town that receive enough business they are able to remain open year-round!   The balsamics are either aged 12 or 18 years and the oils are all cold-pressed and hail from Greece, Spain, Tunisia and Italy (just to name a few).  Definitely check them out online – the oils and vinegars are unlike any you’ve ever had and make perfect gifts for loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owner Pat O’Brien, proudly striking a pose for me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh and then there’s Cafe This Wayhome of quite arguably the best breakfast/brunch I’ve ever experienced.  Their blueberry pancakes are thin, buttery and crispy on the edges but still manage to retain their fluffiness and they use only the best (local of course) blueberries and authentic Vermont maple syrup.  I happen to think they’re the best item on the menu, but really you can’t go wrong with any of the other choices and the savory scrambles are incredible as well.  They also have vegan and vegetarian friendly fare.

Tucked away down a gravel drive, the space looks as if it were once an old auto garage, converted into a restaurant and it is very bright, sunny and open with colorful nature paintings on display against the burgundy colored walls.  Bookshelves also adorn the space well, giving it a homey atmosphere, appealing to both locals and tourists alike.  One wall is entirely open so you can be inside with the feeling of sitting outside if you prefer (there is also outdoor seating).    It’s the perfect scene to enjoy a memorable breakfast while absorbing the warm summer mornings, catch a floral-scented breeze and people watch.  It’s pure contentment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberries & clotted cream with brunch?  Yes please!

 

If you walk down Rodick Street in search of some dinner, you’ll find the tantalizing aromas of cinnamon and butter wafting out of the Morning Glory Bakery, as the bakers bake through the night so that customers will have sticky buns, croissants and breads for their morning fare first thing the next day.  It’s a sweet little shop that favors fresh and local ingredients and reminds me a lot of Simple Kneads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still full from our ravishing brunch at Cafe This Way, our stomachs would not allow for any treats and the heat was getting to us, so we sipped on some refreshing floral beverages – a honey lavender lemonade and a fragrant orange blossom limeade – both were very satisfying, and we took a slice of rhubarb or cherry (I can’t remember now!) pie to have for later.  (It too was delicious, whatever kind of fruit was used).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I realize the statement I’m about to make is quite a bold one, but that does not deter me from saying Mount Desert Island Ice Cream is the best I’ve ever had.  They have an arresting variety of innovative flavors like chocolate wasabi, bay of figs and sorbet as well like cantaloupe, blueberry basil and star anise grapefruit.  I ordered a cone with a scoop of chocolate, coffee and salted caramel which was to die for.  Jay had a milkshake called “The Dude,” which was a White Russian, naturally and it too was incredible.  Both treats where devoured too quickly for any photography to be considered.  I swear, it’s the kind of ice cream worth driving hundreds of miles up north for and it would be dangerous if we had any locations in N.C.  They have two locations in Bar Harbor and one in Portland and during our few days there, the Obama family also made a stop for some ice cream.  Obama endorses the coconut in this great video.

 

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Portland: A Foodie’s Delight


Before I delve into a food frenzy recap of Part III. of my Summer 2010 New England Road Trip, I must confess a few things…

One is that, my palate will never be too sophisticated for Oreos.  Especially when a craving hits me and they just so happen to be on sale (and it’s fate).  Two, is that I may have just eaten a couple of said cookie for breakfast.  Oop’s.  Also, sometimes I enjoy eating honey teddy grams, accompanied by a little cup of milk.  I promise I don’t spend all my time eating cookies.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

Part III:  Portland, Maine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the view from the back porch of Jay’s dad’s house, in Freeport, and the Casco Castle, across the street from the front of their house.  I was a little obsessed with both views.  The tower stands as the only remnant of what used to be a beautiful hotel – it burned in a fire in 1914.  I just love the fact that it looks so medieval, like it was built in the 1200s and looks like something you’d see in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Grace.  Is it a church or a restaurant?  From the outside, in it’s location downtown, in Portland, it appears to be a church and at one time it certainly was.  It was built in 1856 or 1857 and used to serve as a Methodist church.  The architecture is of Gothic revival and the church was renovated just a few years ago and turned into a restaurant.  It is one of the most unique dining experiences I’ve ever had.  When you walk in, you almost feel as if everything should be hushed and eating and drinking (especially alcohol) feel slightly inappropriate and taboo.  The kitchen is where the pulpit once was and it’s an open one, so the artful acts conducted can be seen by the diners.  While the menu is innovative and sophisticated – I ordered a cocoa rubbed salmon with cucumber and rye and wheatberries with a quail egg – (a first for me, but this tender little mauve colored delicacy tasted fishy and mushy), the food was sort of a letdown.  I actually wasn’t crazy about my dish and my company also found their food to be tasty but inferior to the atmosphere and not mountable to the prices.

I must say the clever cocktail menu, with drink names such as “Holier than Thou, “Original Sin,” and “Ave Maria” were deserving of praise.  I ordered some sort of a gin, cucumber and basil concoction and enjoyed feeling sort of heathenistic while I sipped on it in such a gorgeously controversial, possibly sacrilegious environment.  I definitely recommend visiting Grace because the experience alone is worth it, and maybe we just committed some ordering blunders and need to give it another try.  However, I think it’s more of a cocktail and appetizer destination before visiting one of Portland’s other finer restaurants (and there are endless ones to choose from).  Bon Appetit Magazine donned Portland as “America’s Foodiest Small Town,” in 2009 and that is a title not to be reckoned with, for the city’s epicurean endeavors are ones to be proud of and to be partaken in.

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re interested in treating yourself to quite arguably one of the best whoopie pies in New England, you need to make a trip to Two Fat Cats Bakery.  Not overly sweet or fancy, melt-in-your-mouth, light and fluffy, with the perfect icing to cakey cookie ratio, these whoopie pies represent everything a whoopie pie should be.  Their bubbling, rustic looking fruit pies resting on racks and shelves for a proud display are equally tempting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Two Fat Cats may be the ultimate sweets destination in Portland, especially if it’s cupcakes or whoopie pies you’re after, but the Standard Baking Company is without a doubt, an essential spot for bread.  Their croissants and this blueberry oat scone (that I just had to sample, after reading this article by Molly Wizenberg), don’t disappoint and they have other sweet staples, (biscotti, cookies, financiers, etc.).  However, I don’t feel they contest with the incredible english muffins or various other artisan boules and batards.  The fact that the owners and employees are so humble and passionate about the work they do, only adds to the charm of this place.  One of the employees and I shared a great conversation and compared the bakeries we work in (neither of them have websites and do little advertising and focus primarily on bread baking).  Contrary to other bakeries baking through the night, Standard bakes their breads all throughout the day, to better lure in patrons with the smell of fresh bread wafting from the ovens.

A panini and duck fat fries from the greatest lunch spot in Portland, Duckfat.  We actually went there on a more recent trip to Portland, this past fall.  This particular panini was duck confit with sweet chili sauce and kimchi and even though Jay loved it, I wasn’t too fond of it.  His ham & swiss was great though and the fries alone are well worth a visit.  We ate them with truffle ketchup, garlic aioli and duckfat gravy – and all were delicious dipping accompaniments.  Duckfat is an intimate but casual spot and has specials and beignets that I’d love to try next time.

 

After lunch at Duckfat, we headed right over to Miucci Grocery, nearby and picked up some wine and pasta for dinner that night.  If we hadn’t just stuffed our bellies over at Duckfat, we wouldn’t have been able to resist the freshly made, gigantic square pizza slices in the back of this classic, old Italian market.

 

*Coming Soon:  Bar Harbor*

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New England Road Trip Part II: NYC

Before I get down to business, I’d just like to share a few things I am thoroughly enjoying at the moment:

  • Lynn Hirschberg’s screen tests:  She is so skillful at capturing candid, intimate moments and weaving them together in such a way that it makes you feel like you know her subject.  It almost feels as if you’re watching in on a private moment – an honest look into a stranger’s life that you never get through ordinary interviews or watching films.  They’re all uniquely brilliant.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

14 Actors Acting

  • Greeting cards from Hello Lucky – I’ve been a fan ever since I first saw their cards at Parker and Otis, and have purchased quite a few.  I’d love to buy some of my favorites and just frame them.  They’re just so clever and cute  and have this great classic vintage look to them.




  • Entertaining the idea of making these in the very near future – I haven’t had one of those Little Debbie’s in ages and I always used to love them.  My mouth is watering as I type this.
  • I also can’t get enough of Design Sponge.  I browse that site every day and never fail to be inspired by them.  I’m not exactly a crafty person and a lot of the stuff on that site just blows me away.  I’ve never considered myself a big design buff either but the more and more I follow them, the more I contemplate getting a bit crafty from time to time, just so I can take a stab at creating something different and pretty.  I’m dying to make the Valentine’s Day Fort and wish I knew how to crochet, so I could make this:

Now for part deux of the New England Summer 2010 Road trip:  NYC

We stayed with our friend John and his partner in Washington Heights and I had a day and a half of solo exploration while they worked on edits and rewrites of John’s new play, Love Sick (which Jay was going to direct in September).  I had many places on my list and lot’s of walking to do, so I set out like a woman on a true mission, and food is always a driving motivator.  I went to Balthazar’s Bakery – a miniscule spot next to the bistro, that looks like a little boulangerie in Paris.  I bought a little bag of various goodies – a chocolate sable, a sticky bun (which I ate on a bench right outside of the bakery, melting in the hot July heat) and a doughnut.  All were delicious but the sticky bun wasn’t as soft as I wanted it to be.  I definitely plan on going to Balthazar’s one day and trying their famous fries, but since I didn’t have the right occasion or funds on this trip, the bakery had to suffice (and it did).

I was also on a quest for some vintage stores, went to the Guggenheim, walked through Central Park and devoured carnitas from the Calexico food truck, on a bench under Mexican restaurant awning in the village (in the pouring rain).  It was incredibly messy, juicy and the cheapest, tastiest Mexican I’ve eaten so far.  Food trucks are definitely the way to go.  Great food, frighteningly cheap and convenient (especially when you’re on a tight schedule with lot’s of places to see)!

Our first night in the city, John and his partner took us to one of their favorite pizza spots – an adorable place on the Upper West Side, called Patsy’s.  We all shared a couple margarita pizzas – clean and simple and delicious.

 

Afterwards, John and John took us by the famous Levain Bakery, and he was hoping we could get their double chocolate cookies but they were all out and about to close up!  We nibbled  on some cakey oatmeal raisin and regular chocolate chip cookies – which were like 90% chocolate chips  instead and they were definitely worth the hype.  I caught a secret candid shot of the bakery gals in action, donning their blue bandanas and aprons.  The cookies were devoured too quickly to be caught on camera : )

Jay and I had breakfast at one of my favorite NYC restaurants ever – Clinton St. Baking Company, and despite how crowded it was, we were able to get a table without a wait!  He got the buttermilk biscuit sandwich (with their famous biscuit and homemade tomato jam), some bacon and eggs with cheese and I got their beloved blueberry pancakes with maple butter.  Add excellent coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice to the mix and you’ve got one of the best breakfasts ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazily enough, afterwards, we chugged our full bellies onward through the East Village, in search of the Doughnut Plant.  The last thing we wanted to think about was food, but Doughnut Plant was on my list and I am serious about my doughnuts.  (Plus, we were already in the East Village, so the time to go was then).  We thought it best to get our doughnuts to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just look at those beautiful babies.  In addition to the inventive flavors and combinations, the thing that amuses me most about this place, is the fact that they only stay open until they run out of doughnuts.  I kind of like that unpredictability. We ordered a tres leche, a blackout, a blueberry and one other (can’t remember – serves me right for waiting seven months to finally blog about this).   Lucky for us, it was still morning when we went, although I wish we had arrived with empty stomachs, because when we finally did get around to eating the doughnuts late that night, their freshness had worn off.  I have to be honest here, the timing may very well be the culprit, but I didn’t feel as if Doughnut Plant lived up to all its hype.  Maybe I ordered the wrong doughnuts?  Maybe I just need to go back when I haven’t already stuffed my face with other breakfast goodies?  Maybe I’m just simple and old-fashioned when it comes to my doughnuts, and under the radar, little family run hole in the walls are my favorite.  I would definitely give it another try though.

 

 

One of my favorite things about John is that he is as fanatical and giddy over bakeries as I am.  If the two of us were to spend an entire day together, I guarantee you it would be spent running all around Manhattan, seeing how many different bakeries we can get to.  He introduced us to a charming little Italian bakery in the West Village, called Il Cantuccio – it’s the most recent of the three locations (one in Florence and one in Gigli, Italy)!

We had a lovely time talking with one of the owners (all three of them are from Italy), and she was so humble and passionate about what she does.  The N.Y location had recently suffered a fire, ruining virtually everything, on the night they had scheduled their grand opening no less!  She told us how devastating it was because she had to sit outside the bakery with her friend and turn interested customers away and then they had to rebuild everything from scratch again and delay their opening.  But things are looking up for them and if you go to this place, you’ll understand why it’s so special and worth rooting for.  Just having that conversation with the owner and hearing her story made me want to tell everyone about this place.  I had a sandwich of the freshest, saltiest, tastiest prosciutto ever, with fresh fontina on focaccia.  We also shared some biscotti, which John is crazy for.  Surprisingly, the biscotti (or “cantucci”) are very chewy and not dry or crumbly at all, because they are made without butter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still in the mood for something sweet, particularly cake, we headed around the corner to Amy’s Bread and John and I shared a luscious piece of chocolate cake with buttercream icing and that hit the spot!

I was hoping to try Butter Lane one day but the bakery was closed temporarily due to a parking violation, so next time!

There are so many other places I am eager to check out in the city and I am saving them for the next trip (which hopefully I won’t have to wait too long for).

 

More to come next time, with Part III:  Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine!

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