For the last year or so I have been totally captivated by a YouTube blog, series, or whatever you would call it, Trout and Coffee. It is produced by Kyle Finn Dempsey, and features everything from cabins in the Berkshires, lazy summer evenings, trout fishing, and what brought me to his site, fall foliage. I still struggle with the “new” pronunciation of the word “foliage,” but that’s a different story for another time. By now, you know I am a fan of fall. I began watching these short stories, and the blaze of color from the hillsides, the reflection of the landscape on streams and hidden lakes, and the allure of the Northeast during autumn is indescribable. This created the uncontrollable desire to see that country. As mentioned in prior articles, it finally came to fruition.
The wheels of the jetliner softly touched down in Portland. Baggage was claimed, the rental was acquired, and the face coverings were stashed in the console. What a true breath of fresh air, no pun intended, Stacey and I experienced when we exited the airport. A stiff rush of wind, complimented by 48 degree temperatures, was quite the welcome. We both reached for our jackets and pullovers at the same time. I just wish we had rented a convertible. Our objective was to see fall color, in all her splendor, for a full week. Of course, lobster rolls, boiled lobster, lobster mac and cheese, lobster bisque, and other local culinary specialties would be in the mix. Plans were to stay in Portland for one night, then drive along the Maine Coastline for four hours to our destination for the week, Bar Harbor. We were early for check in, so down to the harbor we went for a snack.
We made Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room our first stop of the trip. I mentioned to someone before we left that I intended to see what ran out first, my money or their lobster.
Hold that thought for a minute, now back to Boone’s. I was undecided whether to go all out with a fresh, boiled lobster to start the northeast experience out right, but maybe I should save the “main course” for later. While deciding, I did order a Higgins Irish Red to calm my post-flight nerves. Finally, I was able to decide. “Sir, I’d like to start with a dozen on the half shell.” I split my order between Arcadian Petites, from Damariscotta, Maine, Osprey from Canada, and Pink Stripe Cocktails. The few words to describe them are clean, smooth salinity, sweet up front, with a velvety finish. Did I say “few” words? Holy smokes, these were delicious.
With my palate cleansed, and with the help from the pale ale, I was on to the next level. The clam chowder was rich, creamy, and loaded with chunks of fresh clams. My past experiences with this bowl of heaven here at home reminds me more of potato soup, but not in this divine country. I used the homemade oyster crackers for snacks in between slurps of the chowder. I had no intention of “diluting” this magical roux. A few more sips of the ale, and it was decision time. Little did I know, there were more choices on the menu.
The easy, or not so easy, decision was to forego the whole lobster experience, at least for now. Remember, we weren’t even to our destination farther up the coastline. Lobster roll, it would be. “Sir, would that be traditional or with mayo and lettuce?” Our waiter knew we weren’t from around there, but he was intrigued with our southern charm, even to the point where he brought another Higgins without me even asking. I went for the traditional, that being with a butter toasted roll and drawn butter. Once again, I asked myself, is this real or Memorex? Fresh chunks of picked lobster meat filled the roll to the point of no return. The final touch was a claw, picked out of the shell as well, drizzled with extra butter. Voila, I needed a nap. By the way, I did sneak a bite of Stacey’s fish tacos. I knew better than to keep reaching for her plate, for I had lobsters to shuck in the coming days.
I must admit, the color was just a bit under my expectations when we left Portland the next morning. It didn’t take long, however, for the show to begin. Our four-hour drive was filled with conversation, mostly with phrases like. “wow, look at that” or “pull over here, let’s get a photo.” We had to keep driving north, otherwise we would never make it. As we traveled, it was hard to pick which colors stood out the most. The “oranges” were crisp and brilliant. The “reds” were deep and rich. Combined with the yellow, crimson, and lingering green leaves, nature’s palette was stunning indeed. More importantly, it was about to get better.
The serpentine highway, still bordered by rich color, brought us to the quaint village of Bar Harbor. The West Street Hotel lobby was more than we could ask for. A crackling fire, rich in aroma from the plume of smoke exiting the chimney, was a nice “welcome home” indeed. Hot apple cider was available, and a vast library of books finished the setting quite nicely. With bags placed in the room it was time to explore.
Boats resembled that of an immense decoy spread as they covered the harbor. Small skiffs were tied to the dock to ferry back and forth to the larger vessels anchored in deeper water. Local lobster fishermen were busy preparing for their work at hand. Lobster cages were stacked neatly along every deck and dock adding a nice decorative touch. The air was thick from a combination of pungent saltwater and steamed seafood, almost fog-like. I had put it off long enough. To Stewman’s Seafood we went.
There was no struggling with decision making this time. I ordered TWO whole lobsters with all the fixings. I have plenty of experience with the “art” of peeling and eating crawfish, but these things are crawfish on steroids. A quick tutorial and I was off to the races. I picked out the claws first, saving the succulent tail for the grand finale. Oh, how fresh this delicacy from the sea was. I have had lobster before, but it didn’t compare to the sweetness of these. I understand why they provide a bib also. Dragging big chunks of lobster through drawn butter washing it down with a Baxter’s pale ale added a nice finish to the first day of the trip.
The remainder of the trip was spent driving in different directions for hours each day. Some days found us on the Canadian border in search of newly turned foliage. We found roads less traveled and paths through deep forests. Black ducks, mallards, and other species of waterfowl speckled the smooth waters of hidden marshes and lakes. Apples hung thick along roadsides, begging to be harvested. Of course, we obliged. Though there was sign of moose, we weren’t fortunate enough to see one of these mammoth creatures. Maybe this requires a tag and a trip to the Yukon someday to witness this specimen.
There is no way to describe in words how beautiful this region is this time of year. Photographs will not do it justice. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t waited this long to see it. With that said though, plans are already being made to return. I would encourage you to make a trip to see the leaves turn, taste the salt from the harbor, and slow your heart rate to a new pace. Don’t forget those weathered jackets and grasp the full experience. Oh, by the way, I left plenty of lobsters up there for you. Start saving now!
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.