July 28, 2011

Best Bites- Vacation Edition

From Guilford to Newburyport, Mass to Portland, Maine then back with a stopby in Worcester, Mass then home sweet home. Just when I thought we couldn't eat any more- we did. 

As soon as we arrived and bag downed at our B and B- the Essex House- Lance wanted to check out the "Thirsty Whale."  This was "his trip" and he took the time to research the bars and bistros that made up the port town.   But we would pass a place The Grog first.  It had a timeless feel to it. I think it would have been the venue for my pop-pop to sip on a gin and tonic if he was visiting.  Prized fish were stuffed and hung on the wall- actually it reminded me a bit of his kitchen growing up. Their beer selection was so-so. It was nice to see Victory's Summer of Love on tap. Lance opted for a Harpoon IPA.
I started off slow with a little water. I wanted a 10 oz pour and couldn't get one...so that was my li'l boycott of sorts.

On to the Thirsty Whale- where we definitely got a feel for the local flavor.  One local give us some tips on where to eat and how to pass the time- and another guy reprimanded him and told him not to share the secrets with the tourists- but it was too late- we were to dine on the deck of the Black Cow and hit Sandy Point (the free beach ) of Plum Island the next day.

The Black Cow was one of two "hot spots" overlooking the bay -with rows of boats and plenty of people watching. We had some crabcakes and escargot (i love escargot in case you didn't know).  They were so-so. Lance was happy that the escargot wasn't done in typical pernod fashion.  The music was straight outta the eighties.  And grew old quite quickly.  We left and headed to Michaels the other hot spot.  We left as soon as we arrived. Music was bad there as well and there was nothing grabbing at us to stay.

We found a place called David's situated in the basement of an old inn, the Garrison Inn.  A musician was performing Irish bar songs.  The owner greeted us at the door and made us feel right at home.  We stayed for a pint- and headed to a place called Mission Oak Grille- which was touted as the sexy steakhouse in town. We got there a wee late.  Actually the town in general closes down pretty early. Only a couple places do last call at 12:30- most by 12.  Lance went liquor with a martini. I stayed with the bubbly and off we were again.
It was though he was on a mission. We were reminded of Ceia ("supper" in Portugese), a place we walked by earlier that serves food till 11:45- which is practically unheard of in town. And said food was incredible.  Actually it ruined us for eats for the rest of our New England journey- because it was that good. We shared a Gnocchi dish featuring lobster with saffron & Cognac ($24) and a Pappardelle Bolognese- with pork jowl and cippolini, ($19).  I could have laid my weary head a happy woman- but no- Lance wasn't done yet- he wanted go to the Newburyport Tavern. It was a nice enough place with a good beer selection just a really bad font for their logo.

Next day it was breakfast at the inn then off to Plum Island. I was a tad nervous because were were warned about a massive greenhead problem on the island. Luckily we escaped their promised vicious wrath.  The warnings were so strong it was almost like a when you get bit- not an if.  Then came one of my favorite parts of our trip. Sly brewmaster, Brian O'Reilly hailing from New Hampshire- knows the skinny on where to get the good stuff.  He told me we have to stop by Brown's lobster house.  In that area- you're either a "Browns" guy or a "Markey's" guy- he's a Browns guy which makes me a Brown's girl.  They are across the highway from each other- so it's got a Pats and Geno's thing going on.

We got some fried clams and each got a lobster. It was awesome- But it's four days and four showers later- and I feel like my digits still smell.  They picked the lobster from the tank right in front of you-weighed it and send it off to the pot. They called your number when the crustacean had gone and got itself some waterburn.

It was of the best lobsters ever.  Sitting by the marsh-sipping on a Pikeland Pils (byob) and knowing we had three days left was an amazing feeling.

That night we had Leo Kottke to attend at the local high school but first we dined at a "new american" restaurant Enzo. We enjoyed our dishes- a free-form lasagna for me and scallops and corn risotto for him.  And Lance really likes the space of the restaurant- but it was no Ceia.

The concert was wonderful. We were three rows back on the right hand side of the auditorium.  He's a gifted storyteller. He will entertain you with a tale, make you chuckle, play four more songs- then weave back around to the story he previously told. The truest of talent. He covered Dylan's "Corrina, Corrina" and the oft-covered "Nothing but the wheel." Here's a video of him in case you aren't familiar with the guitar talent.

After showtime-it was tequila time.  We headed to Agave. Lance went for flights- I had a prickly pear jawn.  Nothing was too remarkable about the place. It was the "token" Mexican spot in town. We ended up back at Ceia- our favorite- and tried to encourage them to have their beer list- get on par with their wine and food.  I hate when I have two margaritas then decide to get on my soapbox about beer lists. It's embarrassing regardless of what state you're in.

The next day- we hit up more recommendations from the people in the know. We went to Abrahams for a bagel sandwich- which we shared so we could squeeze in a piece of pizza at The Upper Crust. Lance thught it flimsy- but I loved the sauce.  Then we were wedding bound- North to Portland, Maine.  It was a beautiful day despite the fact that my shoe (first time worn) fell apart on the way to the Church. I laughed it off and we waited till we boarded the boat to House Island where the reception would be held. My fella got a hold of the captain and procured some duct tape.  So there I was with a bunch of strangers and a duck-taped shoe.

It was one hip wedding right down to a can-only selection for beer. I enjoyed some of Baxter Brewing Co's Stowaway IPA. Baxter is Maine's first craft can brewery and their doing pretty well. The island held an old fort which was pretty cool. After taking a field trip there- I had yet another lobster-then we took the boat back

Back inland we went to Grace for the afterparty.  It was a restored church turned restaurant. We mingled and then I hit the hay a bit earlier than expected.  Not before I would talk to my friend Wendy and get the scoop on what was going on back in Philly.  Not much going on in the hot city- but she informed me that Amy Winehouse was dead.

The next day- we went to brunch at Bibo's Mad Apple Cafe.  We had this heart-stoppin' artery-cloggin' apple pancake.  They must have dipped in sugar and thrown it in a buttered cast-iron skillet.
It was the best pancake I have ever had.
Post brunch we returned to Novare Res (first time in 2008 shortly after they opened) where I tried a dry-hopped cider for the first time. It was hopped with cascades- it was mild- but the character was definitely present.  It's Portland's premier bier cafe- and they have corn-hole. I know a few guys (matt satten) that would think the place paradise.

We had a couple hours to walk around before driving back South so we hit a wacky ice cream place (Salted Carmel and Lavendar were my faves) and a record store- where I scored "Monster Mash" on 45.

We hit Armsby Abbey on the way back to Philly.  If you are ever even close to Worcester, Mass- you must go.  It was also a nice surprise to see the Sly Fox/De Proef Broederlijk Liefde collaboration on tap.

OK- I'm done.
You should really check out Newburyport sometime. You don't even have to rely on the secret tips from locals- you can come straight to us. We know all the spots now...

Stowaway IPA from Baxter Brewing Co

Jay's Oyster House- an Old Port "Must Do"  Lobster Roll $12.95

"Home Runners" great responsible driving program. Drink too much one night?
They'll drive you and your car home for $20 plus mileage.
Brown's Lobster- yum yum yum

Lance on the Chippewa- our transport to "House Island"
My view from inside the old fort

Mission Oak Grill during the day-another  restored  church turned a restaurant.

Cheese Plate at Armsby Abbey- a Bier cafe in Worcester, Mass.

Free Form Lasagna at Enzo in Newburyport, Mass.

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