Lighthouses, Lobster & L.L. Bean, the Staples of Maine

In Destinations, North America by LA Travel Magazine

We arrive in Boston at Logan Airport after a long and tiring six hour flight, although we are exhausted we are excited to get to Maine! We grab our rental and make our way up the coast; the resort is located about an hour north of Boston.  We arrive late as usual and check into The Cliff House Inn; our home for the weekend. The resort was fantastic, specifically because we got a room with an amazing ocean view, which set the tone for our stay.  This New England hotel has just upped the romantic ante, now to make sure Mike steps up his game.  I have to mention the staff, I guess you could say I am a little high maintenance when on vacation; I have very high expectations working in the industry.  From check-in to check-out their staff was on it.

One of the highlights of the hotel was the restaurant terrace with a view that is breathtaking; even if the appreciation is induced largely by a dreamy cocktail menu.  A glass of wine overlooking the ocean was the perfect way to wind down.  I was ready to call it a night; I couldn’t wait to explore the town first thing in the morning!

I woke to warm sun rays bursting through the window and the sound of waves crashing against the rocks below.  We headed down to breakfast before our eventful day began.  The server suggested we sit next to the window to enjoy the view; good call.  After looking over the menu my high maintenance partner in crime decides he wants a lobster omelet, which is not on the menu.  I roll my eyes and think “what a pain”.  Of course they accommodate him and he is all smiles, he is finally having lobster in Maine; something he has wanted to do for a long time.  After breakfast it’s off to Perkins Cove to do some lobster fishing.  We board along with about 20 other people all ready to pull traps and catch our meal; little does the Captain know I am a huge animal lover and I will probably throw them back when he’s not looking.  Offered by Finestkind Scenic Cruises the trip combines a tour of Ogunquit’s shoreline with a firsthand lobstering experience where traps are hauled and lobsters are caught by authentic Maine lobster-man.  I was a little nervous at first but it was really fun and we learned a lot about the lobster life cycle.

After our excursion it was back to the resort to change clothes and venture out to the nation’s third-oldest city, Portsmouth, N.H.  Just a short drive from the resort, Market Street leads you to a quaint downtown filled with eccentric and upscale galleries, restaurants and bars.  We heard about this new restaurant called Moxy, which came highly recommended as the new kid on the block.

“Moxy; Self-possessed confidence. An attitude of fearlessness in everyday circumstances.”

Located in the heart of Downtown Portsmouth, Moxy has striking good looks and a solid formula — small portions and variety — which easily appeals to many diners these days.  APPEARANCES count in food, but great cooking is sometimes hard to spot at first glance. Before opening Moxy, Chef Matt Louis spent years in Thomas Keller’s kingdom, first at the French Laundry and then opening Per Se. Like his former boss, Louis has a red-blooded, generous approach to seasonal and sustainable cooking.

The menu shows Louis’s penchant for teasing a few flavors into a number of different forms and textures.  First glance offers confusion amongst creativity but don’t let this confusion fool you; it is all part of Louis’s master plan.  Along with a commitment to seasonality and sustainability the restaurant incorporates a heavy focus on the tradition and history of the area. The lobster is caught by local fisherman; humanely cared for, grass-fed cows are raised nearby and the seasonal vegetables are all provided by local farmers.

Selections range from standard Spanish tapas also known as Regional Pinchos to innovative American tapas offerings to a few American Bocadillos (small sandwiches) like Maine Red Hot Dogs. The presentation of the food is as sleek and unassuming as the décor. We ordered an array of items to try from each section of the menu.  My favorites on the Regional Pinchos menu included the Moxy Bread, Fried Clams, Wheat Berry Falafel, Hasty Pudding “Frites” & Apple Cider Lacquered Pork Belly.  From the Modern American Tapas menu our favorites were the Johnny Cake Community and Roasted NH Beets & Turnip Greens.  An array of shared plates can make a very satisfying meal, but when it comes to the Beef Short Rib Marmalade and Whoopie Pie Sliders, it was hard to share, next time I will keep those to myself.

The next morning it was off to explore the town of Freeport and seek out the picturesque lighthouses. Freeport, known for its outlet shopping and the infamous L.L. Bean store is a must for any shopping addict. L. L. Bean has been the largest tourist attraction in Maine for years, bringing in three and a half million customers every year which is nearly three times the state’s population. The store is devoted to the great outdoors, even if many customers rarely heed the call of the wild, instead using their newly bought fishing vests to attend family outings, their Appalachian expedition packs to lug books, and their Maine hunting shoes to shovel snow.   I could spend hours strolling the aisles, peeking inside each and every shop but my other half cuts me off at 2.

Our next stop for the day is ”The most beautiful little museum in the world.” Or so that’s what the locals say about the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. Overlooking the Atlantic from a craggy perch, the museum sits in a landscaped sculpture garden with a reflecting pool. Many works come from the founders of Ogunquit’s early art scene which include Charles Woodbury, Hamilton Easter Field, Robert Laurent and there are also several works by Marsden Hartley and Reginald Marsh as well.

It has been a long day so we head back for our final night in Ogunquit, the resort’s restaurant welcomes us back and we end our experience with a farewell feast.  Not wanting the trip to end we head to the lounge and grab a cocktail reminiscing about the day’s adventures.  Tomorrow it will be back to reality; the thought to stay a few more days crosses our mind.  Next time we will just have to plan accordingly and extend our length of stay when booking.  There is so much to do and take in three days just doesn’t cut it!