The Mid-Maine Coast: Camden, Rockland and Rockport

 

Camden, MEAlthough we love the entire Maine coast, the mid-coast trio of Camden, Rockland, and Rockport is one of our favorite areas. Partly because they are charming towns in and of themselves (with the best restaurants and galleries east of Portland). Partly because they make a nice stop on the way to our favorite Maine destination—Arcadia National Park.

The Art Scene

We got our art fix on the afternoon we arrived, with stops at:

  • The Farnsworth Museum, has been greatly expanded since our last visit. Although the Farnsworth’s has a credible collection of Northeastern U.S. (primarily Maine) art and, with its expanded space, special exhibitions, the highlight is the Wyeth Center, which is devoted to all three generations of the family’s artists—N.C., Andrew, and James;
  • The Harbor Square Gallery, which is one of our favorite galleries anywhere, with the old bank building converted into a space that is as enticing as the broad selection of art itself.
  • A greatly expanded (at least since we were last in Rockland) number of galleries along Maine Street; and a new find;
  • A large glass art gallery, with a significant overflow collection in an adjoining restaurant, at Rockport’s Prism Restaurant and Gallery.

Favorite Restaurants

Dining in the Camden Rockland area has become a matter of habit for us. Since the region consists of far more tourist restaurants than it does “real restaurants”, we search for new options each trip, but, at least for dinner, tend to end up at our old favorites:

  • Primo (Rockland), the original location (now expanded into Orlando and Tucson) of James Beard award-winning chef Melissa Kelly. After a tour of the restaurant’s large organic gardens and farm (currently limited to heritage pigs and chickens), we ate in the lounge, rather than the dining room, since this gave us the chance to select from three different menus. We capitalized on the opportunity, selecting gorgonzola stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto, spicy octopus chili glaze, and delicious locally caught halibut with shrimp risotto, chanterelles, and sweet peas in a shrimp broth. All went well with a bottle of Cristom 2007 Jefferson Cuvee; and
  • Natalie’s (Camden), where we celebrated Joyce’s birthday with Homard Grand Cru, a four-course lobster tasting menu. While the food was excellent, the combination of the food, the ambiance and the friendliness and helpfulness of virtually the entire staff made this dinner one of those special experiences that merit its own post.

We are much more flexible in our lunch restaurant selections. We typically either go to a lobster pound (where you select lobster by the pound and wait for it to be cooked and served au natural—with crackers, a small fork and plenty of melted butter)—or a restaurant with local oysters, fried belly clams and lobster rolls. For this trip’s Camden lunch, we selected the latter, eating at:

  • Waterfront (Camden), where we started with a dozen briny Pemaquid Point oysters, an order of perfectly done fried clams, and a lobster roll in which the mayonnaise attempted (but did not succeed) in hiding the fact that the lobster lacked taste.

This brings up the great lobster roll debate: That between purists, who prefer their rolls (top-split, of course) naked (with plain unadorned lobster) and those who prefer lobster in mayonnaise. While we generally prefer our rolls with mayo, this runs the risk of too much mayo or seasoning or attempts to disguise older or less tasty meat.

Given the amount of time we have spent in this area, we passed on some of the other fun things to do, such as:

  • A two-hour sail on one of the schooners (such as the Appledore or the Lazy Jack) lining the harbor, a landlubber’s alternative to a true, multi-day Windjammer cruise; and a
  • Hike up the Camden Hills.

We did, however, partake in the other favorite Camden pastime of window shopping and walking the quintessential Maine coastal town streets.

Next comes the main event—the trip to Arcadia, by way of a day in Deer Island.

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