Hi, again. I’m back from Maine, and now we have a lot to talk about, and I mean a lot, so wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I do hope you’re comfortable, maybe with something nice to drink nearby, because, brace yourself, this post is going to be a long one.
Four days before I turned three-years-from-30, I hopped on a plane bound for Philadelphia, to connect with another plane bound for Portland, Maine, because my dad gave my brother and me his credit card rewards points (i.e., FREE FLIGHTS and one free hotel night) and I had vacation time stored up and so did he, and it was about to be my birthday and, in my opinion at least, when you’re about to be 27 and have the time and resources, you really ought to go anywhere and everywhere you’re given the chance to, so we did.
The first night there, we stayed at what was arguably the nicest accommodations of the whole trip, The Danforth Inn, in a charming room on the third floor with twin beds topped by coverlets and a bathroom where you stepped up to the tiled shower, steps from the building’s rooftop cupola overlooking the water and downtown Portland.
They gave us citrus ade and banana bread when we entered and a breakfast of eggs Benedict with lobster, fruit and oven potatoes when we left, so I liked them very much. Downtown Portland feels so small to me, like a neighborhood more than a big city, but at least it’s a neighborhood that knows its food very well.
Friday night we ate at five fifty-five, a highly acclaimed restaurant known for its emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, and we split a “knuckle sandwich” of fried green tomatoes and lobster meat, and I got a salad with goat cheese (and didn’t mind it at all, with its creamy and rich texture, aha!) and, of course, blueberries, which are very, very big in Maine.
Then for dessert was a trio of house-churned ice creams, with interesting flavors such as chili chocolate, lemon blueberry and pina colada curry.
Saturday we drove to Bar Harbor, making stops along the way at antique shops and scenic overlooks and for lunch in Wiscasset, at a diner called Sarah’s Cafe. Originally, we went inside because the line at Red’s, across the street, was too long and outside and it was hot (!), plus Sarah’s had a sign showing all the media outlets it had been featured in, so we thought, Why not?
This was a good decision because those crab cakes above? Best thing ever. I didn’t even know I liked crab cakes until I had them, but their crisp, fried crusts and soft, creamy insides won me over, totally and completely, and if I am ever in Wiscasset again, I will go there and order exactly the same thing.
That goes for the blueberry crumb pie, too, by the way, which had a sweet, brown-sugary, oatmeal-type crumble mixed with gobs and gobs of fresh blueberries, all crowned with vanilla ice cream, and I ate every bite, until I was beyond full, and I walked slowly out to the pier outside, where we watched boats and the water.
Dinner that night was a little forgettable, so we’ll move right on to breakfast the next morning, at Jeannie’s in Bar Harbor, where we both ordered the blueberry pancakes featured on the menu with a former customer’s quote about their being the best, and they were huge (!) and especially good topped with the homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam on the tables.
Sunday night, after we CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN (and I’ll have to tell you that story later), we drove through the rainstorm effects of Hurricane Bill to Camden for my favorite meal of the entire trip. In both the mountain and the rain, I feared for my life, I really did, and I like to think Paolina’s was the reward at the end of the struggle. (We took these pictures the next day, when all was quiet and sunny and peaceful.)
It is an all-local, all-fresh, all-organic restaurant that I love, as thoroughly as possible, first because of the kind staff that made us feel like friends while we waited for a table (our soon-to-be waitress came and introduced herself and asked if she could get our drinks, even before we were in her section).
And then because of the food (not only natural and fresh, but also some of the best steak, tender and flavored with rosemary, and crisp oven potatoes I have had, ever) and finally the atmosphere, as we watched the owner come out and sit with guests, surprising someone with a special meatball, for which the table cheered and smiled, turning the music up loudly when someone liked a song, and we received our bill, tucked into a laminated card with this written on it (which makes me crazy happy):
There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other’s cooking & say it was good.
So you know, if I were going to have a restaurant, I’d want it to be just like Paolina’s, and, if you ever have the chance, you have to go there and see what I mean. Please promise me.
OK, so we’re nearing the end of our eating in Maine — have I lost you yet? I hope not, because the last dinner was really something special and not just because Adam treated (happy birthday to me!).
While we were looking at the posted menu in the lobby of Fore Street, a stranger came up behind us and said, in the way that friendly Maine people do, it seems, that we absolutely had to eat at this restaurant, it is amazing, it is the best food in the nation, and, now having eaten there, I think I see what he means.
First of all, this place is gorgeous. Like, GORGEOUS. Exposed brick walls, huge windows that create stunning natural light, tables that give you a view right over to where the food is being prepared.
As far as food, everything on the menu has been chosen with the mindset that local is better and that the less time between farm and table, the more intense and real the flavors will be. I ordered a roast chicken, and, given that I have been reading Julia Child’s My Life in France over the last few days, I still had her words, “It should taste good and chickeny” in my mind, and that’s what this was: a celebration of the natural goodness of what a chicken should taste like, right next to a sweet piece of cornbread and eaten with the side we ordered, salted fingerling potatoes in a white-hot cast iron skillet.
We also shared a tomato tart as an appetizer, which was a puff pastry topped by perfectly ripe sauteed tomatoes and the richest, creamiest goat cheese mixed with herbs; and a chocolate dessert so rich and creamy that all I can fully remember from the daze it put me into is that it had a chocolate cookie crust and came with pistachio ice cream or gelato, and, honestly, it was too good to put my fork down once I started eating.
Actually, you could say I didn’t put my fork down once since we arrived, as even now I’m leaving out great breakfasts we had at other inns, chocolate cookies from Standard Baking Company below Fore Street, my first donut from a Tim Horton’s and my first Chik-Fil-A fries since 2001.
Or really, maybe I still haven’t put my fork down, even after turning 27 yesterday and returning to routine today, because, at least as long as I’m able, I hope I never will.
For more photos of what and where we ate in Maine, click here.
And don’t forget to check out more of our foodie travels now!
Places featured in this post:
Bar Harbor, ME:
Photos by Shanna Mallon, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on August 29th, 2009. Last updated: March 17, 2018 at 7:55 am.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
30 thoughts on “Four Days in Maine”
Oh wow! This food all looks amazing. I’ve never been to Maine, but now I really really want to go.
Wow! Maine looks delicious. Thanks for the great tips! Hopefully we’ll get there some day!
The food looks so delicious. You could easily turn this into a travel essay.
Wow! You had such a trip and food-fest in Maine! Lovely pics!
When I go to Maine (because I will go there someday), I will use this as my food guide. That food looks and sounds spectacular! And, as I mentioned before, I am proud of you for trying (and liking) goat cheese! And for braving a rainy mountain adventure, even though it was mildly terrifying. I had a mildly terrifying hike/bouldering adventure this summer as well, and while I was saying “oh crap, I don’t think I can get through this” to myself a lot, I got through it. And that makes me happy.
Glad you had such a wonderful time, and glad you’re back!
Happy Birthday! One of my favorite things about living in Boston is its proximity to Maine. I try to get up there at least once a year and always (ALWAYS) find it as enchanting as you did. I’ll add these restaurants to my list for the next trip!
Hahahaha – the thing that stuck out most – I expect to hear about the climbing of the mountain! My first time doing that was a month ago in CO, and dear lord… I’m thinking your reaction was very similar to mine 🙂 And goodness, it’s just not fair; I totally want to redeem some nonexistent miles and make my way out to Maine. It sounds gorgeous, and what place can be bad with that much good food?
Yes! Five fifty five! In the fall when the mussels are awesome, they make the best mussel appetizer I’ve ever put in my mouth. In fact, it’s what converted me to liking mollusks. Glad you enjoyed my home state 🙂
PS, 555 has a friendly rivalry with a gastro-pub in Westbrook called Frog and Turtle (which you should check out next time you’re in Maine), and the chef at F&T calls it “the triple nickel.” Cracks me up.
Sounds like it was a great trip!
This all sounds pretty swell. I love Maine. I’d really like to visit again and eat at all of these places!
you had me at eggs benedict with lobster.
Fore Street is amazing. My fam used to vacation in Maine. I would NEVER want to live there, but I loved going up every summer.
what a great food-centric birthday trip! everything looks amazing 😉
It looks like you had a great time! All of that food looks amazing.
Ok, can’t wait to hear about the mountain climb! 🙂 Beautiful pictures, and it looks like you had a beautiful time, too! Happy birthday, friend!
did these restaurants pay you to give them such great reviews? cause they should! i so want to go to Maine now
First of all, I can’t believe you all read through this long post! But second, I’m glad you did!
Alejandra, Go. Seriously. The food alone makes it worth it.
Antonietta, Hopefully indeed!
Vicki, You are sweet. I feel like our travel essays were such a long time ago!
Amrita, Food fest is the perfect way to explain it! (most of my vacations end up this way)
Kim, Thank you! You inspired me, and I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone a little with goat cheese – and the mountain, although, oh my gosh, I would never choose to do that crazy climbing thing again, even though looking back is a good feeling!
Emily, I just want you to know that I could name five reasons living in Boston is a good thing, right off the top of my head, and that’s even more I went to its neighbor Portland. I LOVE Boston so much, and you have my envy for calling it home!
Caitlin, Right? Food makes things so much better. And I am so glad to hear you had a crazy hiking experience, too – PS I am going to Colorado next month with some friends, to Denver and Boulder and I don’t know where else. Let me know if you have any tips!
Adrienne, What a fun story about the restaurant rivals! If I ever go back, I’ll def try F & T. Thanks!
Whitney, Yes, it was!
Johanna, I love the word swell. And I love vacation. Go back to Maine – it’s beautiful.
Jacqui, Right? You would have LOVED them. It was my first experience with eggs Benedict, and I liked it.
Joanna, I never knew you vacationed in Maine! And, like I e-mailed you, your comment about never wanting to live there made me laugh. Hey, if we survived backwoods Wisconsin, we could do Maine, right? When I own an inn someday, you’ll have to come.
Cindy, It was and thank you!
Hannah, It’s SO nice to just eat out for a few days, especially at good places, and enjoy someone else’s effort. Great way to vacation.
Sue, The story is coming and it’s a doozy. Seriously praise God I am alive because it was touch and go for a while and I have the bruises to prove it!
Emily, HA! No, but if any restaurant is reading this and wants to pay me to come eat at your place, feel free to e-mail me. In all seriousness, I will always say when I get things free or discounted because of the blog. This trip was all us (and rewards points) but I loved it so much I wanted to tell you all. You’d love Maine.
i’ve been DYING to go to maine for years….you’ve inspired me even further!
You would love it! Go! Did you hear Portland was recently named top foodie city in the nation by Bon Appetit? They looked for a place that had a great small-town feel while also offering quality food. No surprise Portland won!
I just wanted to say- love the blog. Am trying to do the same thing by sharing a love of food and everything else here in New York. I do have to say- it was great to find another Maine/ Portland lover. I spent last summer cooking in Maine and it was AMAZING. Will be posting some Portland foodie pics soon too! Thanks for the post!
Sapna, Thanks so much for your comment! I just checked out your blog and love that you recently changed paths in favor of culinary school. Sometimes I dream about doing that. 🙂 Nice to (blog-)meet you!
I’m from Bangor, and know Maine quite well. I highly recommend The Maine Diner in Wells. It’s located in southern Maine on route 1. Have the lobster pie or the seafood chowder.
So pleased you went to Maine. It’s so beautiful there, and as you found out, the food is delicious!
I now live in California but visit my home state every year. I make sure I fill up on lobster and steamers while I’m there.
Susan, Thanks for that comment! I can’t believe it’s been a year already since we were in Maine. I would love to go back.
I actually live Portland. The food here is truly amazing. It’s astounding that I ever get the motivation to cook for myself when I have so many favorite resturants around. If you ever find yourself back here, may I suggest The Porthole for breakfast, Silly’s for lunch and Sonny’s for dinner. You also must make a special trip to Federal Spice for the yam fries; served warm dusted with sea salt and sugar (dip them in a saracha/ketchup mix). The Porthole is a tucked away local’s staple. It’s warm and cozy and does breakfast right. Silly’s is funky and fun. Get yourself a What’s Shakin’ Bacon milkshake. And at Sonny’s…if there ‘s tamales on the menu that night…they are an absolute must.
Thanks for those tips, Lauren! It’s always great to hear from someone who’s local and knows what’s good. I hope I will find myself back in Portland again! : )
Flatbread: I know this is a fantastically late comment, but if you ever make your way up to Portland again you have got to go to Flatbread. It’s is my aboslute favorite pizza place and the atmosphere is fantastic as well. (http://flatbreadcompany.com/2007Home.htm)
Wild Burrito: The burrito place across from my old work is also something to experience – it’s definitly, as the name suggests, wild – at least in decor 🙂 – just look for the flourescent green sign near Congress & Forest 🙂
Cool–thanks for the tips!
So happy I made my way to this post via your Atlanta post! There’s too much to love from this trip of yours to Maine. You made it to Paolina’s Way before it closed – something I never got to do. I photographed the wedding of the owner’s daughter a few falls ago and I absolutely love that family. And how is it that we find ourselves in Wiscasset like once a month and we’ve never had pie at Sarah’s? Mmmmm! That needs to be remedied very soon!
I’m glad you left this comment because it’s got me reminiscing, thinking back to this trip (and to Paolina’s! I’m so sad it’s closed now!). But ps you photographed the owner’s daughter’s wedding?! I love that so much.