Last week, Meredith and I made the quick trip down to Biddeford to try the newly reopened Palace Diner. There had been no shortage of buzz about the delicious food coming from Maine’s oldest diner car in the past weeks, and the social feeds of our friends in the food industry have been overflowing with pictures of heavenly glazed doughnuts and piled-high breakfast sandwiches, so when we finally found a little room on a random morning, we decided it was time to give Palace a try for ourselves.
Co-owners Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell have created something special in the old mill town. Taking one of the most classic of American dining styles and establishments, and then injecting an attention to detail and flavor completely foreign to the prefabricated diner world, it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. The menu still has the diner staples holdover patrons have come to expect – pancakes, bacon, eggs, and coffee – but take one bite of the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Deluxe, an english muffin breakfast sandwich with baked eggs and jalapenos, and there’ll be no question about the value added by that extra care for ingredients and preparation. The Brown Butter Banana Bread, Palace Potatoes, and Tandem coffee are just further examples of this that we tried during our visit, but we’d be willing to bet that every menu item holds true to the same standard. After spending some time speaking with Chad and Greg, hearing about the adventure that opening a diner has provided, the passion for creating and serving their take on an American classic, and their excitement about the upcoming Palace dinners, we couldn’t be more impressed with what Palace is quite literally bringing to the table.
The vast majority of us probably have one memory or another about visiting that ‘locals only’ breakfast joint in our hometown as children, maybe that same hole-in-the-wall place every Saturday throughout college, or even that quick stop on the way to work these days. While stepping inside the 1920’s rail car in Biddeford does feel comfortable and familiar in that wonderful déjà vu way, we’re almost certain that your meal will completely redefine the way you look at a diner breakfast going forward.
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Meredith and I often get emails and comments from Map & Menu readers asking for help in planning their own Portland adventures. While we love that people are finding and using the site for the exact reason we created it – to be a tried and true travel resource – we’ve only had a few first-hand accommodation experiences in our hometown of Portland – all from before we moved to Maine, and long before Map & Menu. Thus, when we saw one of our favorite branding agencies in town share some of the recent work they’d done for a new Portland inn, we quickly searched for more information and reached out to its owners to setup a visit.
The Mercury Inn has many of the things that typically draw us to the places we stay on our travels – creative taste, a clean aesthetic, cozy accommodations, and great branding. During our tour of the property, we had the chance to speak to the co-owners, Tim and Jake, about their experience in running, then renovating the previous inn at the State Street location, and their passion for the food and service industries that led them toward owning a bed and breakfast. After managing what was formerly the Wild Iris Inn for part of the season prior to re-opening as the Mercury Inn, Tim and Jake began to renovate according to the experiences they had gleaned from patrons, the property, and the sustainable vision they had brought with them. The design of the interior came from Tim’s sister’s firm, Landing Design & Development and has a clean, contemporary feel that meshes perfectly with the branding done by Might & Main. Details like the custom Sea Bags pillows, roman numeral door lettering, and large-printed shower curtains add fun accents and give the space plenty of its own personality. On top of being within walking distance to some of our favorite restaurants in Portland’s West End and on Congress Street, Tim and Jake use their culinary experience to provide homemade breakfasts to visitors, which we’re looking forward to trying at some future date.
We’re thrilled to add the aptly-named Mercury Inn (Mercury was the Roman patron god of travelers) to our list of places to stay in Portland. We’re sure that given it’s design and comfort it’ll be the perfect fit for many Map & Menu readers in the future.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.Leave a comment
This past weekend seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye! On Friday night we cheered on the Tarheels with our friend Julia, a fellow Carolina alum living in Maine, and eagerly made plans for the following NCAA tournament game on Sunday. The following morning we attended our first spinning class at Rêve which proved to be a great workout and made us feel not nearly as guilty for ordering popcorn at that afternoon’s showing of The Monuments Men. Sunday morning was spent reading the paper and indulging in treats from our neighborhood bakery before I left for Freeport with Orvis and our friend Betsy, to go visit the lambs at Wolfe’s Neck Farm. Watching them gnaw on the wood of the barn and sleep with each other in a pile was too much fun, but seeing Orvis share nose kisses with both a lamb and a sheep was definitely the highlight of our visit! Plenty more college basketball was watched on Sunday evening and after the Tarheels sadly lost their second round game, we decided to drown our sorrows in our favorite takeout from Empire – kale noodles & dumplings.
We hope you all had a wonderful first weekend of spring… even if the weather was less than spring-like for some of us!
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.8 Comments - Leave a comment
When Michael found out that he’d be headed to Atlanta for work, I quickly made plans to join him. Having not been to the city in a number of years, I was excited to reacquaint myself with Atlanta after reading so much about how it has grown and changed, and all of its new offerings. A sprawling city, Atlanta has developed a number of unique neighborhoods with delicious restaurants and delightful shops, mostly within a short ride of one another. Together, between work commitments, and also on my own, we explored so many different places and had an absolutely lovely time. Even with all of the places below, I feel like there’s still so much remaining in this interesting town, and can’t wait to return again (maybe next time with Orvis in tow)!
It’s fitting that a walk in Piedmont Park was the very first thing we did after dropping our bags off at our B&B down the street. After many trips to Atlanta growing up, I’d never visited the expansive 190 acre park, and even on a chilly winter’s day without too many flowers or green signs of spring, the park did not disappoint!
I honestly cannot imagine us planning a return trip to Atlanta that doesn’t include a stay at Stonehurst Place. The inn was stylish and comfortable, and with its close proximity to Piedmont Park and some of Midtown’s best restaurants, the location is surely hard to beat. Although a trip in the height of spring would allow us to enjoy the beautifully landscaped property and spend more time exploring the darling neighborhoods nearby, it’s hard to imagine a time of year that a stay at Stonehurst Place would be anything short of idyllic. Read more about our stay at Stonehurst Place here.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to start a trip to Atlanta than with a meal at Empire State South, easily one of Atlanta’s best restaurants. We’ve been cooking out of chef Hugh Acheson’s cookbook: A New Turn in the South for the better (and more tasty) part of two years. We met one of Michael’s co-workers for an early dinner, and had an amazing time sampling the farm-to-table Southern-inspired dishes. The ‘In Jars’ selection of spreads was perfect to split for the table while catching up and sharing laughs, but judging by the absolute silence once our entrees arrived, I don’t think we could’ve possibly been happier with our meal.
The food scene in Atlanta cannot be beat and the people we met were so kind, but my walk through the Virginia Highland neighborhood is truly what made me fall in love with this sweet Southern city. Read more about the Virginia Highland neighborhood here.
Luckily for me, Design*Sponge published their 24 Hours in Atlanta with Ginny Branch while I was planning our trip. It was an overall great resource, but the very best part of the article was Ginny’s advice to try one of Miller Union’s famed ice cream sandwiches. My chocolate coconut macroon ice cream sandwich easily lived up to the hype, and the pimento cheese & arugula toast I had wasn’t too shabby either. Lunch at Miller Union, complete with the ice cream sandwich, seems like the perfect fuel for an afternoon of browsing Atlanta’s Westside Provisions District.
Visiting wine shops in a new city is one of my favorite pastimes while traveling, even if with shipping/airline rules, it doesn’t make too much sense to purchase anything to take home. I love seeing what wines catch a merchant’s eye, and the different regional tastes of the cities we visit. Although given the style and selection of Perrine’s it was inevitable I’d be a fan, I hadn’t even had a chance to browse their collection before I fell for her shop, as I was greeted by her happy puppy, Maddie. One of the most beautiful wine stores I’ve ever visited, Perrine’s is a gem – I saw wines I’ve never seen outside of California (like Peay), bottles of Banshee that brought me back to our trip to Sonoma, my go-to Poggia Anima varietals, and no less than a dozen I wish I could have taken home with me right then.
The idea of visiting Atlanta and not stopping in the Ann or Sid Mashburn clothing shops was never really an option for me. I’d been wanting to see the eponymous shops of this Atlanta-based wife & husband clothier duo in person since seeing these photographs my friend, Ali, shot for Matchbook Magazine. Visually, both stores are stunning, and the collection in each one is classic and timeless. My only regret is that Michael was working at the time and missed out on visiting Sid Mashburn – something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.
Upon walking out of the lovely Steven Alan shop, the delicious smell of sweet onion confit led me through the doors of the delightful Preserving Place, a beautifully appointed cooking school and preserve producer. I chatted with owner, Martha McMillin, who showed me where the cooking and classes take place and ended up purchasing a jar of Woodford Reserve julep sugar that I thought might be a safer bet for my carry-on than a jar of the sweet onion confit that I can credit for getting me through the door. I can hardly wait for spring to properly arrive in Maine to give it a try!
A recommendation from Atlanta-based blog, The Love List, JCT Kitchen was just the spot we wanted to share with Michael’s friend & co-worker, who wasn’t quite as familiar with the regional cuisine, having grown up in Germany. As we finished our classically southern meals (shrimp & grits for me, fried chicken for the men, and a plate of deviled eggs to share) it became clear why JCT Kitchen and the al fresco bar upstairs seemed to be the place to be in Atlanta on a Thursday night.
This one was an unexpected surprise of the trip! I’ve owned the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook for years and have always wanted to visit the original scoop shop in Columbus, Ohio with my family in the Buckeye State, so discovering that there was a Jeni’s in Westside Provisions was just too much for me. With deliciously creative flavors like Birch + Marshmallows and signature flavors such as The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, we were in heaven – so much so that we may have gone here two nights in a row…
While researching things to do in Atlanta I happened upon this post on the blog of Steven Alan written by the couple of The Southerly and made a point to re-visit Atlanta’s oldest cemetery, a place I’d toured with a school group when I was younger. Although I didn’t have too much time to wander around the historic cemetery, I admired the landscaping and green spaces that make it one of the more beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited.
Across the street from Oakland, and another recommendation from the couple of The Southerly that I really wish I’d been able to share with Michael, the only real coffee drinker of Map & Menu. I cabbed down here on my way to see him speak (!) and instantly regretted my decision to visit Octane before Michael’s presentation, not afterwards when I had an abundance of free time to enjoy the beautiful space, delicious drinks, and scrumptious baked goods.
A sweet instagram follower suggested we visit one of Atlanta’s Yeah! Burger locations and we were so thankful that she did! To celebrate Michael’s successful presentation, we cabbed over to the Virginia Highland location and ate our fill of some tasty burgers & fries. My Yeah! Veggie burger and Michael’s All-American burger with bacon was the perfect excuse to take a long post-lunch stroll around a neighborhood (Virginia Highland) I couldn’t wait to share with him.
The famed oyster bar has been on my must-try list for a year or so, probably since I read about it Bon Appetit or Conde Nast Traveler. At times I’d wondered if I’d built it up in my mind, but now, after eating one of the more memorable meals in my life there, I know that just simply isn’t possible at a restaurant like The Optimist. This final dinner of ours was easily our favorite meal in Atlanta, kicked off with two of the best cocktails we’d had on the trip . Our waiter expertly guided us through his favorites on the menu and even convinced me to try the octopus, which although hesitant from past octopus experience, I tried and loved. Delicious Rhode Island oysters and tasty fried rice accompanied the grouper I ordered and the swordfish Michael selected – both incredible dishes. But the show stopper of the evening, which is truly saying something, just might have been the bite-sized hushpuppies, served “beignet style” with powdered sugar and cane syrup butter. They were most definitely the best hushpuppies I’ve ever eaten, and I’ll undoubtedly be scouring the internet and cookbooks for a recipe in the next few weeks.
As is often the case on these weekend trips, we didn’t have the chance to visit every spot on our list. My biggest regret was missing out on Taqueria del Sol (a favorite of my friend, Alexis), and I also heard great things about Antico Pizza, Ecco (thanks, M!) and Holeman & Finch in Decatur. A trip up the road to Buckhead would have been equally as fun with a stop at one of my favorite art galleries, a tour of the Atlanta History Center, and a meal at King & Duke.
Are there any other Atlanta highlights we missed? Please share them in the comments below – we’d love to hear your favorite spots in what has become a favorite city to visit!
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.6 Comments - Leave a comment
How is it that I visited Atlanta a number of times as a child and young adult without really starting to fall for the city until now, my fourth or fifth trip? It’s probably because my visits were limited to activities like sampling Coca-Cola at the World of Coke or watching Braves games at Turner Field, instead of experiencing some of the city’s delicious restaurants or exploring the quieter areas of town. Regardless, I have a newfound appreciation for this sweet Southern city and it’s largely because of my morning spent wandering around the Virginia Highland neighborhood. (I should also add that the historic Midtown neighborhood I walked through to get there was also lovely, but there’s just something about the charming bungalows of Virginia Highland that I cannot get out of my head.)
I happened to walk up Cooledge Avenue upon entering the neighborhood and I immediately texted Michael, who was working at the time, that I’d found the most dreamlike of streets in Atlanta. Little did I know, there are dozens of blocks just as charming as Cooledge in the neighborhood, although none that I saw with a Little Free Library (pictured below) or street paved with brick.
Photographing the homes of Virginia Highland didn’t come quite as easily as it did for me during our walks through Charleston – the area feels a lot more lived-in than the sprawling mansions south of Broad. I loved exploring the streets of this neighborhood, a part of town named for the intersection of Virginia Avenue and North Highland Avenue, that I ended up bringing Michael back the next day. Together we selected our favorites on each street – a craftsman (or seven) here, a contrasting modern home there – as we walked back towards Piedmont Park.
If you’re in Atlanta and love looking at homes and daydreaming as much as I do, I highly recommend a little walk through Virginia Highland – you won’t be disappointed.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.2 Comments - Leave a comment
Every now and again on our travels, Michael and I feel like we’ve truly stumbled upon a place to stay that simply seems to be doing everything just right. Every detail and design element seems to be carefully thought of, and our trip always ends with mixed feelings of happiness from the comfort of our stay and sadness that it must come to an end. Last week, Michael and I had the opportunity to visit one of these ‘finds’ – Stonehurst Place in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood – and though our stay was short, we left feeling as though we’d discovered a true southern gem of a bed & breakfast, one that we just couldn’t wait to share with y’all!
There’s a surprising amount to cover when describing this six-room 19th century craftsman. Owner Barb Shadomy has done an unbelievable job restoring the home to its original charm, while still providing any and all of the modern comforts one could want. Everywhere one looks, they’ll find a balanced blend of that historical framework, finished with modern accents. The main floor plan is essentially as it was more than 100 years ago, while the furnishings and art enhance the aesthetic in a more contemporary fashion. We took our time browsing the inn’s impressive art collection, an extensive, non-exaggerative “museum-quality” body of work curated by the owner that includes pieces by Andy Warhol & Pablo Picasso, among many others. Our room, the Gables Suite, was open, spacious, and filled with natural light. Details like the lettered room name on the door, the fresh cut wildflowers, large classic wooden desk, and the comfortable leather lounge chair only added to our delight, and it honestly seemed as though the art in our room was made for the two of us.
Innkeepers, Lori & Paul Worrell, were just another wonderful part of our stay at Stonehurst Place. Their warmth & southern hospitality is evident in many aspects of the inn, from the delicious breakfast the couple prepares each morning to the conversations they shared with us and the other guests during our visit. We particularly enjoyed hearing Paul speak of the green initiatives at Stonehurst Place, including the modern rainwater harvesting system which now produces purified drinkable and usable water – the first of its kind for hotel properties in Atlanta.
I honestly cannot imagine us planning a return trip to Atlanta that doesn’t include a stay at the Stonehurst Place. With its close proximity to Piedmont Park and some of Midtown’s best restaurants, the location is surely hard to beat. Although a trip in the height of spring would allow us to enjoy the beautifully landscaped property and spend more time exploring the darling neighborhoods nearby, it’s hard to imagine a time of year that a stay at Stonehurst Place would be anything short of idyllic.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.6 Comments - Leave a comment
The very best part of returning home from any trip – no matter the length – is picking up Orvis from camp. Traveling without him is never easy on us – we’re constantly wondering what he’s up to while we’re away, but seeing his face after a weekend (or week!) away is easily the highlight of the entire trip. I returned home a day early from our trip to Atlanta (where Michael spoke at WordCamp ATL!) and picked up Orvis by myself. After his first bath experience at the dog shop down the street from our house, I started the post-travel spoil routine: lots & lots of treats, some dog yogurt, and plenty of time outside. There might have even been some Sunday morning cuddling on the bed, which is technically not allowed at our house, but something I couldn’t resist after admiring how clean he was… oops!
We have lots more to share about our time in Atlanta, including a peek at one of our newest favorite bed & breakfasts and the low-down on the very best (!) hushpuppies I’ve ever tasted… Check back tomorrow for the first of our Atlanta posts and don’t forget that you can keep up with our adventures on instagram!
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March’s “spring forward” daylight saving time has become a celebration for Meredith and I in recent years. After a full winter of lunch posts and dimly-lit dinners, all at once the light returns to our suppertime, and it’s Map & Menu business as usual. In the days leading up to daylight saving time, we anxiously sift through our dining choices and make a reservation for a (still somewhat early) dinner date that we know will taste exquisite and look spectacular. This year, there was hardly a question of where that reservation would be – Portland’s Central Provisions.
Central Provisions is one of the latest in a stocked season of great openings in Portland. Piccolo, Hunt + Alpine, and Miyake Diner have already deservedly garnered rave reviews and national recognition, but after a couple of meals at Central Provisions, there is no doubt in our minds that they belong near the top of the list of Portland’s best restaurants and bars. Owners Chris and Paige Gould have done an exceptional job with both the space and the menu, and bar manager Patrick McDonald and wine director Chris Peterman have put together an amazing selection of drinks to boot. In fact, this is the one thing that stands out to Meredith and I about our experiences at Central Provisions more than anything else – how equally fantastic each part of our meals have been. The space gives credence to the historic nature of the building, the drinks – whether beer, wine, or spirit – are well chosen and deliciously crafted, and the food is simply outstanding. Try the farm fresh bread and butter, the yellowfin tuna crudo that’s a delight to both taste and see, the savory suckling pig, the perfectly seared scallops, the brussels sprouts, the croquette, the spicy fried Maine potatoes, the beet salad, the shrimp a la plancha… it’s not an exaggeration to say that you should try everything on the menu, you absolutely won’t be disappointed. Typically, when describing a restaurant’s drink menu, I use a colloquialism like “wash it all down with…”, but at Central Provision, this simply doesn’t do the libations justice. Whether it’s a cocktail from their house menu or their prohibition-era list (Meredith is obsessed with the Fancy Gin Cocktail), a pint of their great selection of beers (like the in-demand Bissell Brothers Substance IPA), or a glass of wine from their wine list, we wager you’ll be as enthusiastic about the drinks as you are the eats.
From literal top to bottom (the dining room is on the Fore Street-facing second floor, while the bar is on the Wharf Street-facing first) Central Provisions provides one of the best dining experiences in Portland, and we simply couldn’t be happier to see the city’s selection continue to grow and improve – we’re going to need those extra hours of daylight just to keep up.
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Our friend, Li, is such a gifted photographer – her Bali photos are awe-inspiring, aren’t they?
Michael’s headed to Austin, TX for work next month and I’m hoping he’ll have time to visit at least one of these places mentioned in Design*Sponge’s 24 Hours in Austin guide.
This post on Dear Friend makes me want to drive down to Boston’s South End right away and visit all of the darling shops she’s featured.
We’ve lived in Maine for over five years now, so I think it’s high time we add The Salt Book, featured on ACL this week, to our library.
What are you all up to this weekend, friends? We realized this week that we launched Map & Menu two years (!) ago tomorrow, so we’ll surely have to whip up some sort of celebratory cocktail to commemorate the occasion. Happy weekend!2 Comments - Leave a comment
Over the weekend Michael and I had the extraordinarily rare opportunity to attend the wedding of two of our friends as guests – no cameras involved, and in the Florida Keys no less! This little glimpse into life as an ordinary wedding-goer was truly wonderful and allowed us plenty of time to explore the islands that make up the village of Islamorada. The following are a few of our Islamorada musts if you ever have the chance to visit this part of the Keys.
We read about M.E.A.T. in an issue of Travel + Leisure, but our friends also included it on their wedding website as well, so it seemed like a no-brainer. Our burgers (mine was topped with pimiento cheese and a tomato jam and Michael’s was stuffed with pimiento cheese and bacon) were delicious and the Nutella shake we shared for dessert sent us on our way, as happy as could be. The thought of squeezing into our swimsuits (in front of people!) after such a filling meal didn’t even matter – we were stuffed and pleased to be so.
The wedding festivities were all taking place at the Postcard Inn, so this was a natural choice for our weekend’s accommodations. This oceanfront resort had quite a bit of character and charm for such a large hotel. Recently renovated, it’s retro, cheerful decor was a pleasant place to rest our heads, whether in the room, or laying out at the beach.
On Saturday morning, we woke up in Islamorada looking for a small adventure, and decided to drive down south of Marathon for a walk on what was once considered the 8th Wonder of the World – the original Seven Mile Bridge to Pigeon Key. Read more about them here.
After our walk to Pigeon Key we were more than eager to enjoy a nice meal outside, complete with a couple of refreshing cocktails. We found the perfect setting at the Morada Bay Beach Cafe where we enjoyed a picturesque view, some of the freshest tasting mahi-mahi we’d eaten in quite awhile, and two perfect warm weather vacation drinks – a mojito and a rum punch.
While researching Islamorada in preparation for our trip, I kept coming across articles about Moorings Village and just had to see the cottages & bungalows that make up this idyllic property in person. After lunch at the Morada Bay Beach Cafe across the street (part of Moorings Village) we took a quick stroll around Moorings Village and onto their gorgeous stretch of beach. If we’d been able to extend our stay, a visit to Moorings Village would’ve definitely been in the plans.
We visited Anne’s Beach, a stretch of beach on Lower Matecumbe Key named for one of Islamorada’s most prominent environmental conservationists, at high tide the morning we left to head back up to Miami. The day before we happened to drive by the beach at a lower tide en route to lunch (hunger unfortunately prevented us from stopping) and caught a quick glimpse of the wide beach at low tide as well. Regardless of where the tide is when you visit, Anne’s Beach is simply stunning and worth a stop to experience (maybe even dip your feet in the warm water), even if you’re just driving down Highway 1 on your way from Miami to Key West.
Have you been to this area of the Florida Keys before? We’d love to hear any Islamorada suggestions you might have in the comments below!
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.3 Comments - Leave a comment