Month: December 2014 (page 1 of 2)

“I’m Gonna Make this Place Your Home” – Maine Summer Camps: A Second Home for Kids

There are over 100 different summer camps in Maine, giving kids ranging from ages 6-18 the summers of their lives. Maine and summer camp have gone hand in hand since the beginning of time (well, not really). Many summer camps have created a second “home” to campers during the limited amount of time they are in Maine. To quote Philip Phillips’ song Home:

“Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”

Some kids and teens are obsessed with their summer camp. As they do consider it their “second home”, they live the 10 months of the year waiting for summer to roll around, so they can be with their friends at camp (and be in Maine of course, since that’s what OTMR is all about). They change their Facebook profiles to say, “Works at Camp ____” and “Lives in ______, Maine”.

The idea of home is an interesting one. It’s kind of a philosophical issue, really. In order to dig a little deeper into this, we must first understand the difference of “house” and “home”. A house is a structure, where one goes home to every day and sleep there. A home does not necessarily have to be one’s house. People can have multiple homes (and multiple houses too, but that’s another matter). If you spend so much time with your grandparents, you may consider their house to be your home.

How does this relate back to Maine? Ah, yes. Summer camp. The joyous time of the year, where kids congregate from around the country (and the world, even) and spend their summer on Maine’s lakes and in Maine’s forests. Summer camp is a place for kids to “make themselves at home”. And as cliché as that sounds, these summers become a defining moment in the futures of these kids and teens, as this is an experience that they will never forget.

You can expect more about Maine summer camps in future posts. In the meantime, check out Maine Camp Experience’s website, representing a community of summer camps dedicated to finding the perfect summer camp for kids. It has some valuable and interesting information to all past, present and future Maine campers.

Camden Hills: Coastal Sightseeing at its Finest

You may notice that this blog has been following a linear track up Route 1. First Portland, then Freeport and Brunswick, and we have now arrived at our next destination on our whistle-stop tour of Maine’s coast: Camden. I describe many towns in Maine as quaint, and Camden is no exception. Main Street is teeming with shops and small restaurants (and an active harbor), but I would like to take a quick look at shop selling frozen treats. Throughout my travels in Maine, I have had the opportunity to sample many different ice cream shacks. On this blog, you will hear about many of them. Camden has its own clear winner on the ice cream front – River Ducks Ice Cream. It’s a simple shop in a quaint town – just the way people like it.

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River Ducks Ice Cream in Camden.

All that aside, I would like this post’s focus to be on Camden Hills State Park. Located slightly outside of the Main(e) thoroughfare (I know…too many puns), the Park (as its name suggests) is on a hill. One of the camp’s primary features is a pristine campsite, suitable for both tents and RVs. However, the signature place to be in the park is atop Mt. Battie, with a 26-foot tall stone structure. This was originally constructed in 1921, and designed by Camden summer resident, Parker Morse Hooper. A plague in front of the tower reads: “In grateful recognition of the services of the men and women of Camden in the World War, 1914-1918.” One can still climb this tower, and after reaching the top of the spiral staircase, the views are incredible. To quote the old Broadway musical:

“On a clear day, you can see forever.”

This quote is certainly true from Camden Hills, as the views are endless. Camden, Penobscot Bay, Isle au Haut, even Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park – you name it, it can be seen from Mount Battie.

This little gem on Route 1 (basically Maine’s equivalent to Route 66) is definitely worth the detour (Off the Maine Road…get it?) on your trip up to the ultimate pilgrimage site: Acadia National Park. But more on that later.

Structure atop Mount Battie, which visitors can climb.

Structure atop Mount Battie, which visitors can climb.

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Penobscot Bay from the top of Mount Battie.

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The town of Camden from on top of Mount Battie, with its working harbor.

 

Off the Maine Road Update

It’s been 2 weeks since I started this blog and I have some exciting things to share. First, Off the Maine Road has now been moved to its own website at offthemaineroad.com! Check back often to see new posts in our new home. On the writing front, we will be featuring exciting new content on everything Maine, including some posts by guest writers. I look forward to these fantastic additions to this blog. Please fill out the form on the “Contact” page if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments. Thank you all for supporting Off the Maine Road!

Bowdoin, Bates and Colby: Not Just Colleges, but Quaint Maine Hangouts

Congratulations to the newest members of the Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby College families! I thought I would talk a little bit about their surrounding areas, as these are the places where many students will be spending the next 4 years.

(Thanks to Simone for her valuable picks in this post!)

Bowdoin College – Brunswick, Maine

Bowdoin College Quad in the fall. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bowdoin College Quad in the fall. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Located 26 miles north of Portland and on the Androscoggin River, Brunswick is very much shaped by the Bowdoin (pronounced Bow-den for all you non-Mainers) College community. In addition to its 215 acres of campus and extensive art museum, Brunswick’s Maine Street (get it?) is filled with small shops and restaurants, one of which is the one and only Gelato Fiasco‘s flagship store. It’s also home to another Cool as A Moose location. A few other nice sports are Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe, which is on Maine Street. It has some delicious salads, sandwiches and pastries. I’m always on the lookout for Asian restaurants, so Tao Yuan is also a good choice. El Camino is a Mexican eatery featuring locally grown meats, produce, and seafood. Although quite off the beaten track, Gurnet Trading Co. is known to have the best lobster around, located in a small seafood shack on the Androscoggin tidal section. On the services front, there’s an Amtrak station right next to the campus with Downeaster service to Boston, and a few movie theaters nearby.

Bates College – Lewiston, Maine

Located up the river from Bowdoin and 34 miles from Portland, Lewiston and its adjacent town Auburn are full of action. They’re actually sometimes referred to as the “Twin Cities”. Like Bowdoin, Bates also has an art museum to complement its liberal arts curriculum. If you’re around mid-August, The Great Falls Balloon Festival is a “hot” scene. Lewiston is also home to the Maine Music Society, so if you’re interested, stop by for a performance. The Androscoggin Bank Colisée has some hockey and other sporting events. More Asian Fusion? Why not! Orchid Restaurant has you covered. Fish Bones American Grill has blown Lewiston’s seafood scene out of the water. Shops are spread out on both sides of the river, but if you’re in the market for a bike, Rainbow Bicycle can get you on the road.

Colby College – Waterville, Maine

It’s interesting how all 3 of these schools are located along the banks of a river. Colby is no exception, being located on the Kennebec River and 78 miles northeast of Portland. And what would a Maine liberal arts college be without an art museum? Colby has another art museum to suit your artistic tastes. One of the coolest attractions is the Two Cent Bridge, which spans the Kennebec River to connect Waterville and its neighboring town Winslow. It is one of the oldest surviving wire-cable steel suspension bridges and is considered to be the last known extant toll footbridge in the United States, although the toll was abolished in 1960. There’s really nothing on the shopping front that surpasses Maine Made and More. It literally has every Maine creation you can think of, from Stonewall Kitchen Blueberry Jam (more on that later) to t-shirts and lobster bibs. It’s well worth the visit, especially if you’re wondering down Main Street. More Asian food – Pad Thai Too takes Thai classics and puts on a Maine lobster twist. Finally, Holy Cannoli has some Italian favorites.

Well, that’s it for now. It should provide you students and tourists with a good list to start your college visits/Maine visits. These 3 towns really bring out the quaint soul of Maine, so I encourage you to go Off the Maine Road and take a trip!

(Cover photo is of Bowdoin College in the fall, and is from Wikimedia Commons.)

Are you as Cool as a Moose?

During my first few summers in Maine, I was in search of a simple piece of Maine apparel: a t-shirt or a sweatshirt that said “MAINE” in big letters on the front. My problem was solved when visiting the small store Cool as A Moose, known to some Mainers as CAAM. Here’s a trivia question for all you Mainers or want-to-be Mainers: which 4 towns in Maine (and there are only 4) have CAAM locations? Read to the bottom to find out!

Cool as A Moose locations are in towns that are quite touristy, yet have that unique, Maine charm. All of these places will definitely be featured in future posts. Their products are the all-in-one package for the Mainer or Maineiac: everything that you could possibly put the word “Maine” on. T-shirts, sweatshirts, lobster hats, water bottles, stickers, moose antlers; you name it, they have it. Although not as comprehensive, their online store has some of these products available to order. But like most places on this blog, you have to see it in person to believe it!

To learn more about Cool as A Moose, visit http://www.coolasamoose.com

One of the Cool as a Moose Locations.

One of the Cool as a Moose Locations in Maine.


Answer to the 4 locations of Cool as A Moose: Unscramble the following words:

prefero; patroldn; rab rahorb; bricksnuw

The British Came: Bridgham & Cook in Freeport

The British left Maine a few hundred years ago, but they left one reminder of their past presence on Main Street in Freeport: Bridgham & Cook, Ltd. This “posh” British emporium sells uniquely British gifts, home goods, British treats (figgy pudding, anyone?) and of course, genuinely British teas.

(From time to time, I’ll post short posts like this, briefly mentioning local businesses to add to our Freeport directory. Although I haven’t seen much of this shop compared to shops like Gelato Fiasco, I think it’s worth a visit!)

A Big Ben Sign from Bridgham & Cook in Freeport.

A Big Ben Sign from Bridgham & Cook in Freeport.

Click on the link below to find out more:

http://www.britishgoods.com/1/

An Ode to Gelato Fiasco

I wanted to start this post with a piece of contemporary literature I wrote, written in a historical form.

Holy (sort of)* Sonnet 1: An Ode to Gelato Fiasco

By Benjy R.

In the heart of the Old Port it is located,

The red spoon stands tall.

For in this building Italy is created,

Its recipes never escaping the walls.

People flock from near and far,

To have a taste of this rich cream.

Mainers park their cars,

And purchase some frozen treats, excited they seem.

From cookies to chocolate and other toppings,

The gelato has been made fresh each day.

For some of the flavors may seem kind of shocking,

But the customers devour them, and go off on their merry way.

This Old Port haunt can be quite a fiasco.

Of course you can also eat al fresco.

*Although it (mostly) follows the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet, it lacks iambic pentameter.

The Gelato Fiasco has long been one of my favorite places in Maine. But before we start, let’s get our gelato facts straight. According to Instant Portland’s article The Gelato Wars, “Gelato is not simply “Italian Ice Cream”. It is a frozen treat which shares common ingredients with ice cream, but which typically has a much lower percentage of butterfat and a higher percentage of sugar than American ice cream. It is denser, smoother, and often more flavorful than its more familiar counterpart.” Well said.

Gelato Fiasco (known to Mainers as simply Fiasco) has 2 locations: their flagship store on Maine Street (clever, right?) in Brunswick, and one on Fore Street in the Old Port. I have regrettably only been to the one in the Old Port, but I am planning to make a spiritual pilgrimage to this holy site. When entering the store, you are greeted by Maine goodness. Let me explain. Fiasco’s gelato is not “health food”. However, founders Josh and Bruno (known as Gelatieri) had a vision to bring Italy’s creation and combining it with fresh Maine ingredients. They explain: “We source 100% of our whole milk and cream from Maine dairy farms.” Of course, they use fresh Maine “wild blueberries from down the coast”. Now let’s look at one of my favorite flavors (out of over 1500 ever made) from this local haunt. Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato. Let’s break it down into its components: Milk from Maine dairy farms, homemade oat streusel (as usual, made fresh daily) and fresh blueberries from Down East. What more Maine goodness could you possibly want?

Gelato Fiasco’s Old Port location.

 

Fiasco’s staff are also very “nice” (and they’re working crazy store hours of 11am-11pm). In order to illustrate this, let’s look at example 2: The Waffle Cone. Now when people go to Gelato Fiasco, I highly recommend that they order their treat in a waffle cone; it’s totally worth the extra $1 or $2. I strolled into the store this past summer, and was disappointed to learn that no waffle cones were left. (You see, they make their waffle cones fresh in some complex piece of machinery, with waffle batter.) They said to come back in 20 minutes, and sure enough, the waffle cones were ready. I had already had my gelato, but I gladly accepted the waffle cone for consumption on its own. That’s how good they are.

Gelato Fiasco’s Waffle Cone.

As you have read in the “About” section of this blog, I live in New York. When I left Maine this past summer, I was worried that indulging in such a treat would be a challenge, and would leave me constantly craving Fiasco. Problem solved, thanks to Fiasco’s hand-packed pints sold in a grocery store near me. That’s right. Hand packed in Brunswick, Maine, and brought right to my kitchen. Since this life-changing discovery, I have been able to keep the Maine spirit alive by having Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato and Strawberry Balsamic Sorbetto (another one of my recommended flavors) in my home. Well done, Fiasco. (You can also order pints through their new delivery service, where dry ice is used to keep the gelato and sorbetto frozen.)

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Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato, pint-sized.

 

A few days ago, I sent a message to a few Mainer friends, saying that I acquired new gelato from the grocery store. One of them (who actually lives over an hour away from the nearest Fiasco) responded back saying, “I was just at Gelato Fiasco actually!!” And we conversed about their latest creations, which is basically what all of our conversations boil down to. See? Gelato Fiasco induces unity between Mainers and Non-Mainers.

You’re probably tired at the end of reading these 709 words that this post has turned out to be. You’ll hear more about Fiasco in future posts. But now I wanted to leave you with a quote by its founders Josh and Bruno.

“Food and service should not be a static experience. We explore tastes, people, and culture with a spirit of discovery and within the parameters of the pursuit of excellence.”

Well said, Fiasco. Well said.


To learn more about The Gelato Fiasco, visit their website at http://www.gelatofiasco.com, or watch this YouTube video below.

All photos in this post (as with most of them on this blog) are taken by me.

The Maine Loon

Maine is home to some amazing wildlife. Moose and lobsters and black bears…oh my!

One of the lesser-known animals living in the Pine Tree State is the loon. Now, the loon is a strange animal. It’s like a duck, but it’s not. In fact, loons are one of the oldest species of flying birds still living.

Loons can be found on license plates, t-shirts, and even socks (just go to Urban Outfitters in Portland, you’re bound to find some there). However, the most popular place to see a lone is in one of many lakes and ponds in Maine. Enter the Maine Loon Project. Its mission has two components: raise awareness and protect the Common Loon, and survey the population of loons in Maine’s lakes and ponds.
One Saturday in July each year, over 900 volunteers arise early and flock to lakes and ponds in order to count the population of loons. You may think loon counting is an easy task. It’s not. Not only do these volunteers have to count loons, they must count the number of adults and chicks.

During my summers, I have had the privilege to see quite a few loons. Here’s one that I saw three summers ago.

A Maine loon in Crescent Lake, in the Sebago Lakes region of Southern Maine.

A Maine loon on Crescent Lake, in the Sebago Lakes region of Sourhern Maine.

For more information on loons, check out the links below.
http://www.gma.org/tidings/loon.html

http://www.maine.gov/sos/kids/about/loon.htm

The 10 Commandments of Being a Mainer

Every society needs some type of ground rules,  so I have created the 10 Commandments of Being a Mainer.

(Did I mention that I like lists?)

  1. Thou must take a spiritual pilgrimage to Acadia National Park to see the sun rise.
  2. Thou must consume a Sea Dog biscuit at least once in thy life.
  3. Thou must own at least one L.L. Bean product in thy house.
  4. Thou must consider lobster as a Maine staple.
  5. Thou must gather wild blueberries in Maine’s northern woods at least once in thy life.
  6. Thou must climb Mount Katahdin at least once in thy life.
  7. Thou must be enthralled in the beauty of the Maine loon.
  8. Thou must have at least one sighting of moose.
  9. Thou must savor the delicious taste of Maine clam chowder.
  10. Thou must find beauty among the harshest of Maine winters.

The Old Port: A Peek into Portland’s Past

I thought I would start this post with a brief lexicon for non-Mainers.

Portland – the largest city in Maine. An active shipping port for lobster, hence the name. (Oh, and did I mention that it’s on land?)

The Old Port – a district of Portland, Maine, known for its cobblestone streets, 19th century brick buildings and fishing piers. (Source: Wikipedia).

That’s all you need to know for now. So let’s dive into why this small area has become one of my favorite places in Maine.

I like lists. So I’m going to list the top 10 reasons why The Old Port is the best place to visit in Maine. (Reference to The Late Show with David Letterman.)

  1. You get to walk around feeling like you’re in the 1800s. How cool is that?
  2. Let’s go back for a second. You can walk. No need for Uber (although there is Uber in Portland), just your own two feet.
  3. You can take a ferry and explore islands such as Peaks Island and Great Diamond Island.
  4. There’s a crazy festival at the beginning of June where you can savor food, enjoy live music, and even ride a ferris wheel.
  5. There’s hibachi and sushi at Fuji Restaurant. And it’s pretty darn good.
  6. It’s the perfect stop on the way to Freeport, Brunswick, or Acadia. Or if you’re stopping on your journey south, you can have a bite to eat before heading towards Kennebunk and Kittery.
  7. There’s Cool As A Moose, one of 4 locations in Maine. What are the other 3, you may ask? Well, there’s Brunswick, Freeport, and Bar Harbor. (Good trivia question, by the way). I’ve had the privilege to visit 3 of them – Brunswick is still on my to do list. And of course, there’s a Life is Good shop as well, because who dares to despise a store with the main focus of happiness?
  8. There’s the Flatbread Company, which is known for their thinly-crusted goodness.
  9. It’s the home of the Portland Sea Dogs, at Hadlock Field. Enough said.
  10. There’s not one gelato place, but two. (Read more about the “Gelato Wars” here.) For the past couple years, Gelato Fiasco (my personal favorite – more on this to come in a future post) has risen to become a gelato superpower, extending their empire from their flagship store in Brunswick. There’s also Gorgeous Gelato, if you want to sample more than one serving of this Italian treat. (I once told a friend who was visiting Portland to head to Gelato Fiasco as a must-visit place. Sure enough, they stopped at Gorgeous Gelato and settled for their frozen delicacy. We spent the next few months recreating the “Gelato Wars,” basing our arguments on articles like the one above.)

 

The greatness that these 21.31 square miles of land has cannot be contained in a single blog post. So, there will definitely be more of the different attractions in this classic Maine city!

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Cool As A Moose in Portland.

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