Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

August 6, 2013

Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park: A Hike that Has It All

What’s your favorite kind of hike?  A stroll alongside a pond?  A heart-pumping scramble across boulders?  An exciting squeeze through a narrow ravine?  Anything that provides the reward of spectacular views?

Hiking the west side of Pemetic Mountain provides all of these and more.

At 1,248 feet, Pemetic Mountain is only about 300 feet shorter than Cadillac, Mount Desert Island’s highest peak and star attraction for visitors to Acadia National Park.  Yet, unlike Cadillac, which is to its east, Pemetic has no tour buses obscuring the views and offers an exceptionally varied hike to its summit.

Jordan Pond The Bubbles

We started the 4.6 mile loop from the Jordan Pond House, warming up on the pleasant, well-traveled path along the eastern shore of Jordan Pond with the Bubbles in the distance.  We crossed a flat stone bridge, passing a vigorous junior hiker, then a wood foot bridge.

Jordan Pond Trail Acadia National Park

The Jordan Pond Carry Trail brought us to the Park Loop Road, where we entered the woods and started the challenging scramble across a boulder field.

Pemetic  Mountain West Side

We then came to a signpost, offering the option to hike through a ravine or across the steep, smooth granite to the right.  Even though it was wet, we opted for the ravine.  (This was not my first time through this ravine, so we had prepared with good mosquito repellant!)

Ravine Pemetic Mountain Acadia National Park

The ravine is not as tight as the popular Lemon Squeeze in New York’s Hudson Valley.  It has two sections, each of which you emerge from by climbing a large wooden ladder.  I think it is really fun.

Ravine Pemetic Mountain

At the summit you first get breathtaking views of deep, steel-blue Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond from Pemetic Mountain Acadia National Park

More spectacular views of the Cranberry Isles follow as you traverse the mountain and start your descent along the southern ridge.

Pemetic Mountain Cranberry Islands Acadia National Park

I highly recommend hiking with a detailed trail map, such as the one of Acadia published by Map Adventures.  I never leave home without it.  Acadia’s trails are much trickier than you think, even if you have prepared by studying a trail guide.

One other thing that makes a hike a favorite of mine: a stretch of trail covered by a cushion of pine needles.  It’s a great way to end a challenging hike.  And this trail had that, too.

Pemetic Mountain Acadia National Park

Related Stories:

Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

Four Hikes in Acadia Your Kids Will Love

If You Want to Hike Cadillac Mountain, Go in the Fall

Best Hikes in Acadia: Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot South Ridge Loop

May 20, 2013

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

Lobster close upOne evening 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.”

Red Sky 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.   These will include clamming and foraging edible sea plants.  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.

[As of this writing on May 19, 2013, six people have signed up.  If you are interested, call Alan Feuer to find out if there is still availability at 207-244-9595 or email info@annspoint.com.]

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

June 27, 2012

Satisfy A Dream: Learn to Draw in Maine

What’s on your bucket list?  To swim with dolphins?  See the Northern Lights?  Master the tango?

Now that you’ve moved into fantasizing mode, how about learning to draw?  If that’s always been a dream, then a true fantasy vacation would be a sketch trip to an idyllic New England island with a well-known artist who teaches around the world.

Sketching along the shoreline of Little Cranberry Island
Sketching along the shoreline of Little Cranberry Island

On July 12 at least this dream can come true!  Maine artist Judy Taylor welcomes you to join her for an all-day workshop, “Drawing the Figure on Islesford.”

Yoga instructor Mary Kate Murray will serve as the model for the sketch trip which will feature figure poses throughout Islesford on Little Cranberry Island.  Says Judy Taylor, “We’ll draw on the dock, down by the beach, on the deserted road with pines, ocean, fishing gear and rocks as our background.  I’m so excited about the compositional opportunities!”

Isleford Nude - Judy Taylor
Islesford Nude – Judy Taylor

Ms. Taylor is particularly well known for her work with figures.  The Maine Department of Labor awarded her a commission to create an eleven-panel mural depicting scenes of Maine workers, which Governor LePage ordered removed last year, stirring considerable controversy.

This year Ms. Taylor has taught workshops in New York, Venice, and Florence, as well as Maine.  Her studio, which includes exhibit space of her work, is on the “Quiet Side” of Mount Desert Island.

The fee for the July 12th workshop is $150, which includes the ferry, lunch at the popular Islesford Dock Restaurant, and model fee.  Enrollment is limited to ten.  Reserve by July 7 by calling 207-244-5545.

Then, plan the rest of the activities for a week in Maine by researching the best places to explore, eat, and stay on Mount Desert Island.

Boathouses on Islesford - Judy Taylor
Boathouses on Islesford – Judy Taylor

RELATED STORIES:

Top Ten Things to Do on a Visit to Acadia National Park in Maine

Bike Tour of Acadia’s Historic Bridges

June 26, 2012

14 Ways for Families to Save on a Vacation to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park

Image

Acadia National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S.  Attracted by the vistas of where the mountains meet the sea, over 2,300,000 people visited Acadia in 2011, making it the ninth most-visited national park.

Acadia is also a great vacation option for families on a budget.  With just a little planning, you can enjoy great scenery, restaurants, and outdoor activities – without a credit card bill the next month that takes all the fun away.

Here’s how.

1.  Rent a cottage so that you don’t have to eat every meal out.  There’s a wide array of rental options available through Mount Desert Island real estate agents or online.

2.  Better still, camp!  Sites at Blackwoods and Seawall, the two National Park sites on Mount Desert Island, are within a 10-minute walk from the ocean and only cost $20 a night.

3.  Take advantage of free ranger-led programs.   You  don’t have to be a camper to join the evening festivities at the campgrounds,  which are very entertaining, especially for kids.  Other programs take place throughout the park.

Ranger talk at Seawall Campground

4.  If  you’re 62 or older, get a $10 lifetime entrance pass.  The regular pass to enter Acadia  National Park is only $20, but seniors can buy discounted passes at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center that they can use at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

Hulls Cove entrance fees

5.  Bring  your own bikes.  It may be inconvenient to schlepp them,  but Acadia’s carriage roads offer 45 miles of car-free biking great for  the whole family around lakes, beside babbling brooks, and up  mountains.  If you want to bike more than once – and you will – renting for a family can get pricey, with rates running around $22 a day for adults and $15-18 for kids.

boy biking in Acadia National Park

6.  Stock  up at supermarkets to avoid paying higher prices in  small specialty markets.  There are large Shaw’s and Hannaford’s in Ellsworth, where we often stop.  Hannaford’s also has a large store on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor.

7.  But bring staples from home.  Pack just a few of the items you buy in bulk at home (tea bags, lemonade packets, and sweetener) so that you won’t have to stock up and then waste what you don’t use.

8.  Gas up off island.  If you forget, don’t worry.  The Somesville  One-Stop/Mobil, conveniently located right in the center of Mount Desert  Island, has great prices.  However,  prices fluctuate significantly around the island.  For example,we’ve seen prices 11 cents higher in downtown Bar Harbor.

9.  If  you’re renting a house or cottage, look for one that offers a kayak you can  use.  Tandem kayaks run $35 for three hours.  Depending on your  family size and how long you want to explore, this could add up.  Remember, places like Great Long Pond and Jordan Pond (below) offer hours of exploration and relaxation.

Kayaking Bubbles

10.  Take the Island Explorer bus around the island and save on gas.  The island is big.  You can put 130 miles on in 4 days.  And, remember, taking the bus is a great, safe way for teenagers to show a little independence and get around the island themselves.

11.  Explore options for educational activities.  Kids love touch tanks as a way to learn more about lobsters and sea life.  As wonderful as they are,  boat cruises can run as high as $43 per person.  A less expensive option is an oceanarium.

Touch tanks with lobsters

12.  Substitute activities like tide pooling as a no-cost alternative to movies or shopping.  Kids love climbing the rocks around Bass Harbor lighthouse.   Blueberry picking is permitted throughout the park.  Another great activity is to walk across the sand bar Bar Harbor to Bar Island while it’s low tide.  Last time I did this I saw a baby seal.

Child tide pooling Acadia National Park

13.  Cook  out ocean-side at one of Acadia’s great picnic areas, such as Seawall (below) or Pretty Marsh,  with grills provided by the park service.

Seawall Mount Desert Island Maine

14.  When you finally splurge on lobster (as you should!), choose  a lobster pound that offers options for your kids if they prefer grilled chicken or even PB&J.

Maine lobster dinner

RELATED STORIES:

Best Easy Hikes for Kids

22 Things to Do with Kids in Acadia National Park

Best Bar Harbor Restaurants for Kids

 

June 1, 2012

Martha’s Vineyards Devotees: Ready to Explore Another New England Island?

You’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard so many summers you can’t count them.  You’ve biked from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, laid back on South Beach, kayaked on Sengekontacket Pond, and watched the sunset from Menemsha.  You have several Black Dog t-shirts.

If you love a summer vacation that combines outdoor activities, great seafood, and New England scenery, but you’re looking for something new, this year you might want to discover Mount Desert Island in Maine.

Bridge in Somesville, Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert Island and Martha’s Vineyard actually have a lot in common.

  • They vie for second and third place as the largest islands on the eastern seaboard.
  • They are made up of a variety of towns with distinct and different characters. While Bar Harbor and Oak Bluffs resemble each other in their Victoriana and commercialism, Bass Harbor and Menemsha attract visitors to their fishing villages for harborside photographs and lobster dinners. White clapboard houses and iconic steepled churches adorn the streets of both Somesville and Edgartown. And among these towns buses bustle too many summer visitors from here to there (though L.L. Bean makes it free on MDI).
  • While a fiord divides Mount Desert Island, Martha’s Vineyard has a state forest in the middle of hers. Mount Desert has two distinct sides, the eastern portion best known for its largest town Bar Harbor and the less populated eastern side known as “The Quiet Side.” Similarly, the Martha’s Vineyard towns divide east and west, with the western villages on their “quiet side” known as “up island” not because they are north, but higher in longitude. This is a carryover characterization from the Vineyard’s nautical past, just as “downeast” is for Maine.

Both islands offer great dining as part of the summer recreation. If you like the traditional lobster dinners at Home Port, you should visit Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.

Bass Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine at Dusk

Bass Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine at Dusk

For us it’s a rite of summer to stand in line overlooking the postcard-perfect harbor with a beer (try the local micro-brew Harbor Lighthouse Ale) and begin the debate: Should we have hard shell or soft shell? How many pounds? Steamers or chowder? Standing in line heightens the anticipation of the sweetest lobsters we know anywhere. It may be in part because they’re cooked in seawater piped in from the harbor. You can opt to have your lobster alone or with a “basic dinner” of corn, coleslaw, roll, and Thurston’s blueberry spice cake (so good you’ll want to buy extra for tomorrow’s breakfast).

And Thurston’s even has its own t-shirt.

Maine is the state of not only fisherman, but also farmers. So, in recent years when restaurateurs have become increasingly committed to seasonal menus and local production, Mount Desert Island has emerged as a magnet for foodies.   And at the top restaurants in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor you are not going to see scallop appetizers at $20 and grilled salmon at $40, prices common at Vineyard eateries like the Beach Plum Inn.

Maine Trenton Downeast Lobster Roll

Lobster Roll from Downeast Lobster Pound, Trenton

The greatest difference between MDI and the Vineyard is that the Maine island is home to the first national park east of the Mississippi, Acadia National Park.

With 30,300 acres on the island, Acadia occupies half of Mount Desert Island.  Not only does it have the tallest mountain along the eastern coast, Cadillac Mountain, a popular spot to watch the sun rise, but there are 23 other mountain peaks that can be accessed by 125 miles of pristine hiking trails.  Routes range from challenging for the fittest among us to trails that are easy for seniors and kids.

Hiking Trail, Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Hiking Trail, Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Sand Beach, rimmed by stunning pink granite cliffs, is a popular spot.  Glacial lakes also attract swimmers and youthful sandcastle builders, as well as sailors and paddlers.  Walkers and cyclists enjoy 45 miles of car-free carriage roads that weave around the mountains and valleys of the park.

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Today, next to his Black Dog and Menemsha Blues t-shirts, my husband has several from Acadia, including my favorite which features a long list of hiking trails.  Better still, we’ve done them all.

Hiking in Acadia T-shirt

If you love Martha’s Vineyard, you may want to learn more about Mount Desert Island. OUR ACADIA offers tips for exploring, eating, and relaxing.

November 13, 2011

Hawk Watch on Cadillac Mountain — A Great Addition to Your Acadia National Park Itinerary

I went on a Hawk Watch during my October hiking trip to Acadia National Park.  Call me a nerd, but I think hawks are interesting.

  • Hawks see much farther than people do – and eight times more clearly.
  • This keen eyesight plus their hooked beaks and taloned feet make them effective predators.  But they also pirate food.
  • Female hawks are larger than males, sometimes twice so, and most pairs mate for life.
  • The most common hawk in North America is the red-tail, but not all of its 14 subspecies have the distinctive coloration.
  • Northern birds migrate south during the winter.

Which brings me back to the Hawk Watch.

Every year, from August to October, park rangers, volunteers, and visitors gather on the northern ridge of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to count the migrating raptors.  The purpose of this data collection, to which Hawk Watches throughout the U.S. contribute, is to monitor the populations of hawks to ensure their preservation.

According to the National Park Service, there’s been a large increase in the numbers of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and osprey compared to the 1970s. From the 1940s to 1970s, their populations were severely threatened by the pesticide DDT, which caused eggshells to thin and few young to survive. It was banned in 1972.

What do eagles and falcons have to do with hawks, you’re asking.  That’s another fact you should know:  “Hawk” is the general term for some 270 species of birds which are daytime predators.

Most of the migrating hawks we saw that day from Cadillac Mountain were sharp-shinned hawks.  “Sharpie west of Ironbound,” the Raptor Intern Delora would call out.  All binoculars would then search the sky for the speck.

Hawk Watch Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park

Veteran volunteers were savvy about identifying birds and all of the islands in Frenchman Bay.  They had great equipment.  They were also warmly dressed and had snacks.

For the rest of us Raptor Ranger Lora had plenty of information and a tray of brownies. Visitors came and went; kids participating in the Junior Ranger program interviewed Ranger Lora.

Junior Ranger Program Acadia National Park

You can learn more about what goes on at a Hawk Watch in Acadia National Park by reading the “Riding the Winds” journals, created each year by Acadia’s raptor interns.  This year Delora Hilleary, shown below with a raptor specimen, added stunning illustrations to her observations about the migrating raptors.

Raptor Intern Hawk Watch Acadia National Park

For more ideas on what to do when you visit Acadia National Park — including tips for the best lobster pounds and breakfast restaurants — visit OUR ACADIA.

October 31, 2011

Thinking of Hiking Cadillac or Champlain Mountains in Acadia? Go in the Fall.

Compare these two pictures of me on Cadillac Mountain’s South Ridge Trail this October and last.

Gauging the weather and what to pack is a key challenge for hiking in Acadia National Park in the fall, but the rest is bliss.

One reason is that during autumn the mountains on Mount Desert Island’s eastern side – in the areas of Bar Harbor, Ocean Drive, and Jordan Pond – are much less crowded.  We chose two of the most popular, Cadillac and Champlain, to hike this fall.

The West Face of Cadillac, according to Tom St. Germain, is the shortest, but most difficult, of the eight ways to hike to the top of Acadia’s tallest mountain.  During a mile of hiking, the elevation changes 1100 feet.  The granite face often seems to be at 45-degrees – not an angle of repose for a hiker.  We used crevices in the rock to be able to move across it. 

After rigorous stretches, we’d stop and look back over Bubble Pond. 

West Face Cadillac overlooking Bubble Pond

West Face Trail then intersects with South Ridge Trail to reach the top of Cadillac Mountain at 1532 feet.

For the descent we hiked down the South Ridge of Cadillac all the way to The Featherbed, a small glacial pond filled with rushes, the inspiration for its name. 

View of Featherbed from Cadillac Mountain

This 5.2-mile hike compensates you for all of its challenges by ending with a long stroll on a carriage road beside Bubble Pond.

Carriage road along Bubble Pond

For our hike to the top of Champlain Mountain, another popular peak, this year we chose an old trail that was new to us.  Beachcroft Path was built in 1915 as part of the Memorial Paths program created by George Dorr and was reinforced twenty years later by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.  This history gave us a lot to think about as we climbed the stone stairs in switchbacks up the western face of Huguenot Head.

Beachcroft Path to Huguenot Head

 Beachcroft Trail has great views of the Tarn, as well as Otter Creek and the Atlantic beyond. 

The Tarn from Beachcroft Path

Huguenot Head then connects to Champlain Mountain, where you ascend first on more stairs, then across a sheer, steep west face marked by cairns.

West face of Champlain

The spectacular top of Champlain, overlooking Frenchman Bay at an elevation of 1058 feet, is the same reward hikers get when they climb the Precipice

Top of Champlain Mountain Acadia

With late afternoon sun spotlighting the Porcupines, we descended along the north ridge of Champlain on Bear Brook Trail. 

Porcupine Islands

The walk back along the road past Beaver Dam Pond was a bonus.

Beaver Dam Pond

To help you plan your itinerary for Acadia National Park, including the best restaurants in Bar Harbor and other nearby villages, visit OUR ACADIA.

October 22, 2011

Acadia Photo Workshop – Seeing Maine’s Rugged Coastline Through An Expert’s Eyes

Bob Thayer PhotographySteal a shower cap from your motel to cover your camera in the rain.

This was one of the first photography tips we got as eight of us clustered around Ranger Bob Thayer, who would lead the three-hour program “Focus on Acadia,” an offering of the National Park Service at Acadia National Park in Maine. 

From mid-May to mid-October visitors to Mount Desert Island join park rangers on walks, campfire programs, hikes, and boat cruises to learn more about Acadia and build knowledge as naturalists.  Ranger-led programs range from tidepool school to birding for beginners.

This rainy October morning was the last time this season Ranger Thayer would be teaching his photography workshop, but neither that fact nor the drizzle that would turn to steady rain before we left the Sieur de Monts Nature Center impaired his enthusiasm.

Our group included a retired couple with tripods in tow, a point-and-shoot mom accompanying her daughters who were definitely “off auto,” and another park ranger who admired Thayer’s skills.  Fred and I were the novices.

The photography lesson began.  Think about light and composition.  You must know your equipment.  Anticipating the format in which you will present your photographs is an important first step.

Starting our field work, the park ranger helped us think through our first shot, as he set up his own camera on a tripod.  We were on Jesup Trail where a “cathedral” of golden foliage covered a new boardwalk. 

Jesup Path Sieur de Monts Nature Center

Then we looked through his viewfinder and realized this wasn’t any ordinary park ranger walking us through some canned curriculum.  We were in the company of someone genuinely talented. 

Bob Thayer, it turns out, is a naturalist, photographer, and author of three books, including Acadia’s Carriage Roads, which I had bought years ago. And here we were, taking it all in, courtesy of our National Park Service.

The instruction continued.  Walking alongside the Wild Gardens of Acadia,  Bob Thayer pointed out potentially interesting shots and convinced us that, despite the many “must see” spots to photograph in Acadia National Park, some of the best are the simplest.

Then we jumped into our respective autos and the caravan moved to our next destination.  The rain thwarted the customary stop at Sand Beach, which was an acceptable trade-off because this bad weather was giving us terrific light that made the foliage pop.  Our next stop was Monument Cove, where Fred took these shots.

Monument Cove Acadia National Park MaineAfter another stop along the coastline, we concluded at Jordan Pond, where we learned a “painterly” technique created by moving the camera on a slow shutter speed. 

Jordan Pond Foliage

In three hours each of us had received individual instruction and encouragement.  The “lecture” was informative for participants at every level.  I had even discovered parts of the park I’d never seen, despite my explorations during the last eight years.  

We said our thanks and goodbyes.  As some headed to the Jordan Pond House for popovers, Fred and I walked back to the parking lot with Bob Thayer.  I told him about my Web site to help people plan trips to Acadia, a hobby; I do marketing for a living.

That reminded me that the most powerful word in the marketing dictionary also applied to this workshop, which had been substantive, customized, and inspiring.

It was also  free.

 

August 28, 2011

Top Artisanal Ice Cream in America Is Just Across the Village Green in Bar Harbor

President Obama chose coconut.  My husband blueberry.  And I opted for two scoops – kahlua chip and salt caramel. 

I’ll never feel the same about Haagen-Daz again.

Apparently I’m not alone in my assessment of MDI Ice Cream.  This is what all of Mount Desert’s best restaurants – including Red Sky, Havana, Café This Way, and Fathom – choose to pair with their homemade puddings and blueberry pies. Red Sky, in fact, has built a banana split with bruleed banana, maple-candied almonds and sun-dried cherries around three flavors of MDI Ice Cream.  When Downeast Magazine published their itinerary of what to do in Bar Harbor, their late-night recommendation for the active traveler was a visit to MDI Ice Cream.  And this summer both Food and Wine Magazine and Mother Earth News have included them on their lists of best artisan ice creams nationwide. 

Still, MDI Ice Cream is a low-key place that avoids sensationalism.  No lobster ice cream here.  Linda Parker founded it in 2005 in Bar Harbor, where there are now two retail shops, one on Main Street across from Havana and the other on Firefly Lane just off Main Street and across from the Village Green. After six years in Bar Harbor, she has also opened on Exchange Street in Portland.

Taking a look at their flavors, you have no trouble buying into her motto: Fearless Flavor.   Chili chocolate, blackstrap banana, candy shoppe, nectarine prosecco, nutella, mango jicama habanero, lemon basil, and cookies.  But, believe me.  They’re not weird.  They’re delicious.

Ice cream and summer vacation go together.  And, let’s face it.  You can’t take it with you.  Like the breeze on Sargent Mountain or the sound of the gulls over Bass Harbor, we’ll enjoy it while we’re here.  So, for now, move over Haagen-Daz.

Plan your trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

August 21, 2011

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

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.

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