By summer emmet
It was the poet Bobby Burns who begged for “some power” to give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us. Well, the travel section of the New York Times has become that power.
In their “36 hours” section last week, they rediscovered the charms of our homeland, even if they consider Brunswick as part of the delightful “Midcoast.” Most of us consider the Thomaston line the start of the midcoast area. On a good day we will give you Damariscotta, but that’s about it.
Here is Brendan Spiegel’s take: “The tranquil harbors and craggy beaches along Route 1 offer settings as quintessentially Maine as can be. Lobster roll with a lighthouse view, anyone?” That’s going to contribute to the Route 1 bottleneck even more. I may never get to Fowlie’s Overpriced Emporium until Labor day.
You might think that the Chamber of Commerce had hired someone to write about the area. Spiegel writes “As Portland’s arty influence creeps northward, the midcoast is flush with chic new inns, art galleries and a modern, hyper-local food scene. For visitors, that means the best of both Maines: a cool, innovative spirit that lures city dwellers from Portland and beyond blended with the laid-back Down East spirit coastal Mainers have long taken pride in.”
If you are a travel writer and want to get out of the city in August and pad your expense account, there are few better places to visit than the coast of Maine. Lately, there seems to be a glowing article every month in a national publication about the area. Could be the lobster.
No profile of the midcoast is complete without a stop (expense account) at Rockland’s (I always thought it was in Owls Head) Primo Restaurant. Once Melissa Kelly won the James Beard Award, her on-site organic gardens, greenhouses, chicken coops and pig pens have been featured in dozens of magazines and newspapers.Spiegel suggested leaving the dining room and going upstairs to “the recently reconfigured bar space for house-made wild boar salami and chickpea-fried fiddleheads. Dinner for two runs around $150.”
Travel writers can afford such luxuries. Poor midcoast folk save Primo’s for special occasions like Presidential visits or New Year’s Eve.
I was glad to see that the writer ventured out of Primo’s and off Route 1 (just a bit) to visit Rockport’s Shepard’s Pie, described as “a wood-walled former general store (that) has been remade into an artisanal pub,” whatever that means. We are told (we already knew) that “local crops are put to use in fruit cocktail infused with herbs ($10) and in snacks like fried clam tacos and pickled baby carrots.”
I have read dozens of travel stories of my area, but I don’t remember one which recommended a walk on the Rockland Breakwater, just off the Samoset Hotel. Nice.
Some of us are still getting used to it, but Rockland has become an art center. The Times lauds the Farnsworth Art Museum (naturally) and its famous works from the three Wyeths, but also recommends Assymmetrick Arts and the Carver Hill Art Gallery in Rockland, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, for their shows featuring emerging Maine artists.
The obligatory stop at Camden “Maine’s pre-eminent sailing spot” spotlighted the windjammer fleet and kayak rentals. Camden, according to the Times, has become a center for rock climbing. A few decades ago, any visiting travel writer would have lazed around Camden for days and never even mentioned Rockland. The worm has turned.
A few decades ago, travel writers would have skipped Belfast on the way to Bar Harbor. No more.
Check this. “For a town of fewer than 7,000, Belfast offers more than its share of sophisticated culinary surprises. Most notable is the new restaurant from the midcoast native Erin French, who started a hush-hush dinner club, then last fall expanded to the Lost Kitchen on the ground floor of the 19th-century home she shares with her boat builder husband, Todd.” The recommendation was then to “head down the hill to Belfast’s working wharf, home to a lobster pound and Three Tides, the closest thing midcoast Maine has to a hipster bar scene.” I bet the denizens of Three Tides were surprised to find that they were “hipsters.”
Chase’s Daily, a favorite among vegetarians like Blue Eyes (“These are my people.”) shared the spotlight. The article noted that Chase’s “ sources most of the menu from a family farm in Freedom, 20 miles inland,(and) also uses the back of the place as an art gallery/farmers’ market.”
I never saw Lincolnville mentioned in a major travel article, but Spiegel stopped at Salt Water Farm where Chef Annemarie Ahearn has established a “culinary retreat.” A visitor could “Wander through the blooming campus to learn about harvesting medicinal herbs, or hop on a boat to forage chanterelles on nearby Saddle Island. Ms. Ahearn and a roster of guest chefs teach classes on everything from pie making to chicken raising in a hip, natural-wood-filled setting that epitomizes the new midcoast aesthetic.”
I had no idea our midcoast area was so “hip.” Ah, to see ourselves as others see us. I may visit that artisanal pub now. Or maybe get some wild boar salami. Or visit Three Tides. I can’t decide.
I am so hip.