August is a good time to depart Sarasota. The thought of experiencing a cooler climate becomes ever more enticing after two long months of hot and humid days and nights. John and I flew north to spend two weeks in some fantastic weather. Our first stop – Maine. On the drive from Portland to Blue Hill we stopped at Day’s for a lunch of lobster and crab rolls. There are numerous roadside lobster shacks on Route 1 but Day’s is an institution in Yarmouth and touted as one of the best in Maine.
Blue Hill, well East Blue Hill to be exact was our destination for a few nights. On the way we stumbled on a very good specialty shop on Wiscasset’s Main Street called Treats. We found an excellent wine selection, fresh baked breads and yummy artisanal cheeses there.
In Blue Hill, not to be missed, is the Blue Hill Wine Shop. Amazingly well priced selections in a quaint shop that also serves as a cafe.
Now I would have more shots of the wines we consumed in Blue Hill and of the scenery but I took them with my iPhone which either mysteriously disappeared with a vicious swarm of black flies that caught us on Long Island or is, very possibly, the new possession of a talkative, well connected lobster.
On this trip we caught up with my cousin who lives in Brooksville. We met at Bagaduce Lunch. You get a priceless view from the picnic tables while eating some exceptional food. This unpretentious, roadside lobster shack received the James Beard Award in 2008. I had the very best, outstanding crab roll there.
From there we were off on a tour of Brooksville and an exceptional boat ride out into the reach with a great crew!
One evening we ventured out to dine and had a terrific dinner in Blue Hill at Arborvine. I had an appetizer of warm olives with fennel and roasted cherry tomatoes that I would love to have again. We shared a bottle of Tablas Creek’s wine and it worked well with our varied choices of entrees.
Our next destination was Gloucester, Ma. The weather was not very cooperative so one rainy morning we ventured to Hammond Castle.Wow, what a weird place! It’s a medieval castle built in the 30s. We had the privilege of touring with a guide that had been giving tours for 30 years. It’s quite possible he is the only tour guide as the place is not run with much authority and could, I think, use some significant sprucing.
Ok…..we saw the first Hammond organ, a room that can automatically change to whatever weather and time of day you like i.e. moonlight, sun, rain and fog, and my all time favorite trinket in the place was the scull of one of Christopher Columbus’s crew! We did pay attention to our guide and learned that Thomas Edison is the only man holding more U.S. patents than Hammond. A strange but must do site!
We had a wonderful dinner at The Rudder in Rocky Neck. The staff is incredibly friendly. The chef has been there for a number of years and our selections of crab cakes, lobster cakes and a flatbread pizza were delicious. I should also mention Rebecca’s frozen key lime dessert which topped most key lime pies I’ve ever tried.
On our way to Cambridge, Massachusetts we detoured to Marblehead for a picnic in an exceptional town. I introduced one of our daughters to the best view in town from the greatest burial ground I’ve ever walked.
WE can highly recommend Shubies in Marblehead for foraging picnic supplies and wines. It is brimming with great foods and a bend-over-backwards helpful staff.
We stayed in Cambridge sharing some time with our traveler daughter before flying off to Chicago. There we tried Harvest and in downtown Boston we returned to Bistro du Midi. They were quite exceptional. I’d go back in a second to both! At Harvest we had a bottle of Mc Price Myers 2007 L’Ange Rouge that was lovely.
At Bistro du Midi after great cocktails, one of which was made from a Dominican rum called Brugal definitely worth remembering, we shared an incredible bottle of 2010 Domaine Tempier Bandol.
Chicago was next. This is where we met up with friends to share the rest of our trip. We had a blast!
We indulged in extremely relaxing meals every day and took in as many experiences as possible in the time we had starting with a architectural tour on the river hosted by the Chicago Architectural Foundation. I can not recommend it highly enough. We made it to the Art Institute and to Chicago’s Cultural Center for an enlightening, thoughtful show Spontaneous Interventions – from the Venice Biennale. We walked everywhere! We tried the Riverwalk, or maybe better stated, we walked along the river as the Riverwalk is not very complete. We found the French Market at the OTC Center and walked over to Daley Plaza and found ourselves in a Pakistani rally. Picasso’s sculpture is in the plaza. It’s wonderful to see kids enjoying its slopping base.
We caught a bit of the symphony rehearsal in Millennium Park, had fun at the “Bean” and discovered outdoor sculptures everywhere.
I can’t say that any one meal stood out for us in Chicago. They were all incredibly special. I’d go back to all except The Little Goat Diner. Their food and service was wonderful but I’m too old to enjoy the high pitch noise level of blaring music and conversations.
The Purple Pig for lunch was terrific, really terrific! The weather was cool. We ate outside with the heaters blasting in August! I wish I could remember the name of the bottle of Umbrian wine we shared there.
Bavette’s was a recommendation by the concierge at the Four Seasons and it was great! Old bar ambiance, excellent cocktails, delicious steak, creamed spinach and fries paired with a bottle of Rhone Valley Elegantia Gigondas. What more do you want?! I finally tried a drink my daughter has been ordering, a Dark and Stormy and it was delicious!
Topolobampo had to be the most creative “mexican” restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. Try the five course dinners and paired wines. Its a taste feast! Lunch at Pastoral in the French Market at Randolph and Clinton proved to be a good choice. We shared an excellent sandwich there and left with a spanish cheese and house-made tomato tapenade to share with our travel companions.
Sadly, we left behind the Four Seasons, their quirky fountain full of rubber duckies and their imaginative floral displays to drive to Door County, Wisconsin.
On our way to Door County we stopped for lunch in Kohler. What a surprisingly pretty town! I’m sorry to say we missed touring the toilet and plumbing exhibit but we did find, with some help, a most interesting golf course and clubhouse – Whistling Straits. We had lunch on the patio overlooking the Irish designed course and it was terrific.
Sturgeon Bay was our home for the next few days. We had the extreme pleasure of being the guests of three wonderful friends and accommodations in a guest house on Lake Michigan to enjoy.
The guest house had just been completed and is an amazing pairing of the original log cabin and new construction. We loved it!
Touring the peninsula was special and included lunch at one of the local landmarks where goats grazed on the roof!!!!
We dined at a terrific restaurant on our final night - 136 Restaurant and Wine Bar. What a wonderful wait staff and all round great dinner. Treana, a Rhone blend from Paso Robles and a Russian River Valley Merry Edward 2011 Sauvignon Blanc were hits with our dinners. Everyone raved about their entrees. I had the BEST filet mignon I’ve had in many many years.
The sun was just coming up over Lake Michigan as we packed the car and departed Door County. What a lovely end to a spectacular trip thanks to great friends, exceptional food and delicious wines!