If you’ve never been to Portland Maine, it’s definitely worth the trip!
I had to use up my Marriott points before they expired, so I booked us into the Residence Inn in Scarborough ME, about 7 miles/15 minutes from downtown Portland. The hotel was comfortable and spacious with two bedrooms and bathrooms as well as a full kitchen. It even had a gas fireplace!
As I wrote on Saturday, Portland ME is a foodie mecca. BTW, the only supermarket that I saw in town was a Whole Foods. There are more restaurants than anything else, more restaurants than stores. And what we heard from the locals and from our own limited experience, every restaurant is good, and some are exceptional. Our meal on Friday night at David’s Restaurant in Monument Square was fantastic. The atmosphere was warm, the service attentive and friendly, and the food was memorable. Their garlic knots were to die for. Jeff’s exotic mushroom pizza was stellar. My sage and walnut crusted salmon with port currant glaze was fabulous. I would have been happy to go back there for dinner again on Saturday. But on Saturday night, we planned to go to Empire Chinese Kitchen on Congress Street, but we didn’t have a reservation. Most Portland restaurants hold back half of their tables for walk-ins, actually for people on the waiting list who arrive after 5pm put their name on a list and go off for a drink till they’re called. We tried arriving around 8:30pm hoping that there’d be less of a crowd. Wrong. On a Saturday night, the joint was jumping. We were told there would be a 90 minute wait which was weird since they supposedly close at 10pm. So we left and went next door to Thai Pom Restaurant since I was starving. Jeff had a stellar 3 Flavor Shrimp dish with gigantic shrimp that was delicious and beautiful to look at. I took a chance and got something I had never heard of that turned out to be similar to Gai Pik Pow, a ground chicken and Thai basil dish that I make at home, but with a fried egg on top. It was good, but not as good as Jeff’s dish.
Although food seemed to be the focus of Portland, we did a lot of other stuff. Saturday mid-day, we went to the Portland Head Light in nearby Cape Elizabeth.
It’s a beautiful old lighthouse that was painted by Hopper, Homer and probably oodles of other artists. It was sunny and warm; a perfect day for a visit. The lighthouse is situated in what is now a park so we walked the trail along the ocean to enjoy the gorgeous view.
Next, we drove downtown to the Portland Museum of Art, the main event of our weekend getaway. PMA is a nicely designed small museum with a terrific permanent collection. I had thought that they had a huge collection of Winslow Homer paintings and maybe they do, but there were only about 5 paintings on display. I enjoyed the museum anyway. They grouped their collection in an interesting way: art of Maine, European art, early portraiture, and contemporary art in addition to a couple of special exhibitions.
After spending about a couple of hours in the museum during which we saw everything, we headed to the Portland waterfront. The waterfront is both a working waterfront with fishing-oriented businesses and warehouses, ferries to the islands and to Nova Scotia, lots of touristy shops, and zillions of restaurants. We found a kitchen store, LeRoux, that had a huge inventory of kitchen goods (pots and pans, all kinds of gadgets, gourmet foods and ingredients, stuff for canning etc.), and I managed to find a bunch of things that I had been looking for that don’t seem to be available in any stores near me.
While we wandered through the cobblestoned streets among mostly 18th and 19th century buildings, we found the tasting room of a winery and gin manufacturer, Sweetgrass. Unfortunately, alcoholic beverages were off limits for Jeff, a week before his upcoming hip surgery, so I was the primary taster. For $5, we got a flight of 4 spirits, plus they give you the cute glass used for the tasting to keep. I chose hard cider and rum, and Jeff chose vermouth and gin (he took a little sip). All four were impressive, but IMO the herbaceous gin and the hard cider stood out most. I bought a 750 ml bottle of hard cider for about $13.
On Sunday, after we checked out of the hotel, we went for a walk along Portland’s East Promenade, a pretty park with a beach as well as a pathway for walking, jogging, biking, and skateboarding that runs along the waterfront with a stunning view of Casco Bay (see the panorama below). There’s a place to rent kayaks in season. Also, the old Narrow Gauge Railroad carries tourists back and forth along the tiny tracks that run along the Promenade.
We made a quick stop of the Jewish Museum at Temple Etz Haim, and saw an exhibit of tapestries made from photos, fabric, leather, and artifacts of young women heroes from all around the world during WWII. Very impressive and informative. The stories of heroic women need to be told more often.
On our way out of town, we stopped at a funky local cooperative restaurant/bar for a soda and cookie. One of their restrooms was definitely memorable, so much so that I had to snap a photo of the walls.
Since we were in Maine, he had to have a lobster dinner before we returned to Massachusetts. I suggested that we go to Old Orchard Beach to experience a different place. Old Orchard was one of the first beach resorts in the US in the 19th century. But I had no idea that Old Orchard was so close to both Portland and Scarborough, the town we were staying in, so we got there too early for dinner. Plus the summer season was over, and Old Orchard Beach was a bit of a ghost town. So we continued driving south to Ogunquit, a beautiful, quaint and artsy town further down the coast.
I remembered that Barnacle Billy’s in Perkins Cover was a good place for seafood. When we arrived, I was surprised that Barnacle Billy’s now has two separate restaurants right next to each other. We went to the “in the rough” restaurant with the outdoor deck overlooking the bay because it was sunny and 76 degrees in Maine in October which is pretty unheard of. We got a drink and planned to order our lobster dinners when we discovered that there was no lobster “dinner” – it was just a plain lobster with nothing else. So we finished our drinks and went next door to their other restaurant that served full meals. Fortunately, we got seats next to the picture windows so we could see the boats and watch the sun go down.
Our one and a half pounders were delicious. The perfect ending to a great weekend! Somehow our two day getaway seemed like a real vacation.
If you haven’t been to Portland and southern Maine, I really recommend it! Have you been to Portland ME?
Laurmé Sensitive Skin Collection Giveaway Winner
On a different topic, the winner of the Laurmé Sensitive Skin collection of facial skincare products is Michel J. Congratulations Michel! I’ve sent her an email to let her know. Thank you to all who have entered either for yourself or for a loved one. I truly recommend this skincare line for those of you with sensitive skin, or who are going through cancer treatment, or just want gentle, effective, fragrance-free skincare products with wonderful ingredients.
Also, I have another giveaway that ends this week for LotusRx Shampoo and Conditioner (ARV $60) developed by another woman entrepreneur to treat dandruff, sensitive scalp including chemocap from cancer treatment, and is sulfate-free so it’s also great for color-treated hair. Enter this one too!