Thursday, March 15, 2012

Down East, Part 1

For the past few years, I've been fascinated with the term "down east," which is frequently used to describe coastal Maine. Or, is it just the eastern half of the Maine coast?

I don't know. I always thought it was just Mainers' way of trying to be clever, but a pretty poor attempt at that, to be completely honest. You see, the Maine coast is down (as in south) of the rest of the state, but it stretches in an easterly direction. So, really it's southeast, but it would be misleading to refer to it as that.

A little basic Internet research (i.e. a Google search that landed on Wikipedia) offers another possible reason, which appears in the FAQ of Down East magazine:

When ships sailed from Boston to ports in Maine (which were to the east of Boston), the wind was at their backs, so they were sailing downwind, hence the term 'Down East.' And it follows that when they returned to Boston they were sailing upwind; many Mainers still speak of going 'up to Boston,' despite the fact that the city lies approximately 50 miles to the south of Maine’s southern border.

Hmmm...I hope I didn't just inadvertently stumble onto an explanation for Jonathan Papelbon's former entrance song.

Anyway, all of this is my attempt at an intro to a post on KJ's and my anniversary weekend in Maine.

We headed north (northeast? up east? down east?) on Saturday, with Little Chuck in tow, and stopped off in Portland for lunch. The last time we were here, we ate at Gritty McDuff's, but later discovered what appeared to be a great beer bar as we walked around town.

That place was Novare Res, and we'd heard good things about it in the 2 1/2 years since, so this time we headed straight there. We were definitely not disappointed. Its cellar-like atmosphere makes it an ideal beer-drinking establishment, even for a couple with a near four-month old in tow.

Yes, that's right. It felt pretty relaxed even as we were taking turns standing while holding and bouncing Little Chuck, who legitimately seemed to like the place. Well, as far as we could tell.

As far as the beer goes, KJ ordered a half pint of North Coast Acme IPA, while I ordered an Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from the same brewery. You'd think from the name that North Coast would be a Maine brewer, but you'd be wrong.

North Coast refers to the northern coast of California, but I justified my decision to order a non-Maine beer because the plan was to eventually make it to the tasting room of Bar Harbor Brewing Company and pick up a mixed six-pack to take home. Besides, I wanted to try the Old Rasputin as inspiration for my next batch of home brew. You see, I'm thinking about resurrecting my mid-'90s signature brew, Mr. Pither's Imperial Stout. More on that to come, hopefully.

I liked the Old Rasputin, but not as much as my own creation, to be honest, or at least my best recollection of it. The Acme IPA, on the other hand, is a just a really nice version of the style, but I just had a small sip of that one, so I hope to have a proper pint in the not-too-distant future.

The food at Novare Res was good, but the portions were on the light side. I suppose it's all part of their strategy. The more you fill up on food, the less beer you're able to drink. But, I still enjoyed my braised short rib sandwich as did KJ her apple, walnut and brie sandwich. She had her sites set on their Belgian waffle with raspberry and Young's Chocolate Stout for dessert, but instead opted to grab a couple cupcakes to go from a nearby bakery whose name eludes me at the moment. We were not disappointed, but I know I'm still curious about that Belgian waffle and stout delicacy.

After LC, KJ and I were all sufficiently fed, we continued on our journey north. The evening's destination was Dedham, about a half hour south of Bangor and less than an hour from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

The remainder of our four-plus hour drive was uneventful, until we got off the main highway to head towards the inn. We pulled into a gas station, but were told there was no gas. That would have been slightly inconvenient, but the reason was a bigger problem. A bad accident a couple miles in the direction we were headed had resulted in a downed power line. So, rather than sit in traffic while our car ran low on gas, we turned around and found a station in the other direction.

But, of course, that meant we were just postponing the inevitable. It's a little frustrating sitting in a traffic jam in such a remote corner of the country, an area that gets an influx of tourists at certain times of the year, but not this one. It's even tougher when this happens while you're traveling with a baby who protests when he's awake and the car is not moving.

We were only delayed for about an hour, though. KJ was driving (because she drank the half pint, remember?), so it was my job to try and keep the boy calm. I did my best, thanks to a free app I downloaded on my iPhone called Baby Songs, and the newfound discovery that LC is mesmerized when I imitate pig noises.

This combination got us through a rough stretch, with only minimal discomfort, until we arrived safely at the Lucerne Inn in Dedham.

We had booked our accommodations using a Groupon for the first time, and let's just say we gave the place mixed reviews. For now, that is. There's more to come in part two.

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