Roadtrip: Camden, Maine

New Hampshire was next, but we made a quick lunch pitstop at Camden, Maine, yet another little seashore tourist haven.  It had a pretty little harbor and some lazy waterfowl napping on the rocks:

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We ate at Cappy’s Chowder House, which finally gave me the intense, garlicky, briny steamed clams I’d been yearning for.  Very little grit and each clam burst in your mouth like an overripe fruit.  And the garlic.  I scrubbed and scrubbed my hands afterward, but smelled it under my nails for the rest of the day.

Steamed clams, Cappy's Chowder House

Steamed clams, Cappy’s Chowder House

Also, a good, greaselessly crunchy fried clam po’boy, a cute mini crab roll that could’ve used more seasoning (specifically, salt), and a good New England-style clam chowder.  The hot cider was rimmed with cinnamon and wonderful on a chilly day, but we couldn’t savor it for too long.  Had to get back on the road for Portsmouth, NH.

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Roadtrip: Acadia National Park

When I first began thinking of a New England roadtrip, I had autumn leaf-watching in mind.  We ended up having to schedule it for after peak leaf-color time, however, and those views were pretty but not spectacular.  Still, there’s some beautiful nature spots along the northern East Coast and I wanted to get in some of it.  Conveniently, Bar Harbor is right next to Acadia National Park, the only national park east of the Mississippi (and reopened just in time as the federal government ended the shutdown), and a park which has sensibly planned out its main road to loop around the whole thing, covering all major attractions including a small but real-sand beach, seashore cliffs, Cadillac Mountain, a cottage where you can get old-fashioned tea service, lakes, and valleys.  Depending on how often you stop for pictures, you can get around the whole road in 45 minutes to several hours.  We ended up taking about two hours.

Roadtrip: Bar Harbor, Maine

Next we headed north to Bar Harbor, which managed to be both sleepy and unashamedly tourist-oriented.  There were at least two giant cruise ships in the harbor and the shops are kitschy in that calculated-charming way, but you still have the odd genuine eccentric moment:

We stayed at the Atlantean Cottage B&B, which was the former home of a prominent Victorian architect in the region.  It definitely had a posher feel than any of the other b&bs we stayed in during the roadtrip, with little touches like a corridor between the kitchen and dinner room that was certainly meant as a place for servants to prep dishes before bringing them out for serving.

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Breakfast was included again, and while I didn’t like the fruit cup here as much as at the Kendall Inn in Freeport, the clafouti was ridiculously delicious, with an airy yet moist interior and a crisply browned top.

Dinner at local fave Galyn’s was not so ecstatic.  The steamed clams were terribly gritty and many of the shells had shattered edges, making it tricky to chew without accidentally slicing yourself on a shard (not to mention, needed salt, white wine, some kind of seasoning, because the clams were pretty flavorless on their own), but the steamed lobster was all it should have been.  And the Indian pudding was definitely one of the better renditions I’ve had, sweetened with molasses so it was rich but not cloying.

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Roadtrip: Portland, Maine

Freeport is very small, for all its picturesqueness, so after we’d done L.L. Bean and circled the town, we headed for the somewhat-larger Portland.  Recently it’s been getting a reputation as one of those über-Williamsburgs, with quirky shops, art galleries, and locavore restaurants, particularly around the waterfront, but the whole Williamsburg shtick is also rooted in artists and free spirit-types taking over yet another rundown urban area and remaking it.  And by “rundown urban,” I mean not just abandoned, but disgustingly trashed and dilapidated and ghetto.  I can see Portland has industrial roots, but most of its old, now repurposed buildings always had pretty colonial/Federal/Victorian bones:

Portland, ME

Portland, ME

It just isn’t the same kind of flavor, although I am still amused by the gradual hipster creep.  Speaking of, the food was fairly uneven.  We had dinner at the upscale Salt Exchange, which had the neat idea of using homemade potato chips instead of a bread basket.  But the chips were sliced way too thick and some ended up raw in the middle, while all were soggy with truffle oil (a bad thing, trust me), not crispy at all, cold, and in need of salt.  An Asian-style pork belly biscuit had juicy pork, but a horrible flat grainy biscuit (and having eaten fantastic ones in the South this past summer, I can dream of what an awesome combo this would be if executed right), and I thought putting coleslaw and pickled apples was a bit redundant.  You need one crunchy thing to offset the soft biscuit and tender pork, and I would’ve gone with the apples.  I had the sugar-brined pork chop, which was small and sliced a little on the thin side, given the $20 price.  The brine left it juicy but super-sweet, and the sauce/sides just added more sugar.  More of a dessert than an entrée.

When you go back to the basics, it’s way better.  Portland Lobster Company lobster roll kept it traditional with lobster meat and a lettuce leaf, with lemon and (mediocre) slaw and fries on the side.  Awesome fries, crispy and light, moist in the center.  And the lobster meat?  The lobster meat was nothing but claw meat.  Not only that, whole claws.  Somebody carefully cracked at least six claws per roll and removed the meat inside in a single, unflawed, perfect piece.  Naturally, it tasted like the best lobster ever.

Lobster rolls, Portland Lobster Company

Lobster rolls, Portland Lobster Company

The little lobster buzzer they give you while you wait your turn is cute, too.

Lobster buzzer, Portland Lobster Company

Lobster buzzer, Portland Lobster Company

Roadtrip: Freeport, Maine

Since I chose a storage pod option for my move, I had several days in between when my box of stuff left NYC and when it was going to arrive at my new place.  I didn’t want to rough it with a sleeping pad in either apartment, and anyway, I’m a worrier, so I needed to do something to take my mind off whether horrible things were happening to my storage box (spoiler: couple broken dishes, couple dented boxes, nothing I was particularly attached to).  So I threw together a last-minute roadtrip through New England with my mom.

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