If you read my last post, you know that we spent a week enjoying Southern Maine this past month. Maine is connected with so many years of happy memories for me, many of which are tied to food. Crossing into the Vacationland state, the first stop we made was Off The Boat Lobsters in York. OTB is categorized as a seafood market rather than a restaurant, and while this is the case, they are perfectly happy to grab a fresh off the boat lobster from one of their salt water tanks and steam it right up for your eating pleasure.
You can’t get more authentic than this family run establishment! There were loads of both locals and tourists alike lining up to purchase their lobsters, and steamers for their enjoyment both immediately, and later.
We ordered up some 1 1/2 pound hard shells to be steamed while we waited.
We decided to have a small picnic about two miles down the road. OTB provided us with some napkins and little else. It was messy, but a perfect way to celebrate our arrival into Maine. The Lobster was incredibly tender, sweet and tasted undeniably of the sea.
Our next stop was the nearby Nubble Lighthouse in York, a picturesque spot, which is very conveniently located near some terrific ice cream!
Dunne’s is clearly a York institution, judging by the crowds gathering at the many open windows. I ordered a cup of mint chocolate chip, which I consumed before I had a chance to snap a pic. The young girl who helped me patiently explained all the local flavors, but alas, I stuck to an old favorite.
After getting our first taste of Maine, we continued Northwards towards Kennebunkport’s Hidden Pond (you can read my review here). We did a quick run through Kennebunkport and stopped at The Candyman just to breathe in the enticing aroma of the freshly made fudge and chocolate confections. We were still a little stuffed from our mid-afternoon snack so we vowed to return the next day.
Before we could return to The Candyman the next morning we made sure we were lined up at the world renowned Clam Shack just when they opened, so as to avoid the ever present line. We were glad we got to this busy little spot when we did. Once we ordered we sat back and watched a cross section of humanity gather to get their taste of freshly caught fried (or steamed) seafood at this local joint that has been popular since 1968. They have gotten to the point that they even deliver via Goldbelly for the folks that just can’t live without their quintessential Maine faves. Truth be told the food was good (not great) with my steamers winning higher marks than my husband’s fried shrimp and onion rings, but the atmosphere made it all worthwhile!
What else after a seafood extravaganza? Ice cream of course. We had heard loads of good buzz about Kennebunkport’s own Rococo, and they did not disappoint. After our very early lunch at the Clam Shack, we were also some of the first customers at Rococo. After little deliberation I decided to go with the dark chocolate. It was terrific. I would definitely recommend a pit stop here if you are passing through the area.
During our afternoon explorations we found ourselves unable to resist a visit to Len Libby in Scarborough Maine, home of the world’s only life sized chocolate Moose, named Lenny. Lenny is crafted from 1700 pounds of milk chocolate, and has recently been joined by a life sized chocolate bear cub. These are the kind of attractions that make me happy. Len Libby dates back to 1926, and they do know their chocolate.
Our adventuring brought us back to Kennebunkport in time for an early dinner at Mabel’s Lobster Claw. We booked late, so all we could get was early bird, at 4:45. We were not alone, the restaurant was full of those looking for a traditional Maine meal. My husband couldn’t resist the crispy Brussels Sprouts as starter, which last I checked wasn’t traditional Maine food, but was deemed pretty tasty. The Lobster Roll (on a GF bun) was served hot and doused with butter which was pretty darn tasty. In the background you can see my husband’s order of the Dutchess which consisted of scallops, shrimp, and Lobster bathed in a garlic white wine sauce and baked with a crumb topping. The corn and mashed potatoes accompanied his meal, but after stealing all my fries they went untouched.
And for dessert? What else but Blueberry Pie? I ate the filling, and my husband ate the crust- a perfect scenario.
The following day was set aside for Portland, one of the best food towns in America. There is so much good food packed into a relatively small city. Innovative, creative, diverse offerings and a very enthusiastic foodie community. There are also loads of tourists in the summer, and we hadn’t booked ahead for dinner… but I will get to that later.
We couldn’t wait for breakfast at Tandem Coffee which is housed in a Bike Shop in Portland’s West End. When we arrived, there was a loooong line out the door, which is always a good sign. People in front of us were buying tremendous quantities, and we were trying to craft our order based on the buzz around us. We settled on a cheddar jalapeno biscuit, a sticky bun, a slice of chocolate horchata (sort of like liquified rice pudding) pie and coffee to help wash it all down. The baked goods were nothing short of INCREDIBLE with the pie being pretty close to perfection (I just extracted every bit of the insides, leaving the crust behind. Absolutely worth a detour.
Finishing our feast, we were on such a sugar high that we didn’t completely freak when the loud crash we heard turned out to be a carload of very young food-loving sisters from Virginia who crashed into our car. We found ourselves consoling them while we waited for the officer to record the incident, and then shared some good restaurant tips. Thats a testament to how good Tandem Coffee is!
After the drama of the collision, my husband needed a snack, so we headed into the old Port, straight to Micucci Grocery, a Portland classic which dates back to 1949. Their Sicilian Slab Pizza is a walk-around snack not to be missed. It fortified him, enabling us to continue our daylong exploration.
it is easier than you think to escape the crowds in Portland and just be alone with the Seagulls.
Next up was Pai Yen Miyake where we have dined several times in the past. Their Japanese food is excellent, and our perch at a hightop outside afforded us a great vantage point to take in the neighborhood. If you tire of traditional Maine fare- this is the place to go. Their Shojin with GF noodles was outstanding, as was the seaweed salad and daikon & carrot salad.
Earlier in the post I mentioned that we had failed to make dinner reservations. There are terrific restaurants that during the height of the summer you cannot expect to dine at without planning ahead. These include Duckfat, Fore Street, Street & Co., Eventide Oyster and Central Provisions. We attempted to walk in to these spots and were told we had a 2-2/12 hour wait at least. No amount of cajoling would help. We ultimately were able to nab a table at Ribollita, just next to Duckfat without too much of a wait. We had eaten here before, and it is fine. Not great, and not terrible. We were grateful just to score a seat though, and round out our day of eating.
All in all, we did a pretty great job hitting the high notes of Kennebunkport and Portland on this short trip, but there are countless places we missed, and dozens we have yet to discover. Food-wise, Maine is chockfull of eating opportunities- one of my all time favorite places.