I didn’t really step outside today until I grabbed my Chipotle delivery off of Robert’s porch. As I said yesterday, he had to teach today so I was mostly heads down sneaking in some distraction-free work. Once he wrapped up his day he dropped my at the airport shortly before boarding. I got lucky on the first leg and had a two-seat side of the row to myself. Now I’m just wrapping up a layover in Philadelphia before the final leg back to Richmond.
This has been some of the best travel and friend time I’ve had in ages, but my bed is going to feel great tonight.
About to Eat (or A.T.E.) is a relatively young YouTube channel from some of my favorite Buzzfeed food people. The channel essentially features a number of themed series based around interesting concepts such as cooking only one type of food for 24 hours, examining the different ways the hosts cook certain ingredients or dishes at home, or one of my favorites, the “Day in the Life” series. Day in the Life is produced by Alvin Zhou (who has his own channel that is a true delight) and shares his experience in the kitchens of various restaurants in New York City across a variety of cuisines and styles. I love this series because a) the videos center almost entirely on the chefs and restaurants featured, b) you get an inside look at highly skilled people making delicious food, and c) I think Zhou’s genuine curiosity and enthusiasm come through in each video. If that video at the top of this post doesn’t make you want to find the nearest Ghanaian restaurant, you aren’t hooked up right 😀
Today was Portland day! We headed out early for the long drive from Bangor with a two-pronged morning mission: Montreal-style bagels from Forage and a coffee crawl involving some of Robert’s favorite roasters in Portland.
Let’s start with them bagels. These were cooked in a wood-fired oven as befits the Montreal-style process, and while they vary a bit from the NY-style I grew up with in the Tristate Area, they were no less delicious. That characteristic crisp, chewy skin was still there, yielding to a tangy sourdough interior that had fermented two days prior to baking. One sesame and one sea salt, each with butter, and I was in my happy place. I haven’t eaten bagels this delicious in a couple years. Seriously.
Then it was on to coffee, and we had to start with Tandem Coffee Roasters. Did they bit a little style from Richmond’s own Lamplighter with that bike theme and converted service station cafe? Who knows, but their coffee was delicious, and the pistachio cake I shared with Robert was incredible. It tasted like a lemon poundcake with pistachio meal, and crushed pistachios, lemon juice, and sugar syrup on top. That pic at the top of the post was my cappuccino. Next up was Speckled Ax who—completely new to me—wood-roasts their coffee. This cappuccino was even better than Tandem’s and I bought a bag of some fruit-dried Ethiopian to take back to Richmond.
Side note: yes, two cappuccinos in a row, no sweetener added. I normally prefer espresso or pour-over, but in Portland as in Richmond, the shops are still using disposable only cups and no dine-in. I feel like paper cups mess with the flavor of espresso, so that’s out. And none of the shops we hit in Portland were doing pour-over because of the time involved.
We interrupted our coffee crawl for a surprise stop at Portland Head High and Fort Williams Park on Casco Bay. If my film turns out okay, the shots I got at this park will be some of my favorites, I think. For now, check out this vertical pano of the lighthouse, and the registry plaque.
Our final coffee stop was Bard Coffee in the Old Port neighborhood, and boy was that great. One more cappuccino, and also a nitro cold brew. The cap was certainly tasty but the nitro was some of the best I’ve ever had. All the rough edges were rounded off and while most nitros have that “virgin Guinness” taste of toast and chocolate, this stuff was still fruity and crisp.
With so much caffeine in our systems, we headed out of Portland to Freeport for a visit to the massive L.L. Bean campus in Freeport. They had pretty much everything you could imagine, including a pair of stuffed moose that had been found dead in the woods with locked antlers. Macabre! After a little light shopping (and not buying) we drove a short hop to Maine Beer Company for some truly delicious beer and pizza. Our final beer stop was Side by Each Brewing Co. in Auburn on the way back. This brewery takes care of their people and makes delicious beer, so it was a fitting final brewery on my trip.
The vacation part of my trips is pretty much over now since Robert has to teach starting at 8:00 tomorrow. I’ll be sneaking in a work day where everybody thinks I’m off so I can get stuff done without distraction. Then around 4 PM I’ll head back down south to Richmond. Not sure whether I’ll publish a final post tomorrow, but I can tell you it’s been a helluva time up here in Maine, and I hope to return before too long.
Addendum to yesterday’s statement about “too much delicious food and drink to recount”: let’s just say I had enough to drink that my sleep was transient last night. I woke up sore and tired, but excited enough for what today would bring that got dressed right away and sat down to chat with Robert about what today would bring. The weather looked iffy, so we decided to start with breakfast at a great gas station diner-like place called Dysart’s.
As I was eating a tasty breakfast sandwich with French toast for the bread, we decided to chance the rain and head up to the relatively new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in north central Maine. It was a long drive to the park and along gravel roads, but road trips are the way Robert and I love to hang out. The photograph at the top of this post was taken within the park, and there are (hopefully) some choice photographs shot on my Hasselblad to be seen at a later date. We eventually made it to the picnic area with an expansive view of Katahdin itself and numerous other peaks at the top of the Appalachian Trail. We got some great photos, but we could also see some serious weather headed our way.
So what did we do? We hit up some more of Maine’s fine craft beer offerings, like Bissell Brothers in Milo. We snagged some suds and enjoyed the rapidly cooling weather on their covered patio while the rain picked up.
The staff were friendly but the bathrooms were another story…
We returned to Bangor and grabbed another round at Bangor Beer Co where we ran into some of Robert’s delightful colleagues, then decided to take a chance on a newish barbecue joint. I won’t name it because then I’d have to shame it, because it wasn’t great. Us two Virginia boys knew what we were getting into, but had to take a chance just in case it was actually good. So with the smoked meat a failure, Robert called an audible and we wrapped up the evening with some seriously good ice cream from local joint, Gifford’s. So tasty.
Tomorrow is my last day of exploration with Robert (I’m here all day Monday, but he has to teach all day) before heading back. The rough outline includes Freeport, Portland, loads of coffee and beer, and more glorious exploring. Whoohoo!
Today started with a casual and delicious breakfast in Bar Harbor before heading to Acadia. The weather was perfect the entire day and started chilly enough to warrant wearing my flannel shirt. Summer sticks around until the 22nd, but it already feels like autumn in Maine. Bar Harbor is a fairly cute town even if it occupies a “wealthy tourist” slot in my mental filing cabinet. Visiting the ocean shore always feels like home, and the gulls, sea air, and site of boats helped as well.
The highlight of the morning, however, was our visit to Acadia National Park (my second National park of 2021) and climbing around on the top of Cadillac Mountain. The views were beautiful and expansive if not always photogenic, but I felt so alive up there in the fresh, cool air. Robert knows his way around and we managed to explore quite a bit of the summit while avoiding the more crowded tourist walkways. After Cadillac we took in the sites around the loop road, stopping at various overlooks before parking near Thunder Hole to take a look around. Yeah, I smirked at the name, too, but at high tide the waves crash into a rock formation in such a way that it sounds like thunder. The rock formations were breathtaking and I can’t wait to see some of the film shots I exposed around the park.
What comes after a busy morning of hiking around and taking in the sites? That’s right, taking in the lobster.
I had a hot lobster roll – only lobster and clarified butter – with chips while we relaxed after the park. It felt recklessly indulgent but, if you visit Maine without eating lobster, have you even visited (Yes, yes you have)? It was pretty tasty, and just the right amount to fill me up for a late lunch.
After lobster it was time for some breweries and hang out time at various locations from Belfast to Bangor. We hung out beside the Passagassawakeag River sipping brews from Marshall Wharf Brewing and watched birds and boats drift by.
On the way out I caught a short video of a mesmerizing kinetic sculpture:
The rest of the afternoon and evening were filled with too much delicious food and drink to recount, but we returned to Robert’s house with the sort of contented exhaustion you only get after a full and enjoyable day. I think I’ll sleep a bit better tonight than I did the night before. Tomorrow? Miscellaneous adventures all over the map from Freeport to the deep woods while the weather is unpredictable.
Today was the first travel day. I actually used a packing checklist this time which means I’m pretty sure I have everything I need. My 8 year old daughter was pretty upset I’d be away for several days, but I’m so excited for this trip that I had to console her the best I could while tucking her in last night and heading out the door this morning. My flight started late in the morning which made security quick and easy. After a pleasantly uneventful flight I’m finally in Maine visiting my best friend Robert.
He’s a bio professor in Bangor and, while he’s been up here for years it hasn’t been possible for me to visit until now (he’s come back home to VA plenty—it was my turn to get on a dang airplane), so we have big and adventurous plans for the next several days ahead. But today itself was a bit of a whistle stop tour of Robert’s highlights of Bangor, Orono, and the surrounding area. We enjoyed some beers from a few local breweries, drove around a university campus (where we stopped to admire a huge wind turbine blade!), and finished up with some incredible dinner at a brewpub down by the Penobscot river.
Almost all of my photos will be on film, so it will be a while before I can share anything, but I’ll try to sneak in an iPhone shot here and there like you see in this post.The leaves are changing, there’s lobster to be eaten and beer to be drunk. We’ll be covering a lot of actual territory from Portland to Acadia to Lubec, and maybe even Stephen King’s house. I can’t wait to report back tomorrow.
My kids were so pumped for their first day of school, and I can’t blame them. Maddie just loves school (a growing nerd like her dad before her) and is particularly pumped to be going back to her school building to see her friends in person as she starts 3rd grade. She doesn’t mind the COVID mitigation policies, she’s just happy to be back in the school she loves for the first time since early March 2020.
And Wilson! My sweet little boy is starting kindergarten today! It feels like the end of his “little kid” years as heh starts his time in elementary school. I can’t wait to talk to them about how each of their days went after we collect them from the bus stop this afternoon.
My kid’s school uses an app called ClassDojo to manage intra-school communication and light social features. Teachers and staff post school-wide announcements and photos to share, teachers post messages to the parents of their students, and parents can communicate directly with their children’s teachers. It’s pretty useful and, to the benefit of underfunded school systems everywhere, it’s free to use. But a crucial fact remains that my wife and I don’t choose to use ClassDojo. We feel compelled to use this app because it is what the teacher uses, what the principal uses, and we would feel distantly out of the loop should decide to abandon it.
Why the heck would I mention that? Because ClassDojo utterly abuses their captive audience by frequently attempting to upsell parents on out-of-school features, paid access to “memories” from prior school years, and other premium features. I’m not interested in any of that stuff! But I can’t ignore the app if I also want an effective line of communication between my house and my kids’ school. This is dirty pool in my opinion.
Geez, eight years, right? That’s how long my daughter has been around now. That’s how long my wife and I have had the privilege (and frustration, and exhaustion, and wonder, and anxiety, and joy, etc.) of experiencing Madeline in our lives. This kids who is somehow an athlete. This kid who is absolutely a nerd like her dad. This kid who still surprises us with her generosity, curiosity, and humor.
She starts 3rd grade next week. She’s genuinely excited about learning cursive and more multiplication, and any science she can get her mind on. Over this past year she’s weathered school at home away from friends. But she’s also grown smarter. She’s come a long way with both her gymnastics and swimming (front flips off the diving board!). She has turned into an absolute rollercoaster enthusiast. I think a lot of parents expect to be thrilled by the rapid, early childhood developmental milestones. But I don’t think we talk enough about the ongoing joy of experiencing the ways our children continue to grow and mature. It’s really something.