How to Cook Lobster and More – A Three-Day “Cooking Adventure” in Maine

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on How to Cook Lobster and More – A Three-Day “Cooking Adventure” in Maine
Mar 312013
 

maine lobsterOne evening when we were having dinner at Red Sky restaurant in Southwest Harbor, Maine, the Executive Chef James Lindquist came over to our table to describe the specials.  The appetizer, he said, featured asparagus which was “in the ground this afternoon.”

James Lindquist

James Lindquist

This focus on what’s local and fresh has been a driving force behind the success of Red Sky and James Lindquist, who was featured in Fresh from Maine, the 2010 cookbook of “recipes and stories from the state’s best chefs”.  His vivid way of describing food and engaging the imagination of his diners is another reason the restaurant has received such acclaim from The New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and Down East Magazine, among others.

Now, for the first time, enthusiastic home cooks are going to be able to cook with James, learning his approach, getting unique recipes, and taking advantage of the ingredients of Maine, including lobster.  On June 9-12 he will lead a three-day “Cooking Adventure,” limited to eight participants.

This cooking class will take place at Ann’s Point Inn on Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park.  It will include three nights lodging at the scenic harbor-side inn, as well as local trips to discover the sources of Maine’s coveted ingredients.  Participants will prepare appetizer, entrée, and dessert courses for two dinners.  In addition, the program includes a three-course dinner at Red Sky.

Ann's Point Inn

Ann’s Point Inn

This “Cooking Adventure” is the brainchild of Alan Feuer, a former Computer Science professor, who moved to Maine with his wife Jeannette to start a second career as innkeeper of Ann’s Point. Under their stewardship, the inn, which opened in 2005, has not only been certified an Environmental Leader by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but also selected as a Yankee Magazine Editor’s Choice in 2012 for “Best Acadian Escape.”

Says Alan Feuer, “For many guests at the inn, eating well-prepared food is as important as the breathtaking scenery and exhilarating physical activity Acadia offers.”   The Feuers updated their inn’s open kitchen in 2012 giving it plentiful work space and a direct water view. He adds, “Kitchens are magical places. They turn raw material into delicious food, and strangers into friends.”

In addition to lodging, two dinners prepared by the class, and a dinner at Red Sky, the “Cooking Adventure” package includes three full breakfasts at Ann’s Point Inn. These feature freshly baked pastries, fresh fruit, and a main course that alternates between the sweet and savory. James Lindquist says, “Jeannette Feuer is an accomplished breakfast chef in her own right!”

The eight people who participate in the first “Cooking Adventure” collaboration will take home recipes of the two dinners they prepared together and a signed copy of Fresh from Maine. Cost for the package is $1750 for two people. For more information, call 207-244-9595 or email info@annspoint.com.

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Second Life as an Innkeeper in Maine

 

Mar 242013
 

Thinking of visiting Acadia National Park this summer?  It’s the star attraction of Mount Desert Island, an island about the same size as Martha’s Vineyard, but with 24 mountain peaks.  That alone expands the roster of great things to do there.

Acadia became a national park in 1919, but the first village on Mount Desert Island was founded in 1761.  Today Acadia’s boundaries are intermingled with the charming, postcard-perfect villages of this New England island, adding even more activities to engage park visitors.

So, what activities should you plan to include in your visit?  Here are some favorite things to do both in and around the park.

1.  Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. At some 1500 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States, and it is breathtaking. Make sure you wear a warm fleece even if it’s August.

Cadillac Sunrise

2.  Drive the Park Loop Road. You can get your best overview of Acadia by driving these 27 miles of unsurpassed beauty, created in part through the masterful collaboration of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. There are many lookouts so have your camera ready.

3.  Eat lobster. Whether you want a lobster roll, lobster stew, or a two-pounder steamed, you can find a wide range of topnotch restaurants, harbor side lobster pounds, and quaint cafes to serve you. Our favorite is Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.

4.  Go biking. Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Acadia offers 45 miles of car-free carriage roads that will lead you around mountains, alongside lakes, and into serene boreal forests.  Visit Hull’s Cove Visitor Center first, just outside of downtown Bar Harbor, where there is plentiful parking and good advice about the best bike routes for you and your family. I love their 3D map.

5.  Stroll, hike, or climb. The park boasts 125 miles of well-maintained hiking trails that appeal to all levels of fitness. The most exciting trails, such as the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs, feature rungs and ladders. A beautiful, moderately challenging hike is Acadia Mountain, overlooking Somes Sound, the only fiord in North America. If you’re looking for easier strolls, consider Asticou Trail and Wonderland – they’re lovely.

Hiking The Bubbles

6.  Have popovers at Jordan Pond House. Select a biking or hiking route that stems from behind Jordan Pond House so that you can conclude your afternoon with lemonade or tea – and, most certainly, popovers — on the lawn looking towards the Bubbles, a sight that has mesmerized visitors at teatime since 1896. It’s a favorite destination for everyone, but worth the wait.  What about popovers filled with blueberry ice cream?

Jordan Pond Popovers with Blueberry Ice Cream

7.  Go to the beach.  Sand Beach is a stunning crescent of white sand, with cliffs at each side and the Beehive Trail behind it. The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does. Another option for a swim is the beach at Echo Lake on the island’s “Quietside.”

Echo Lake swimming

8.  Visit a lighthouse.  Maine has over 60 lighthouses, and one of its most beautiful is on Mount Desert Island in Bass Harbor.  It’s a great spot for photographers.  Afterwards, visit the working harbor busy with lobster and sail boats.

Bass Harbor

9.  Take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  Carriages of Acadia offers a number of picturesque drives within Acadia National Park, starting at Wildwood Stables and encompassing destinations including Day Mountain and Jordan Pond.  Another option is to enjoy a tour of downtown Bar Harbor with Wild Iris Horse Farm.

Carriage Drives in Acadia

10.  Learn from a park ranger. The National Park Service offers very entertaining talks and walks on subjects ranging tidal pools to birds of prey to the stars over Sand Beach. Scan The Beaver Log to figure out how you can fit in more than one.

11.  Touch nature – literally. There are several enterprises, including Mount Desert Biological Laboratories, The Dive-In Theatre, and the Mount Desert Oceanarium, that feature touch tanks full of lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. I always end up liking this stuff just as much as the kids do.

12.  Visit the local wineries and micro-breweries.  On Mount Desert Island you can enjoy free tours and tastings of two award-winning micro-breweries, Bar Harbor Brewing Company and Atlantic Brewing Company.  Venture off the island to discover the acclaimed fruit vintages of Bartlett Winery.

13.  Get out on the water. This great national park is on an island so you must see it from the vantage point of the sea. Whether you’re powering yourself in a sea kayak or the wind is propelling you on a Downeast Friendship Sloop or the Margaret Todd, being on the water is a special part of a trip to Acadia National Park.

Sailing in Acadia

14.  Experience farm to table cuisine. Maine is known not only for its great fishermen, but also its farmers.  And nowhere in Maine has the renaissance of local and organic ingredients been as great as on Mount Desert Island.  A long list of top restaurants, including Burning Tree, Fathom, Red Sky, and Town Hill Bistro, awaits the discerning diner.  Make reservations!

15.  Take an art class.  If you’ve ever pictured yourself sketching or learning watercolors in an idyllic seaside location, make that fantasy a reality.  Among the many wonderful artists on Mount Desert Island is Judy Taylor, who offers workshops that include cruises to some of the most picturesque islands surrounding Mount Desert Island.

Judy Taylor Sketch Class

16.  Relax at a spa. Bar Harbor is home to a number of spas that run the gamut from sophisticated to funky.  If your idea of a great vacation is a day of outdoor activities topped off by a soothing massage, then you’ll find a vacation to Acadia perfect from the pine-scented trails to the aromas of the spa.

17.  Experience the “Way Life Should Be.”  That Maine slogan is your personal invitation to church suppers, local parades, blueberry festivals, farmers’ markets, crafts fairs, and terrific libraries.  If you pull off the road and depart from your schedule, you’ll be amply rewarded.  After all, those practical folks who invented ear muffs in 1873 just named Whoopie Pies as their “State Treat.”

Public Suppers in MaineRelated Stories:

5 Tips If You Want to Enjoy A Glorious Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Where to Stay on a Trip to Acadia National Park: A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages

 

 

 

 

A Glimpse at a Maine Lobsterman’s Life during a Boat Trip to Frenchboro

 travel  Comments Off on A Glimpse at a Maine Lobsterman’s Life during a Boat Trip to Frenchboro
Sep 112012
 
Frenchboro

Lobster traps in the Frenchboro harbor

Maine lobstermen are notoriously territorial.

Say, you decide to give it all up, move to Maine, and try your luck with lobstering. You drop some traps in the open ocean and the next day you find all of your lines cut.

For you, it’s shocking.  For a Maine lobsterman, “it’s as if he woke up one morning and found someone he didn’t know parked in his driveway.”

The nature of generational fishermen and the traditions of the self-regulating lobster fishery were among the stories we heard as we motored eight miles from Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island to Long Island on board the R.L. Gott.  Eli Strauss, proprietor of Island Cruises, was our captain and host on this lunch cruise to Frenchboro.

The R.L. Gott docked alongside a lobster boat

Frenchboro, technically, is a town in Hancock County, Maine, comprised of twelve islands, one of which is Long Island, our destination.  Its village is also named Frenchboro.

Frenchboro made national news in the late 80s when it created a homesteading program to invite people “from away” to join the dwindling island community, offering not only attractive rents on houses on land donated by the David Rockefeller family, but also the support of island fishermen to get started lobstering (i.e., no line cutting).  Keeping the tiny one-room schoolhouse open was central to the program.

Orange buoys are the trademark of this Frenchboro lobsterman

According to Strauss, the population count – which reached its peak of 197 in 1910 — has moved from around 25 in the eighties to 60 year-round residents today.

So, on our lunch cruise to Frenchboro, we had about half of the island’s population on board.  Our journey out of Bass Harbor started with views of the historic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park

We then wound through Blue Hill Bay and pulled close to Gott’s Island, Little Gott’s, and Black Island.  In addition to a school of porpoises, we saw both harbor and grey seals.  (I can tell the difference now.)

Grey seal in Blue Hill Bay

As we cruised, we also learned about tides, lighthouse technology, why resting cormorants stretch out their wings (it’s to dry them since their feathers are not waterproof), and the history of the offshore islands.

Double-crested cormorants resting in the sun

At their zenith in the nineteenth century these islands off the coast of Maine had over 400 year-round communities thriving on fishing, lumbering, boat-building, and the lucrative granite quarries that built the Boston Public Library and the Boston Post Office.  There are twelve communities today.

Finally, we reached our destination within Lunt Harbor.  Most of our fellow passengers had taken advantage of the convenient service offered by Island Cruises and had pre-ordered lunch – a kielbasa sandwich, lobster roll, or bowl of fish chowder – from Lunt’s Dockside Deli.  They walked up the wharf to the harborside deli.

The Offshore Store in Frenchboro

We, on the other hand, had been told by a friend that Tammy at The Offshore Store made a lobster roll “filled with two whole lobsters,” so we had decided to forego the certainty of the Island Cruises lunch plan and started walking the one-mile roadway that constitutes the main village of Frenchboro.  In short order we found Tammy and the largest lobster rolls I’ve ever seen.

After lunch, we continued exploring.  Encircling the harbor are the post office, fire house, church, school, and library/museum.  The date on the bell in the churchyard is 1891.

Church and one-room schoolhouse in Frenchboro

Back on the R.L. Gott, we circled Placentia Island and a mature bald eagle with a seven and half foot wingspan swooped down toward us. People gasped, as binoculars and cameras pivoted upward.

Bald eagle on Placentia Island

Our Island Cruises tour continued with more education about the lobster industry.  Strauss hauled up one of his own lobster traps and identified the males and females, reviewing the size regulations that are carefully followed by all (everyone in the supply chain just has “too much to lose”).

Eli Strauss hauling a lobster trap on the R. L. Gott

Record catches during the last few years have been increasing supply and pushing prices down, making lobstering more of a production-driven business, Strauss said.  Plus, he explained, a more active fishery actually increases the lobster population because the herring bait in the traps is nourishing the lobsters, particularly the females, that aren’t the proper size and must be thrown back.

Eli Strauss explains the business of Maine's fishermen

This wealth of information and great nature viewing are reasons to consider Island Cruises.  Most poignantly, it provides you with an opportunity to see one of Maine’s few remaining offshore fishing villages.

If you go, remember your binoculars, as well as your camera and sunscreen, and bring a light jacket.  The 40-foot boat has both open and protected seating, but no bathroom facilities.  The total tour is 3-1/2 hours.  The Afternoon Nature Cruise, which doesn’t stop on any islands, is two hours.

An alternative to Island Cruises is the ferry which operates on Fridays during the summer season, leaving Bass Harbor at 8:30 am and returning at 6:00 pm.  The longer excursion allows time to explore more of the island.  There are more than ten miles of hiking trails that provide access through marshes and wetlands and to the spectacular shoreline.

That will be my next trip!

 

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7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park

 Photography, travel  Comments Off on 7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park
Jul 162012
 

Before you go to Acadia National Park in Maine, you’ll research all of the best things to do on Mount Desert Island.  You’ll drive the Park Loop Road.  You’ll be sure to stop to see Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole.  You’ll stroll down the Main Street of Bar Harbor.

But I want to share with you seven stunning sights to see that may be off the beaten path or require a little extra effort.  And some of these are manmade!  Bring your camera.

1.  Start with Acadia’s most well-known site, Cadillac Mountain.

Porcupine Islands and Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

At 1,530 feet, it the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and the perfect place to survey the spectacular beauty of Mount Desert Island.  But, believe me, it’s worth it to get up to see the sunrise and view the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay at dawn.

2.  Visit the famous Stone Barn Farm in Bar Harbor.Stone Barn Farm Bar Harbor MaineBarns, bridges, and churches are as much a part of the Maine landscape as some of its natural wonders.  Add to your itinerary the cobblestone barn on Norway Drive, built in 1820, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3.  Walk, bike, or carriage-tour Acadia’s carriage roads.

Carriage Roads Rockefeller Acadia National ParkJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. oversaw construction of 45 miles of carriage roads available to you today that weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia.  They will bring you to some spectacular sites and sightings, which may include David Rockefeller himself taking a drive.

4.  Let Jordan Pond and The Bubbles take your breath away. Jordan Pond Bubble MountainsJordan Pond House visitors not only take in tea and popovers, but this iconic view.  I urge you to explore Jordan Pond’s shoreline and see if you prefer the views from a point slightly more west, as my husband does.  The 3.2-mile walk around the pond is delightful.

5.  Be charmed by the Somesville Bridge.

Somesville Bridge Mount Desert Island

The village of Somesville, founded in 1761, is Mount Desert Island’s oldest settlement.  The bridge, often cited as one of the most photographed spots in Maine, will get your attention first, but then you should focus on Somes Sound, the seven-mile-long fiord that divides Mount Desert Island.

6.  Behold the boats on Bass Harbor at dusk.

Bass Harbor Mount Desert Island Maine

A highlight of the so-called “Quiet Side” of Mount Desert Island is the working fishing village of Bass Harbor.  When you visit this quiet community, you’ll certainly also want to see the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, built in 1858, and to have dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound.

7.  Find inspiration at Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor.

Little Long Pond Seal Harbor Maine

Charles Eliot, the influential president of Harvard University, in 1901 founded an entity on Mount Desert Island to acquire lands for public use, setting the stage for the establishment of the national park eighteen years later.  His son and views like this one – which he felt to be the most beautiful on the island – were his inspiration.

It’s hard to limit this list of must-see scenes to just seven!  Comment below and share your favorites!

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Where to Stay on a Trip to Acadia National Park: A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Where to Stay on a Trip to Acadia National Park: A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages
May 062012
 

Mount Desert Island is shaped like a pair of lungs.

On the eastern side are Bar Harbor and some of the most popular places in Acadia National Park, including Eagle Lake, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond.

The western side, known as the “Quiet Side,” also has two glacial lakes, Echo Lake and Long Pond, as well as mountain hiking. Its best-known landmark is the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, and its largest town is Southwest Harbor.

In the area between the two “lungs” is Somes Sound, seven miles long.  This glacial bay, often referred to as a fiord, is the geological star attraction of many hikes on both sides of the island.

But, in the most practical sense, Somes Sound makes navigating around Mount Desert Island a challenge and consideration of where to stay a key component of successful vacation planning.  Choosing the village in which you’ll be based should be your first step before researching any particular inns or real estate rentals.

Start by looking at a map and considering your priorities:  Which is more important — quiet or convenience?  Proximity to shopping or swimming?  Will you always eat out or sometimes cook in?

Also having a sense of the particular activities you want to pursue on vacation, from napping on the porch to sampling the local micro-brews to sightseeing (or maybe all three, but in the reverse order), will be very helpful as you familiarize yourself with Mount Desert Island’s diverse towns and villages.  Each has its unique personality.

The town of Bar Harbor has six villages — Town Hill, Eden, Salisbury Cove, Hulls Cove, Otter Creek, and downtown Bar Harbor.  It’s no wonder that Bar Harbor has
greater name recognition than Mount Desert Island itself because it is where the cruise ships drop anchor and where you’ll find the greatest concentration of shops, restaurants, lodging, and important community facilities such as the Mount Desert Island Hospital and the Mount Desert Island YMCA (which, by the way, offers
day passes and temporary memberships – great options for rainy days in Acadia National Park).

While detractors complain that Bar Harbor can be “choked with people” when cruise ships come in during July and August, others wouldn’t stay anywhere else, citing the convenience of being close to so many restaurants, shops, and night spots.  Hospitality options are the greatest here, ranging from Victorian mansions in the village to chain motels along Route 3.

Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium Bar Harbor Maine

BEN AND BILL'S CHOCOLATE EMPORIUM, MAIN STREET, BAR HARBOR

South of Bar Harbor, still on Mount Desert Island’s eastern side, is the tiny, charming village of Seal Harbor.  It has a lovely village green and harbor showcasing the classic yachts of its summertime residents.  Among those with homes in Seal Harbor are long-time resident David Rockefeller and relative newcomer Martha Stewart.  Her house, called Skylands, was owned by Edsel Ford and sits on 63 acres overlooking the harbor.

Northeast Harbor is also a wealthy summer colony, with roots dating back to the late 1800s.  Its village center has antiques shops, art galleries, and several stores (The Kimball Shop and Boutique is a personal favorite for tableware).  Another key attraction is Asticou Gardens, featuring both the Asticou Azalea Gardens on Route 198 and Thuya Garden, accessible to both autos and walkers from Route 3.

Thuya Garden Northeast Harbor Maine

THUYA GARDEN, NORTHEAST HARBOR

If you want to base your vacation in Northeast Harbor, there are certainly memories to be made at the Asticou Inn, located at the north end of Northeast Harbor, a classic resort with much history and no TV’s in the main inn.  Rentals in Northeast Harbor can start as low as $2000 weekly and soar to $50,000 monthly for grand shorefront homes.

The western side of Mount Desert Island is home to many year-round residents, including lobstermen and artists.  It also has a large stock of attractive rental
inventory.

Somesville is the first village you’ll see coming south on Route 102 along the western side of Somes Sound.  Somesville is where I live, in a house where Teddy Roosevelt reputedly was a guest in 1880.  Founded in 1761, the village has a library, museum, repertory theatre, and one of the most photographed spots on the island – the Somesville bridge.  Renters in this area have easy access to Acadia’s Echo Lake and Acadia Mountain.

Somesville Bridge Mount Desert Maine

SOMESVILLE BRIDGE, ROUTE 102, SOMESVILLE

Southwest Harbor is one of my favorite places on the island.  The home of Hinckley Yachts, it’s known for boat building, unique shops, great restaurants and cafes, and a beautiful working harbor.   I particularly like the hardware store, which reminds me of the Maine state slogan: The Way Life Should Be.  In Southwest Harbor it’s possible to rent a place where you can see the harbor and still walk to town.  There are charming inns, as well as another classic summer refuge, The Claremont Hotel, which has a restaurant overlooking Somes Sound that is open to the public.

Claremont Hotel Southwest Harbor Maine

THE CLAREMONT HOTEL, SOUTHWEST HARBOR

Bass Harbor is an authentic fishing community, widely recognized for its lighthouse, great lobster pounds, and get-away-from-it-all inns.   It is my favorite place on Mount Desert Island to visit at sunset – not to see the sun itself descend, but to witness its beautiful work on the harbor and its boats.  My first rental on Mount Desert Island was a sunny condo overlooking the harbor.

Lobster boat Bass Harbor Maine

LOBSTER BOAT, BASS HARBOR, MAINE

Just on the other side of Bass Harbor is Bernard, home of Thurston’s Lobster Pound, a “must” for any visit to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.

Tremont, Seal Cove, and Pretty Marsh are the quietest villages on the “Quiet Side”!  The distance from Bar Harbor discourages many visitors, who miss out on picnicking at Pretty Marsh, hiking the quiet trails of Western Mountain, and kayaking on Long Pond.   Rentals here include cottages and cabins overlooking Seal Cove Pond or the quiet coves of the western shoreline of Mount Desert Island.

In love, real estate, and where to stay on Mount Desert Island, there are always trade-offs.  I invite you to join the conversation and comment on which villages you’ve enjoyed on your visits to Acadia National Park.

 

 

 

Why Visitors to Acadia National Park Go Off the Beaten Path to Explore Bass Harbor

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Why Visitors to Acadia National Park Go Off the Beaten Path to Explore Bass Harbor
Sep 052011
 

The story goes that, when a post office was built in Bass Harbor in the early 1900s, federal officials asked what it should be called.  A no-nonsense Mainer replied, “Name it after the president for all we care.”  Thus, the village, as well as the post office, came to be called McKinley, until 1961 when folks petitioned it be changed back to Bass Harbor.

Today Bass Harbor, one of the most lucrative lobster-producing ports in Maine, draws tourists, among them President Obama and his family, to see this quintessentially quaint fishing village and the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, built in 1858 (shown above).  But it is primarily a working harbor and still home to laconic Mainers.

I am a fan of seafood purveyor C.H. Rich, for example.  They’re open 365 days a year and sell crab, lobster, whatever they’re catching.  We had just come off a hiking trail and I was trying to calculate if we had time to get over to Bass Harbor for something for dinner so I called to ask what time they were closing.  “When all my boats are in.” 

That was it.  Tired of hype?  Here you go.

We first discovered Bass Harbor seven years ago when we rented a hillside house there overlooking a former sardine canning factory, the wharf, and the busy working harbor. 

In every way Bass Harbor is the opposite of Bar Harbor.  On Mount Desert Island it is on the southwestern part of the island, known as the “quiet side”  versus Bar Harbor’s northeastern location.  Where Bar Harbor has cruise ships, Bass Harbor has lobster boats.  There are a few good restaurants, but not a t-shirt or souvenir shop to be found. 

I love two nearby easy walking trails, Wonderland and Ship Harbor.  The Seawall picnic area, facing south to the Atlantic, is a great place to cook outdoors and relax.

Bass Harbor is appealing at all times of year.  Summertime is great for outdoor dining.  Photographers love fall.  And, as I said, C.H. Rich is open year-round.

The  best time of day to visit Bass Harbor is at sunset.  We often end up taking in its golden charm after a dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard.

So, plan to include Bass Harbor on your next trip to Mount Desert Island.  If you’re looking for a small, romantic, waterfront inn, check out Ann’s Point.  For other things to do during a visit to Acadia National Park, here’s a guide to the best restaurants, local markets, guides and boat cruises.

Aug 092010
 

In this my eighth summer on Mount Desert Island, I decided to start exploring some of the smaller islands around MDI.  On a Saturday morning Fred and I took our bikes on the 9 o’clock ferry from Bass Harbor to Swan’s Island.

You wouldn’t like it.

The island is hilly for biking.  There are no restaurants to speak of, only two or three take-out shacks.  And we were told the islanders don’t like cyclists.  That’s why the ferry service charges $16.50 per bicycle, in addition to $17.50 per passenger.

Still, you might like the ferry trip.  Packed in with some pick-ups, a lobster bait truck, and a few SUVs loaded with kayaks and vacation gear, we spent the 40-minute crossing both on deck and above, marveling at Acadia’s mountains as they became more and more distant, then turning our attention to Swan’s as it emerged to the south.  Ferry rides are exciting, and this one passed quickly.

Then we arrived, and something surprising happened.  Every time we pedaled past a motorist, he waved.  Sometimes it was a full-fledged wave, sometimes merely a finger off the steering wheel.  But it was nearly universal.

We biked past freshly painted white Victorian farmhouses and the Methodist Church (1891) on our way to our first destination: the Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse on Hockamock Head.  It marks the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor, a curious name that seems to have come from the explorer Samuel de Champlain, who in 1604 called the island Brule-Cote or “Burnt Coast.”

(Speaking of the origin of place names, don’t look for swans on Swan’s Island.  It’s named after James Swan, one of the Sons of Liberty and participant in the Boston Party, who purchased the island in 1786.)

The Burnt Coat light station, built in 1872, was operated manually until 1974 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The lighthouse and the keeper’s house are pristine white forms, topped in black and red, handsome geometry straight out of a Hopper painting.

A man on the ferry had kindly mentioned to us that there’s a hiking path at the top of the hill leading down to the lighthouse.  We found it past a huge outcropping of raspberry bushes and followed it among moss-covered boulders and stunning silvery birches down to Burnt Coat Harbor.  And there was the second surprise of the day, a lobster pound.

You’re thinking, “She said there were no restaurants.”  Such lobster pounds (aka lobster shacks) derive their name from the holding tanks where restaurateurs keep the live lobsters.  But this lobster pound in Burnt Coat Harbor, created by wood fencing and pilings with netting, is where lobstermen hold their catch until pricing is favorable for them to bring it to market.  It wasn’t in use, perhaps reflecting the low price of lobster.

This focus on lobster made us hungry.  We biked back past the Post Office, the busiest spot on the island from what I could see. During the 2000 Census, the population of Swan’s Island was 327, and a good percentage of them seemed to be at the Post Office on Saturday morning.  We headed to the Carrying Place, a beautiful narrow spit of land between Toothacher Cove and Back Cove, so named because it is where the Indians carried their canoes from one body of water to the next.  At the Carrying Place Take-out (40 North Road, 526-4043) we ate lobster rolls and curly French Fries at a picnic table beside a meadow.  (They had a Shrimp Basket with French Fries for $10.35, a Clam Basket for $13.95, and an entire lobster dinner for $10.95, not surprising considering the island’s primary industry.)  Then we headed for Sand Beach.

There’s also a Sand Beach on Mount Desert Island and, as beach lovers, we recognize that “sand” is a relative term when it comes to the coast of Maine.  We were somewhat skeptical.  We cycled north on the paved road 0.4 mile and took the second gravel road on the left.  Over several hills and around bends, we pedaled another 0.7 mile, whirling in dust as a couple of cars passed on the loose gravel.  We stopped where four or five cars were parked and took another left almost missing a rather unpretentious sign to the beach.  We walked another half mile on a pine-needle path, sporadically overtaken by roots or mud. 

When we emerged, it was paradise. 

We discovered a perfect crescent of fine sand beach with only a few appreciative people playing lacrosse and building sandcastles with their children.  It looked more like the Caribbean than Maine.  We waded in the water, quite warm by Maine standards, and sunbathed on towels that had been squeezed into our backpacks.

I had wanted to visit Quarry Pond, from which granite was mined and taken out on ships for cobblestones in major eastern cities.  But we had lingered at the lighthouse and lobster pound and beach.  The last ferry returning to Mount Desert Island was at 4:30pm. 

On the way back I noticed a woman taking in laundry that had been drying all day in the sunshine.  The stretch to the dock seemed longer than when we had arrived.  The fragrance of the rosa rugosa intoxicated us with the idea of finding a B&B for the night, or buying a farmhouse and staying forever.

Thank you to Fred Stern for his help with the photographs for this post. 

Second Life as an Innkeeper in Maine

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Second Life as an Innkeeper in Maine
Jul 082010
 

In the movies the harried corporate executive buys a B&B in New England, starts a successful mail order business, and lives happily ever after. 

If you have ever visited a B&B on the Maine coast – or plan to this summer – you may wonder if innkeepers’ lives are as sweet as the chocolate-drizzled banana French toast they serve for breakfast.  For one couple, the route to Mount Desert Island, which annually lures over two million visitors to Acadia National Park, had as many switchbacks as a park hiking trail.

Alan Feuer, who today owns Ann’s Point Inn on Bass Harbor, says, “I taught computer science at Northeastern and ran a company that offers specialized search engines.  My wife Jeannette worked at the Museum of Science in Boston.  When our youngest finished college, we decided it was time to sell our 120-year-old Victorian in the city and try something different.” 

The couple commenced a nationwide search to meet an exacting set of standards for a property.  According to Alan, they wanted a spectacular setting in an interesting community with high-quality amenities like excellent grocers and restaurants.  Because they had already had an old house in Boston, they decided to look for a property of contemporary design and construction.  They focused on inns with fewer than five rooms so that they could really meet their guests.  And they wanted a seasonal enterprise that would give them time to themselves. 

The search for the ideal property took the Feuers to the central California coast, the Southwest, islands off the Southeast, and Cape Cod.  They spent a year looking, then they saw Ann’s Point Inn on Mount Desert Island.  

Sitting on two acres at the end of a peninsula on Bass Harbor, this lovely B&B had four luxurious guest rooms with water views, an indoor heated pool, a Finnish sauna, a jet-filled hot tub, and nearly 700 feet of private shoreline.  And there wasn’t a fussy Victorian wreath or lace pillow in sight.

 Not only did it meet all of their criteria, but, as Alan said, “MDI had always been in the back of our minds.  We’d been going there on and off for 30 years.  Acadia is one of our favorite places.” 

Finding the property was only the beginning.  Alan’s dream was “luxury with a low-carbon footprint.”  That meant adding a solar pool heater and 3500 watts of electricity generation using solar panels.  They also redesigned their central courtyard and built three new decks and patios. 

The Feuers approached innkeeping with confidence because they’d always done a lot of entertaining.  Alan hooked up a Quickmill espresso machine to perfect his cappucino technique.  Jeannette began preparing breakfast not once, but three times a day to test recipes. 

Foodies flock to Mount Desert Island because of its inventive restaurants that focus on seasonal ingredients, seafood, and local produce. Jeannette started experimenting with some of these for her three-course breakfasts, which include herbs and produce from her garden as well as local eggs and seafood. Alan has added a refreshment hour in the late afternoon featuring Seal Cove goat cheese, a favorite mead from Bartlett Winery he pairs with roasted apricots, and honey ale from Atlantic Brewing.   

Does Ann’s Point Inn attract any particular type of visitor?  “Many are celebrating some special occasion.  That puts them in a wonderful state-of-mind.  I think everyone is enchanted by the beauty of the island. Hiking, kayaking, and eating lobster are among the most popular activities.” 

With satisfied guests and the perfect setting, it seems the one final element of the equation for innkeeper happiness is the mail order business.  “I still run the search engine business that I started in Boston,” Alan grins, “I guess that qualifies as Web mail order.”

To learn more about things to do in Acadia National Park and the best times to visit Mount Desert Island, visit OUR ACADIA.

Saving the Ales and Other Things To Do on a Rainy Day in Acadia National Park

 travel  Comments Off on Saving the Ales and Other Things To Do on a Rainy Day in Acadia National Park
Aug 112008
 

Children can have a great time with their parents even if it’s raining in Acadia National Park.  While this kind of weather rules out whale watching, there are touch tanks and an oceanarium, a movie house that serves pizza during the show, and welcoming libraries and picturesque bookstores with waterfront reading areas. Take a look at my recent post for more ideas on what to do with kids if it rains.

 

This post, however, is for adults.

 

A book and a nap are high on my list of activities for a rainy day.  Working with that as a theme, here are three options for things to do that surely will get you in a Gene Kelly kind of mood.

 

1. Taste some of Maine’s best micro-brews.  Bar Harbor Brewing offers tastings of its award-winning ales and stouts at its brewery and storefront, now conveniently located at 8 Mount Desert Street in downtown Bar Harbor.  The day we went Andre Lozano was offering very generous pours to compensate for the fact that their True Blue Blueberry Ale and Bar Harbor Peach Ale were not available.  They only produce 100 cases a week, so many of the brands are in short supply, and they only distribute within 100 miles of Bar Harbor, so this was a treat.  Another day we visited Atlantic Brewing Company in Town Hill, which is in a very pleasant setting and offers tables in a garden for sunny days. Also behind the farmhouse and right next to the brewery is the tiny Knox Road Grill, which really put us in the mood for pulled pork.  Instead, though, we enjoyed an extremely interesting tour of the brewery during which we had the opportunity to smell and taste barley roasted to various depths.  Then we tasted nine different ales and stouts, as well as two sodas.  That brought us to nap time!

 

2. Relax with a massage.  In fact, Bar Harbor offers world-class services that may well put you into a slumber.  They will certainly help soothe some of your sore muscles from hiking and paddling.  The Bar Harbor Inn beckons you to its spa through a trellis and into a separate building, with a wicker-furnished waiting room overlooking the lawn and Frenchmen’s Bay.  Have some fruit and water before moving to a candle-lit private room (or a couples’ room) for your treatment on a warm massage table – how perfect for a rainy afternoon!  My deep tissue massage was $105.  Another option, in a simpler setting that is appealing in its straightforwardness, is the Tree of Life Day Spa.  It is operated by the owners of the Acadia School of Massage, who also provide treatments themselves on occasion.  Although my therapist exclaimed “You have knots everywhere.  I honestly have never seen so many!” she was able to work many of them out and I was extremely satisfied with the massage, which cost $95

 

3. Find a new novel.  We headed off the beaten path down to Bass Harbor and Bernard to explore.  This is a great thing to do on a rainy day…or a sunny one if you want to avoid the crowds.  There are a few antique shops in Bernard, but the Old Red Store (129 Bernard Road) was the only one that was open.  It didn’t matter because I found a wonderful old watercolor of loggers loading cargo on to sailing ships for $36 framed, fabulous tote bags made of recycled sail cloth, and very nice stationery.  We then headed over to Port Side, the sister bookstore of Port In A Storm in Somesville, which is also located on the water in an historic building.  I lost myself reading the reviews and recommendations of the staff – a very friendly gesture of this entrepreneurship.  I bought something by Wallace Stegner I hadn’t read, as well as Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.  We wrapped up the day with a great lobster dinner at Thurston’s before heading home to Somesville.

 

Of course, a perfectly good option is to just stay in, read, nap, and head out for an early dinner.  Mount Desert Island offers many great eateries from casual to elegant, from lobster pounds to tapas and wine bars.  For reviews of 12 great spots close to Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA. 

 

Nimbus clouds today?  Let it pour!