After spending the last four Christmas holidays in North Carolina with our families, Michael and I have decided to give Christmas in Maine a go this year. The sheer possibility of having a white Christmas sends me over the moon with excitement! Since we’ve typically spent so much time away from our house during the holidays, we’ve never seen the point of having a Christmas tree that’s anything more than the small Pottery Barn one we keep on the table in our entryway. All of that changes this year, and of course, the second after we finished our meal on Thanksgiving, I was already pestering Michael about when we’d go and select our very first Christmas tree.
We’d been familiar with The Old Farm Christmas Place in nearby Cape Elizabeth for a few years now, as one of our go-to, Orvis-approved, hiking trails borders the farm. In fact, I’m fairly certain that we started tossing around the idea of spending Christmas in Maine while hiking one weekend last December, when we saw families finding and cutting their Christmas trees at the farm next door. Set on a hilly farm in Cape Elizabeth, there are few things more Christmas-inspiring than row after row of fir trees, and the possibility that one of them is there for your living room. There was never a question as to where we would get our Christmas tree – visiting The Old Farm Christmas Place was a given.
This past Sunday we bundled up and headed over to the farm to cut down our tree. The Old Farm Christmas Place is just as charming as it sounds – the barn, wreaths, rows of trees, tractor rides, and even hot chocolate and a fire to warm patrons. Given that we were new to this whole Christmas tree farm thing, we didn’t know that we could actually cut the tree down ourselves. You have the option of tagging your selected tree and having someone at the farm cut it, or you can bring a saw (or borrow one of theirs) and do the job yourself. The staff at the farm was extremely helpful, and we got to work right away. By the time Michael was sawing away at the base of our tree and I was giving it a little push (and shouting “Timber!” like a champ), we’d completely forgotten that our fingers were numb from the cold – all we could think about was the fact that we were cutting down our Christmas tree ourselves. With a saw. Lumberjack style.
Afterwards we rode down the hill in the tractor with our tree, a seven foot balsam fir that fits perfectly in our living room. It’s lit and decorated, and once we finish it up, we’ll be sure to share it with you. If you don’t already have a tree for yourself, we highly recommend that you pay The Old Farm Christmas Place a visit!
It pretty much pains me to write this post today, because as of last weekend, The Well at Jordan’s Farm has closed for the season… so after you see these fantastic photos and hear about the delicious meal we were lucky enough to enjoy last week, you’ll have to wait all the way until next summer to enjoy the same for yourself. Let me make one thing clear though, it’s worth the wait.
A dinner doesn’t get much more farm-to-table than when you’re enjoying it at a picnic table on the farm where much of it was grown (and a community from which the rest is sourced), but don’t let it’s understated exterior and outdoor seating mislead you, the food prepared within the screened-in kitchen rivals that of any of the meals we’ve had in town. The menu is brief, but easily holds its own. There is always a chicken, seafood, and vegetarian option – based on the freshest seasonal ingredients available – and the handful of other choices follow suit. Meredith and I both started with the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, with toasted almonds, and chive oil (the small mason jars it came in were a fun nod to the rural setting). Meredith followed with the vegetarian dinner of pumpkin agnolotti, wilted spinach, and sage cream, and I settled on the lamb dish, with potato gratin and cider braised red cabbage (which I’m pretty sure I saw growing just outside the door). Our meals were delicious, and we were both filled with immense regret that we’d only have the opportunity to eat there just once this season. No worries though, you can guarantee that we’ll be there shortly after they reopen next June!
What better way to make an excellent autumn evening and delicious meal even better than by including Orvis! It was hard to say no to the opportunity to have him join us at the table, and although it was difficult for me to spare a bite, Orvis might have used those irresistible begging eyes to win a taste of my lamb – he definitely approved.
You should go ahead and bookmark this page, or make a note to eat at The Well in June of 2013 – you truly won’t regret the wait.
The Inn by the Sea, in Cape Elizabeth, and its restaurant, Sea Glass, have long been on Meredith and my radar, but living just a few miles away, we had a hard time justifying the stay (although Mere definitely tries to convince me to book a room at the dog-friendly establishment every time the house gets a little too warm in the summer or cold in the winter) and had mistakenly set both on the back-burner. So when the inn contacted us and suggested that we check out the restaurant (and insisted that we bring Orvis along for dinner!), we jumped at the opportunity, found an evening home somewhere amidst a particularly busy travel month, and made a reservation.
Set just off our favorite beach in Maine, Inn by the Sea has earned a reputation for luxury and comfort, and Sea Glass, its own reputation for creative, seasonal, and locally-sourced dishes. We opted for a seat on the deck overlooking the back lawn, and with a view of the ocean in the distance, ordered some drinks to start. I was thrilled to see a full selection of Portland’s Maine Mead Works Honeymaker meads on the menu (think delicious honey-based wine), and ordered a Dry Hopped Mead, while Meredith opted for the inn exclusive Cameron Hughes Lot 266 Pinot Noir. While we waited for our appetizers, we were treated to a tasty ricotta mousse, with cranberry, on crostini – a pleasant surprise that left us anxiously anticipating the rest of our meal.
Meredith must have loved the Roasted Mushroom Tart that kicked off her meal, with goat cheese, arugula, balsamic syrup, and a parmesan biscuit crust, because it was with only the slightest tinge of remorse that she remembered that she forgot to offer me a bite. It’s ok however, because I returned the favor with my Baked Fig & Manchego Strudel, a herb ricotta and smoked almond-stuffed phyllo pastry, drizzled in a spiced honey (man, do I love honey) that was so delicious that I devoured it in almost record time. By the time our entrées arrived, we were well on our way to realizing just how special of an evening we were sharing, and the main course just sent us over the top.
In a somewhat surprise move to me (read beef bourguignon at Petite), Meredith ordered the Rigatoni Pasta Bolognese with slow braised beef short ribs, tomato ragout, marinated olives, and aged parmesan, which I was lucky enough to have a chance to try (and try again and again!). I had a hard time selecting from what was sure to be an impossible-to-lose set of options, but decided to give the Gulf of Maine Seafood & Lobster Paella a shot. Paella is one of my all-time favorite seafood dishes, introduced to me by my father, who would make the dish every so often after business trips to Valencia (the home of the dish). Later in college, Meredith and I had the chance to visit Valencia for ourselves, and spent one of the most memorable and surreal meals of our lives, eating paella with one of dad’s local friends, in a seaside restaurant at a table overlooking the Mediterranean. Not an easy memory to follow, but the masterfully-prepared paella I enjoyed that evening at Sea Glass rivaled my meal in Spain, and framed with the Atlantic in the background, left me pleasantly reminiscent of the Spanish meal while proud of the life (and food) we’ve found here in Maine.
Our meal and evening were both fantastic, and only because we were completely stuffed were we able to turn down the tasty looking dessert menu and S’more station that the inn offers every evening. I would’ve called the evening an absolute success already, but before we headed out, we walked the inn’s path to the beach, and almost serendipitously, enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets from such a special cove to the two of us. After the sun had dropped beyond the horizon, it was with great sadness that we returned to our car, vowing to return soon for drinks in the lounge by the fireplace or the seating area on the deck before our next meal.
It would be a great oversight to not mention just how dog-friendly the Inn by the Sea is, and that we’ll definitely be adding it to our dog-friendly category even though we opted to leave Orvis at home on this particular trip. The staff was insistent that we bring Orvis (all 90 pounds of him) along to dine with us in the lounge or on the deck (we decided to concentrate on the photos and food for this visit), and during the meal we were delighted to see a few puppies with their owners. We’re thinking that Orvis might just get the opportunity to tag along for our next visit – here’s to hoping that he behaves well enough for there to be more trips after that!
It’s strawberry season in Maine, and for Meredith and I (and I’d bet anyone else familiar with this community cornerstone), that means one thing – homemade seasonal desserts at The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth. Almost four years ago to the day, Meredith and I shared our first dinner in Maine with her parents at The Good Table, and every year since, when the strawberries (and later, blueberries) come into season, The Good Table moves to the top of our list of places to eat.
Don’t get me wrong, we’d eat at The Good Table any day – their menu covers many bases from fresh local seafood, to “beef and bird”, to their tasty Greek dishes – but there’s something about a homemade piece of strawberry pie or cheesecake in a restaurant where you can practically smell the strawberries from their source at Maxwell’s Farm just across the street, that just can’t be beat.
On this visit, Meredith and I started with a Bacon Old Fashioned and a Strawberry Mojito. Typically, we’d place an order of the Irish-style Mussels to accompany the drinks, but we had come with an end goal in mind, and were saving room to get there. Meredith had the Salmon special (which I tasted and almost stole out from under her), and I had the Mixed Grill – a collection of barbecue ribs, grilled tips, and loukanico. Our meals were delicious as always, but our desserts were simply outstanding. As soon as we were seated, I had asked the waitress to set aside a piece of the strawberry pie and a piece of the strawberry cheesecake (I’ve learned from experience that a full dessert table at The Good Table is not an all-night thing), and as soon as we had finished the meal, we devoured our treats. There is something about the strawberries in the strawberry glaze pie that just seems unreal – it’s hard to explain, so I’d just recommend that you try it yourself.
Meredith and I were barely finished with our sugar coma that evening before we started counting down the days to blueberry season, though maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to squeeze in a few more visits before then.
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!
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!
Although we live just steps away from one of the area’s most loved beaches, Willard Beach, making the trip over to Cape Elizabeth every once in awhile to visit Kettle Cove is one of our favorite things to do. In fact, I believe it might just be my very favorite place in all of Maine. (That may or may not be because there is an ice cream shop just down the street!)
Found on the far left end of the more popular Crescent Beach State Park (a beautiful space in its own right), Kettle Cove might lack the wide beach at low tide for which Crescent is known, but its draw lies in the views from it’s rocky points and it’s quieter beach nested in between.
Visiting Kettle Cove during the winter months is an absolute treat. There are rarely many people who brave the cold, but for those that do, they’re treated to one of the most picturesque coastal Maine views – Richmond Island behind a lobster boat-dotted cove – and if you stick it out, a perfect sunset behind the island to boot!
Dog owners can check out their dog friendly beach hours, posted at the entrance to the beach. It’s one of Orvis’ favorite haunts!
And if you do find yourself there in the warmer months, make sure to swing by Kettle Cove Creamery on your way back from the beach.