Category Archives: Maine

Land of the Free

Well, we’re back on the road again! I’m writing this from the airport as we prepare to fly off to Dublin ((many) pints ‘o Guinness, here we come!). It was a whirlwind two month break from our global travels to do a little more fun stuff back home in the good ‘ole USofA. We came back for some very important events (a couple phenomenal weddings and even a P-town bear week bachelorette), and managed to fit in lots of things we missed whilst abroad. So we thought we’d give you a very brief update on some of the highlights of our trip, as well as introduce you to some old favorites and new finds from our visit to the homeland!

Our trip to the states had us landing in our “home” of Los Angeles. While we have no actual home to speak of (and I mean literally, even our mailing address no longer exists as my parents just sold their home!), our friends were very generous in letting us crash for much of our time (we love you guys!!!). Of course a big highlight for us was getting our LA grub on. While we love all food, Asian especially, we were beyond excited to get our hands on some of our local favorites. The very first day we arrived we hit some serious bases with a breakfast of bagels, lunch of Mexican food, and of course In’N’Out for dinner. Solid.

We also checked out a few new spots. We visited our wonderful friends Jamie and Eric over at their new restaurant: Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese. Delish. And while Greeny is cooking up some fancy and fabulous takes on grilled cheese, it’s really hard to pass up the classic grilled cheese with a side of perfectly seasoned tomato soup. Seriously comfort food at its max. And speaking of Max, we were thrilled to meet their adorable new arrival, Max, who joined the world while we were off in Asia.

I was quickly reminded of just how “LA” LA can be when visiting the new(ish) spot: Kreation on Montana in Santa Monica. No offense, and you all know I defend LA to the death against all those (crazy) haters, but this is one of those places that makes people despise LA. I overheard someone ask the waiter (literally), “Do you have a juice that would make me happy?” (Cue Valley Girl dialect.) Granted the menu invited this (with items like “Energy,” “Relax,” “Skinny,” and “Rosy Aura”), but… I mean. If there was any doubt I had made it back to the wacky world that is LA-LA-Land, I saw one lady pushing her pint-sized pup in a stroller and another carrying hers in a purse. Better yet, while getting a manicure in anticipation of Jenny’s wedding, I overheard the most absurd LA woman that might exist. She was, and I quote her directly now, “an Hermes and Chanel girl” who would “not be caught dead in” other lowly designers’ wears. She complained about her dinner plans for fear of the Paparazzi and proceeded to look at a woman roughly thirty pounds heavier than she and say, “oh my god, you’re so skinny, I’m so fat I just gained ten pounds.” But the best story of all, a friend told me she offered some food to a homeless man and he declined, telling her he was on a raw food diet.

We also joined friends to watch Swingers at Cinespia, the famed movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was pretty damn awesome. Man, we love LA. We also enjoyed our friends’ pups. And spotting a woman on a pay phone! I’ve not seen one of these in use in ages! (It’s the small things in life…)

See the Practical Info section, below, for some more of our favorite eats along the way and across the country.

But the highlight of LA was for sure Jen and Albert’s wedding. Absolutely stunning. The wedding and the bride! Seriously, how gorgeous was she!? An absolute modern fairytale princess. That Albert is a lucky man, I tell ya. Also, after six months of embracing what my friends now endearingly refer to as my “traveler fugly” phase (OK the really nice ones call it my “natural” phase), I reveled in the opportunity to get fancy and glam and all dolled up. I felt like a movie star.

One of the best perks of quitting your job to travel the world is the time it gives you to spend with your family and friends, and we truly relish this. We flew back east to spend about three weeks with all sorts of family…

…Staying with Alan’s brother Kenny in New Jersey (and visiting some friends in New York while there)…

…Visiting my family in Maine for the final nights in our cottage (which is now being torn down and will soon be completely rebuilt as their full time home) and helping them pack up and move out of my childhood home in Concord, MA. We found some serious gems along the way in that process…

…spending lots of QT with my big bro, Dev, and my dog nephews, Lou and Ryder (I am obsessed)…

…and of course eating LOTS of lobstah…

…and a massive family reunion at Alan’s mom’s house in Longmeadow, MA. It was so lovely meeting these more distant relatives and spending more time with those we already know and love.

We also fit in lots of good old left coast time. Obviously there was LA, but we also drove up to a wedding in Sonoma, and used the opportunity to stop on the way and check out the wine scene in Paso Robles. We spent two nights at a little B&B owned by a very strange proprietor. Long story short, despite the phenomenal location of this B&B, we would not recommend it. Largely because of overpromises (and false advertising!) that were not delivered on, and less so because the property was not as nice and the room was incredibly small. It’s just frustrating to sign up for something that’s detailed explicitly online and then reeceive much less than promised. Even more annoying that the proprietor made a point of talking about the amenities that she later failed to provide. Strange.

Anyhow, the real reason we came was the wine, and that, my friends, did NOT disappoint. We adored the wines here! It’s not pretentious in the way that some might argue Napa and Sonoma have become, and it’s still in fact quite cheap. Tastings are generally $10 a piece, the pours are generous, they credit the fee against purchases, they’ll let you try anything you liked again, and a few places give you a glass to keep. The wines themselves are fairly reasonably priced, though we did splurge on a few bottles. Is there anyone out there who can not splurge on a bottle of good wine by the time you reach your third tasting? OK, it was only our second when I started buying multiple bottles. Must find a home with a wine cellar. I’ll start with just a home. See the Practical Info section below, for some of our favorite vineyards, wines and restaurants.

Also worthy of a shoutout is Destination Drivers, a company that will send someone to drive your car around to the vineyards for an hourly fee. All wine and no drunk driving, yippee! This would in theory work out to be cheaper than the wine tours on offer, that is if you didn’t spend six hours tasting. Oops! What I loved most was the tackle box full of bread and meats and cheeses that they supply to keep you going between tastings. Yum!

After Paso we enjoyed Felix and Amanda’s spectacular wedding at the Kenwood Inn and Spa in Sonoma, and even managed to squeeze in a beautiful local hike with the groom just hours before he wed.

From there, we had a great afternoon in the East Bay catching up with Brian and Kim and Camilo and Hillary and all their kids. Alan and Quinn had a nice scat session. Afterwards I jetted off back to the east coast to help my parents finalize the move, and then attend the last of the wolfpack’s bachelorette parties on Cape Cod. This was my first time in Provincetown, and it happened to be bear week, which happened to be amaze-balls. Of course, the hot pink Lady Gaga wigs didn’t hurt. Congrats KP! So excited for her wedding in the South of France! Stay tuned for the blog coverage of what I’m sure will be nothing short of stunning.

Meanwhile, Alan and D-Bell drove up to Humboldt, then took the PCH all the way back down to LA, and reminded himself how much we love this left coast. Watching the World Cup semifinal games at Patterson’s Pub in Mendocino and then The Tap Room at the Lodge at Pebble Beach were experiences to cherish. Oh California, you beautiful beast, you.

And now, we are in Dublin! Stay tuned for lots of pictures and stories, most of which will likely entail blustering shorelines and big glasses of beer.

Practical Info

We will not try to cover everywhere we ate and everything we did over a couple months in the US. Instead, we will touch upon some highlights. If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Transportation: There are many ways to get from New York to Boston, including flying or taking the train. The cheapest option is usually the bus. We have taken one of the Chinatown buses in the past, but this time friends told us about Bolt Bus. It departs New York from multiple locations; we took the train from New Jersey to Penn Station and then walked the long blocks to 33rd between 11th and 12th. In the 1980s you would not have wanted to be here outside your car that would’ve been bombarded by unsolicited windshield washing, but now it’s fine. For $27 (2 tix), we arrived painlessly at South Station in Boston. And the bus offers WiFi and electric outlets.

Accommodation: We found a great Airbnb place in Santa Monica near 20th and Montana. We were less enthused about Emily’s House in Paso Robles (see Jenni’s rant above), though the location was nice in easy walking distance from town. The Kenwood Inn and Spa near Sonoma is definitely a splurge, but the rooms are beautiful and the pool is super refreshing in the NorCal valley heat.

Food: In LA: Shout out to our man at the helm of Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese on Melrose. Jenni covered this above, and when she was back east I returned and also had the Buffalo Blue. This thoroughly satisfied my buffalo pangs…for the night. Katsuya is something we crave when traveling, so we made a few visits while back. We usually go to the Brentwood branch, but it’s much cheaper if you can schlep to the valley. The happy hour in Brentwood helps to let you afford multiple orders of the spicy tuna on crispy rice and baked crab hand rolls. Poquito Mas is solid mini-chain Mexican. We would not assert the bagels compare to New York, but a fine place to hold you over is New York Bagel and Deli on Wilshire in Santa Monica.

In Santa Barbara: Rincon Taqueria (115 E. Haley Street). Hole in the wall, but good tacos and reminds us of wedding planning.

In Paso Robles: Dinner at Artisan was great. Il Cortile was good but not great. Di Raimondo’s is an excellent cheese shop. While wine tasting outside town, we made an enjoyable stop at Pasolivo for free olive oil tasting. The cookies at Brown Butter Cookie Company were the bomb dot com.

In New York: Late night pastrami at Katz’s Deli. A superb brunch at momofuku ssäm bar…think fried duck and waffles with mascarpone and a raspberry compote.

In New England: Of course we hit the legendary White Hut in West Springfield, plus the new branch in the center of Longmeadow. Mike’s (actually now called Pool Street Market) for lobstah rolls in Biddeford is de rigeur. In addition to the standard trip to Cape Pier Chowder House, I had my first ice cream at Goose Rocks Dairy, and Jenni, Dev and I had a lovely afternoon brunching at Tia’s Topside followed by free beer tasting at the Kennebunkport Brewing Company. Jenni gives a nod to New London’s subs in Concord, where she ate her farewell Concord lunch.

Wine: Paso Robles is known for its Zin, but we actually came away with an adoration for the local Syrahs and Roses. Overall, we were very impressed with taste and value. We tasted at:

  • Chronic Cellars – Nice, fun wines made by the sons of the folks behind Peachy Canyon (which, by the way, sells a solid SUPER budget zin available in LA). We enjoyed the ’13 Kindly Swallows Rose, the ’12 Dead Nuts Zin blend, ’12 Suite Petite Syrah blend (sold out, sadly) and the Tranquilo late harvest Petite Syrah.
  • Kiamie Wine Cellars – We loved the ’08 Meritage and the R’Own Style Blend. You can find their wines at Enterprise Fish Co. in Santa Monica (the Vinocata ’08) and the Meritage at Grill 23 in Boston.
  • Halter Ranch – I don’t have specific notes on this one as we mostly chatted about foods we loved with the friendly lady pouring here.
  • Oso Libre – Loved the ’11 Carnal GSM. Otherwise we were pretty underwhelmed (especially with the whites).
  • Terry Hoage Vineyards – Jenni told them that their rose smelled like armpits, but not in a bad way. As you might surmise, our tasting ended here.

We also tasted at the downtown tasting rooms of:

  • Grizzly Republic
  • Burbank Ranch – Solid wines here. Loved the Syrah “Sunset” and ’13 Grenache “Picnic Meadow” Rose. Runner up rose was the ’13 Syrah “Friends” Rose. Overall, the roses in Paso were dry and superb! The ’13 Arneis “Little Rascal” white was a nice porch wine. ’12 Zin Estate “Fall Colors” and the Malbec were nice as well, and Jenni loved the ’11 Petit Verdot “Wood Pile.”

Other vineyards that were recommended to us, but that we couldn’t fit in were DAOU (supposedly great views), Starr Ranch, Tolo, Jack Creek, Kenneth Volk, J Dusi, Ecluse, Booker and the Treana & Hope Family. Downtown, we had tried to visit LXV, where the couple running it had a wine and Indian food pairing party (so sad we missed it!), and had also heard good things about Pianetta.

May 25 -July, 22 2014

Maine: Biddeford

Jenni’s parents have a house in Biddeford, Maine, which means I now have the good fortune of lounging with family, great views and copious lobster.

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September 27 – October 2 (Friday-Wednesday) – It was another milestone day as we reached the Atlantic Ocean!  And what a warm welcome, it was: a couple bottles of Sancerre, a lobster roll, the hot tub with great stars, then some late night snacking on chunks of lobster straight to the dome.

Beyaz and us humans were joined Saturday morning by Devin and his two dogs: Louie the huge bull mastiff and Ryder the adorable Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  Watching these two play together warms the heart.

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After another lobster roll, Alper, Devin and I played some tennis at their club’s Har-Tru court around the corner.  75 and sunny, tennis, a pond to one side and the ocean to the other.  Life is good.  Then it got even better with MORE LOBSTER at night, this time in the shell.  Jenni’s parents bought one lobster for each grown-up and two for each kid, and they were phenomenal.  My wife attacked these crustaceans with a ferocity that was almost alarming, yet I who nearly drank my plate of greenish salt water with lobster slime butter should not judge.  A great Chablis Premier Cru, some fireworks Devin had brought and This is the End (transferred from his computer to a USB stick inserted into the TV, yes this novice is always amazed by technology) capped the evening.

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Days in Maine are filled with tennis, wine, cheese, lobster, hot tub, reading and more.  On the court I made solid contact on a ‘tweener but it landed long.  I finished Investment Biker in Vermont and have been reading Delivering Happiness.  As the Giants got whooped yet again, I could focus more on my book.  Much of what Tony Hsieh writes resonates with me and mirrors some of my notions in embarking on this journey.  He was always hard-working and intellectually curious, deeply values his personal relationships and lives by the philosophy that experiences are much more important than material items.  He believes that you can change anything if you make a conscious and deliberate effort to overcome inertia.  I think it was in this book I came across the Kierkegaard quote: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”

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I made fires in the evenings and Alper dubbed me Bodaway, a Native American name for fire maker.  He did so during a brief interlude between sessions espousing the merits of passive solar.  Maine is definitely Jenni’s happy place.  She really likes to converse with the dogs and interpret what they would say in various situations.  She also loves to speak in accents and sing with all her might LeAnn Rimes’ cover of I Will Always Love You.

One day Jenni and I took a long walk on the beach down to the nunnery and then to their friend’s house where we debated the relative merits of being on the beach vs. set back on the hill with more of a view (like her parent’s home).  I believe they call such dilemmas “1% problems.”

The day I drove back and forth to Portland twice, once for a software update at the Apple store at the mall and once to the Volvo dealership after we had to jump-start Sven yet again…well, that was not a highlight.  At least we had more lobster rolls from Pool Street Market (fka Mike’s) which we enjoyed despite the swarming mosquitoes near the house.  The Portland Volvo dealership was very friendly and helpful.  Their best guess as to Sven’s ailment was some gobbledygook about an RDAR software update to prevent the satellite radio tuner from staying on even after the ignition was switched off.  This, despite that we do not have even satellite radio activated.  While it is not clear we have left Sven parked long enough to cause the battery drain since that day, we have not had any more problems.  It is disappointing that the dealers in Chicago and Vermont never addressed this software update.

Our last night in Maine it was just me and Jenni.  We had dinner at Cape Pier Chowder House in Kennebunkport.  We split a bowl of clam chowder that was really thick.  Which reminds me that Jenni is now officially addicted to the phrase “that’s what she said.”  I admit it is a fun game, and called for remarkably often.  Anyway, the chowder was great and the lobster rolls were good.  These are a more traditional version, with a good amount of meat on a buttered, toasted hot dog bun.  My gripe is the mayo and seasoning were too light.  She washed it down with a glass of sauvignon blanc and I with a Shipyard (Portland microbrew) Export draught.  The setting is the quintessential Maine harbor with a lighthouse and many fishing and lobster boats.

By the way, today the US government shut down.  I had my fifth and sixth rounds of lobster, so I was not too sick to my stomach to eat.  And I did feel fortunate that none of our national park visits were affected, yet deeply ashamed of my country.  Imagine if you were a European tourist visiting the US to see our national parks and were turned away at the entrance due to shenanigans in Washington, D.C.  That most certainly is more characteristic of a developing country than a global leader.

On our way out of Maine we stopped at the Cape Porpoise Kitchen which is a deli and gourmet market.  I had a good breakfast sandwich that was like an upscale version of the McDonald’s sausage McMuffin with egg.  More important, they offer a Maine crab and dill havarti sandwich that sounds so good, and they sell Elki bacon and blue cheese whipped mustard.  We continued to have amazing weather on this trip and it was a perfect time to be here.  Still warm enough, beautiful foliage and no crowds.

Maine: The Way Life Should Be

::some pink wine on the porch::
::some pink wine on the porch::

My parents know how to enjoy an evening in Maine, and we arrived in Biddeford to open arms, a few bottles of Sancerre, and the first lobster rolls of the visit. We enjoyed these immensely before heading to the hot tub and admiring the stars. As you’ll recall from my prior post, the porch in Maine is my happiest of happy places. Our house sits atop a little hill, over a rocky landscape that my parents have beautifully landscaped over the years. Just in front of the house is Lily Pond and a two lane road which divides the pond from the ocean and a small bay which we have a lovely view of. I think my heart rate slows done the minute I sit in those adirondak chairs and start breathing in the salt air.

The next morning my brother, Devin, and his two dogs Louie and Ryder joined us. The boys played some tennis while I got in a workout chasing Lou and Ryder around the yard. Good gracious does Ryder have some energy. I think I always sleep well after playing with that little ball of exhaustion.

For dinner we enjoyed round two of lobster, this time enjoying some soft shell lobster in the rough. They were fantastic – best lobsters I’ve had all season. I’d like to add that Alan put in his notes: “Jenni crushed her lobster.” Devin surprised us with some fireworks and a Roman candle, which he launched over the pond after dinner while we continued enjoying our Chablis Premiere Cru.

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The boys played tennis again the next day, and we all enjoyed a relaxing evening spending some time in the hot tub, devouring a delicious escarole and pasta dish my dad cooked up as well as a blueberry pie, then of course more wine in front of the fire built by our expert fire maker, Alan, whom my father dubbed “Bodaway” (Native American for fire maker, apparently).

The following day my mom made one of my favorite meals (linguine with clam sauce), after which Alan and I went out for a long walk on the beach down to the nunnery and back. I again pointed out to Alan the rocks that I’d spent my childhood learning, and the names of my favorites (house rock, with the kitchen sink of course topping the list).  At night, Bodaway created another fire and we enjoyed leftovers with the parents and lively discussion, which somehow always seemed to come back to passive solar. (The new house will use passive solar design to keep it warm in the winters and cool in the summers – ask Alper about it, he’d love to tell you more 😉

Sven pooped out on us again the next day, which was poor timing at my parents had already left. Luckily my dad’s car and a battery-jumping tool were there and we were able to start it so that Alan could drive it back to Portland for the third set of Volvo service people to look at it. Over an hour and a half later we finally got a theory as to why the battery constantly dies though the battery itself is fine: apparently (and only maybe) there is a glitch in the Sirius XM radio (which I don’t even have turned on) which causes it to drain the battery while the car is off. Strange, because it never did this for the first two years I had it in LA. On the bright side, we picked up lobster rolls from my favorite spot: Mike’s near downtown Biddo. Well, it’s no longer called Mike’s, it’s called Pool Street Market, but I still think of it as Mike’s. The size of the roll never changes, they just sell lobster rolls by the amount of meat you want, ranging from an original at just $5.95 up the range of Jumbo, Deluxe, Supreme and Winn for $18. I order them with mayo and lettuce, which is placed on the bun before the lobster meat, rather than mixed in with the meat itself. It’s not your classic lobster roll, but it is divine. I used to be content with a Deluxe, lately I’ve been ordering Supremes. Though tempted, nobody has ever tried a Winn.

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For dinner, we drove over to Cape Pier Chowder House in Cape Porpoise and got the more traditional lobster roll. The location is really what sells this place, you drive through the quintessential sleepy New England beach towns to get to the cape which is charming beyond belief with its light house and boats and lobster traps. The restaurant itself is decked out with buoys, though we usually opt to sit outside and enjoy the views of the water at their full effect. We split a bowl of clam chowder to start, and finished with lobster rolls, served on the more classical toasted and buttered hot bun. They were a bit disappointing this time, I think this late in the season they may have been off their game (it was already October by this point), and they may have even forgot to put mayo on them. Oops.

The government shutdown began this day and we discussed our good fortune in not being at the several national parks we visited on the trip during this time. We also opined on how foolish and third worldly this must seem to foreign tourists visiting those parks.

On our way down to Mass the next morning we stopped at the Cape Porpoise Kitchen for coffees and breakfast.

So here is Maine in a nutshell: family, dogs, lobster, wine.

I was also surprised to notice on our drive out that there is another coffee shop named Brewed Awakenings in Maine. In addition, I noticed that there is a state minimum price for milk and I got to wondering if this is the case everywhere (I don’t believe it is). If you’re curious how the Maine Milk Commission establishes milk prices, read up here: http://www.maine.gov/agriculture/mmc/priest.htm. The strange things you notice while driving the perimeter of the country.

::dunks and lobstah, yessss::
::dunks and lobstah, yessss::

Maine and Beyaz

Maine holds such a special place in my heart. Every summer of my life I’ve spent some or all of my time at my family’s cottage in Biddeford. I don’t think there is any spot on this planet that could make me feel as content and happy as I am sitting on the porch in Maine with my family, our dogs, and a glass of good white wine. Of course, a pot of steamers and a lobstah roll bring this scenario to ultimate bliss status.

This particular trip was especially meaningful to me for two reasons. One, it’s likely the last time I’ll be at the Maine house in its current state, as my parents are nearing retirement and realizing their long term dream of redesigning the house for use as their full time home. Second, as many of you know, our beloved family dog Beyaz passed away soon after I left Maine and this was my last time seeing her. She was loved tremendously by all of us, and watching her battle an illness in the last months of her life and ultimately losing her was difficult to say the least. Thank you to everyone who sent kind wishes and thoughts our way. As many of you know, I am a huge dog lover, and Bey-Bey was a member of our family. I can’t do her justice the way my father did, so I’m sharing his eulogy for her below.

Farewell to Beyaz

3/13/2004 – 10/14/2013

After a 6 month bout with Congestive Heart Failure, we said farewell to Beyaz on Monday evening. Beyaz was diagnosed six months ago with a prognosis of 3-6 months. Thanks to Margaret’s superb care with support from the cardiology team at Tufts Veterinary Hospital, we managed to extend her life to the full six months.

Over the years, we had several pets but none of them touched our hearts as Beyaz did. She had a strong emotional connection with her clan and an unforgettable personality. Beyaz followed her mom everywhere, met her dad at front steps every night, loved taking power naps with mom, wrestling with Devin, cuddling with Jenni, sharing a Chobani with dad, and almonds with mom. She always wanted to be with her clan, was happiest when the clan was together, and apprehensive when it was not. She always wanted to pull her weight in household chores by pulling out weeds, and bringing down vines.

Beyaz welcomed every day with excitement. She loved waking up mom and dad with kisses, taking mom and dad for walks, playing goalie in our soccer practice, attacking waves in the beach, trotting with a majestic stance, riding in the car with window down, and eating a salad at dinner. As the chief detective of CSI Conantum, she catalogued every scent in our neighborhood. She did hate thunderstorms, the song “You can’t touch this.”

We did a bucket list for Beyaz when after the initial diagnosis. Unfortunately, we could not check off every item on that list given the rapid deterioration in her physical stamina. Of that list, she did manage to see Jenni to make up for the crying sessions on FaceTime, having her own ice cream bowl at Erikson’s in Stow, sunbathing at our front patio in Maine, …

In her last days when she could hardly walk, she managed to bring her football to Devin and Jenni for play, and didn’t forget to kiss mom and dad.

So farewell Beyaz. You gave us so much love. I hope you knew that we loved you just as much. Rest in peace.

Thank you Dad for the beautiful words.

I’ll address the trip in more detail in another post, but as Bey was such a big part of our lives, I thought this deserved its own post. Since the pictures of her in her last days portray a tired, frail Beyaz, I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos of her throughout her life. Bey-Bey, my sweet girl, I hope you’re eating lots of (not Jenni sized) bites of delicious food up in dog heaven. We love you and miss you terribly.