Foster's Market Durham

Foster’s Market is one of our favorite lunch spot when we’re visiting friends & family in Durham. We lived right down the street from Foster’s Chapel Hill location when we were students at Carolina, and although the two offer quite different atmospheres, the food is the same at both spots – scrumptious & fresh – and my meals there always hit the spot.

While I was down in North Carolina earlier this month, I had the chance to go to Foster’s with a very special guest – my two week old nephew, Pax. My greatest hope is that by accompanying me to Foster’s at such a young age, Pax will develop a strangely intense love for this delicious cafe, and will constantly beg his parents to take him to Foster’s like his favorite aunt does.

Honestly, I’ve never had anything I’ve been less than thrilled with at Foster’s, but my favorite lunchtime sandwich is the Fresh Mozzarella – with roasted red peppers, pesto, greens, tomatoes, and balsamic, served on a grilled baguette. Mmmm! Of course, lunch at Foster’s isn’t complete without a sweet treat from inside. You may choose from all kinds of candies, cookies (I get the Loaded Oatmeal!), brownies, blondies, pies, and more! Really, it’s a good thing that my sister and her family live so close to Foster’s. I cannot imagine a visit to Durham without enjoying a meal on the porch, or inside at one of the many eclectic seating options!

Foster's Market

Foster's Market Tomato & Mozzarella

Foster's Market Caprese

Baby Pax

Foster's Market NC

 

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El Rayo Taqueria

There are few Portland eateries more fit for a sunny summer afternoon than El Rayo Taqueria, just over the bridge at the intersection of High and York. Every year, as the dreary Maine spring starts to give way to warmer weather, El Rayo converts some 50% of its parking lot to a planter-fenced patio. Queue the live music, picnic tables, umbrellas, and cornhole, and you have the perfect summer setting, long before the first taco and beverage hit the table.

For Meredith and I, almost every visit to El Rayo boils down to the same core parts – a Dos Equis, chips and guac and fried plantains to start, one fish taco for her (which she splits into two), and two (or three) fish tacos for me. Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of fantastic things on the menu (the bowls, the burritos, the other tacos, and definitely the Mexican-style corn on the cob), but there is just something special about the El Rayo fish taco. It’s probably the fresh ingredients, the large slices of avocado, or the homemade chipotle sauce, but long story short, they’re spectacular.

I’m going to regret doing this, because I already hate waiting for open picnic tables on the gorgeous days, but I strongly recommend that the next time the sun comes out, and you find yourself in Portland, grab a seat, a drink, and a taco, and kick back to enjoy the Maine summer.

El Rayo Chips & Guac

El Rayo Plantains

El Rayo Fish Taco

El Rayo Pescado Bowl

El Rayo Maine

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Maxwell's Farm

Over the weekend Michael & I went strawberry picking for the first time as a couple. We both went with our families when we were much younger, and although we’ve visited plenty of local farms to pick up strawberries when they’re in season, we’d never actually shared the experience of picking them together until Friday.

We visited Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth – the farm we love driving or riding our bikes by in June because you can smell the strawberries right from the road. It was surprisingly busy at 9am on a Friday morning, and there were even more people arriving as we left! I followed Michael to a nice, quiet section of the fields, where we began our adventure in picking. There seemed to be quite the contest to see who could pick the most perfect looking strawberry (I maintain that I was a clear winner in this contest) – in the end, we ended up picking quite a lot of these perfectly shaped beautiful, bright berries, and have enjoyed eating them on just about everything sense! They’ve accompanied our morning oatmeal and daily salads, and have made the perfect topping for an angel food cake we picked up at Whole Foods. Strawberry pie & strawberry jam are both on our list of things to make this week as well.

Local friends should check out this weekend’s Strawberry Fest at Maxwell’s Farm, sponsored by the Cape Farm Alliance. We’ve been nearly every year since we’ve lived in Maine, and love attending. There are delicious desserts, local artists showcasing their work, live entertainment, and, of course, plenty of strawberries. Best of all – Flatbread Company is on site serving pizza out of their portable stone oven!

Most of all, if you have a chance don’t forget to run over to Maxwell’s and pick a few berries for yourself while they’re still in season. Nothing beats fresh strawberries in the early days of summer!

Maxwell's Farm Strawberries

Maxwell's Cape Elizabeth

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Map & Menu Instagram

Michael & I have been using Instagram for the last year, and we couldn’t possibly love it more! It’s the perfect way to visually share bits and pieces of our everyday life, and is definitely my personal favorite social network. Our favorite things to photograph are: our black lab, Orvis, drinks, inspiring landscapes, and scenes from our travels.

We’ve decided to begin each week with an instagram-filled blog post about our adventures over the weekend, as a way to share a bit of what’s to come and also allow a little glimpse into our daily lives.

There’s a lot to share for this first installment of A Map & Menu Weekend – we started the weekend off by going strawberry picking on Friday (more on that tomorrow!) and running in our neighborhood fun run the next morning. Because we hadn’t eaten dinner out in nearly a month(!) we enjoyed two delicious meals at two local favorites. The weather was perfect all weekend long, which had us motivated to do lots of yard work. All in all, it was a fantastic summer weekend!

Map & Menu Weekend

A Map & Menu Weekend

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Clifton Inn

Michael & I had been planning a quick getaway with Orvis to Charlottesville, VA as a way to break up the drive from North Carolina to Maine this week. Unfortunately, Michael’s work schedule became a little hectic just before we were supposed to leave last week and I ended up making the trip down south alone. To avoid the traffic in cities like New York and Washington D.C., I decided to take the scenic, westerly route down to North Carolina, which takes you through the Shenandoah Valley, and after spending 13 hours on the road, I decided to treat myself to a stop in Charlottesville.

The original plan was for the three of us to stay at Clifton Inn, as they allow dogs on the property. Even though Michael & Orvis couldn’t join me, I decided to visit Clifton anyways. What better way to pamper myself after such a long journey? I called from the road in Maryland to make a reservation, and because of the last minute nature of my mid-week request, I even received an upgrade to one of the inn’s lovely and spacious suites!

Although my stay at Clifton was wonderful, the drive through the Shenandoah Valley just before sunset was certainly an added perk! Driving through such a breathtakingly beautiful area during my favorite time of day was something I’ll never forget. The rolling, bright green hills, the pastel sky, the charming little towns – I found myself planning our return trip before I’d even arrived in Charlottesville!

By the time I arrived at Clifton, the sun had set but I was still thrilled to be there. After I settled into my suite, I sent Michael snapshots of my room, knowing he’d be green with envy about my accommodations for the night! I can honestly say, I had one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in awhile at Clifton – the bed was heavenly. In the morning I took a walk around the gorgeous property, and even spotted a deer on the lakeside trail. (Really, how idyllic does that sound?) I enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the verandah of the main house and continued exploring the grounds. Before I had to get on the road again, I took a moment to do a little reading on the porch, simply to postpone my inevitable departure.

I know I say this often when I travel without Michael, but I really do look forward to planning another (much longer!) trip to Clifton to share the inn with both Michael & Orvis. I’ve already inquired as to which of the rooms are dog-friendly, and I have a lengthy list of places we need to see and restaurants we need to try in Charlottesville! All we have to do now is find the time!

Clifton Inn Restaurant

Clifton Inn Charlottesville VA

Clifton Charlottesville

Clifton Inn Charlottesville

Clifton Blue Ridge Suite

Clifton Inn Suite Photos

Clifton Suite

Clifton Inn Suites

Molton Brown

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Wequassett Resort

Over the weekend I made the trek down to Cape Cod again for another wedding, this time staying in Harwich at the beautiful Wequassett Resort & Golf Club. Michael was unable to join me for this little Map & Menu adventure, but it was such a whirlwind trip, I didn’t even have too much time to miss him.

I arrived on Friday afternoon pretty much right after I was allowed to check-in, as I knew I wanted to enjoy the property as much as I could before departing the next morning for my wedding in nearby Harwich Port. The resort is comprised of 22 historic buildings & cottages, all of which are scattered throughout 27 acres of lovely landscaped gardens & woodlands, overlooking Pleasant Bay. My room was located in the Orchid Building, which happened to be quite close to the resort’s restaurants, beach access, and the main pool. As is often the case after I arrive at a hotel room, I squealed with delight upon walking through the door, and I eagerly began assembling my camera to photograph my charming garden view room. The room itself, much larger than I’d imagined it would be, was very ‘Cape Cod’ with its nautical red, blue, and white accents, affording a very cozy, yet upscale, cottage-like feel.

After a three and a half hour car ride, I was looking forward to stretching my legs a bit, so I set out to explore as much of the property’s 27 acres that I possibly could. The view overlooking Pleasant Bay is quite beautiful and, almost immediately, I felt a sense of tranquility just being there that very moment, looking out over the boats in the water. I continued my walk along the bay, around to the tennis courts and adult lap pool, and finished back up at the main pool adjacent to the beach, still giddy with excitement that I had the opportunity to stay here, even if only for one night.

I look forward to returning to Wequassett with Michael for his first visit – it’s too special of a place not to want to share with him! I can only imagine how relaxing an entire weekend (or long weekend!) spent at the resort would be. Perhaps we’ll need to plan another visit, once wedding season is over for me, to enjoy a little pampering at this fantastic property!

Wequassett Resort & Golf Club

Wequassett Resort Bathroom

Wequassett Resort Rooms

Wequassett Rooms

Wequassett Resort Chatham

Pleasan Bay Cape Cod

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Lobster Shack Cape Elizabeth

It was less than a day after Meredith and I moved to Maine before we first visited The Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, and by the end of our first year here, we’d been back so many times that I’d lost count.

On that first trip, I vividly remember walking up the steps from the parking lot and having the rocky coastline unfold in front of me, like I was quite possibly at the edge of the world. For a North Carolinian, accustomed to sandy beaches that ease slowly into the ocean and stretch on for miles, this scene and the feeling it invoked was completely foreign and somewhat enchanting to me, and the fact that it was the location for a seafood shack seemed almost comical.

I’d recommend the Lobster Shack for its location and scenery alone, but luckily, I don’t have to. I’d go fisticuffs with anyone who doesn’t rank the Lobster Shack’s signature lobster roll as one of the top in Maine. With just the right amount of fresh lobster meat (not an overflowing tourist gimmick and definitely not the sloppy lobster salad abomination), in a New England-style hot dog bun, with a dollop of mayo and a pickle, it’s hard to argue that they’re doing it wrong (they do have generations of experience). When you’re not in the mood for a lobster roll, I’d recommend the clam burger, but I don’t think you could go wrong with any item on the menu.

Wait in line (you’ll have to if it’s between Memorial and Labor day), place your order, grab a picnic table near the edge of the rocks, and enjoy. You won’t regret it. You can even bring your pup along, but be prepared for extra begging!

The Lobster Shack Maine

Cape Elizabeth Lobster Shack

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights

Lobster Shack Dog Friendly

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Provincetown

When I found out that I’d be second shooting a wedding on the weekend of my birthday, I’ll have to admit that I was anything but thrilled. But when that weekend morphed into a a fantastic mini-vacation in a town (and on an island) I’d never visited before (with a little work mixed in), I quickly changed my tune.

Friends had been urging us to visit the wonderfully unique village of Provincetown, at the very tip of Cape Cod, for awhile, and after spending 3 all-too-short days trying to visit as many shops, galleries, and restaurants, and trying to see as many sites and neighborhoods as possible, we’re anxiously awaiting our next visit to finish the task.

Before the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth, they first set foot in what is now Provincetown. Eventually they chose to leave for the mainland for a number of reasons, but I’d have to imagine the choice was not an easy one. Provincetown and the Cape Cod National Seashore are completely loaded with natural beauty in a wide variety of environments – protected harbors, sandy beaches, rolling dunes, coastal forests, and jagged dune cliffs. After the fishing and whaling industries died down in the area, the town developed into a thriving artist community, and to this day, local artists’ galleries line commercial street and their work can be found all over town. Meredith and I were delighted to see how dog-friendly the town was, with literally hundreds of happy dogs and their owners around almost every corner. There was so much to see and do, that even just exploring the various parts of town and taking in the quintessential Cape Cod architecture was a sizable part of our trip.

Brass Key Guesthouse

If you really want an escape where you’ll be able to unwind, but with immediate access to all of the great things Provincetown offers, look no further than this wonderful inn. View photos and read more about the Brass Key Guesthouse here.

Native Cape Cod Seafood

Five hours in the car left us hungry and needing a great way to begin our vacation weekend – enter this not-so-traditional seafood shack on the beach. View photos and read more about Native Cape Cod Seafood here.

Ten Tables

No Map & Menu trip post is complete without at least one great dining experience, and Ten Tables proved to be just that on this trip. View photos and read more about Ten Tables here.

Relish

We only ate 5 meals in Provincetown, and of those, 2 were at this fantastic sandwich shop and bakery. View photos and read more about Relish here.

Cape Cod National Seashore

A beautiful drive down Route 6 and a morning of beach-going showed us so much of the natural beauty that this area has to offer. View photos and read more about the Cape Cod National Seashore here.

Provincetown MA

Provincetown Cottages

Provincetown Homes

Provicetown Massachusetts

Provincetown Cape Cod

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Brass Key Guesthouse

When I came across the Brass Key Guesthouse while I was researching Provincetown inns, I was immediately drawn to the fact that the property is made up of several cottages and guesthouses, all of which surround the inn’s beautiful infinity pool. I was sold – how could I not fall in love with adorably sweet carriage houses and an infinity pool right in the heart of Provincetown?

The whole property, made up of nine buildings, the pool and a spa, is just steps away from Commercial street, home to most of Provincetown’s shops, restaurants, and galleries, yet it feels as though it’s much farther away. It was such a treat to be able to walk down to the end of the block to enjoy the lively weekend Ptown scene, but at the same time feel as though you’re staying at a peaceful, relaxing haven miles away.

The staff was fantastic and so helpful – every interaction with them was a delight. We loved our room, which was surprisingly spacious even though it was located in one of the property’s smaller cottages. All in all, it was a fantastic inn and we did make sure to note the dog-friendly cottages, in case we ever have the chance to come back with Orvis!

Brass Key Guesthouse Room

Brass Key Guesthouse Provincetown

Brass Key Provincetown

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Native Cape Cod Seafood Proincetown

On our way to Cape Cod, the Sagamore Bridge (one of only two ways onto the island by car) was down to two lanes for maintenance, tacking on an extra hour to the drive in standstill traffic. So when we arrived in Provincetown, we had just two things on our mind – food and relaxation. Fortunately for us, our first stop, Native Cape Cod Seafood, delivered on both.

Serving up locally sourced, fresh seafood in more ways than just fried, with an open-air seating area overlooking the beach, Native Cape Cod Seafood isn’t your typical seafood shack. Meredith and I both ordered the steamed Mussels, in a garlic and herb broth, and split a large order of handcut fries, while the stress of the work week receded with the tide. The weather was brilliant, the sun was warm, and the food and service were spectacular (when asking if they recommended if we split a side of fries or not, they simply responded with “oh, we’ll take care of you”). When we visit Provincetown again, I know that Native Cape Cod Seafood will be one of our first stops to put us back in that vacation state of mind.

Native Cape Cod Seafood MA

Cape Cod Mussels

Native Cape Cod Seafood

 

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