Sabattus Mountain View

One of the coolest parts about Maine is how varied the terrain can be within such a small distance. Meredith and I live on the coast, but less than an hour away is the picturesque Lakes Region, and just a little bit further, the spectacular White Mountains. Nestled in between the two is Sabattus Mountain, a short easy hike just outside of Lovell, Maine, with some of the most breathtaking views of the White Mountains and the Kezar Lake region. A few weeks ago, Meredith and I took Orvis for a day hike up the mountain, and although the trail itself is quite enjoyable, with some sections of colorful deciduous growth and others of needle-laden coniferous forest, the view from the top was simply amazing. The three of us spent a good deal of time enjoying the view before our hike back down, and still made it home in the early afternoon.

Sabattus Mountain Hike

Michael and Orvis at Sabattus

Sabattus Woods

Sabattus Mountain Maine

View from Sabattus Mountain

View from Sabattus Mountain Maine

Dog Friendly, Life, , Permalink

Piccolo

One of the most anticipated Portland eatery openings of the year, Piccolo fills the large shoes and small space that Bresca left vacant when Kristin Desjarles opted to close shop and pursue Bresca and the Honeybee last spring. Husband and wife co-owners Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez are a wickedly talented duo, specializing in dishes inspired by the coastal and agrarian flavors of the central regions of Italy. Handmade pastas and fresh local ingredients prepared in authentic, yet original ways anchor a delicious menu and wine list. Be smart and save room for dessert, because Ilma’s master proficiency as a pastry chef shines through the wonderfully creative dishes she constructs – like the “wine and cheese”, layered red wine gelatin, vanilla and goat cheese mousse, topped with a fruit salad and red wine honey filled-puff pastries. With our first meal being so fantastic, we’re already planning to return for a Sunday brunch.

Piccolo Portland Maine Restaurant

Piccolo Portland ME

Piccolo Portland ME Photos

Piccolo Restaurant Portland ME

Piccolo Portland Maine Dinner

Piccolo Restaurant Pasta

Desserts at Piccolo Portland Maine

Piccolo Portland Maine Dessert

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Tumbledown Brook Trail

In an attempt to take advantage of the beautiful, but all too-short, fall season in Maine, we decided to take a day off from work and try a new hike with Orvis. After giving it some thought, we chose Tumbledown Mountain via the dog-friendly (and less strenuous) Brook Trail. The drive up to Franklin County during the foliage-filled first week of October was gorgeous. We drove through new towns we’d never visited and enjoyed some of the prettiest vistas of colorful, rolling mountains.

Visiting the trail on a Monday, we ended up having the whole hike to ourselves, and Orvis was as happy as could be as he ran free ahead of us. Though we didn’t stay too long at the top because of the chilly temperatures & high wind, Orvis didn’t seem to mind the cold a bit and ended up taking a dip in the picturesque Tumbledown Pond. We continued to laugh at our semi-spastic hiking partner the whole way down the mountain as we vowed to return in the warmer months of the summer when we, too, might actually want to go for a swim in the pond.

Tumbledown Maine

Michael D. Cain

Orvis at Tumbledown

Tumbledown Pond

View from Tumbledown Pond

Orvis Meredith and Michael at Tumbledown

Orvis

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Kabaj Amfora

Last week, Meredith and I were fortunate to be invited to attend the most recent wine tasting collaboration between Rosemont Market Productions, Tandem Coffee Roasters, and a featured wine producer – this time with Slovenian winery, Kabaj, and its winemaker, Jean-Michel Morel. In a recurring series hosted at Tandem, a vineyard selected by Rosemont’s Joe Appel is paired with regionally-inspired cuisine by chef Brad Messier and coupled with an evening of good conversation and company. If the event that we attended was a fair sampling, these pairings should be a must-try for anyone interested in wines that are slightly outside of the mainstream, great food, and a fantastic weeknight away from the Netflix queue.

The vineyard of the evening, Kabaj, has been garnering a good bit of praise from the wine-loving community recently. With mentions by the New York Times, The Art of Eating, and Wine Enthusiast, the vineyard was named one of Wine & Spirits‘ 2013 Wineries of the Year, and its complexly delicious “orange wines” have had Meredith and I popping into different Rosemont locations in search of a few bottles ever since the event. The wines get their color from the varying amounts of time that they’re left to ferment on the grape skins, creating a savory selection that age well and can be sipped over the course of an evening. I won’t pretend to be an expert, so suffice it to say that we truly enjoyed the contrast of the Kabaj wines against the Sonoma County varietals with which we recently fell in love. The winemaker, Jean-Michel was one of the most genuinely affable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. You’d think that being a world-renowned winemaker could go to one’s head, but in a room full of interested oenophiles, he took the time to speak to each of us, sharing his winemaking passion and methodology, and his awesomely positive outlook on life – reminding us that good wine connects people and pursuing one’s passion can be wildly fulfilling.

Throughout the evening, Brad Messier was quickly serving up Slavic dishes to pair with our wines. Learning a new cuisine in the weeks leading up to the event proved to be an easy task for the talented chef, and we were fortunate to enjoy meats that he had cured himself, a regional bean, pork, and cabbage soup, potica nut rolls, and a tasty salted bread that accompanies many Slovenian meals. The night was capped off with an optional cup of the best espresso in town, and as Meredith and I made our way home that evening, we couldn’t help but think of what an enjoyable date night these pairings might make in the months to come.

Tandem Wine Pairing Rosemont Market

Tandem Pairings Rosemont

Kabaj Wine Tasting

Rosemont Productions

Kabaj Merlot

Kabaj Wine

Tandem Pairings with Rosemont Market

Merlot

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Bresca and the Honey Bee

It’s hard to imagine a better place to have spent our Sunday morning than on the bank of an autumn leaf-clad lake in Maine, enjoying gourmet pastries and warming drinks beside a crackling fire. But from what we gather, this type of scene is going to be the status quo on weekends throughout the fall at Bresca and the Honey Bee.

Chef and co-owner Krista Desjarlais made quite a ripple when she decided to close up shop at Bresca in Portland last May and switch her concentration to a snack shack at Outlet Beach on Sabbathday Lake, but after just a few minutes by the lake, we began to understand the decision. The scene is idyllic, the atmosphere relaxing, and we quickly saw how easy it would be to sit back and stay a while. This is all without mentioning the food! We treated ourselves to a sampling of a few different things – apple and cranberry pie, peanut butter o’s, and a berry and almond boo cake (think pain perdu with seasonal toppings) – and quickly polished off the entire spread (I even ordered a pear tart for the road). We chased it all with Tandem coffee, tea, and apple cider, and then sat back and smiled at the scene around us. Although we didn’t have the chance to make it to the lake just outside of New Gloucester this past summer for all of the swimming, boating, and picnicking the private beach has to offer, their scaled back fall service was the perfect end to a morning hike, and their winter plan to mix in ice skating has Meredith giddy with anticipation.

If you’re in the area or looking for a delightfully Maine way to spend some time one weekend, make sure to swing by Bresca and the Honey Bee, you definitely won’t regret the decision.

Sabbathday Lake ME

Sabbathday Lake Maine

Bresca and the honey bee pie

Bresca and the Honey Bee

Bresca and the Honey Bee

Bresca and the Honey Bee

Food, Permalink

Sheepscot River

After spending most of the week catching up with work after our trip to New Orleans, Michael and I were anxious to get out and enjoy a beautiful fall day in Maine yesterday. Eager to experience some lovely fall foliage, we hopped in the car and headed up to Bradbury Mountain State Park for a short hike with Orvis. The hike, although gorgeous, was merely just an excuse for us to gorge on pastries at Bresca and the Honey Bee in nearby New Gloucester afterwards. (More on that tomorrow!) We continued our trek up the coast, visiting some antique shops in Alna & Wiscasset with my mother and running Orvis and my family’s dog, Mason, at the farm. As we returned home last night, we were both overwhelmed with gratitude for such a full, lovely day filled with so much happiness.

Bradbury Mountain State Park

Michael and Orvis

Bradbury Mountain State Park

Bradbury Mountain State Park

Fall at Bradbury Mountain

Bresca and the honey bee

Mason at Marianmade Farm

Sheepscot Maine

A Map & Menu Weekend, Life, Permalink

Watermelon Negroni at Salt Water Farm

It’s that time of year when Michael and I do our best to hit (nearly) all of our favorite spots with great outdoor seating options just one more time before it gets too chilly. So when planning my evening shoot up in Rockport a couple of weeks ago, I decided to allow enough time to take advantage of Salt Water Farm’s Happy Hour and grab a drink on the deck overlooking the harbor. While several of the drink deals caught my eye, I settled on the Watermelon Negroni and a plate of locally made Lakin’s Gorges Opus 42 cheese with buckwheat honeycomb. The sweet watermelon was a welcome contrast to the Campari, slightly cutting the drink’s traditional bitter taste. Sitting on the deck, catching the last hour or two of sun as it falls on the boats in the harbor, it’s hard to imagine a better place to enjoy such a fantastic happy hour experience.

Salt Water Farm Happy Hour

Rockport Harbor ME

Rockport Harbor Maine

Food, , , Permalink

Empire Chinese Kitchen Menu

Meredith and I don’t often visit new restaurants in their first week of operation. We typically like to avoid the crowds and let the establishment work out the kinks, but after a few days of hearing and reading so many good things about the newly renovated, re-geared, and renamed Empire Chinese Kitchen, we decided that an early dim sum lunch was just a little too tempting to delay.

The new owners of Empire have done an awesome job with the renovation. Long before our meals had arrived, Meredith was happily snapping photos of all the details of the dining room and gushing about the natural light, open space, and relaxed feel of the room. We arrived right as the doors opened and were lucky to get a booth by a window before the room (and waiting list) quickly filled up.

We started with a couple of tasty cocktails (the Yellow Fever and the Dragon’s Milk) and ordered a handful of small plate and dim sum dishes which arrived in a slightly staggered fashion, leading to a leisurely tapas-style lunch. First up were the delicious peking duck buns (my personal favorite) and the har gow (one of a few of the gluten-free options on the menu). It’s a standard rule of thumb for me that pretty much anything served in a steamed bun will be awesome, and the savory peking duck didn’t disappoint – I’d highly recommend trying it. We also tried the lobster dumplings and the unique Empire egg roll, made with pastrami and asparagus and served with honey dijon. We thoroughly enjoyed each of the dishes we tried, and the three-count dumplings led to a number of small chopstick sword fighting battles.

All in all, I think we’re both glad that we ignored our recently-opened restaurant ban this time around, and can’t wait for a revisit to try the remaining items on the menu. Anyone want to join us?

Empire Chinese Kitchen

Empire Chinese Kitchen Cocktails

Empire Chinese Kitchen Egg Roll

Empire Chinese Kitchen Portland ME

Empire Chinese Kitchen Lobster Dumplings

Empire Chinese Kitchen Duck Buns

Empire Chinese Kitchen Dumplings

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Fromviandoux Camden

Updated: Unfortunately Fromviandoux has closed.

Over the past couple of weeks, whenever someone mentions that they’ll be soon be spending time in Camden (or anywhere in the mid-coast region for that matter) I all but interrupt them and insist that they treat themselves to Afternoon Tea at Fromviandoux during their trip. We owe our friend, Anestes, for putting this gem of an experience on our radar, and on a recent excursion to the area, I was able to take advantage of the suggestion and give it a try myself.

Afternoon Tea at Fromviandoux consists of a pot of tea and three scrumptious accompanying courses that are quite honestly almost too lovely to eat! I chose the Avena’s Garden blend which was first served with scones, a peach bread, housemade cream, lemon curd (my favorite!), and jam. After that what followed could be considered a meal in and of itself – eight tea sandwiches presented in pairs. Of the sandwiches, the lobster salad on a cheddar biscuit was simply divine. Up next were the petit fours! At this time I was more than just a little full from the first few courses, but I’ve never in my life turned down a plate of sweets sitting in front of me. The hazlenut chocolate truffle, the strawberry shortcake, and the date & fig “newtons” were all delightfully delicious.

The warm, inviting interior and plentiful light inside the Fromviandoux space creates a perfect environment for such a lovely experience. After such an enjoyable afternoon, I now have my sights set on returning with Michael for one of their Cocktail Wednesdays or Wine & Cheese Saturdays.

Fromviandoux Camden ME

Fromviandoux Afternoon Tea Scones

Fromviandoux Afternoon Tea Jam

Fromviandoux Afternoon Tea

Fromviandoux Petit Fours

Fromviandoux Afternoon Tea

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The Good Table Cape Elizabeth Maine Brunch

With my family in town from Wyoming, we had a chance to partake in many of our favorite activities (read: eat at some of our favorite restaurants) this weekend! On Friday night we met friends at Hunt & Alpine for drinks and then we made our way to Flea Bites for some dinner from Small Axe and ran into even more friends.  Saturday was spent working, but on Sunday we celebrated my dad’s birthday by brunching at The Good Table, hiking at Wolfe’s Neck, and dining at Local 188 + Gorgeous Gelato that evening. A wonderfully delicious, fun-filled weekend with family that we don’t see nearly enough!

Flea Bites Portland Maine

Wolfes Neck Woods

Portland Hunt and Alpine Daily Punch

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club Pickles

A Map & Menu Weekend, Life, , Permalink