Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Hampshire , Vermont, and Maine: June 2015

For my birthday this year, Steve arranged a trip to New England.  We arrived in Meredith, New Hampshire and checked into our room at the Inn at Mill Falls.  Lovely view from our balcony. 


Image result for tavern 27 Laconia
We decided on Tavern 27, a tapas style restaurant, for dinner. The very friendly chef owner came to explain the menu to us. Pictured above, on his recommendation, inside out poppers, described as chopped up jalapeno peppers mixed with cheese, breaded and fried. They were very bready and not that good.   We also tried other dishes including crispy fried haddock bites, Caesar salad, clam chowder, and spicy sweet grilled shrimp. Over all, the food was served hot and fresh, tasted good and most important, we were happy to relax and have dinner in New Hampshire. The old house with live music playing in the background, friendly owner who donates profits to the New Hampshire humane society, and locals at the next table who offered information on local restaurants made it a fun experience.
We started out Monday morning with a hearty breakfast at the beautiful Lakehouse Grille at Church Landing at Mill Falls.  Our hotel, the Inn at Mill Falls is one of three hotels in a group, all in close proximity to Meredith Bay. 

Classic eggs benedict

Traditional breakfast, local bacon and farm eggs
Breakfast was excellent and we would definitely come back.  Sitting by the window with a view of the lake didn't hurt either.
On to the Vermont Cheese Trail....
Driving to Vermont was such a pleasure.  It was unlike anything we've seen in recent years.  My past visits to Vermont in the 70's are such a distant memory and I was not ever in the part of Vermont we visited this time.  Covered bridges, tree lined roads, farmhouses, historic buildings, were everywhere.
Our first stop was in Quechee at the Cabot Store.  We could not tour the Cabot Creamery in Cabot because of the distance but this store carries most of their cheeses for sampling. 

I'll have to admit I sampled nearly all the cheese!  It was hard to stop once I started.  We purchased several blocks of cheese including:  Seriously Sharp, Private Stock, and hot habanero cheeses.
Our next stop in Plymouth, to Plymouth Artisan Cheese, included not only great cheese sampling, but a piece of history as well.  Old cheese making equipment, viewing the house where President Calvin Coolidge was born, and appreciating the history of a company that has been making cheese in the same place since 1890 was a unique experience. I loved their cheese!  Original, garlic and onion, sage and herbs were the three we selected to bring home. 

 We headed to our final destination, Crowley Cheese in Healdville.  Crowley Cheese Factory was built in 1824 and claims to be the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in America, a National Historic Place.

We sampled several cheeses and selected the garlic chive and medium sharp.  Of the three cheese makers, Crowley was my least favorite.  Plymouth was the number one favorite with Cabot close behind.  All in all, we had a blast!  The Vermont cheese trail is vast and to truly experience it all would take days.  I would love to take a trip throughout the state and visit other cheese makers.
We are having a wine and cheese feast when we get back to Texas.
 Hard to believe we could actually eat after all the cheese we sampled, but we did.  Local Eatery is owned by Chef Kevin Halligan and has the goal to provide top quality meals made from local, organic produce and grass fed , naturally raised meats and poultry.  He sources as much local food as he can.
Steve's co-worker, Brian, joined us for my actual birthday dinner.  We could see the chef preparing the food at a station right out in the restaurant.  Garlic, herbs, butter, and other delicious scents filled the air.  The atmosphere was cozy, yet polished.

tuna tartar with rice chips

Steve's crab 2 ways

Brian's scallops with risotto

Julia's housemade spaghetti with scallops, mussels and shrimp
The appetizer tuna tartar was well prepared.  The combination of cold tuna and aioli with the sharp taste of shredded ginger was very nice.  I enjoyed it very much.  Steve loved his crispy soft shell crab and crab cake, Brian's scallops were exceptional (but his risotto was a little overcooked), and my seafood pasta was perfect.  Homemade pasta is always better than dried and the fresh seafood combined to make a dish I thoroughly enjoyed.  I did not get a photo of the desserts.  I ordered triple chocolate cake and Brian ordered bread pudding.  The cake was excellent and we all sampled the bread pudding. This version of bread pudding tasted more like a cinnamon roll, but a really good one.  The edges were caramelized and with the ice cream, the bread pudding was heavenly.

Image result for 0 steak and seafood, laconia
Tuesday night's dinner was at the Opeechee Inn, O Steaks and Seafood.  We joined Steve's business friends for an enjoyable evening.
 Pops--made with Kobe beef, blue cheese and bacon bites were a big hit.  The house made potato chips with blue cheese sauce, green onions and cheese crumbles were also good.

Brian, Katt, and Julia

 Kobe New York steak was not much to look at but the steak was amazing.  I'm don't order steak very often but I'm glad I did.

Steve's filet Oscar with lobster, hollandaise and asparagus was excellent too.
 While Steve was finishing up his business this morning I had breakfast at the Waterfall Café in the Mill Falls Inn.  Looking out the window was quite relaxing. The Portobello, spinach, and goat cheese omelet on ciabatta bread was just what I wanted.  Now time to get on the road to Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

So many beautiful scenes on the way.  We stopped at a couple farm stands and looked at the plants and produce.


Boothbay Harbor is something else.  We love it here. 

We settled into our room at the Greenleaf Inn on the second floor.  Nice view outside the window.  There are several porches we can use throughout the two properties on the grounds but we preferred to walk around the town.  The weather is perfect, sunny but cool and not humid.  An hour of walking after riding in the car all day was refreshing.
Dinner place we selected:  Mine Oyster
Image result for oyster mine boothbayImage result for oyster mine boothbay
We looked at the menu and liked the idea of all the wood fired grill items and the fact they had an outdoor seating area upstairs with a nice view.

We fell in love with the clam chowder described as smoked quahog clam chowder.  It was smoky in a subtle way, with very fresh clams and pieces of bacon.  We immediately wished we had a large bowl of it.

Steve wanted lobster without the work so he ordered lobster already picked out of the shell.  One bite and we knew we had never eaten fresh lobster before now.  Sweet, the right texture, and swimming in butter--nothing else to say!
The fried haddock was a dish we had planned to eat at a roadside stand but didn't want to drive back to Boothbay, so once we decided to eat at Oyster Mine instead we had to try the haddock.  It was crispy and fresh, another winner.

  I'll just say that if you want grilled oysters go to Acme Oyster House in New Orleans.
Lovely, lovely lobster.  We want more.
Our inn provides a full breakfast in a quaint dining room.  There was a selection of homemade pastries, yogurt, granola, fruit, and then we were served scrambled eggs and bacon.  We ate very lightly, saving our appetites for later in the day. 
Panoramic view from the porch of our inn.  A beautiful sunny day and perfect for a very long walk around Boothbay Harbor.

Back at the inn and heading out to lunch.  Hmm, what about some clam chowder?  Hey, we know just the place--back to Mine Oyster.
We couldn't resist another cup of the smoked quahog clam chowder.  It has corn, house smoked slab bacon and tarragon.  Just as good as yesterday, maybe better.
 We've never had such fresh clams.  These were Maine whole belly clams, not just the gummy strips I normally associate with fried clams.  Biting into one was a taste of the sea.
We needed to get ready for the day, our trip to Rockland, about an hour away.  Road construction and traffic made the drive a bit longer.  Apparently school is still in session in this part of the country and buses were everywhere at 3:00.  Once we got to Rockland we wandered around Main Street, did a wine tasting at a local winery, Breakwater, and toured an art museum, the Farnsworth, where we saw the Andrew Wyeth exhibit.  A walk around the harbor area with an open view of the ocean was a contrast to the bay view we see at Boothbay Harbor.
We headed to Primo, also on Main Street, but a few miles away from the busy business area. 
Primo is described on their website as follows:
After 15 seasons, numerous awards, recognitions and two other locations, Primo - Rockland Maine has matured into what Chef Melissa Kelly calls a "Full Circle Kitchen..." the ultimate farm to table experience.
What started with a garden, a few hens and a couple of pigs has now become an evolution of food; an endless pursuit to accomplish more. Primo is much more than a restaurant, it is about love and respect for food. It is also about creativity. Produce is grown & harvested here and the animals are raised on the property. Nothing is wasted – everything has its place. It is a continuous cycle that occurs throughout the restaurant with, the kitchen, the animals and the gardens. The kitchen uses and savors every little piece. Seasonal to the moment, it is actually the farm and the garden that make the incredible ever-changing menu.
With two greenhouses and acres of produce, each day harvests: honey, fruits, veggies, eggs, edible flowers, micro-greens, fresh chicken and house cured & smoked meats. What is not grown at the restaurant comes from other local and sustainable farms that owners Chef Melissa Kelly and Price Kushner are proud to support.
The Primo experience is truly special and unique.

We arrived early to tour the property, a decision I don't regret.  The grounds are covered with various beds, gardens, a green house, chicken coop, pig pen, flowers and much more.  I collected several ideas for future back yard gardening, much to Steve's dismay.  He usually ends up doing the work and I don't maintain the weeding as I promise.  We noticed many varieties of lettuce, something we can only grow in our area in early spring before the brutal Texas sun beats down on everything.

Once inside, the dining room was nicely furnished, quiet, and relaxing.

 Tough decisions for Steve.
We both had the fresh rhubarb bellini with prosecco while we studied the menu. A bowl of freshly made breads arrived.  All were exceedingly fresh and delicious.

The amuse bouche of duck liver mousse in the shape of a butterfly arrived next. With the Amarone, this bite was heavenly.

A wine from an area of Italy we toured in 2011 was selected.  It paired well with our menu choices.

The Farmer Salad was a favorite tonight.  We saw the rows of lettuces on our tour and knew they would be fresh.  The crunchy greens, radicchio,  housemade slab bacon, shards of parmigiano reggiano, soft fried croutons and lemon vinaigrette and a poached backyard egg were as close to a perfect salad as I could imagine.  I will attempt to make this myself as soon as possible.
The photo does not do this dish justice.  In the Travel Channel show we watched, an interview with Chef Kelly revealed she makes a Pork Saltimbocca in honor of her grandfather, Primo.  Thin sautéed pork, roast garlic mash, garden spinach, prosciutto and mushrooms with Madeira jus served hot with an abundance of the jus, was rustic, earthy, and balanced. 
Our second entrée, the Porcini Tagliatelle with wild mushrooms, spinach, and prosciutto was equally impressive.  The house made pasta was dark, possibly a whole grain blend flour.
 Close up of the Pork Saltimbocca

Dessert!  I suggested the Zeppole and Steve is so happy I did.  He has never tried it before and Primo's version was other worldly.  I don't know how the chef managed to get the airy, light, texture inside the cinnamon sugar coated balls of crispy dough. 

We also tried the Dark Chocolate Cremeaux with milk chocolate, almond crunch, whisky gelato, butterscotch pudding and chocolate sand.  By this time we were in a food coma and I couldn't taste much more.  Of the two desserts I would vote for the zeppole.

Goodbye Primo.  We love you.

Our last day in Maine started with a trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the gardens.  I loved the children's garden and the vegetable garden area the most.
We drove to Portland for a change of scenery and toured the Commercial Street area.  A relaxing glass of wine in a waterfront place called Dimillo's, then we headed for a late lunch at Harraseeket in Freeport.  When I was looking for the best lobster roll in the area this place was named over and over.  It was also featured in a Food Network episode with Rachael Ray a few years ago.

We ordered the lobster roll, fried clams, and clam chowder with high expectations.  At $60.00 for a picnic table meal we thought it would be memorable.  I hate to be negative, but it was not very good.

Not shown in the photo are the piles of plastic packed Kraft tartar sauce and cocktail sauce.  The fried clams were pretty good but not with the processed tasting sauce.  The "clam cakes" were rather solid and bready.  The lobster roll was fair but not out of this world as advertised.  The worst was the clam chowder, a thin concoction of unidentifiable ingredients with a strange sweet fishy flavor.  Nooooo, this was not good clam chowder.
Harraseeket Lobster Roll

Harraseeket Clams and Clam Cakes
Oyster Mine Clam Chowder

Harraseeket clam chowder


So, since this was our last night in Boothbay Harbor and we didn't know when we would ever have fresh lobster again, we walked down the street for a late dinner at Oyster Mine.

The Oyster Mine Lobster Roll was good, but we enjoyed the lobster dish we had a couple days ago more.  There was nothing wrong with this lobster roll, though!

We also tried a California Roll made with fresh Maine crab.  Outstanding.  Oyster Mine has its own sushi chef who knows what he's doing. 

We had a great time on our trip and plan to return in the near future.  There is so much more to see and experience!

After we returned home the kids came over to sample the cheeses we brought back from Vermont.

I picked up some meats and other items from Central Market and we feasted on the cheese board along with some grilled crostini.  Grandson James David ate quite a bit.


Happy Flag Day!

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