Why it took us (or at least me) almost four years of frequent visits to Maine’s midcoast region to realize that one of its most valuable assets is its cuisine, is a mystery I might not ever solve. The wooded and craggy coastlines and quintessential small towns had already established the area as one of Mere and my favorites in Maine, but almost as if we needed a few years of culinary training wheels in the restaurants of Portland, we just recently began to expand our food-based adventures into this region. To this end, our recent trip to Long Grain in Camden proved to be as fantastic as that very first time you kick the training wheels to the curb and bomb the hill in your neighborhood with sheer exhilaration and delight.
Without the recent feature in the November/December Maine magazine, and judging by its unassuming exterior, it could easily have been a number of trips more to Camden before Mere and I even took note of Long Grain. Thankfully, that didn’t turn out to be the case, and we were able to spend a Saturday lunch devouring some of the best Asian cuisine I have ever had the opportunity to try. Starting with an order of the Spring Rolls, Meredith and I knew that our meal would be something special – the ingredients were so fresh and delicious that we were legitimately battling over the last one on the plate. For our entrees, Meredith ordered the Ginger Chicken and I selected the Chicken Pad Kee Mao, with the plan that we would share our meals in order to sample a little more of the menu. Our plan almost fell through though, as we both enjoyed our lunches so much, that sharing became a quick afterthought. I won’t pretend to understand the complexities of the dishes we ordered, but one part of our meal has stuck with me for a couple of weeks now – the unbelievable selection of wild mushrooms. From the Maine magazine article, I remembered the mention of Long Grain’s use of ”several adept local foragers”, but it wasn’t until tasting these dishes that I realized the perfect truth behind this statement. The mushrooms from our meal redefined the manner in which I view the tasty funghi, and I have spent the past few weeks scouring cookbooks for recipes that concentrate on them. I can’t for the life of me find a single complaint with our meal from Long Grain, and although the list of restaurants we’d like to try in the midcoast region is substantial, it will be hard for me to ever walk past the front door of this establishment without making a quick detour.
Camden, Maine 04843
After finishing up our delicious lunch at Paciarino the other weekend, stopping by Gorgeous Gelato just seemed like something we had to do. We like to think of Portland’s Paciarino-Gorgeous duo as an easier (and much less expensive) way to feel as though you’ve transported yourself straight to Italy. Of course, not having to sit an on airplane for hours, or sleep off jet lag, before you enjoy scrumptious, authentic Italian cuisine is an added bonus!
During the semester I spent studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I had gelato nearly everyday. No lie. There seemed to be a gelateria on every street corner, and not popping in for an afternoon treat as often as possible just felt wrong. Having started my gelato addiction fresh from the source, I remember how incredibly excited is was when I read about Portland’s new authentic Italian gelateria, Gorgeous Gelato, when it opened its doors on Fore Street just a couple of years ago. After meeting the shop’s owners, Donato and Mariagrazia, a sweet couple from Milan, I fell even more in love with Gorgeous!
It wasn’t until a few months ago, however, that we started visiting the shop quite regularly… and by ‘regularly’, I really just mean ‘a lot’. There was one span of time in the last month or so that I happened to find myself at Gorgeous four times in the course of eight days. In fact, we’ve been twice since taking the photos for this post! After each visit, I’m always reminded why I make a point to stop in for a cup nearly each time I find myself in the Old Port – it is, hands down, the most delicious and authentic gelato I’ve tasted since leaving Italy six years ago. Organic, fresh ingredients, natural flavors – what’s not to love?
Obviously, we’ve had entirely way too much gelato in the past month or two, and have become well-versed in the daily offerings at Gorgeous. My go-to cup is Dark Chocolate & Pistachio, while Michael loves the deliciously-fresh Strawberry. Recently, I had Mango & Dark Chocolate, at the suggestion of one of the employees (the sweet girl that chuckles at the frequency we walk in the door!), and loved the odd combination! Our other favorite flavors include: Gorgeous, Peach, Panna Cotta, Blackberry, and Bacio. (Gorgeous does an excellent job updating their Facebook page with their daily flavors.)
Long story short, if you’re looking for a fantastic dish of Gelato on a warm, sunny day in the Old Port this spring or summer, look no further than the gelato-toting cherub at 434 Fore Street. You won’t regret the decision!
Portland, Maine 04101
What’s not to love about this quiet town across the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis? With it’s colonial feel, federal architecture, small streets, and central square, it’s fairly easy to find yourself daydreaming about the early days of our country and the history of the mid-Atlantic region. It’s “The Town that Fooled the British” as told by local legend that during the war of 1812, the British Navy was effectively duped in their bombardment of the town when the villagers dimmed the lights in their homes and hung lanterns in the forest outside of town. Shipbuilding and oystering built the town, but now it caters more to the vacationing crowd, with small shops and restaurants lining Talbot street, and one of our favorite places to stay right on the water. As a mid-point on the easterly route to and from North Carolina, St. Michaels has proven itself time and time again as a fantastic town for a quiet weekend getaway.
Meredith and I first stayed at the Inn at Perry Cabin for a brief mini-vacation on our way down to North Carolina for the holidays, but having fallen in love with the property, rooms, and style of the inn, we can’t imagine passing through the mid-Atlantic without squeezing in an extra evening at this incredible place to stay. View pictures and read more about the Inn at Perry Cabin here.
The first time Meredith and I stayed at the Inn at Perry Cabin, we arrived late in the evening, tired from a day of driving, and settled on The Purser’s Pub out of sheer convenience and laziness… it was only just down the hall from our room. The next two dinners, we just couldn’t help ourselves from coming back for more of its great food, drinks, and ambiance. View pictures and read more about The Purser’s Pub here.
Michael, Orvis, and I first stayed at the Inn at Perry Cabin this past December on our way down to North Carolina to visit our family for the Christmas holiday. I’d discovered the property on Jetsetter a couple of years ago, and been trying to coax Michael into planning a trip down to St. Michaels, Maryland with me ever since. It worked out that for our first trip we were even able to take advantage of a Jetsetter sale and book a room for two nights at a great discount! When we decided to launch Map & Menu and finalized our plans for March road trip, stopping for a night at Perry Cabin was a no-brainer – we loved every minute of our first experience here so much.
Dating back to the early 1800s, the Colonial-style inn overlooks the beautiful Miles River off the Chesapeake Bay, and has played host to numerous politicians and celebrities (you might recognize the inn as the setting for the wedding reception in the movie Wedding Crashers). The inn’s nautical heritage is evident around every corner, and you’ll find yourself meandering around the property (an original English land grant) for hours, taking in the gardens, paths, and waterfront.
It was such a treat to return to the inn only a few months after our first visit, and while we enjoyed the suite where we stayed in December, the decor of the room where we stayed on this second trip was even lovelier – I honestly would have never even thought that was possible! We also enjoyed a much bigger bathroom, complete with a clawfoot tub, this time around too. From our experience at the inn, you simply cannot go wrong with any room, but when in doubt (and this goes with any hotel, really), do try to book a room with a clawfoot!
Given that we first visited the Inn at Perry Cabin during the middle of winter, we did not have the chance to ride the inn’s bright blue bicycles into town during our first trip. When we saw them out in front of the inn in March, we wasted no time inquiring about using them, and ended up having the most splendid ride around town before grabbing bagels at Sweetie’s the next morning.
I know we’ll be stopping in St. Michaels several more times in the coming years, simply because it’s a perfect place to stopover during our long trips to visit our families in North Carolina. Staying for a night or two when all of the hydrangeas around the inn are blooming is certainly high on my bucket list. Here’s to hoping I’m able to make room in my summer shooting schedule for a quick visit!
Did we mention how much Orvis loves every extremely dog-friendly part of the property?
St. Michaels, Maryland 21663
The first time Meredith and I stayed at the Inn at Perry Cabin, we arrived late in the evening, tired from a day of driving, and settled on The Purser’s Pub out of sheer convenience and laziness… it was only just down the hall from our room. The next two dinners, we just couldn’t help ourselves from coming back for more of its great food, drinks, and ambiance.
Recently featured as one of Garden & Gun’s “50 Best Southern Bars”, the classic charm from the hardwood floors, central fireplace, and Chesapeake decor makes the pub feel more like a club than a traditional bar and restaurant. Cozy tables of friends and couples, catching up over oysters and cocktails, an outdoor patio for drinks under the stars, and a menu that greatly distances itself from traditional pub-food, are just a few of the things that kept us coming back again and again. Meredith would be upset with me if I didn’t recommend the brick chicken, and I can personally attest to the buffalo burger, but having missed out on the fresh oysters on multiple occasions due to their popularity, you can bet that next time we’ll get there earlier and just make it a long evening.
St. Michaels, Maryland 21663
A visit to Chapel Hill is never complete for me, a self-proclaimed ice cream connoisseur, without a drive out to the Maple View Farm Country Store in nearby Hillsborough. I first discovered the idyllic dairy farm back in college when I began cycling with a few members from the UNC Triathlon Club. We’d ride twenty or so miles in this beautiful, rural area, located just a few miles from campus. Before heading back towards town, we’d treat ourselves to a scoop or two (or three!) of some of Maple View’s delicious homemade ice cream. I’m not even embarrassed to admit that riding the ‘Ice Cream Loop’ was pretty much the only reason I kept up with cycling throughout college.
During our most recent trip to the Chapel Hill area, we decided to meet my sister & brother-in-law, MacKenzie & Philip, for an afternoon ice cream cone. Michael’s vanilla milkshake was just as tasty as he’d remembered, and my go-to cup of cookies & cream was perfection. Given that this was in essence our ‘lunch’ for the day, I also decided to treat myself to a bottle of their heavenly chocolate milk. So good.
Maple View is one of those places that you visit not only for the ice cream, but also for the experience. Snacking on homemade ice cream while looking out at such a lovely, bucolic setting is something you’ll remember for a long time.
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278
When Mere and I had the opportunity to spend an evening in the Chapel Hill area on our last trip down to North Carolina, a Map & Menu post about a meal from one of our favorite towns was a given, but we were faced with the almost impossible decision of where that meal should come from. We’re far from strangers when it comes to the cuisine in our college town, but picking a single place from all of our favorites is a lot to ask. We wanted a meal with history and tradition, a meal that captured the regional flavors, and a meal that encapsulated so many of the things that make Chapel Hill such a special place for the two of us. With those criteria, a dinner from the James Beard American’s Classic, Crook’s Corner was the obvious choice for what ended up being a tasty and delightful evening.
We kicked off our evening with a couple of drinks (a frozen mint julep for her and the befuddled old fashioned for me) and a dish that strikes near and dear to this southern heart – the pimento cheese and hot pepper jelly. Many of our Maine readers might be unfamiliar with this fantastic yet underrated dish and I’d recommend Scratch Baking Co.’s pimento cheese if you’re looking to give it a try. I had heard wonderful things about the cajun ribeye, mashed potatoes, and sauteed vegetables, and every last one of them turned out to be true. Mere’s dish however, is what many would say put Crook’s Corner on the map – the famous and often-copied shrimp and grits. Many sources credit Crook’s Corner with being the birthplace of this classic southern dish, or at least the popular dinner version served in restaurants, when the meal was featured in the New York Times by Craig Claiborne. Having sampled the dish myself, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better version of it on any menu. Loaded with perfectly prepared shrimp with bacon, mushrooms, and scallions over a bed of nothing but the best cheese grits (of which we picked up a bag from A Southern Season the next morning) – we simply can’t wait to return to Chapel Hill for another fantastic meal from this classic establishment.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516
The frozen pastas and sauces from Paciarino, sold all over town, are staples for our freezer – making for a quick & delicious meal in no time at all; but why it has taken us nearly three years to actually have a meal at one of Portland’s most-loved Italian eateries is a completely unsolvable mystery. Now that we’ve made time for a sit-down meal at Paciarino however, I am confident that we’ll be back often. Probably too often!
I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year abroad in Florence, Italy, and fell in love with the sites, sounds, and definitely, cuisine of the region. I am by no means an expert on Italian food (although I do know to pronounce bruschetta with a hard “c” sound), but ever since returning to the states, I’ve found myself dreaming of another trip to Italy, largely for the meals that I so dearly miss. There are a few Italian-inspired restaurants in Portland that we’ll always love, but we both agreed that the food at Paciarino just felt more Italian than that of any other restaurant in town. The ingredients are simple, wholesome, and fresh, which, in my mind, only further supports Paciarino’s authentic Italian cuisine and motto: ‘Eat well… live long.’
We slipped into Paciarino for an early lunch on Saturday, chose our meal from the menu at the door, and grabbed a rustic dinner table by the front window. We began our mid-day feast with the bruschette and a plate of bread and their pomodoro and pesto sauces (if you’ve ever had Paciarino, you know how much of a treat this is). The bruschette was heaping with fresh tomato, basil, onion, and garlic, and had us fighting over the last piece. I was overwhelmingly excited when my ravioli milano alla bolognese arrived, and Michael loved his gnocchetti al pesto. Both meals were simply perfect.
Our original plan was to stop by Gorgeous Gelato (post coming soon!), to complete our authentic Italian lunch, on the way back to the car, but we ended up needing a walk around the Old Port (with a mandatory stop into 2 Note) to make room for dessert.
I’m so glad that we finally made the time to grab a bite at Paciarino, and cannot wait to visit again soon!
Portland, Maine 04101
When looking for a place for Michael, Orvis, and I to spend the night in the Triangle area, I knew I wouldn’t have to search for long – staying at the Fearrington House Inn with Michael (& Orvis since they allow dogs!) was high on my bucket list of places to stay after I photographed a wedding there last spring. The beautiful, historic inn is located right in the heart of the charming Fearrington Village – also home to a number of quaint shops and delicious eateries. While we were in school at Carolina, just minutes away from this village community in Pittsboro, Michael & I would occasionally drive down to Fearrington for the afternoon to browse the book selection at McIntyre’s or have some ice cream at The Belted Goat. After several trips to the village over the last few years, I was excited to finally be staying at the inn as a guest!
We were notified upon check-in that we’d been upgraded to a suite, and both of us had an awfully hard time trying to hide our excitement when we were shown to a suite that was practically as large as our house! Later we were told that the reason we’d been upgraded was because we had our dog, and they thought we’d appreciate the space – how thoughtful & splendid! (Orvis has yet to let us forget that he was the reason we were upgraded, and we’re still trying to pay him back in treats and trips to the beach!)
Our suite was incredible, and I still find myself daydreaming about the walk-in closet that was basically the size of our bedroom at home! When he wasn’t out walking the grounds with us, Orvis enjoyed the Beltie Bits treats that were left in the room for him.
Besides the unexpected upgrade that sent us over the moon with excitement, our favorite memory at Fearrington was definitely the breakfast. Included with our stay were some of the most delicious (and beautifully prepared!) morning treats. In addition to our buttermilk biscuits, croissants, and fresh peach smoothies, we had the most scrumptious meals that looked as though they belonged in a magazine - Michael chose the blueberry pancakes and I had the steel cut oats with candied lemon and a pecan & cinnamon crunch. It didn’t take us long to reach the conclusion that this was, without a doubt, the best hotel breakfast we’d ever eaten.
After writing this post, I’m reminded of just how much I loved staying at the Fearrington House, and I’ve already begun planning our next visit. It’s a good thing I’m shooting another wedding here in October, but I just don’t know if I can wait six more months . . .
Pittsboro, North Carolina 27312
When it came time for us to leave our beloved Inn at Palmetto Bluff, we thought it would be fun to plan a lunch stop on the way back up to North Carolina. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t convince Michael to make a (significantly out of the way) detour to Charleston for lunch at Husk – a restaurant I’ve been dying to visit for months now. I then thought lunch in Beaufort, SC might be a nice option, but I just couldn’t seem to get excited about anything I was finding online.
After doing a little more digging, I found the perfect spot for a quick lunch – The Pink Pig in Hardeeville, South Carolina, just outside of Bluffton. From the articles I found online via Travel + Leisure and Savannah Magazine, The Pink Pig seemed like a fantastic local hangout, somewhere I might not even think to stop if passing by.
Our meals were simple – we both ordered barbecue sandwiches, with french fries for Michael, and hushpuppies for me. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest barbecue connoisseur, but I do consider Michael to be, and he absolutely raved about the sandwich! My line of expertise is definitely the hushpuppy, and the ones we had (I wound up sharing a few with Michael, even though I wasn’t too happy about it) at The Pink Pig were some of my very favorites. Not every hushpuppy I eat meets my standards, but these were deliciously sweet with a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. When he wasn’t begging for a few of Michael’s french fries, Orvis greeted some regular patrons of The Pink Pig from our seat near the front door.
If you find yourself driving to Savannah, or staying at Palmetto Bluff, we’d highly recommend stopping in for some tasty lowcountry barbecue.
Hardeeville, South Carolina 29927