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 Way…home 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.
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.