Web WiseDear Diary
Anglers have always kept fishing diaries to record their catches and other bits of information gleaned from hours spent on the water. Lately, though, fishermen have begun trading in their pocket notebooks for something better suited to the virtual age. TripTracks Fishing Logbook (www.triptracks.com
) allows users to record data about their fishing trips using a simple calendar format.You can access your info from any computer with an Internet connection. Even better, TripTracks is a boon for Maine's fisheries because it allows state biologists to monitor fishing pressure at specific locations, learn which fish species are most popular, and even provides early warning for illegal species introductions. TripTracks also produces a valuable annual report that any Maine angler will want to read. What was the largest recorded togue taken in 2005? TripTracks knows. And it's absolutely free to boot.DiningComfortably QuirkyCafé This Way is delicious proof that Bar Harbor is as much a college town as a vacation resort.
The trick to finding a great dinner in a resort town is avoiding three basic tourist traps: the lobster bib scene, the eateries that cash in on scenic views by serving mediocre food, and the outrageously expensive places that max out the credit card. One of the best ways to steer clear of these traps in Bar Harbor is to follow a funky little turquoise sign on Mount Desert Street to Café This Way, which serves fresh and lively fare beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Resembling a white summer cottage on the outside and a hip urban coffee shop on the inside, Café This Way is impossible to pigeonhole. It's a comfortable, quirky place that reflects the passions and personalities of the three very different partners who created it nine years ago: Susanne Hathaway, chef Julie Harris, and Julie Berberian.
"We're not charts-and-graph type people," says Hathaway, who runs the dining room and manages the books. "Most of our process has been running on instinct. All of us absolutely agreed in the beginning that we didn't want the kind of place where we'd have to clean lobster guts off the wall."
Harris gives the fits-on-a-business card translation: "Eclectic food in a casual setting." That setting is blissfully free of fishing nets and fuss. In the evening, white votive candles set atop bookshelves flicker against burgundy walls hung with paintings of flowers and fruit by Neiley Harris, Julie Harris' sister-in-law. Other touches — Barcelona-style chairs pulled around a tabletop of beach pebbles under glass, a swirling yellow ceiling sculpture that doubles as a sound baffle, and hose clamps used for napkin rings — create an atmosphere of relaxed sophistication sparked with subtle humor.
The same is true of the menu, which Harris describes as "creative and all over the place." She favors Greek and Asian cuisine. "Asian is my favorite because I love gingery-garlicky sorts of things," Harris says. "I buy lots of cookbooks, although I don't copy recipes. I just like to play with food."
The happy results include starters like Maine seafood spring rolls, which are packed with sweet chunks of lobster, crab, and shrimp done up with ginger and garlic, rice noodles and a spicy plum-orange glaze. Harris' passion for playing with food also is evident in an appetizer of sesame tofu "scallops" artfully arranged on an iridescent green rectangular plate. This opener delights the eye and surprises the palate with four grilled medallions of tofu served with cucumber and seaweed salad, and three kinds of vegetarian "caviar" that pops in your mouth like the real thing.
Harris has a gift for combining a handful of ingredients in unexpected ways to create fresh and delightful entrées. She sautés lobster meat with cream, Absolut citron, spinach, roasted red peppers, crushed red peppers, and rosemary and serves it over linguine in a dish that is surprisingly light. Other seafood dishes include pecan-crusted halibut served over garlicky spinach with Cajun tartar sauce and grilled tuna with sautéed apples, honey, and tiny smoked Maine shrimp.
The turf side of the menu offers plenty of options for both carnivores and vegetarians. The Greek influence shows up in grilled lamb sirloin served over roasted plum tomatoes, garlic, and kalamata olives and topped with lima bean skordalia, a puree of limas, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. Asian inspired entrées include bibimbap, a Korean dish of stir fried veggies, a fried egg, and spicy pepper sauce served over rice in a hot stone bowl. Entrée prices range from $14 for the bibimbap to $23 for the lemon vodka lobster.
Breakfast brings in droves of locals and hungry hikers for creative and reasonably priced omelets ($6.25) like the "green eggs and Sam," which combines spinach, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and feta, and "the Smokey," which is filled with smoked trout, red onion, fresh basil, tomatoes, and parmesan. The café also serves intriguing variations on eggs Benedict and breakfast basics like pancakes and oatmeal with blueberries and bananas.
Berberian cooks breakfast alongside Harris, oversees the excellent wine list, and is the "all-arounder" who helps out in the kitchen and dining room. She also may be the fastest breakfast cook in town, a crucial skill in a small place that one morning cranked out 425 breakfasts in three hundred minutes. Berberian can whip up breakfast — she has been timed — in thirty seconds flat. Her secrets: "Hot pans, a lot of communication, and staying calm."
Laughter punctuates the conversation as the partners talk about the business they've grown from what Hathaway says began as "a lark." Newly graduated from nearby College of the Atlantic, she needed a job. So did Berberian (a fellow COA alum who had graduated a few years earlier) and Harris, who had just found out the restaurant where they both worked was closing. One day at lunch, the trio decided to take a second look at a business for sale that the two Julies had previously decided they couldn't afford. A month later, the three of them owned it.
Their creativity and instincts — reflected in everything from the menu to design changes over the years, including a cozy bar and a sleek, windowed garage door that opens wide in summer to provide natural air conditioning and connect the dining room with the deck — have served them well. When asked about their ultimate vision for the café, Berberian gestures around the dining room with a sweep of her hand. "Exactly what we have," she says. Kim Ridley
Café This Way is located at 14 1/2 Mt. Desert Street in Bar Harbor, 207-288-4483. Breakfast is served Monday through Saturday 7 - 11a.m., and Sunday 8a.m. - 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended for dinner, which is served nightly from 5:30 - 9 p.m. The café is open from May until late October.Feel GoodFall Cleaning
After a summer of indulgences, you might be feeling it's time to start racking up some positive karma points. Luckily the Pine Tree State offers just such an opportunity this month with Maine Coastweek, an annual push to remove man's regrettable imprint pretty much everywhere the tide reaches. The largest single volunteer effort in the state, Coastweek consists of teams who register online (www.mainecoastweek.org
, or call 207-287-2351) by August 23 and then meet at a specified location (pre-registration helps ensure that even the rockiest, most remote beaches are staffed) armed with sunscreen and garbage bags. Last year's more than two thousand volunteers gathered a sadly impressive seven tons of plastic soda bottles, Styrofoam containers, and other castoffs. But these teams do more than just momentarily restore our coastline; they also record the different types and amount of debris recovered, allowing environmentalists to better pinpoint the sources of the contamination and target prevention efforts. This year's cleanup — the twentieth such event conducted in Maine — will be held September 16 - 23. But don't let that stop you — proper beach etiquette knows no schedule.BooksMurder in the Old PortA true-crime story about a notorious killing, Finding Amy reveals a dark side of Maine.
There's a tendency among visitors and newly arrived transplants to Maine to view this place as an immense theme park, a cross between Disneyland's Main Street USA and a rugged petting zoo. In this scenario, Acadia is a backdrop for benign locals cheerfully doling out lobster and L.L. Bean credit cards, and Portland's Old Port is a neighborhood of Cheers-style bars where everyone knows your name and the cobblestone streets are safe at closing time. Bad things are relegated to Stephen King novels or tepid reruns of Murder, She Wrote.
Too bad nobody told Jeffrey "Russ" Gorman, the sexual predator and convicted killer whose dead-cold gaze irradiates Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine (University Press of New England, Lebanon, New Hampshire; hardcover; 256 pages; $26), a compelling page-turner about the 2001 murder of Amy St. Laurent. The story begins this way: "At 7.30 p.m. on Monday, October 22, 2001, Cumberland County deputy sheriff James Estabrook called his friend Danny Young, a Portland police detective at home, and asked if he could speak about a missing South Berwick woman [who] had gone out on Saturday night to show a visitor from Florida the nightlife in Portland's Old Port district. She never came home."
Amy St. Laurent, a twenty-five-year-old administrative assistant at Pratt & Whitney, was beautiful, responsible, and achingly goodhearted, someone who took money from her savings account and gave it to a young couple facing hardship at Christmas, "the girl who used her own money to fly her best friend . . . home from Alaska for Kate's grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary."
In the Disney version, Amy would have lived. In real life, she made the mistake of accepting a ride home from a Portland club, the Pavilion, with a man she'd just met. Tattooed pretty boy Russ Gorman had moved to Portland about eighteen months earlier. An occasional bouncer and drug dealer on probation, Gorman had a juvenile record that included robbery, car theft, and sexual harassment of a thirteen-year-old girl.
Amy St. Laurent knew none of this, of course. She'd gone to the Pavilion with a visiting friend, Eric Rubright. Rubright didn't dance. Amy did, and one of the guys she danced with was Russ Gorman. Just before closing time, Rubright went to the men's room. When he returned, Amy was gone.
Two days later, Rubright saw a "Missing" poster with Amy's picture on it. He went to the Portland police to give his account of what turned out to be her last night.
Finding Amy is the chilling account of the search for Amy's body and its aftermath — Gorman's trial and ultimate conviction for Amy's murder. It's a police procedural told from the inside by Joseph Loughlin, head of the Criminal Investigations Division and a twenty-four-year veteran of the Portland Police Department, and by one-time attorney Kate Flora Clark, author of a series of mysteries featuring Thea Kozak. Clark brings an experienced novelist's ease to the narrative, though with an irritating redundancy in the opening chapters. Likewise, Loughlin's first-person account initially seems intrusive. But, like mismatched partners who at first irritate each other, the alternating styles grow more companionable, and Loughlin's more emotional perspective soon becomes a welcome relief from the necessarily more detached account of St. Laurent's brutal death.
Finding Amy succeeds in its weaving of the myriad strands of a case that transfixed Vacationland for several years: the gritty, exhausting detail work of an investigation that involved the cooperative efforts of state and local law enforcement, as well as the Maine warden service (no quick-fix CSI crime scenes here) and even a clairvoyant; the psychological profiling of a rapist and psychopath who annotated a stolen copy of The Boston Strangler; and the sort of forensic details that make readers' skin crawl, along with a genuine hold-your-breath account of Gorman's trial.
The outcome of Finding Amy is a matter of public record, but it's a testament to the book's edge-of-your-seat narrative that the denouement never seems guaranteed. And, in its final pages, Finding Amy does something few thrillers ever do: it pays tribute to a young woman who was one of those rare creatures whose beauty was soul-deep. -Elizabeth HandHot TipSugar Fix
"If you can't find it at Yummies, they probably don't make it." The slogan at Kittery's famous candy store sounds like a typical Maine aphorism, but it's no exaggeration — packed into room after room in the beloved Route 1 institution are every manner of sweet you can imagine, and even some you can't. Yummies (877-498-6643; www.yummies.com
) doesn't feel like your typical candy store, the one with the glass cases and smiling owners standing behind their homemade fudge. Instead it's a veritable department store, with several rooms devoted to, well, yummies — ten thousand pounds of them. Many are made on the premises, but the store also stocks a dazzling array of the candies you remember from your childhood, everything from Pecan Logs and Atkinson Peanut Bars to C. Howard's Violet Squares, Chocolate Babies, Banana Splits, Butter Mints, and Boston Baked Beans. There's even a Maine-themed section where you can find edible lighthouses, chocolate lobsters, maple spread, and every kind of saltwater taffy. You'll be like a kid in the candy store — even if you're no longer a kid.GetawayMeet Me in MillinocketBefore you venture into the North Woods, make a stop here.
More than once in the past few years the word "resort" has been used to describe Millinocket. Sure, the North Woods community has been grudgingly making the transition from its mill town roots to an economy that takes advantage of the millions of spectacular acres of woodlands right out the town's back door. But resort? Maybe a frontier resort. Better yet, outdoor recreation center.Lodging
Cabins have been a Millinocket-area tradition for more than a century. You can take your pick from those on Baxter State Park's Daicey and Kidney ponds (207-723-5140; www.baxterstateparkauthority.com
) or head over to nearby Twin Pine Camps (207-723-5438; www.neoc.com
) on Millinocket Lake, which are arguably the nicest cabins around. More posh digs can be found on South Twin Lake at Five Lakes Lodge (207-723-5045; www.5lakeslodge.com
), where they have things like in-room hot tubs. A handful of motels are scattered along the main drag between the Interstate and Millinocket's downtown; try the Gateway Inn (Route 157; 207-746-3193; www.medwaygateway.com/gateway),whichhasfantasticviewsofthemountainfromitssecond-storyrooms,orthemorecentrallylocatedBestValueHeritageMotorInn(935CentralSt.;207-723-9777;www.heritageinnmaine.com
Despite popular misconceptions, there's actually a lot of good food in Millinocket. And there's no place finer than River Drivers' restaurant (1221 Medway Rd.; 207-723-8475), which is part of the New England Outdoor Center (www.neoc.com
) and has a nice menu of American cuisine. Similar sit-down fare is also served nightly at Fredericka's, the dining room at Big Moose Inn (Route 157; 207-723-8391; www.bigmoosecabins.com/dine.php),famousforthecinnamonrollsthatprecedemaincourseslikefreshMaineshrimpscampiinpinotgrigioorvealporterhouse.Forlunchyoucan
't beat Orvieto (67 Prospect St.; 207-723-8399; http://dicensiinc.com
), an Italian deli located in the mill town's Lil' Italy neighborhood. For breakfast take yourself to the Downtown Restaurant (53 Penobscot Ave., 207-723-9910), located, well, right downtown.Activities
With the wondrous North Woods as its neighbor, Millinocket has no end of outdoor things to do. The hiking in Baxter State Park is unrivaled in the Northeast. One of the state's great rafting rivers — the Penobscot — surges through Ripogenus Gorge just twenty minutes north of town. Katahdin Air Service, Inc. (Golden Road, Ambajejus Lake; 888-742-5527; www.katahdinair.com
), and West Branch Aviation LLC (16 Medway Rd., 207-723-4375; www.westbranchaviation.com
) all offer spectacular bird's-eye tours, and Katahdin Scenic Cruises (Route 157; 207-723-2020; www.katahdinsceniccruises.com
) runs daily boat trips out on Millinocket Lake with a jaw-dropping view of the mountain. If the weather is less than clement, peruse North Light Gallery's (256 Penobscot St.; 207-723-4414; www.artnorthlight.com
) intriguing collection of upcountry artwork or take the Katahdin Scenic Cruises trip over to Ambajejus Lake Boom House to see displays of life during the area's river-driving heyday. You certainly won't run out of things to do before you run out of time to do them. -Andrew Vietze