Raindrops Kept Falling on My Head......

As we drove into the charming little town of St. Michael’s, Md., water was overflowing some of the parking lots out onto the street.  Light rain had followed us throughout the 4 ½ hour drive up the eastern shore from Williamsburg but apparently St. Michael’s had the brunt of the storm. 

I dropped my wife off for her weekend reunion with her high school friends. Staying at a beautiful second home that one of her friend’s owns, right on the water on the outskirts of town, their weekend would be at the perfect venue.  This casually elegant estate includes a guest cottage, pool, dock and power boat just waiting to be enjoyed! I drove with our two shih-tzus to my one bedroom cottage in the heart of town right near a working boatyard.  The contrast between the estate where my wife would be reminiscing with long time best of friends and my Sunset Cottage was stark.   

It’s an old, historic waterman’s cottage, with just enough charm to make the coziness livable.  It is perfect for someone on the run, taking photographs.  But mix in a rainy weekend, two dogs in new surroundings and the coziness becomes much more pronounced. :-)   Our shih-tzus, Gracie and Gatsby are shall we say somewhat spoiled!  They are used to their mommy being in charge and they weren’t quite sure where daddy was taking them.  This was going to be a productive working trip, lots of photographs taken, exploring and getting to know the area. 

Well, the weather didn’t cooperate for photography and doggy sitting is much more time consuming than one would think.  I couldn’t get WiFi the first day but all was not lost.  The pups and I got to know the area, driving through town, up and down side streets in the rain and discovered a town that has historic, charming architecture combined with a waterfront backdrop.  

The first night for dinner, the easy thing to do would have been to stay dry in my cozy cottage, make myself a peanut butter sandwich and watch the 15” wide screen TV.  My early research though had produced a must stop Italian restaurant called Ava’s that is highly rated.  I put the dogs out in the rain, loaded them in the car for the very short drive to Ava’s, as I didn’t want to leave them in unfamiliar surroundings for too long. 

I figured if the photography wasn’t going to work out at least I should enjoy some good food!  I had to try the meatball slider appetizer.  I fancy myself to be a meatball aficionado.  I also had to try the white pizza after it had been highly recommended.  Ordering was a tough decision because the menu was full of tempting choices.  The carry-out order was ready in 10 minutes max.  I got back in the car, drove the short drive back to Sunset Cottage, put the pups back inside, went back to the car and got the carry-out.  All made more challenging by the steady drizzle!

It turns out that the three large perfectly seasoned meatball sliders, served stuffed in a thin pita pocket with cheese, combined with an 18 ounce bottle of brown ale were exactly what this lonely bachelor needed!  Even as a carry-out order the meatballs were outstanding!  Much better that I pushed myself, made the effort and experienced the local cuisine instead of having a peanut butter sandwich.  The white pizza was also perfection and didn’t disappoint. 

The normal tendency for us after discovering a restaurant that does everything just right is to go back again and again.  It was killing me to not try Ava’s Big Cheese Veal Parmesan.  But while in seafood country, I felt it would be a crime to be in St. Michael’s and not try some of the local seafood.  This time I decided to try leaving the pups in the cottage. Eating a broiled seafood platter or a crab cake sandwich in the car might not be such a good idea and eating it cold back at the cottage didn’t appeal.  I did manage to take the pups on a good walk Saturday afternoon when the rain let up and they were feeling more comfortable at Sunset Cottage.  They missed their mom terribly though and every car door outside got their attention. 

Well I walked to the St. Michael’s Crab & Steak House and enjoyed a broiled seafood platter that included the crab cake I was longing for.  The fresh seafood was a real treat, again a reminder of our time spent dining on the coast of Maine.  As I sat at a corner table overlooking the water, by myself, I caught a quick glance of a yachting print to my back left.  It was a Tim Thompson limited edition print.  Then down the row of maritime art there was a beautiful harbor scene of St. Michael’s by John Barber.  Thompson and Barber, both talented maritime artists, have been very successful at marketing their prints and have become nationally recognized.  I appreciated that the restaurant was highlighting the art of contemporary maritime artists.  Unfortunately it wasn’t mine!  :-)

Sunday morning, after wolfing down a homemade cherry Danish that I had picked up the day before at a little bakery on Tilgman’s Island, I made one last attempt at exploration.  Mother Nature cooperated enough to get a few shots of the quaint harbor town called St. Michael’s.  I came to the conclusion that if I seriously wanted to capture the area on film, so to speak, the way to do it would be from the water.  Motoring around the many inlets and coves would make for much stronger images than what I was seeing.  The John Barber St. Michael’s print at the seafood restaurant I thought captured the area to perfection.  After seeing his exceptional work of the area and being familiar with his many wonderful Chesapeake Bay paintings, I thought to myself “What can I express that he already hasn’t?” 

In Maine it was easy for me.  I wasn’t aware of how other artists had interpreted the coast and I dove into my work with blinders on.  I couldn’t wait to move on to the next painting.  Around every corner was another harbor or lighthouse guiding me and inspiring me.   I’m trying to regain that enthusiasm.  Certainly the Eastern Shore is beautiful and worthy of putting on canvas but for now it is not calling me.   

Sometimes it takes rainy quiet weekends to take the time to reflect on ideas and direction.  What do I want to paint next?  What do I want to express in my work?  What subject matter inspires me?  What fulfills me?  What will sell? Did I go to the seafood restaurant and not Ava’s so that I would see the John Barber painting on the wall next to me to make me rethink future work?  Or was it just because I love seafood? :-)

I do know that it’s always good to be home and “Off the Road Again”.  I’m anxious to finish up the cottage scene that I’ve been working on.  I have an exciting project coming up, painting a double portrait that I’ll write about at a future time.  I’m constantly searching for direction and inspiration, trying to push myself and grow as an artist. Thank you to all of you for taking the journey with me, reading my blogs and being interested in my work.  That is inspirational in and of its self!

Meals on Wheels ~ Part Deux

Whoever would have thought that my blog A Sophisticated Palate Becomes Meals on Wheels highlighting some of Maine’s finest dining establishments would trigger such emotional reactions?  It seems as if I have created an argument between two childhood friends, both relatively recent transplants to the fine state of Maine via Pittsburgh, PA, over whose peninsula has the better restaurants.  I’ve also been accused of “misleading newbies” and omitting some highly recommended restaurants in the Boothbay and Damariscotta regions.

I’ve been informed that Ricetta’s in South Portland has sadly closed its doors but their location in Falmouth has been renovated and is still hopping. One of the best cooks I know was insulted that I didn’t mention dining at his home as a resume enhancer!  I’m sure my mom is rolling over in her grave, as she was certainly capable of cooking gourmet food and was well aware of and used all of the fancy herbs.  My apologies go out to anyone else I may have offended! :-)

Next, I would like to come clean and acknowledge the fact that we unfortunately haven’t been back to Maine in almost three years.  I’ve been informed by my talented starving artist friend Greg Laderer that the following Boothbay restaurants should be added to one’s must visit list:  McSeagulls, The Boathouse Bistro & Tapas Bar and The Thistle Inn.  Additionally our good friend and all around handy man Ken Smith has informed me that Ports of Italy and The Baker’s Way should be added to the list as well.  Ken also recommends King Eiders and The Damariscotta River Grill in the quaint town of Damariscotta. 

Disclaimer #1:  I hereby absolve myself from any responsibility for any bad reactions to tainted seafood, ecoli, or salmonella poisoning at any of their recommended locations!:-)

Lastly, I would like to make up for my omissions by telling you our Boothbay story.  My wife used to enjoy family vacations as a little girl in the Boothbay Harbor region.  In the 1980’s I was working in accounting trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I had a good job but I wasn’t enjoying it.  I remember taking the job and my dad’s reaction was “Are you sure you are going to be happy?”   I wasn’t.  One day, Jen said “What do you think about taking our next vacation to Boothbay Harbor?”  I had never been north of Hadley, Massachusetts where my mom was from but I loved the New England area.  We ended up spending a week in Boothbay.  I was overcome by the scenery.  We took tourist boat cruises on the harbor, ate fresh saltwater taffy made at the corner store and ate our fill of lobster and various other seafood delights.  I was a bug-eyed tourist with an old Kodak instamatic camera.  All of a sudden, upon returning home I realized why I had gone to art school and what I wanted to paint.

I completed my first Maine painting, a couple hours here and a couple hours there after long days in accounting.  The painting was of Boothbay Harbor and it hung over our mantle in Bethesda, MD.  I had several nice compliments on it and a few questions to the effect of “What are you doing in accounting?”  I started to buy books about Maine on my lunch hour and we both gradually came to the same conclusion that a move to Maine for me to pursue my art career would be an exciting and worthwhile change.  Here is my first Maine painting, Boothbay Harbor

We used to frequent Robinson’s Wharf in Boothbay, a classic lobster pound, with the freshest lobster, shrimp and clams you could ask for.  Working tugboats were usually moored right at the dock that made for colorful subjects in many of my shots.  From there we would usually travel further down the peninsula and I would photograph the quiet little harbor of Southport. 

Don’t overlook Damariscotta and the next peninsula up the coast.  Shaw’s Wharf in New Harbor is just one of several dining spots.  If you go all the way to the end of the peninsula you will run into Pemaquid Point.  There is a restaurant overlooking the rocks with an expansive view of Pemaquid Lighthouse.  At low tide you can walk way out onto striated rock formations that tempt you toward the water.  Be careful, the rocks get slippery with the algae and tragically a number of people have lost their lives trying to venture out too far.   Here is the painting I did of Pemaquid Light early on in my career.


Heading back up the peninsula you come across the tiny town of Round Pond.  It has an old fashioned general store that is nostalgic and a must stop.  A great place after a big meal to take a nap in the car while your better half does a little shopping. 

That about wraps it up for now.  I hope if you’re heading north that the weather cooperates, the leaves are at their peak and the price of lobster is way down.  Enjoy!

PS – Don’t forget to try:

Mabel’s Lobster Claw in Kennebunkport – large portions of the freshest seafood, great chowder and lobster rolls. 

Bandaloop – the #1 rated restaurant in Kennebunkport.  The Maine Sharp Cheddar Quesadilla is a simple but outstanding surprise, with cheese baked onto the outside of the quesadilla to provide that instant burst of flavor on every bite!

Robinhood Free Meetinghouse – down the peninsula from Bath near Georgetown.  “From  Wienerschnitzel to Saltimbocca” and more!  Wonderful menu.

Abel’s Lobster pound in Mount Desert Island – elevated views over the water with unbeatable Maine seafood.  Family friendly but we witnessed a celebrity/politician and his family enjoying their seafood experience there too! 

Disclaimer #2: This review is the opinion of the artist and it most certainly does not intentionally exclude any of the other many fine restaurants in the state of Maine, nor does it by its omissions make any negative implications! :-)

A Sophisticated Palate Becomes Meals on Wheels ~ A Culinary Exploration of the Maine Coast

My love of art and of food came together in a most enjoyable way while exploring the coast of Maine.  I thought it might be interesting to share some of the best dining spots along the coast of Maine, discovered while on innumerable journeys up and down the rocky coastline in search of painting material.  If you’re planning a fall trip to see the magnificent foliage or B & B hopping from town to town, this restaurant critic’s guide might be helpful. I’ll also include a few paintings of mine that were the direct result of this exploration over the 12 years we lived in Camden, Maine. 

First, I thought I would take a little time to build up my credentials as a food critic.  A resume if you will, in order to lend credibility to my recommendations.  My dad was from Iowa, a mid-western meat and potato type guy.  He was fine with whatever mom made as long as he had the salt shaker.  Mom was Polish, grew up in a large family, loved to eat and to cook.  She made sure us kids always had meat, potatoes and usually three vegetables (of different colors of course).  She would mix up the meals with Polish traditions of golumpki (stuffed cabbage), polish sausage, pierogies, sauerkraut, etc…  Sometimes the Polish sausage was the real deal, transported all the way from a little smokehouse near the Deerfield River in Massachusetts where my Uncle Bill Sadosky would stop on the way home from his trout fishing trips.  I’ll never forget stopping there and seeing all of those beautiful sausages hanging from the ceiling.  Anyway I digress.  Mom would bake the best pies from scratch following recipes passed down from her immigrant mother.   We had a round kitchen table with a Lazy Susan in the middle where we ate all of our meals.  It would always be covered with way too much food, which would always lead to the best leftovers the next day.  We three kids could always take as much as we wanted but had to eat what we took.  Our parents were old school, products of the Great Depression and waste wasn’t appreciated.  Sometimes the Lazy Susan would get spinning too fast and the food would go flying, annoying my Dad.  It was usually my younger brother’s fault. :-)

So from my family I learned to appreciate good home cooking that warms the heart and satisfies the soul!  Jen’s mom was more of a gourmet cook.  She would cook with exotic herbs like rosemary, thyme and tarragon! :-) She would have soup parties for large crowds.  My first taste and best memory of Seafood Gumbo was Jen’s mom’s.  It was outrageously delicious.   She would butterfly a leg of lamb.  She wouldn’t just cook a vegetable but would combine it with the perfect complements to create a colorful work of art.  Jen’s parents traveled the world and had sophisticated palates. They took us to the finest restaurants in Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC. I was introduced to my first chocolate soufflé at the wonderful French restaurant Le Miche in Bethesda. 

Fortunately my wife and I both love to eat.  We cut our teeth so to speak at all of the local restaurants, gradually acquiring a discriminating palate.  On the resume is Tastee Diner for classic diner breakfasts, Pines of Rome for white pizza and Veal Parmesan, Positano’s for an upscale Italian dining experience, Chesapeake Bay Seafood House, O’Donnell’s and Bish Thompson’s for seafood, the Bethesda Crab House for Maryland crabs, Shakey’s pizza for a great thin crust pizza, Le Miche for gourmet French, Chi Chi’s for Mexican etc…

Now that I’ve hopefully established my credentials as someone who loves and appreciates good food hopefully my recommendations will take you to some of the best eating locations in the state of Maine!

Here goes!  A must stop along the southern coast of Maine is the quaint town of Ogunquit.  If you take the winding road that leads down to Perkin’s Cove and the scenic Marginal Way there are a number of good restaurants.  We loved stopping at Barnacle Billy’s for the lobster rolls, fried seafood platters and the clam chowder.  It is situated overlooking Perkin’s Cove, a place that we stumbled upon that led to this painting.  I found the wooden drawbridge to be unique and I’d actually love to paint it again.

In South Portland we discovered our all-time favorite pizza place, Ricetta’s!  It still ranks as my #1 favorite.  Thin crust, chunky red Italian tomato sauce, plenty of mozzarella cheese and the perfect ground Italian sausage to top it off, creates the perfect balance of the finest ingredients. It was a happy occasion when a second location opened up in Falmouth.  In Portland proper we used to frequent Walter’s, a cozy warm café for lunch with a menu of delicious choices along with one of the best chocolate tortes that we’ve ever tasted.  Our many trips to Portland and the surrounding area led to the discovery and exploration of Cape Elizabeth Light, Cape Neddick Light and Portland Head Light (depicted here).

Further north along Route 1 if the timing is right, the Brunswick Diner or Dunkin Donuts can help hold you over.  I only throw in Dunkin Donuts because I think they are the best donut chain on the east coast. A good donut can hold you over for a couple hours until you get to your next gastronomical destination. On up the road in the picturesque town of Wiscasset is the consistently #1 rated lobster roll in Maine at Red’s Eats.  You get the buttery lobster meat from a 1 1/4 lb. lobster on a flat buttered Maine bun.  Usually there is quite a line but it is well worth the wait! 

Down the next peninsula is the lobstering village of New Harbor.  Shaw’s Wharf definitely competes with Red’s Eats as far as their lobster rolls but it also has fantastic seafood, chowders and homemade pies.  There is a deck for outdoor dining, overlooking the harbor that on a nice day you can’t beat.  Watch out for the mischievous seagulls because they will be sure to go after your onion rings!  When we discovered New Harbor I was so excited I jumped out of the car to capture a lobsterboat leaving the harbor and forgot to put the car in park!  Jen fortunately realized her immediate danger and caught me before I went running with my camera, causing me to miss the shot! This painting is the one that resulted from our discovery that day. 

Moody’s Diner just up the road in Waldoboro right on Route 1 is right out of the 50’s.  Homemade pies, donuts and traditional diner food attract truck drivers, families on their way to Bar Harbor and the occasional hungry artist!

Amalfi on the Water in Rockland became a fixed expense for us after discovering it.  We still have cravings for it and miss terribly the Mediterranean style food fused with local influences.  Especially the Lobster Risotto and the Paella!  Also in Rockland is the gourmet restaurant named Primo.  We had been going there for a number of years when it was Jessica’s.  The homemade ravioli with the side of Italian sausage was my favorite, unless of course they had the Lobster Diablo!  Primo’s menu and meals are a gourmet’s delight.  We loved their thin crust pizzas so much that we would call in a carry-out order and pick it up just in time to enjoy it while taking in the sunset at nearby Owl’s Head.  This painting entitled Low Tide was a direct result of one of those Primo pizza cravings!

Camden Harbor is one of the prettiest harbors in Maine.  It has many dining choices to choose from ranging from the lobster shack called Bayview Lobster  to The Waterfront Restaurant for anything seafood, to the gourmet little French restaurant Francine Bistro to one of our favorites The Hartstone Inn.  The Hartstone Inn was for those special occasions when you wanted to have the four course meal and be treated to a memorable dining experience.  Award winning, the inn has been frequented by notables like Julia Child. This painting of Camden Harbor was my first one of the harbor and depicts a number of the good eateries.



On up the road is Lincolnville, home to The Lobster Pound Restaurant (another one of our favorites).  Quintessentially Maine, it’s casual with great seafood.  I love their fried clams, baked halibut and cold tall drafts (Andrew’s Ale brewed locally).  Careful if ordering the chocolate pudding tart for dessert!  The crust is firm and too dangerous to cut with a fork.  My wife decided it would be easier to pick it up and take a bite.  Before she could blink an eye the chocolate pudding tart had shattered and the brown pudding was down her front and into her shoe!  Chez Michel in Lincolnville is also on the recommended list.  A wide variety of choices from traditional Maine fare to Chicken and Veal Oscar. 

Castine is home to Dennett’s Wharf on the water.  Like Shaw’s Wharf in New Harbor you can’t go wrong stopping here. This painting of Bass Harbor Light was captured on one of our many excursions from Castine to the Bar Harbor area.

I could go on and on blogging about all of the great places to eat along the Maine Coast.  If you are fortunate enough to be heading north this fall, be sure to stop at any of these locations for a real treat.  Enjoy the scenery along the way.  Just be careful not to ask a “Mainer” for directions because they’ll be sure to say “You can’t get there from here"!