New England culinary cruise: Part two
As you may recall from last week’s discussion, I recently had the pleasure of spending some treasured time with two of my closest friends, and two of their closest friends. The four of them have enjoyed a seaside respite on Cape Cod for nearly two decades.
For several years, they have invited me to join them and enjoy the memory making experiences of the Cape. This year was the first I was able to accept their invitation — and I am so glad I did. My enjoyment level far surpassed my expectations (thanks Brad and Donna).
As you may also recall, I promised my Personal Culinary Tour Guide a Cape Cod birthday dinner of lobster. You may also recall, said lobster birthday dinner did not happen. Instead, we enjoyed scallops and swordfish. It occurred to me that the proper place to enjoy Maine lobster was in Maine. Therefore, after lounging along the miles of pristine beaches and sand dunes of the “Outer Cape,” laughing at the antics of frolicking seals, watching majestic whales breach just offshore from our rustic seaside cottages, and being entertained by the quirky culture of Provincetown, my PCTG agreed to a New England road trip — on a mission to dine on Maine lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We bid adieu to my very good friends and their very good friends (who are now, also, my very good friends — thanks Tom and Sandy) and pointed the nose of my rented land yacht towards the land of lobster pots and yellow slickers.
We maneuvered through Boston with surprising ease, followed the minuscule 18-mile coastline of New Hampshire (yes…just 18 miles), and stopped for dinner in Portsmouth — a vibrant, seafaring town with plenty of restaurants specializing in historic ambiance and delicious seafood. However, we were not in Maine — lobster was still off the table. Instead, we enjoyed grouper and haddock.
Our journey’s end was atop the Hyatt, with its commanding view of the harbor and the “Old Port” district of Portland, Maine — a scene of historic wharfs lined with lobster pots and streets paved with cobblestones. In the 1970s, a group of investors transformed the aged and neglected 19th Century brick buildings into upscale apartments, condos, offices and retail space — which, in turn, spawned boutiques, restaurants, bars and the associated nightlife. Not too shabby of a place to hang out.
“Where is a good place, within walking distance, to get a good breakfast?” I inquired of the hotel desk clerk. I wanted local flavor — not a bland franchised taste, available anywhere in the country. The resounding answer was “Becky’s,” a waterfront eatery, frequented by fishermen and construction workers, featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and serving (are you ready for this?) lobster Benedict for breakfast. It was the sweetest, most succulent lobster I have ever tasted — smothered in a rich and decadent hollandaise sauce. Put a checkmark next to “Lobster for Breakfast.”
The next order of business was a scenic shoreline cruise along Highway-1, with a final destination of Bar Harbor — a one-time summer colony for the wealthy. At mid-afternoon and two-thirds of the journey’s distance, my PCTG yelled out, “Belfast, Maine!” I did not know what that meant — and said so.
My PCTG explained (quite excitedly) that Young’s Lobster Pound (known for catching and shipping lobster all over the country) was located in Belfast. A really good PCTG knows these things. A picnic table on the wharf, two lobster rolls, and a half-dozen oysters later — put a checkmark next to Lobster for Lunch.
The next evening, back in Portland, My PCTG and I dined at DiMillo’s on the Water, a former auto-ferry, converted into an elegant floating dining experience. It had the look and feel of excellence. Polished brass adorned the decor, rich teak and mahogany covered the walls, service was exceptional (thank you, Ben), and the meals were culinary masterpieces. Put a checkmark next to Lobster for Dinner. We hit the trifecta.
The next day, I decided to eat breakfast at a chain restaurant near the airport — I have a ridiculous fear of missing my flight and having to continue enjoying my vacation one more day. I will not mention the chain, but the food was terrible! I was aware of my error in judgement, but chose to not say it aloud. However, my Personal Culinary Tour Guide did not hold back.
“We should have gone to Becky’s for lobster Benedict.” Yep — we sure should have.