This past 4th of July brought me to the state of Maine for vacation, celebration and discovery. I've heard so many great things about the oceanfront: the lighthouses, the surfing, the beaches, the views and the clean ocean scent, and have to say it all was amazing. I stayed in Portland and Kennebunkport, two different towns, outstanding in their own ways. Here's some great spots to hit:
- Duckfat. What can I say- their fries are cooked in duck fat. Rich, flavorful, awesome. Served with different ketchups and aiolis, they are a meal in themselves. The panini style sandwiches are great too. Don't overlook the tuna melt- this sandwich has a dry style tuna with a fresh lemon vinaigrette making it healthy and delicious. Their beer and wine list is small and impressive with some local favorites like Maine Beer Company's Peeper Ale which I found to be citrusy and light. While I didn't try their shakes, I've heard nothing but great things about them- wish I'd have saved room!
- The Farmer's Table. Great local ingredients included on the menu and continues the tradition of "leisurely Maine service" (it's slow but worth the wait). Another small beverage list but big on great picks. I tried another Maine Beer Company selection- Zoe, a red ale with huge hoppy flavor.
- The Salt Exchange. Another establishment big on local ingredients, these guys take it to another level. Mussels are fresh with traditional sauce you'd like to drink out of the bowl. Grass-fed beef, flavor-filled pork, day-boat fish and seasonal veggies are sprinkled on this daily changing menu. The theme of small but great content beverage menus continues here with local brews and worldly wines like Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza and Chilensis Riserva.
- Standard Baking Company. If you love baked goods, this place is a must! French loaves, croissants, pain au chocolat, ham and cheese pastries, brownies, cookies, outrageous! Go go go!
- The Clam Shack. This place is insane- it's a small shack (just like the name states) on the edge of a bridge connecting the two towns. You grab your food- the lobster roll is a must, as it's the winner of Food Wars, and deservedly so. They use an entire 1 1/4 lb. lobster, meat only, on a locally made soft roll, with butter and mayo. Outstanding. Fried clams, onion rings, etc. will make you yearn for an encore.
- Alisson's. The runner-up on Food Wars is no slouch. More of a sitdown with a bar, great atmosphere, with traditional New England food. Amazing clam chowder and a very good lobster roll.
- Kennebunk Inn. Grab the lobster pot pie (famous from Cat Cora of Best Thing I Ever Ate) and run- this place is supposedly haunted!
- The Ramp at Pier 77 (Cape Porpoise Harbor). This place is just up north up the coast and worth the trip. Crabcakes, shrimp, seafood stew, all done right. Awesome atmosphere with vintage posters of the Kennedys, Walter Mondale, Boston Red Sox and Obama. Just don't be surprised if your beer flavor is 86'd!
For local brews, make sure to try anything from Maine Beer Company, Allagash, Shipyard Brewing Company and Peak Organic Beer. Surprisingly enough, there's also some good wineries to try like Blacksmiths (I tried their Sparkling Peach, which is made up of 85% peaches and 15% grapes, which is a touch sweet with a whole lotta peach flavor- $18) and Cellar Door (tried their Prince Valiant, a Zinfandel blend which is dry and pretty decent- $18).
Overall, I love Maine! It's a great place to visit and seems to be an amazing place to live. Just make sure to visit during the summertime and have fun!