DININGEuropean FlairEphemere Cafe brings a bit of the continent to Camden.
Tucked discreetly halfway down a side street in Camden, Ephemere Cafe has until recently been something of a well-kept secret in the village. But as owners Patrick and Heidi Cazemajou complete their third season, the restaurant has developed a significant cadre of local patrons.
From the street, you step right into Ephemere's main dining room, which is pleasant enough - simply decorated, good paintings on the walls, handsome linen-covered banquettes - but I'd recommend asking to be seated in the upstairs wine bar.It's like an aerie, with lovely views of Mount Battie, and has that effervescent buzz of a room filled with happy diners and drinkers. In this space, which is decorated in a sort of eclectic art deco mix, you can sip an after-work glass of wine and savor a snack or order a full meal.
When I ask the Cazemajous to describe their restaurant, both point to the statement printed on Ephemere's menu: "A little touch of Europe in downtown Camden." Patrick, French born and trained, credits marriage to an American and the experience of cooking in this country with loosening up his style. "I'm more open now to new ideas and to foods from other countries," he says, "and I enjoy playing with making seasonal changes on our menu." He adds and subtracts items a few times a year, but certain favorites - the smoked haddock and rack of lamb, for instance - stay on year-round.
Ephemere offers several dining options: snacks, light fare, or full meals. Some of the lighter dishes use local ingredients, such as a lovely, light, and creamy Maine shrimp chowder, Maine mussels cooked in the classic French marinere manner, barbecued spare ribs, and a delicately garlicky sauteed Maine shrimp with angel hair pasta. Or you can sample one of Patrick's international specialties, which include gazpacho with a bacon chantilly, sashimi grade tuna tartare, and a Japanese-style chicken dish.
I love Ephemere's salads - all of them. They do a simple garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette, a mesclun salad with a Parmesan crisp, the traditional Caesar salad, a wonderful Mediterranean salad that is like a classic nicoise with vegetables, olives, egg, and anchovies, and my all-time favorite, the creamy gorgonzola "Caesar" with bacon bits. This one comes with a large shard of crispy prosciutto - delicious, but superfluous in my opinion. All the salad greens are fresh, crisp, and chilled, and the dressings are nicely balanced and are drizzled on judiciously, with a light hand.
In addition to several other entrees, Ephemere has a menu section called "Around the Maine Lobster," devoted to the likes of lobster ravioli, lobster spring rolls, a rich lobster thermador, and "just plain boiled." When I sampled gingerbread lobster, "our signature dish," recently, I was put off by the sweetness of the sauce.
But, oh, the other entrees are superb. The hickory smoked haddock is amazing - lightly house-smoked, still moist, perfectly cooked, leaning on a bed of lemon mashed potatoes (brilliant) and a buttery leek puree. Likewise the caramelized sea scallops - large, moist, meaty - served with perhaps the best risotto I've ever eaten, perfectly chewy Arborio rice flavored with woodsy wild mushrooms, served piping hot, bound with just the right amount of Parmesan and cream. The crab cake is almost all crabmeat - a good thing - and comes with a good mustardy sauce and seasonal vegetables. If you're in the mood for meat you can opt for a classic hanger steak with pommes allumettes or local Ellsfarm rack of lamb on a bed of wonderful braised spinach and herbed whipped potatoes.
I'd skip dessert - the offerings are somewhat predictable and pedestrian (creme caramel, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, and the like). Instead, finish with Ephemere's cheese plate "from here and there" - a recent selection included a creamy Vermont chevre, a French camembert, and a crumbly Irish cheddar - accompanied by a glass of Port or Madeira.
Heidi Cazemajou's charming, friendly manner puts everyone at ease. She knows not only the menu but also the wine list inside out. The couple chooses the list of fifteen selections of both red and white together, but Heidi is a genius at recommending perfect wine and food pairings. I loved my glass of Picpoul de Pinet from France ("melon and lemon notes") and the Rock Rabbit Syrah ("cherry overtones") was delicious with the lamb entree. "We listen to our customers in everything we do here," says Heidi, "and if something on the menu or wine list is not understood or appreciated, we're quick to change."
With an attitude like that, it's no wonder the locals have embraced Ephemere.By Brooke DojnyEphemere Cafe is located at 51 Bayview St. in Camden. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Appetizers $7 to $14.50; salads $7 to $13.50; entrees $15.50 to $27; desserts $3.50 to $5.50. Not handicapped accessible. 207-236-4451. www.villagesoup.com/ephemerecafe OUTDOORSHappy Trails
It's an iconic image of summer in Maine: a life vest, some wooden paddles, and a canoe under way on a scenic lake. The Birches Resort on Moosehead Lake (Rockwood, 800-825-9453, www.birches.com
) brings the picture to life with a special excursion: Paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT). Completed in 2006, the NFCT is a 740-mile trail that follows Native American travel routes from Old Forge, New York, across Vermont, Quebec, and New Hampshire to Fort Kent. Along the way, it passes through the Birches' property. For $125 a person, with a three-person minimum, the Birches will transport guests by floatplane to Brassua Lake. There, your party and a guide will paddle to the Moose River and Rockwood Lake, then back to the Birches. The package includes lunch and equipment (you can even choose kayaks instead of canoes if you wish) - not to mention a chance to experience the region's natural beauty.QUICK BITES
• Steve Watts is renowned in the midcoast for his way with wedding cakes, macaroons, and other sweet treats. Now he's expanded his Sweet Sensations Pastry Shop
into a gorgeous cottage right next to the old location (309 Commercial St., Rockport, 207-230-0955, www.3dogscafe.com
) and added 3 Dogs Cafe
, where you can choose from an array of sandwiches named for Maine locales plus homemade soups and salads. Even better, you can enjoy them in the bright, airy dining room or on the patio, which is set just far enough from Route 1 to muffle the roar.
• Gourmands and bibliophiles alike will want to make a beeline for Rabelais Books
(86 Middle St., Portland; 207-774-1044; www.rabelaisbooks.com
), the new purveyor of books on wine, food, and what proprietors Samantha Hoyt Lindgren and Don Lindgren call "the living arts." The shop has an array of rare books and first editions, as well as a location within shouting distance of Hugo's, Norm's, Ribollita, and Micucci's, making it a logical stop on any foodie's trip to town.By Michaela CavallaroARTFor the Birds
Going green is all the rage these days. And what could be more earth-friendly than a birdhouse built from recycled materials? Even better, the birdhouses created by the Recycled Birdhouse Company (207-397-5411; www.recycledbirdhouse.com
) are built by the men of Brown's Foster Home, a group home for disabled adults. When they began the birdhouse project in 1996, program facilitators Curtis Brown and Mark Pelletier did 90 percent of the work themselves since their clients lacked the skills. These days, five residents of Brown's do the vast majority of the forty steps it takes to build a birdhouse, including the laborious task of shingling the roofs with four hundred to a thousand individual pinecone petals. The result is a quirky collection of folk art birdhouses that will enliven a garden or perk up an interior wall. Tours of their Rome workshop are available by appointment, but if you just want a birdhouse, buying online is the best way to go.BOOKSOnce More to the FarmE.B. White's letters frame a singular writer's life.
I discovered a long time ago," confesses E.B White, at the ripe age of twenty-nine, in a letter to his brother Stanley, "that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the heart, the inconsequential but near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity or grace."
Armed with nearly eight decades' hindsight, we might beg to differ. Sincerity and grace are only two of the consistent virtues of White's far-ranging body of work. And thanks to White's lifelong habit of writing letters - to friends, to strangers, to critics and admirers, to colleagues, to family, and above all to his wife, Katharine - we can retrace his journey across a span of more than seventy years by way of a newly updated edition of Letters of E.B. White (HarperCollins, New York; hardcover; 744 pages; $35). First published in 1976, while the author was alive and at the peak of literary celebrity, the original edition opens with a brief, warm, and characteristically droll note from White himself. "Ideally," he writes, "a book of letters should be published posthumously."
Thank heavens someone took him at his word. This newly revised volume was edited by his granddaughter Martha White, a writer and essayist who lives on the Maine coast. It extends the scope of the collection to include the last decade of E.B.'s life and includes a lot of interesting, hitherto unpublished, material from earlier days, much of it provided by far-flung correspondents after the first book went to press. There's also a terrific foreword by John Updike that nicely conveys both the respect and the affection in which White was held by his peers.
In their randomness, their quirky repetitions and reflections, the Letters may give us a truer sense of the life and the personality that produced them than would any conventional memoir. We Mainers, of course, love White pretty well already. How can we help it? He became a "rusticator" not long out of the cradle, summering with his family at the Belgrade Lakes starting in 1904. A photo reproduced here, taken one year later, shows six-year-old Elwyn dressed in period bathing attire and perched with great dignity on the steps of a rustic cabin. "The month of August," he recalled, "was four solid weeks of heaven."
Decades later, with White now a father himself, his feelings were no less passionate. "I would rather feel bad in Maine than good anywhere else," he declared in a 1937 letter to an old pal back in New York. White had just made a startling leap, taking leave of his family and his job at the New Yorker for a "year off" at a farm he and Katharine had bought in a village near Blue Hill. In the same letter, he gives a precis of his new life: "I have ten turkeys, three dogs, three children, three or four help in the last count . . . , two water systems, a cesspool, a chimney swift, a moosehead covered with swallow crap, a frog pond, a family of bantams, a Sears Roebuck catalogue, and one hundred and sixty-five chairs. There is also a fine view of Mount Desert." The year off wasn't a complete success; White missed his family too much, returned to New York for a while, but managed in 1938 to persuade Katharine to move up with their son, Joel, age seven, and give Maine a go year-round. This time it stuck.
The following years were arguably the richest of White's career. He found a new, fully mature voice in a series of essays that would be collected in One Man's Meat - readers of which will find letters here that feel like early, more whimsical drafts. He tried his hand at writing for children, an experiment undertaken with, if anything, more than his usual measure of gravity. As the storm of war gathered in Europe, a political subtext entered his writing. He notes with apparent satisfaction in the summer of 1941 that one of his New Yorker pieces has prompted a cancellation: "Too pro-British and too pro-war. My!"
Martha White, in updating the collection, has pulled off one of the trickiest of editorial feats: a seamless melding of the original with the new. She has contributed valuable content in the form of interstitial commentary, stitching together the later sections of the book and giving us a unique perspective on the closing chapters of her grandfather's life. Less obviously, she has done some delicate pruning of the earlier sections, trimming redundant material to make room for fresh discoveries. As a result, the new book is at once more readable, more complete, and hardly any longer than its predecessor. Martha White has managed all this with such a deft touch, matching her style to that of the original editor, Dorothy Lobrano Guth, so that the work feels all-of-a-piece and nothing distracts from the letters, and the living voice, of E.B. White himself.By Richard GrantBRIEFLY NOTED
• Outdoor photographers Jerry and Marcy Monkman are so smitten with Maine's only national park that they named their daughter, Acadia, after it. Which goes a long way toward explaining why their new book, Wild Acadia (University Press of New England, Lebanon, New Hampshire; hardcover; 120 pages; $26), exudes such passion. With gorgeous full-color photos by both Monkmans and essays by Jerry, Wild Acadia is a personal, closely observed exploration of the park's natural phenomena and history.
•While away a few hours with Not Your Average Bear & Other Maine Stories (Tilbury House, Gardiner; paperback; 256 pages; $15), a short story collection by professional wood-canvas canoe builder Jerry Stelmok. Set in rugged Maine locations (with one side trip to Lake Superior), Stelmok's tales feature rugged outdoorsmen who brush up against the supernatural, as well as hard-working men and women who encounter trouble as they cobble together a hardscrable existence.MUSICSchool of Rock
The kid thumping out the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" may be smaller than his bass guitar, but he's not the only pint-sized jammer in the joint. Welcome to Rock 'n' Roll Summer Camp
at the Portland Conservatory of Music (Aug. 13-17 and 20-24, $300-$320, 207-775-3356 www.portlandconservatory.net
), where dozens of twelve- to eighteen-year-olds get a weeklong crash course in power chords and monster drums.Org
anizer and PCM faculty member Jeff Shaw starts the week by auditioning would-be rockers and organizing fully loaded garage bands. Campers mix up rehearsals with lessons in rock history and visits to local recording studios and radio stations. The big finish?
A performance for friends and families staged in years past at hip venues like Portland's SPACE Gallery. And Shaw says the fun doesn't end when camp's over: alumni groups booked a slew of gigs this summer, including a Harry Potter-themed festival in Portland.GETAWAYIn the Center of It AllOne block in bangor boasts a surprising array of things to do and eat.
Central Street may be the shortest and most interesting city street in Bangor - perhaps in Maine. Just a block long, it curves across Kenduskeag Stream between Harlow and Hammond streets. Despite its downtown location, it's a quiet oasis compared to the jangling slot machines at Hollywood Slots on Main Street and the crowds of the American Folk Festival on the riverfront (Aug. 24-26, 207-992-2630, www.americanfolkfestival.com
The street makes up for its brevity with an assortment of interesting stores and people, from hipsters hanging at a coffee shop to academics combing the shelves in one of the street's five bookstores. It's the sort of place where it's not unusual - or at least not worthy of comment - to see a burly, bearded young man dressed in a wetsuit, baggy shorts, and a life jacket walking barefoot down the sidewalk with a canoe paddle over his shoulder.FEED YOUR MIND:
Central Street is bibliophile heaven. Those five bookstores pretty much cover the spectrum of literary interests. Up on the corner with Harlow Street, BookMarc's
(78 Harlow, 207-942-3206, www.bookmarcs.com
) carries both new and used books, along with Maine periodicals. Ex-homesteaders and green thumbs will have trouble getting past the first bookcase on the right in Lippincott Books
(36 Central, 207-942-4398), but if they do they'll find one of the most eclectic collections of used books around, including a large alcove devoted to Maine-related books. Sarah's Books - Used and Rare
(32 Central, second floor, 207-992-2080, sarahsbooksusedrare.blogspot.com
) reflects owner Sarah Faragher's wide-ranging interests in such topics as biography, psychology, and literature. The Briar Patch
(27 Central, 207-941-0255) specializes in children's books - Robert McCloskey is a big favorite - along with a selection of toys and games. Top Shelf
(25 Central, 207-947-4939, www.tcomics.com
) appeals to a slightly older demographic with its shelves of comics - Stephen King's Dark Tower series is too hot to hold - and graphic novels.FEED YOURSELF:
Worship the great god Caffeine at Java Joe's
(98 Central, 207-990-0500), where too-cool dudes lounge around the sidewalk cafe tables and diss mall-rat culture. For more substantial noshing, there's Bagel Central
(33 Central, 207-947-1654, www.downtownme.com
),with it's selection of sixteen varieties of bagels, plus a wide-ranging breakfast and lunch menu, all made on the premises and all kosher. Portla's Restaurant and Bakery
(11 Central, 207-992-2297, www.noemaine.org
serves breakfast all day, along with a menu that roams from quesadillas to panini to subs.Then stop by the Friar's Bakehouse
(21 Central, 207-947-3770) to take home a loaf of the Franciscans' famous multigrain with flax or a crunchy-crusted sourdough.Feed Your Nature Lover:
After all that time among the book stacks, take your lunch to go and find a bench in Norumbega Park
, a restful strip of greenery that runs along the Kenduskeag. Venture across a bridge to Norumbega Hall and the University of Maine Museum of Art
(40 Harlow St., 207-561-3350, www.umma.umaine.edu
) or stroll up the street to Epic Sports
(6 Central St., 207-941-5670, www.epicsportsofmaine.com
). The store specializes in all things outdoors, from camping equipment to hiking boots to canoe paddles - which may explain that guy in the wetsuit.By Jeff Clark