Acadia’s 18th Annual Oktoberfest Draws Old Fans and Creates New Ones

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on Acadia’s 18th Annual Oktoberfest Draws Old Fans and Creates New Ones
Nov 022013

Oktoberfest AcadiaI have no credentials that qualify me to review an Oktoberfest event.

When one of the brewers I visited at Acadia’s Oktoberfest described an ale as very “hoppy,” I said, “Yes, happy!” and extended my sampling glass.

With my credentials—or lack thereof—established, I can now share my sentiments about the annual Acadia Oktoberfest, and you can rest assured that I won’t be describing the beers in the manner of, say, a wine critic.

This year, as in the seventeen previous, Acadia’s Oktoberfest was sponsored by the Southwest and Tremont Chamber of Commerce during Columbus Day weekend at Smuggler’s Den Campground on Mount Desert Island. In years past up to four thousand locals, national park visitors, beer geeks, and those just looking for a good time have joined in the imbibing, as well as music and crafts exhibits.

I’d never been among them, even though I come to Acadia from New York City every October to hike.

First of all, admission to the Saturday beerfest is $30.  For that you get a roll of ten tickets, entitling you to ten samplings in your  4-ounce “souvenir” glass.  In addition to the beer tent, there are two others devoted to crafts and food/entertainment.  All food is additional.  (The other option is to pay $10 for admission only.)

But that $30 price tag is nothing for the many fans of craft beers, who view this festival as their chance to sample both the classic and seasonal offerings of 21 breweries, all in the craft or microbrewery category that boasts small batches and artisanal quality.  According to the Brewers Associations, craft brewing sales soared 15 percent in 2012, while U.S. beer sales overall were virtually stagnant at a .9 percent increase.

Anchoring the entrance to the beer tent at this year’s Acadia’s Oktoberfest was Mount Desert Island’s own Atlantic Brewing, founded in 1990 and a driving force behind the festival’s inception. It’s where we tasted our first sample.  Fred chose the classic Real Ale, but I decided to try the Island Ginger, a lightly spiced brew that was a more flavorful alternative to the Bar Harbor Summer Ale I like to drink with lobster.

Scouting out the surroundings, we moved from the beer tent, which was packed with enthusiasts, over to the food tent.  Here the band was playing and couples, flushed from their own circuits of the beer tent, were dancing.

Acadia Oktoerfest

The food stand for Tanya’s Off the Grid Foods caught our attention.  Loading up with a freshly prepared salsa and chips and cups of chili, we found seats at long tables.  Cool autumn air refreshed the tent as we dug into the perfectly seasoned chili.  I ducked back into the beer tent for two more harvest ales, and, returning, stirred some sour cream into the chili.  The band, The Peterson Project, started up a new set, moving from bluesy rock to bluegrass.

The difference in the beers was really remarkable.  Of the 21 breweries represented, only three were from outside of Maine and one—Brooklyn Brewery—from outside of New England.  Some of the Maine beers, such as Allagash, Geary, and Shipyard, are well distributed throughout New England and sometimes farther, such as New York, where I’ve seen them in restaurants featuring craft beers.   Many, however, were local micro-breweries.  We stood in line twice for the Daymark from Rising Tide, a family-owned craft brewery in Portland that specializes in artisanal ales.Acadia OktoberfestSome booths were staffed by sales reps, others volunteers.  “I just moved here from Alaska,” one volunteer told me.  “I thought it would be a great way to meet people.”

In front of the Sam Adams booth, a couple in Bavarian-style, felt hats posed for a photo.

Acadia Oktoberfest

A cut-out of Sam Adams himself marched by.Acadia OktoberfestThere were no lederhosen to be seen, although I did spot a guy in a lime green T-shirt and plaid kilt.

Acadia Oktoberfest

In the midst of the revelers enjoying the fall craft beers, caricaturist Susan Fox sketched a smiling subject.Acadia OktoberfestBack in the food tent Fred ordered a plate of BBQ ribs from Nostrano, the Town Hill caterer that specializes in private dinners.  When he asked for a knife, the owner Frank Pendola simply twisted the rack, and the meat fell off the bones.

It was getting close to the 6pm closing, and we still had quite a few red tickets left in our rolls.  So many more beers, so little time.  The Fatty Bumpkins Maine Draft Cider was too sweet for my taste, but we loved the chocolate and mint-laced coffee and Cadillac Stout that wrapped up our tasting.

The closing event in the beer tent was about to begin.  Someone in the crowd told us they were counting the tickets at each brewer’s stand to determine the people’s choice–who would get to come back next year with no vendor’s fee.  We heard “Testing…testing” on the mike, then, “Brooklyn Brewery.”

It was a sign!  This New Yorker would be back next year, too.

Related Stories:

Foodies Take a Detour to Bartlett Winery on a Trip to Acadia National Park

17 Great Ways to Experience Acadia National Park in Maine

Maine Pie Entrepreneur Gains Bigger Piece of A Market Locals & Vacationers Love

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on Maine Pie Entrepreneur Gains Bigger Piece of A Market Locals & Vacationers Love
Jul 282013

Maine Blueberry PieNothing typifies the Maine vacation experience more than lobster and blueberry pie.  And this year Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bass Harbor, considered by many the best lobster pound on Mount Desert Island, switched its pie purveyor to a start-up baker, who three years ago was worrying about how to pay for new siding on her house.

That’s how Mary Musson describes why she started IslandBound Treats.  “It was on a lark,” she grins.  “We were trying to think of ways to earn a little extra money for the remodeling.”

Maine blueberry pie

Photo by Michelle Perry

Today, in addition to Thurston’s, her pies are sold at Sawyers Market on Main Street in Southwest Harbor.  You’ll find them by the register of this well-known island establishment, on the counter right in front of the photo of the original shopkeeper with Julia Child.

Mary also sells the pies from her own house at 302 Main Street in Southwest Harbor, just shy of the village.  Look for a simple sign in front of a white 1950 ranch, now freshly sided.  There you’ll find pies arranged on a makeshift counter, that is, a table put across the open door.  If you go too late, you’re also likely to see a “Sold Out” sign.

Word of mouth is spreading the excitement about IslandBound Treats.  Says Maine artist Judy Taylor, “They are fresh, fresh, fresh.”  Jeannette Feuer, innkeeper at Ann’s Point in Bass Harbor, reports, “Guests returned from Thurston’s and were raving about the strawberry rhubarb pie.”

To produce 40 pies a day, 50 during holiday weeks, Mary still uses her standard household GE oven, but has added two new ones in the basement.  She doesn’t have a dishwasher, but this year hired a helper.

The energetic mother of three girls, 6, 7, and 9, Mary makes three kinds of pie—blueberry (“the classic”), strawberry/rhubarb (“kind of nostalgic”), and triple berry (“my favorite—I kept one for us over the Fourth”).

The recipes?  Well, according to Mary, it was a process to get them where they are today.  In particular, for the blueberry pie, she was looking for “juicy, not thick and gummy.”  The crust?  “Perfecting it just meant more and more butter.”

Mary grew up in Bar Harbor and her husband, an engineer, in Bernard.  They lived in Boston for five years and, when they were on their way home for visits, they’d talk about being “island bound”.  To raise their family, they decided to return to MDI, especially because of the good schools.  “Now I feel island bound in a different way.  I thought it was a good name for the business.”

If Mary keeps baking pies the way she has been, she’s bound for much more success.  Maybe a new sun room, too.


Related Stories:

The Best Ice Cream in Bar Harbor Tops Lists of the Best Ice Cream in America

Lobster Rolls at the Quiet Side Café on Mount Desert Island

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Two Cats Cafe

Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie at the Quietside Café on Mount Desert Island

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pie at the Quietside Café on Mount Desert Island
Jun 302013

What are you looking for when you go to Maine?  Views of the rocky coastline, lighthouses, and Cadillac Mountain?  Lots of lobster and blueberry pie?  Hiking and biking in Acadia National Park?

I go to Maine because I also want to “get away.”

To me this means spending time in stores and cafes with a much slower pace than what I experience in New York City, where I live.  I find that a discussion about a new garden hose at the hardware store in Southwest Harbor can be more restorative than any massage or spa treatment.

That’s one reason the Quietside Café in Southwest Harbor is a favorite.  No doubt about it, we go there because their lobster rolls are fantastic.  Packed with the freshest lobster meat from the lobster pound right down the street on Clark Point Road, they’re served with delicious homemade coleslaw and chips.  Fred also loves their New England clam chowder, which is thick and creamy.

Lobster roll at Quietside Cafe Southwest Harbor Maine

But I love the fact that this is a family business.  Frances and Ralph have operated it for 16 years now, with their two daughters growing up working in the business and pitching in to serve customers.  Today, as we sat outside on newly painted picnic benches, the couple continued to show pride in the new 15-year-old waitress who’s a whiz at reciting their 20-plus ice cream flavors.  That’s just the kind of place it is.

The Quietside Café is located on Main Street in Southwest Harbor on the eponymous western half of Mount Desert Island where the pace is far less bustling than in Bar Harbor where the cruise ships dock.  Parking on Main Street in Southwest Harbor is pretty easy.  There’s also a parking lot in front of the post office right around the corner on Clark Point Road.  The Quietside is diagonally across from the hardware store.

Quietside Cafe Southwest Harbor Maine

The café itself is nondescript.  You can sit outside on picnic tables in a small village garden, which attracts battalions of butterflies to its bushes in late August.  Likely there will be a pie cooling in the window.

Inside the tiny, tidy luncheonette decorated with family photographs are a few tables, an ice cream bar, and a lunch counter that’s also jam-packed with what Frances has baked that day – blueberry pie, macaroons, and oatmeal cookies.

Quietside Cafe Southwest Harbor Maine

Sit there on a stool at risk to your waist line because what TripAdvisor reviewers say is true:

“Blueberry pie in a class of its own, piled a mile high with the sweetest wild berries”

“Ethereal blueberry pie”

“Amazing pie well over an inch thick”

“Best pie around”

“Best key lime pie ever – I suspect it was that chocolate crust”

“The best was the apple pie – pecan streusel topping and loads of apples”

“Pie tastes like the berries were just picked…”

blueberry pie quietside cafe maine

macaroons quietside cafe southwest harbor maine

Speaking of TripAdvisor, I also liked the reviewer who said: “We camped 10 nights and visited the café 5.”  Repeat visitors and regulars are common at the Quietside.

9 of the 10 times I go, I have the lobster roll, but the crab rolls and BLTs are also my personal favorites.  Others are fans of the turkey melts and the “to-die-for” sweet potato fries – in addition to the pizza!

The ice cream also gets rave reviews, for both the quality and flavor variety.  Take Moose Track, for example.  It’s a rich vanilla studded with chocolate and peanut butter chunks.

It’s surely from another world.  And that takes me back to my first point: I go to Maine to get away from it all. Going to the Quietside is like visiting America in another time.  It’s a chance to engage with simple things: value for the money and nice people.  The way life was meant to be, as the Maine slogan states.

It’s telling it like it is when the locals on MDI refer to us off-islanders as people “from away”.

Related Stories:

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: Come This Way to Café This Way

Mount Desert Island’s Most Scenic Lobster Pound?  It’s Unanimous

What Is Peekytoe Crab and Should a Maine Lobster Lover Opt for It?


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

Related Stories:

Attention, Foodies: Take a Detour to Bartlett Winery When You Visit Acadia National Park in Maine

Second Life as an Innkeeper in Maine


Lighthouses and Lobster Boats on a Sunset Sail from Southwest Harbor

 travel  Comments Off on Lighthouses and Lobster Boats on a Sunset Sail from Southwest Harbor
Sep 152012

Karl Brunner is the perfect guy to go sailing with.  He started sailing when he was eight, has good stories (he hiked the Appalachian Trail in five months and eight days), and knows the best local bars.

Fortunately for us, he’s also an entrepreneur, so we all can go sailing with him.

karl brunner

In 2005 he started Downeast Friendship Sloop Charters with the handsomely refurbished Alice E., a sloop with a history.  In fact, she was originally built in 1899. During the 1930s she was owned by a doctor who rechristened her the Depression.  Knowing no one wants to be in a Depression during a vacation to Acadia National Park, Karl reverted to her original name as he launched his business giving sailing tours out of Southwest Harbor.

On this particular August afternoon everyone was upbeat as we boarded for our three-hour sunset cruise.  Joining Karl were three couples from Arizona, New York, and North Carolina, who had paid $75 per person for this vacation experience.  We had checked in at Sail Acadia next to the post office in Southwest Harbor, then driven in our own cars to park at the marina from which we embarked at 4:30pm.

With good winds at our back, we set sail and explored the mouth of Somes Sound, the deep, 6-mile fiord-like body of water that divides Mount Desert Island.  As we sailed east, Northeast Harbor’s elegant homes and clubs came into view.

Northeast HarborKarl pointed out the Bear Island Lighthouse, which was built in 1839.  Although the lighthouse is part of Acadia National Park, today it is leased to a private resident and not open to the public.  The best views of it are from exactly where we were, on the water.Bear Island is one of the five islands that make up the Town of Cranberry Isles.  With such good wind, sometimes reaching 25 knots, we sailed toward Great Cranberry Island and then to Islesford Harbor on Little Cranberry Island.  Lobster boats dotted the harbor.  We spotted the geometric, pastel-door boat houses we had seen so many times in the paintings of Judy Taylor, who takes students for workshops to Islesford.

By this point, Karl had left his post in the stern to go below (where there was a loo) to retrieve a blanket for his passenger from Phoenix who was chilly.  In addition to layered outer wear, if you decide to go on this sailing trip, you should remember your camera, binoculars, and any alcoholic drinks you might enjoy.  Karl served soft drinks and an “appetizer,” as advertised, of olive bread, brie, pears, and apples.   The couple from North Carolina had brought along a bottle of Sangiovese wine flavored with blueberries, a surprisingly delightful blend I recognized from the local Bartlett Winery.  I had packed a thermos of gin and tonic, christening the deck of Alice E. a couple of times as gusts came up.

What surprised me was how quickly and easily the Alice E. righted herself after these gusts, the result of her design, Karl explained.  It reminded me that the Downeast Friendship Sloops were the original lobster boats – well designed to sail steady as the captain was hauling traps.

We were nearing the end of our cruise.  The getting-to-know-you chatter ceased.  Western Mountain and Acadia Mountain were black silhouettes against the golden sky.  The moon rose.  As we sailed into Southwest Harbor, a lone harbor seal swam in our wake.

Related Stories:

Diver’s Ed Educational Schtick – A Popular Boat Cruise for Visitors to Acadia National Park

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

A Bike Trip to Swan Island

Jul 012012

Causeway Club Southwest Harbor Maine

So much to do.  So little time.

That’s always the way I feel about a trip to Acadia National ParkHiking, biking, and kayaking all compete for my time.  But here’s why nine holes of golf should compete for yours the next time you visit Mount Desert Island.

Why?  Simply said, the Causeway Club.

Norwood Cove, Southwest Harbor, MaineThis gem of a golf course in Southwest Harbor sits on the shores of scenic Norwood Cove, with water to both the west and south.  The mountains of Acadia National Park provide a spectacular backdrop.  Osprey and bald eagles entertain overhead.

These nine holes also have some history.  The course is a links style, the oldest, first developed in Scotland.  Designed by Alonzo Yates and completed in 1923, it features small greens of velvet bent grass, one of the oldest grasses used for golf courses in Europe.  You’ll appreciate the smooth, velvety putting surface it provides.

With multiple tee options, the front nine plays to a par of 32 measuring 2266 yards. The back nine of 2410 yards plays to a par of 33.  Water may come into play on four different holes.

Causeway Club Norwood Cove Southwest Harbor Maine

If you need any more convincing, the late Bob Labbance, nationally recognized golf writer and historian who authored 17 books, called the Causeway Club “one of Maine’s best short tracks” – one of the outstanding nine-hole courses that “force you to hit every club in your bag in half the time.”

To learn more, visit The Causeway Club.  If you’re already a fan of the Causeway Club, tell us all why!


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


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


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

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


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


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


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.




A Maine Food Adventure

 Food and Dining, travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on A Maine Food Adventure
Sep 112011

As a shellfish lover who had spent summers on Cape Cod, I knew that there were many different types of hard and soft shell clams, often with regional names.  Quahaugs, littlenecks, cherrystones, nanny nose, gaggers – these were all familiar.  But the only place I’d seen “rats” was on the sign on Route 102 between Trenton and Somesville on Mount Desert Island.  I had always wanted to send a picture of that sign to Jay Leno.

One day in August we had an urge for clams.  With a notion to make linguine con le vongole, we headed up the road marked by the sign, with the flag waving us on.  Every hundred feet there was another sign beckoning us along this country road until we arrived at our destination 7/10-mile into the woods.  

There, in what appeared to be a converted garage, were clams for sale.  The woman had cherrystones, which are slightly larger than the littlenecks usually used in clam sauces, but we opted for steamers so that Fred could have a few as an appetizer. 

We worked from a recipe of Tyler Florence, adapting it as we went.  While the pasta was boiling, we sauteed garlic and a little cayenne (I was out of red pepper flakes) in olive oil, then added some white wine and lemon, into which we threw the clams to steam until they all opened up.  We tossed the pasta into the clam mixture, added a little butter, and sprinkled on some fresh herbs.

Scott Worcestor of Sawyer’s Specialties in Southwest Harbor, whose selection from artisanal producers gets rave reviews from Food and Wine, suggested we use a Portugese vinho verde for the recipe.  It was perfect – light, fresh, and inexpensive.

But the hero of the dish were the clams, dug earlier that day by Richard Alan Taylor, otherwise known as “Rats.”

Destination Dining at its Best: Xanthus at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Destination Dining at its Best: Xanthus at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine
Aug 192011

We had had a busy day on Mount Desert Island.  In the morning we went to the annual Somesville Library Book and Blueberry Fair.  In the afternoon we kayaked on Somes Sound, where we saw an eagle and two seals who were almost as eager to look at us as we at them.  After a cocktail party at the Causeway Club in Southwest Harbor, we headed to dinner at the Claremont Hotel.  

We got lost.

Even at the risk of a wrong turn, the Claremont Hotel is a destination worth finding because, among the many excellent restaurants on Mount Desert Island, its restaurant is one of the rare finds that inspires diners equally with its cuisine and setting.

The Claremont Hotel is at the end of Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor, then you must take a left onto Claremont Road across from the harbor.  There stands the grand summer resort hotel from 1883, known for its outdoor activities and spirited competition on the croquet court.  In fact, it offered such a sublime Maine coast summer experience that, in 1885, well-known landscape artist Xanthus Smith painted it in exchange for an extension of his stay there.  The restaurant is named after him, and today that painting hangs in the dining room overlooking the same view it depicts.

 Even though we were seated at a table for two to enjoy both Somes Sound and Acadia’s mountains, as I began to consider my dinner options, I couldn’t help but notice the activity through a side window.  It was a good sign.  A woman from the kitchen was picking fresh herbs in the garden.

My selection of an appetizer, a goat cheese tartlet with roasted beets, featured a nasturium from that garden.  My partner chose a panzanella salad with mozzarella, olives, red onions, and red and yellow tomatoes.  Our candlelit dinner continued with grilled swordfish and pan-seared duck breast.  The fish was so fresh and the charcoal essence of the grilling so compelling that the mango/avocado salsa was only an enhancement, not the focal point of flavor it often is.  I received only one offer of a taste of the duck from my partner who usually volunteers to swap entrees. 

Chef Daniel Sweimler, who had stints as executive chef at two NYC restaurants, is well known today as one of Maine’s top chefs who feature local and organic in their foods.  Among his sources for produce for Xanthus is 14 Angels Farm in Cherryfield, owned by his mother.  Sweimler, who seems as popular with his staff as diners, changes the menu at Xanthus daily.

If you are visiting Acadia National Park for an anniversary or other milestone, consider dining at Xanthus.  Unlike most other restaurants on Mount Desert Island (even the best ones), you won’t see people there in their hiking boots.  In fact, you’re sure to see more than a few blue blazers.  Xanthus is the perfect place for dinner to mark a special occasion or to end a vacation in Acadia National Park.

To plot a day like the one I’ve described here, visit OUR ACADIA.  It offers itineraries, recommendations for guides and outfitters, and extensive reviews of restaurants throughout Mount Desert Island, including Bar Harbor.

2011 Lecture and Concert Series at the Historic Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on 2011 Lecture and Concert Series at the Historic Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine
Jul 162011

Rowboats, croquet, and a lecture and concert series are all a part of the “classic” Maine resort experience offered by The Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine.  Since 1884, guests have been finding refuge here on the shores of Somes Sound.  And, fortunately, even if you are not a guest at this historic hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, you are invited to enjoy the lectures and concerts.  The Thursday evening lectures are free; the Saturday evening concerts cost $10.

Last year we attended a fine illustrated talk by the Maine State Historian.  Among this year’s lecturers are prominent scientists, writers, and academics.  Similarly, concerts range from classical to blue grass. 

Thanks for The Claremont Hotel for this valuable contribution to the rich and varied experience of a Mount Desert Island vacation.  For more information, you can call the hotel at 207-244-5036 or visit


7-21 John Marin & Maine Modernism

Thomas Denenberg – Deputy Director & Chief Curator, Portland Museum of Art

7-28 The Rise and Fall of the Euro: Aspects of an Unavoidable Crisis of the European Union 

Michael Naumann – Editor & Publisher Cicero Magazine, Berlin

8-4 Understanding Climate Change and the Climate Change Debate

Andrew J. Pershing, Ph.D. – Research Scientist, Gulf of Maine Research Institute & Assoc. Professor, Univ. of Maine School of Marine Sciences

8-11 Voyages of Discovery: Polar Phytoplankton, Climate Change and the “Global Squeeze Play”

Dr. William Balch – Senior Research Scientist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

8-18 Writing for a Living and Other Mistakes I Have Made

Alex Beam – Boston Globe Columnist and Author

8-25 Miners and Sappers: Rethinking Lincoln’s Political Strategy Before the Presidency

Jamie McKown, PhD – Wiggins Chair of Government & Polity, College of the Atlantic

9-1 Poetry: A Dialogue between our Private and Public Selves

Betsy Sholl – Poet Laureate of Maine (2006-2011), Assistant Professor, Univ. of Southern Maine, Poetry Faculty, Vermont College of Fine Arts


7-9 The Capital Duo – “From My Homeland.” – Music of Beethoven, Smetana, and Schubert

Duncan Cumming -piano, Hilary Cumming – violin

7-23 Frank Glazer – Distinguished Classical Pianist Artist in Residence, Bates College

7-30 Jerks of Grass – Blue Grass

Jason Phelps – Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals; Carter Logan – Banjo, Dobro, Guitar, Vocals; Melissa Bragdon – Fiddle, Vocals; Kris Day – Upright & Electric Bass, Vocals

8-13 The Sheepscot Jazz & Swing Company – Traditional and Dixieland Jazz

Dr. Barney Balch – tenor,alto & soprano trombones, Richard “Lefty” McAuslin – tenor & alto saxophones, Herb Maine – bass, Kenny Gaspar – piano, Billy Friederich – drums

8-20 Tom Snow Trio – Traditional and Contemporary Jazz

Tom Snow – piano, Ralph Norris – saxophone, Marshall Wood – bass

8-27 Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Hancock County – Music of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas

For more ideas for your Maine vacation, visit OUR ACADIA.  You’ll find reviews of Bar Harbor’s best restaurants, ideas for hiking and biking trails, and recommendations for boat cruises and kayaking guides.  There’s even a seven-day itinerary to help you plan your visit to Acadia National Park.