Four years ago, our trip to Montpelier Plantation on the island of Nevis, served as a major source of inspiration for Michael and I to launch Map & Menu, and just a few weeks ago, we finally had the chance to return – this time shooting some imagery for the very place that opened our eyes to what the hotel experience could be. Although we felt a sense of comfort returning somewhere we’d been before, there was also a unique excitement accompanying that comfort, since we knew exactly what was waiting for us at the end of our 13 hour journey to the island.
Many of the reasons we originally fell in love with Montpelier in 2011 are still there, largely unchanged – Kaddy’s rum punches, the friendly, welcoming staff, pre-dinner cocktails with other guests, the beautiful pool, the ancient mill, and that timeless weeping fig tree that guards the entrance. And although we’d be just fine feeling as though the property and our experiences there had fallen into a bubble of forgotten time, we were greeted with plenty of newness on this trip – the colorful new rooms, the peaceful private beach, the small modern updates, and friendly new additions to the staff.
It’s reassuring to know that your memories of a place and experience can actually be improved upon by returning, and although this new time we spent on the island will serve as a brand new set of memories that we’ll fondly think back on, its easy to view each trip to the island as a set of building blocks toward a greater timeless experience, where you dream about your return in the time between. In the words of our waitress, Vanetta, as she tried to cheer us up at breakfast on our final morning, “you have to leave to come again.”
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The last time Meredith and I visited Montpelier Plantation on the island of Nevis, we were so caught up in the serenity and relaxation of the inn that we didn’t even venture down to their private beach during the course of our brief stay! We made sure to not make that mistake again on our most recent trip however, and spent an amazing day in the shade outside our cabana… cooling off in the clear water after walks on the beach in the sun, and enjoying our picnic lunch on the sand, accented by a few rum punches. We’ll be writing more about our trip in the coming days, but we felt that there were few better ways to kick of the posts than by reliving this saltwater daydream.
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A couple of weeks ago, Meredith and I had the opportunity to sit down with Palace Diner’s Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell for the first of a new interview series that we’re starting on the site. We were particularly excited to kick off the series with Chad and Greg, after they recently closed the diner for a month for some much needed rest and two pretty amazing trips. Chad spent his vacation with friends in Panama and Toronto, while Greg and his fiance Meg traveled west to southern California, Hawaii, and the other Portland. After an (always) outstanding meal at Palace, we spoke with them about their trips, their travel styles, and the community they’re building around the diner. The way that they both use food and cooking to get a better feeling for an area’s culture is something that Meredith and I can certainly appreciate, while their authentic, relaxed approach to exploring the places they visit will no doubt serve as inspiration on our own future trips.
M&M: Of your trips, do you have any that you might consider to be the most memorable?
CC: This trip (to Bastamentos) was a particularly good one for me, especially because I was visiting a friend who’s been in this totally foreign – totally foreign to me – culture, so I was able to show up in a situation that would normally be really intimidating for me and just be at home. His girlfriend’s family welcomed me, I got to meet all of her huge extended family, I got to party with them, I got to eat with them everyday, I got to get to know all of his friends there and that part of the experience is pretty rare for someone traveling to a place that’s that foreign. It made it pretty special, having access to foods and all sorts of cultural experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t visiting him.
GM: Similarly with what Chad’s saying, a lot of traveling I do at this point, it ends up working out well but it’s definitely because of financial reasons, too – you end up traveling where you have friends or family and it turns out to be a really great thing because you’re immersed in the culture. Probably the most memorable memory from my trip was visiting some friends from Los Angeles who are both botanists and they took us out to Joshua Tree National Park and gave us a botany tour of the park. We picked up a bunch of ingredients at this Mexican supermarket in Pasadena before we left and went camping in Joshua Tree and made a Mexican taco feast in the desert, camped out, and drank beers. That was probably the best food experience of the trip. In thinking about the trip, we ate a lot of really great meals out but the most memorable one was just being out in the middle of the desert and grilling.
M&M: You just returned from traveling, so you might not even have an answer right away, but are there any places you’re hoping to visit next?
CC: This part of Canada around Maine is really fascinating to me and I’d like to explore it a bit. Across the border in a few different areas, but I would love to go farther north and east. I also like the idea of going up there because there are parts of the experience that are really closely related to living here, but the differences really stand out in a fun way because of that similarity.
GM: I really want to do a Southeast Asia trip and check out Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and probably parts of Thailand. I think that part of the world is becoming more and more popular for people who like to travel and people who like to eat, and I would love to see parts of it before they’re totally destroyed by tourism. I know the north of thailand is less touched than the south, and even that’s a popular place right now. I’d love to get there before the next ten years of tourism make it less interesting. I love Asian food. I like to cook Asian food. I like to eat Asian food.
M&M: What about your perfect day off in Maine – what does that look like for you?
GM: I wake up really late and come to Palace Diner and watch everyone work… No, I had a pretty perfect day off yesterday. It usually involves two or three things – one is a great breakfast which is usually not at home – I like to cook at home, I just don’t like to cook breakfast at home because we do so much of that here. We went to Saigon and got banh mi for breakfast, took our dog for a walk in the Standish, Sebago Lake area, and then came back to town and went food shopping and made an awesome dinner. That’s the trifecta. Something outdoors like a good walk and two good meals – two of the three pillars are good meals.
CC: Sleeping in and going out to breakfast is a great start. A motorcycle ride at some point – whether it’s to get from point A to point B, or just for the hell of it. That is a great thing.
GM: Yes, when a motorcycle ride can be intertwined with your outdoor activity that’s even better. A summer evening motorcycle ride for a drink or dinner, that’s nice.
CC: Going to the beach in the summertime, going to Ferry Beach. On my days off I like to be social at least one part of the day – whether that’s going to a party or having people over for drinks. To me that’s my day off, hanging out with people.
M&M: And cooking at home, you like to cook Asian food at home, Greg?
GM: I attempt to cook Asian at home. I have no background, I’ve never worked in an Asian restaurant. I have a few cookbooks.
CC: We both bought rice cookers this past fall.
GM: Chad got one. That sounded awesome to me. I really love Asian food and there’s not a ton of it around here – there’s a few places to go for certain things, but there’s not a huge variety of Asian food in Maine, and it’s very different from what we do here so I enjoy the challenge. We cook a lot of American, fun, rich foods here, and when I’m at home I want to eat spicy rice, different meats, lots of herbs, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime. I just crave those flavors all the time, so on my days off after being here and snacking on tuna and eggs for five days straight I just want to eat nothing but Asian food.
CC: I’m a much less ambitious home cook than Greg. I cook a lot of – think of it as healthy bachelor pad food. Simple vegetables, rice. If we make breakfast at home, just pancakes or eggs and toast. I like to eat very simply. When Rachel was away for a month this past fall, that’s when I bought the rice cooker. And that’s how I found myself eating brown rice and vegetables, things that came together pretty quickly and were really healthy.
GM: The other thing I like to make is pasta. I worked in Rome for a bit, so Roman pasta is cacio e pepe, alla gricia, carbonara, and for me those dishes are very homey and simple. I can whip up a simple Roman pasta in 15 minutes and that’s a good trick to have up your sleeve.
M&M: What are your go-to restaurants in Portland?
CC: The Phoenix did a thing about my go-to restaurant a couple months ago and I think many of the other people that they interviewed for this series chose more high-end places and I chose Pizza Villa which is by far my favorite restaurant. I go there at least once a week, hang out and get beers, catch up with friends, or hang out with Rachel. I love it there.
GM: My current favorite is Saigon, a super simple family-run Vietnamese restaurant. They have really great pho. After being in a restaurant, you don’t always want to have a restaurant experience. I don’t always want to be presented with a very thoughtful service. I just want to get a bowl of noodle soup and talk to my fiance or friends. We went to Huong’s the other evening on St. John’s and it’s the same thing, the service is simple and the food is tasty, and back to Asian food, it lends itself to sharing. It’s a fun cuisine to go out and share with friends.
CC: Greg & I go to meetings at Becky’s, too. We like it there.
GM: If I want a nicer meal, I tend to end up at Eventide. I like what those guys do a lot.
At this point, the conversation meandered for a little bit while we discussed favorite restaurants, keeping up with the growing Portland food scene, and and the community of regulars they’re building in Biddeford.
GM: When you get to build a sense of community in a restaurant or cafe, it’s pretty awesome. When Tandem first opened in Portland, it was a spot where we’d both grab a coffee and end up spending an hour there because all your friends were there or because you’d meet new people and make friends there. When we opened this place, we thought how cool it would be if that happened here, and to not only see that happen here but happen in Biddeford makes us really happy.
M&M: It’s even more special because people are having to drive a bit further to get here.
GM: It’s a huge compliment to be 20 miles south of a thriving food city and people are leaving it to come eat here. It shows promise.
M&M: Do you have any holdovers from the old Palace?
CC: There’s a handful of people, that it wouldn’t matter who owned it, they’d come in.
GM: There are the real holdovers, the guy who comes in and says he hasn’t been here since 1950. We had a guy who came in last weekend, pretty surly and he looked miserable, wasn’t being very friendly, and he hadn’t been in for years. We get these old timers occasionally where they see a review and they don’t get it. they don’t understand what’s happening with all the tattoos, and the young people and the music. I think, for me, the most satisfying customers are those ones that we then serve our flapjacks and they’re like “oh, this is a delicious stack of flapjacks, I don’t give a shit about anything else. I’ll be back.” That’s really satisfying. Our prices are a little higher, the quality of our ingredients is a little higher, so when an old timer can recognize that we make some damn good food and that they’ll be back even though it’s more money than the place around the corner, it’s awesome. There are a lot of people who get what we’re doing and think it’s great – that’s what keeps us going, but it’s a lot of fun when someone doesn’t get what you’re doing but they still can see that you’re doing a good job making food and making people happy.
M&M: What is your favorite Palace dish to cook or eat?
GM: I think my favorite thing to eat is the Deluxe and my favorite thing to cook is flapjacks. I get a lot of satisfaction out of making perfectly round, perfectly golden flapjacks, and they smell delicious – that smell never gets old.
CC: The Deluxe is probably my favorite to eat. Our food is so simple to cook. I just enjoy that process, cooking as a whole. There’s not just one item that I look forward to cooking. I do like assembling the fried chicken sandwich, actually. That’s a fun one. Every time we put it in the window, I love looking at people’s faces when they see it. People laugh and smile. I love that we are able to create that moment for people.
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If you’ve ever visited our old 18th century Cape, you already know that space is at a premium. So when our old wooden countertops started to look like they needed replacing, we sought to make as few layout changes to our already optimized kitchen as possible. (See before photos here and here.) The open kitchen and dining room also serve as a focal point in the floor plan, where we entertain guests and spend a good deal of our own time, so we wanted to give the room a consistent, put-together feeling. Not having the budget for a complete overhaul, we decided that updating our existing Ikea cabinetry with a fresh coat of paint would allow us to find a nice Carrara marble for our counters and backsplash. Thanks to a very generous wedding/Christmas gift from our family, we were also able to update our old, mismatched refrigerator in the process.
The new, cool blue/grey color palette gives the kitchen a classic, minimal feel, and when combined with replacing the microwave with an over-the-range hood, opens the room up a great deal. (Yes – we’ve actually lived without a microwave for over six months now, and surprisingly haven’t missed it yet.) I love the way the cabinet’s deep blue color changes with the day’s light, while providing a strong contrast with the walls and counters. All in all, we’re very pleased that just a few changes (countertops, paint, and updated refrigerator/faucet) went such a long way toward improving a room where we love to spend so much time.
Wall paint: Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White
Upper cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore Super White
Lower cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore Gentleman’s Gray
Marble: Midcoast Marble & Granite (adored them!)
Refrigerator: Fisher Paykel
Art: Calligraphy “ABC’s of Cocktails” print by Li Ward & Popham Beach photograph from the print shop
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.12 Comments - Leave a comment
The more we travel, the longer our list of places to revisit gets. Simple, right? But how often do you really have the chance to return to a cherished location? And with the whole world open to you, how do you justify returning to a place you’ve already been over an entirely new experience?
It seems as though every time I open one of the travel publications we receive or blogs we follow, I present Michael with a list of a good 3-5 new places we simply have to visit. (It’s a wonder he hasn’t gone and cancelled the subscriptions by now!) Of course, we don’t have the time (or the money) to visit the dozens of places I read about each year, not to mention the growing list of locations that have captured our hearts on previous trips. So how are you supposed to fit it all in?
I’m afraid there isn’t really an answer that we’ve found, but isn’t that what makes travel so incredibly special? Whether you’re visiting an entirely new location or making your way back to a place that’s refreshingly familiar, it’s a luxury that many of us work toward. Recently, Michael and I were presented with the opportunity to return to the Caribbean island of Nevis, a place we visited together in 2011 before we even had the idea for this site. We’ll be doing some work for the inn where we stayed during that trip, Montpelier Plantation, arguably one of the hotels that opened our eyes to what the hotel experience could (and should) be. We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to return to such a uniquely special inn and look forward to sharing the work we do there upon our return.
We’re curious – are there any places that you have returned to or hope to revisit someday? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.8 Comments - Leave a comment
Derby weekend is the perfect excuse for me to mix up my favorite spring cocktail, the mint julep.
I love seeing the world through the eyes of my friend, Alex. Her photos from a recent trip to Portugal are amazing.
Bookmarking this travel guide to Santa Barbara.
Attending our first game at Fenway is on our 30 by 30 list, so these photos of Anna’s from a recent Red Sox game have me very excited to cross that one off our list.
Happy weekend! It’s supposed to be a beautiful one here in Maine. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have enough energy after tomorrow’s yard sale to play some tennis and do some gardening … oh, and definitely drink some mint juleps.1 Comment - Leave a comment
Francine has been on our list of places to eat in Midcoast for ages, after years of hearing about friends’ fantastic meals there. So when I scheduled a couple of shoots in the area earlier this April, I hopped on the phone and secured a reservation that seems to have been years in the making at the charming French bistro.I promise that the wait was more than worth it though, as everything we ended up tasting that night – from the White Negroni & Moscow Fuel drinks with which we started, to the rich and creamy crab risotto we shared, right through to the final bites of my perfectly crisp chicken and Michael’s fish – was nothing short of fantastic.
Midway through devouring the pine, black butter, and sea salt mussels appetizer – a dish that has set new, very high standards for mussels for the two of us – Michael proclaimed, “it doesn’t get more Maine than these ingredients!” True. But the same could be said about the meal itself. The largely locally-sourced food, was honest, unpretentious, yet deliciously memorable, not unlike Maine itself. It’s no wonder that Chef Brian Hill is repeatedly recognized by the James Beard Foundation and featured in national publications – what he’s creating in Camden at Francine and in Rockport at Shepherd’s Pie is a delectable homage to Maine’s natural beauty and flavor.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.2 Comments - Leave a comment
When the James Beard Semifinalists were announced in February, followed by the final nominees last month, Meredith and I were thrilled to see Maine chefs and restaurants represented so well on the list. In the past, we’ve enjoyed and written about our meals from many of the nominees, so when San Pellegrino reached out to sponsor a post about their Sweet Finish Dinner Series, celebrating the Rising Star Chef of the Year category (which includes Maine’s own Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan and Bao Bao), we were very excited to share the event:
S.Pellegrino® Sweet Finish Dinner at Tao Yuan
Reflecting its passion for excellence and long-time commitment to emerging culinary talent, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is proud to support the Rising Star Chef of the Year for The James Beard Foundation Awards.
Event Details: On Wednesday, April 29th, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water will be inviting diners at Tao Yuan, in Brunswick, to join them in celebrating chef Cara Stadler’s James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award Nomination. In honor of this accomplishment, the first 50 tables seated for dinner service will receive complimentary S.Pellegrino and dessert. Diners are encouraged to share their memorable dining experiences on social media, offering well wishes for chef Cara Stadler at the James Beard Foundation Awards, to be held in Chicago on May 4th.
S.Pellegrino is dedicated to supporting rising leaders in the culinary industry on a national and global level, with exciting programs, including the S.Pellegrino Young Chef and S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competitions.
S.Pellegrino is a premium sparkling natural mineral water that flows naturally from a thermal spring in Val Brembana, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, in the territory of San Pellegrino Terme, near Bergamo (Lombard).
Since opening, Tao Yuan has become one of Brunswick and Maine’s more prominent restaurants, and chef Cara Stadler, one of Maine’s more prominent chefs. When her second restaurant, Bao Bao, came to town this past year, Portland gained a delicious new dumpling option – one that Meredith required little arm twisting to visit to grab the photos for this post (the Asian slaw was a favorite dish and must-try from our last meal at Bao Bao). It’s incredible to see a chef in Brunswick garnering such national attention in a category whose nominees are almost entirely from cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, and Los Angeles. We wish Cara the absolute best of luck and can’t wait to celebrate her nomination at Tao on Wednesday. We hope you’ll spread the word and look forward to seeing you there!
This post was in partnership with S.Pellegrino, but all thoughts and opinions are our own. Be sure to check out S.Pellegrino on Facebook and Instagram, and thank you for supporting Map & Menu’s partners, who help to make this adventure of ours a possibility.
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Loved this peek into the daily life of one of my favorite designers, Julia Leach.
We discovered the lovely Turkish towels from Loomed while we were in New Orleans a couple of years ago and have enjoyed keeping up with them since. Check out their brand new site and this adorable profile on Camille Styles.
Truly stunning photos from friends, Graham & Samantha, during their family trip to Sonoma & San Francisco.
Favorite home tour of the week!
A riff on this delicious dish has been added to our regular meal rotation – so good.
Happy weekend! Spring is finally starting to make an appearance in Maine, as evidenced by the gorgeous star magnolia blossoms above that I happened upon while shooting in Portland yesterday. I plan to soak up as much of it as I possibly can this weekend and hope you all can do the same.Leave a comment
Michael and I spent this past weekend making croissants for the first time. My birthday was on Sunday, so I figured that there would be no better time to request that we spend a full weekend popping in and out of the kitchen, preparing these delicious, buttery treats! We began by making the sponge on Friday night, and spent a chunk of saturday rolling, resting, and folding. On Sunday morning once the dough thawed from its overnight in the freezer, we got to work with the final rolling, cutting, and forming of the croissants. We even made our own pain au chocolat by folding bits of chocolate into a few of the croissants!
Once we took our first bites of pain au chocolat, fresh from the oven and oozing with chocolate, our fear that perhaps we’d wasted an entire weekend tending to these croissants disappeared completely. Of course, they didn’t taste quite as good as the dozens of croissants we ate while we were in France a few summers ago, or our go-to croissants we pick up from Scratch on the weekends – but that didn’t matter one bit, they were our croissants and they were delicious. Though to be completely fair, five sticks of butter could make just about anything taste amazing, right?
Here’s the recipe we used from Frenchie’s featured in a recent issue of Food & Wine. We’re eager to start comparing and experimenting with other recipes… because we’ve gotten way too used to the idea of starting our mornings with warm croissants and apricot jam.
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.4 Comments - Leave a comment