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Friday, September 09, 2011


I met Hilary Nangle, a fellow Boston Globe freelancer, Maine specialist, skier extraordinaire, and all-around good egg, at a travel writer’s conference last year. Late this summer, I sent her a pair of desperate notes:

Hi! Heading to maine w family for the afternoon. Got any snack/clam shack recs between Kittery and Ogunquit? Thanks!

This is a sort of abuse of a perk of the trade on my part, particularly when you note my timing. Yet within an hour I had a response…

Bob’s Clam Hut, Route 1, Kittery, tops a lot of lists of the best fried clams. If you’re craving Jamaican fare, there’s a funky takeout spot on the inland side of Route 1, in Cape Neddick, north of York. Flo’s Steamed Dogs have a legacy of their own (written about in both Gourmet and Saveur). It’s also on Route 1 in Cape Neddick (ocean side, look for a reddish-brown roadside shack, open to 3 and not a minute later). Brown’s Ice Cream, Nubble Rd, York, is wonderful, and if you want an old timey experience, stop by the Goldenrod in York Beach (makes taffy, fudge, ice cream). No culinary traveler should miss Stonewall Kitchen just off 95 on Route 1 in York (heading north, exit just before toll). In Ogunquit, Bread and Roses bakery always has wonderful treats.

We try as much as we can - Bob’s is the bomb (see photo), the Jamaican joint was closed, Flo’s was fantastic (they serve Moxie!), and Bread and Roses’ coffee (Carpe Diem) does the trick in spades.

My word, have I not even written back to say thanks? I’m such a dog. One last question - turns out we’re coming up for a lobstah story Monday & Tuesday (post hurricane, I hope!) any Freeport-area places to stay?

Grin! Freeport, you can’t beat the Harraseeket Inn (, it’s close to everything—steps from Bean’s, outlets, shops, restaurants, and it has the best dining in Freeport (okay, new chef since I last went, so can’t guarantee that, but innkeepers are committed to excellence and have deep Maine roots.

Other good spots:
• White Cedar Inn, (Where we ended up staying - Try the pancakes.)
• James Place Inn,
Those are both downtown
Just south of town, Casco Bay Inn:
And if all you want is a cheap sleep, try these tourist

As for food, I prefer Day’s Lobster, on Route 1 on the Freeport/Yarmouth town line. Nothing fancy, but there are picnic tables on the back lawn overlooking a tidal estuary.

Other good spots in Freeport: Mediterranean Grill, Azure Cafe.

All this lady does is throw strikes! Follow Maine’s self-proclaimed Travel Maven on Facebook.

Thank you, Hilary!

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Thursday, September 08, 2011


NYC - The boss is in town, looking to dine and wants to know where we should go. I almost panic. Where do you take the most-feared food critic in France? I call friends and comb over the list of places I’ve been until I remember the place I really want to try: M. Wells in Queens.

Something of a media darling, M. Wells is/was also a gastronomic UFO housed in a diner: they do what they wanted to, which is pretty admirable in my book. It received incredible raves and, since I’ve been there, one blazing, bizarre review whose subject matter I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole.

Since then, the restaurant has apparently been forced out of their Long Island City location by their landlord and, at this point, there are only rumors about it resurfacing.

When we arrive, François promises to share some of his Caesar salad with smoked herring but it disappears before I point my fork in his direction. I try ‘Bacalao Magasin’ a veritable bath of olive oil that poaches, heats or finishes carrots, shrimp, beans, peas and salt cod in a great terracotta bowl.

For our ‘Big Dish’ – menu choices here are divided into ‘big’ and ‘small’ – we try the ‘BibiM Wells,’ a seafood riff on the Korean dish, which is something of a bunt that could have been a home run with more thought given to the play of texture that make the original so good.

The night we’re there, I wish we were with a much larger group to try the big dishes, where much of the creativity appears to lie – BBQ short ribs, lamb saddle with za’atar, tahini and pomegranate molasses, chicken wonton pot-au-feu – but get a sense of the bigger game the chefs seem to be after with an escargot and bone marrow pasta dish with shallots and a red wine ‘purée’ – the mollusk cousin to octopus and bone marrow pasta. M. Wells’ snails are served right in the bone, two forms of slippery goodness bathing in the wine sauce, covered with crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs.

What is (“What was”?) most interesting at M. Wells is the idea factory the place became. Francois and I get talking about it - in Paris, you’d wonder about the chef’s motives, what they want to accomplish and, often, what their next step will be. Here, creation seems to be the whole point – there is no next step.

Brouhaha aside (please) it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

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