We have eaten very well in Rockland at two very different places. Last night we went to the well known farm-to-table Restaurant Primo, run by chef Melissa Kelly. Very good thing we booked ahead because every room in the old house that the restaurant is located in was full of diners.
We soon found out why. I didn’t think I liked raw oysters until we mistakenly ordered them at Primo. Three were in a light sauce made with wild blueberries. Not sweet or heavy. The second three were fried in a crunchy corn meal (I think) batter, also delicious. We also had cheese-stuffed zucchini blossoms and two very different but equally delicious entrees – Saltimbocca
(pork pounded thin, cooked and served atop mashed potatoes and cooked greens in a delicious brown sauce) and seared local tuna served with two sauces, a green pesto and red sauce. (Red pepper?) Dessert was a float with espresso poured atop vanilla and chocolate gelato served with homemade light and sugared donuts. Too delicious. Excellent service, homey ambiance and we went to say hi to the chef in the kitchen (she’s a friend of Dirck’s sister, a Boston food writer.) Next time we will book a little earlier than 8 pm so we can tour the farm and gardens behind the restaurant in the day light.
Dinner tonight was totally different, at Claws, a popular (for good reason) lobster shack where we ordered at the window and got a goofy plastic lobster with our order number on it. We ate a tray full of seafood – lobster bisque, lobster roll, drunken mussels in a garlicky broth – all excellent and fresh tasting, eaten on a deck with picnic tables and portable heaters. And a lovely view of the harbor.
This morning, we followed our Airbnb hosts recommendation and drove to Latte Beach in Camden and then walked the back way to Rockport and back. Turned out to be six miles. Lovely scenery, walking on Bay View Road past gorgeous old and new mansions set on the water, then past an old farm with white-belted cattle and then to a pretty “children’s” open air chapel.
Rockport was very quiet and pretty. After a picnic of Maine blue cheese and bread, we drove to Belfast and walked down the Main Street with old red brick buildings, popping into cute little shops. Very fun day.
I am glad it rained this morning because it led us to drive backroads through the wood about an hour west to Waterville where we thoroughly enjoyed the Colby College Art Museum, Maine’s largest art museum with a really nice collection of American art from flat folk art portraits to abstract Jackson Pollack, plus rooms full of giant portraits by Alex Katz (who lives in nearby Lincolnville, I happened to read last week in a New Yorker profile.)
It was fun to ride on narrow winding roads thru the wood past the occasional shingled farmhouse, organic farm stand, brightly painted hippie VW van, charming general store and world famous restaurant (The virtually hidden Lost Kitchen in the out-of-the-way village of Freedom, Me.)
We also made sure to stop 15 miles south in the little town of Liberty, Me. at John’s Ice cream, which was as good as we’d heard. Nearby, the fog and mist from the rain was rising above Lake George and the surrounding hills, making the place look like a Hudson River School painting or one like we saw at the Colby museum…
We ate a light lunch earlier at a tiny Lebanese place in downtown Waterville, a town with that quixotic feel of a faded factory town with a fancy private college. Back in Camden, we finally walked around the town which has lots of interesting shops and boutiques in well-tended old buildings. The harbor is full of boats, from small pleasure boats to tall schooners. We learned that our Airbnb hosts used to make their living taking tourists out into Penobscot Bay on their 50 foot sailboat (which they also sailed to the Caribbean). I am so glad we came to Camden in particular and mid coast Maine in general.
Dinner was at a superb Thai place in Camden called Long Grain. Imagine your typical Thai dishes, then think of those dishes made with the best ingredients possible – the best meat, vegetables, homemade noodles, rice: that was what this place managed to do.
Mystery solved. I think. The picturesque seaside town in Maine that was known for its photography program -that we stumbled upon some 35 years ago – appears to be Rockport. It definitely wasn’t Rockland, which is bigger. We had an easy drive up the coast from Boston. About 3.5 hours to Camden but we stopped en route, first in Freeport where we dodged the hordes of shoppers at LL Bean and a whole lot more and got a takeaway lamb deli sandwich at Bow Street Market (which our Maine transplant friend Lisa recommended) then onto Brunswick where we did a quick drive by Bowdoin College and a cool old building downtown that’s used as an arts center.
In Rockland, we parked near the harbor at a long breakwater with gorgeous views of the bay and a white sailboat out in the blue water. But it is made of slabs of granite with large deep gaps in between and after a short distance, I chickened out and we walked back. I am still a little shaky walking with my recovering broken arm and last thing I need is to fall. We took a lovely back way to Rockport where I had my ah ha! Moment and then another back road through the woods past gorgeous houses overlooking the water and fields with “white-belted” black cows (that have a white band around their middles). Downtown Camden looks charming — our Airbnb definitely is.
We found our host tending to spectacular dahlias (my favorite) in the little garden in front of our sweet one room wood cottage (the birds nest). Inside it’s decorated with nice little touches, a pretty quilt and curtains and little tasteful prints. I am sitting on a cushioned Glider on our red brick patio with table. It’s chilly but clear skies (for now) and I definitely need to get a sweater or sweatshirt. So happy to be here.