Saturday June 19, 2010
Fine Dining Scene on Mount Desert Island
It's mid June and the fine dining scene in Bar Harbor and environs is in full gear. At The Bass Cottage Inn we try to help our guests enjoy all of their waking and sleeping hours. While we serve delicious breakfasts and tasty hors d'oeuvres during our wine hour, we currently cannot directly influence what guests enjoy for dinner (that is likely to change in the future, by the way....more later in this blog).
For that reason, your intrepid innkeepers get real picky on your behalf and select a small group of recommended local restaurants that we can personally stand behind. As I tell guests, there are lots of places to eat on Mount Desert Island -and a handful of really wonderful dining experiences which we want to help you enjoy.
Realizing that it's a tough and solemn responsibility that we bear, this week we visited two of our top choices here on the Island.
On Wednesday, we went with some longtime Bass Cottage Inn guests to Havana here in Bar Harbor. Usually this is Jeff's top recommendation, so it was not a hard sell! The service was excellent. We enjoyed the wonderful mushroom spring rolls and a great salad of local greens with seared rare tuna. I had a marvelous churrasco hanger steak with chimichurri sauce. The mojitos and caiparinhas were as delicious as ever. The measure of a great restaurant is how it runs when the boss is not there. Havana's owners are in Portland getting ready to open up Havana South. But, the food and service at Havana in Bar Harbor was better than ever.
On Friday night, we had an innkeepers' night out with the innkeepers from our inn-neighbors at the Ullikana. Destination - Town Hill Bistro. This out of the way jewel provided us with a spectacular evening of local ingredients, careful preparation and al fresco dining on a beautiful mid-June evening. As we watched dogs frolic on a manicured nearby lawn we enjoyed salad with local greens and local cheeses, artful entrees including my Porterhouse Pork Chop with rhubarb balsamic compote and great desserts, including Maureen's homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries and a aged balsamic syrup.
Dining on Mount Desert Island is more than the local lobster pound (although that ain't bad!). Come visit us at The Bass Cottage Inn and we'll hook you up with some memorable meals.
Sunday June 13, 2010
A Twilight View for Dessert
Teri, having returned to rejoin me as full time innkeeper this year, is continuing her campaign to have us enjoy Acadia while we are enjoying our hospitality business -- or 'a working vacation' as she calls it.
Who am I to argue??
On Friday, after a busy day and a full house of happy guests, we enjoyed dinner outside on the terrace at McKay's Public House here in Bar Harbor. With the great weather we've been having we opted to eat outside. McKay's is one of our best recommendations for casual dining here in Bar Harbor, with good food featuring local ingredients, a nice wine list with affordable bottles and an excellent staff. Our delightful server, Serena, took good care of us and Brian, the proprietor, stopped by the table for a friendly chat.
After dinner, Teri whisked us up to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch the sun set over Blue Hill to the west. In this photo taken on Friday, you see Bar Island and the assorted Porcupine Islands just off the coast of Bar Harbor, who's evening lights are starting to twinkle.
What a great view for dessert....OK, we did have carrot cake and ice cream at McKay's....
Thursday June 10, 2010
Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are both renown for active outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, carriage rides, nature cruises and whale watching. The unique opportunities offered by the juxtaposition of ocean, mountains and forests have made our corner of the world the #2 pick in the US for an outdoor vacation.
But, if your idea of nirvana is chasing a little white ball around a verdant lawn, then you have another resason to put Bar Harbor on your list.
Just a five minute drive from The Bass Cottage Inn is the Kebo Valley Golf Course, a public course that just happens to be the 8th oldest golf course in America.
For over one hundred years, golfers from all over the world of all skill levels have enjoyed the Kebo Valley Golf Club. Rich in tradition, endless in surprises, and - I'm told - pretty challenging, the Kebo course will keep you coming back.
Kebo is not just another golf course. First of all, the setting is incomparable (see photo). "Kebo is a source of pride for Mount Desert Island, an enticing lure to tourists from around the world, and noble adversary to all who play the course."
So, if you're coming to The Bass Cottage Inn and Bar Harbor -- and enjoy golf -- don't forget to pack your clubs and get ready to tee off.
Saturday June 5, 2010
Innkeepers' Off Duty Ramble: Lunch @ Thurston's
Yesterday was another glorious late Spring day in Downeast Maine. After breakfast and checkouts the innkeepers left to enjoy the day. Teri suggested a late lunch, early dinner at Thurston's in nearby Bernard village.
Thurston's has always been our #1 recommendation for the true local Maine lobster pound experience. You can pick your dinner, grab a cold one and station yourself at a table overlooking Bass Harbor, a true working lobster fishing harbor.
Thurston's is a true Maine lobster pound. Many folks ask us where the term "lobster pound" comes from. After all, there are "clam shacks". Is it the same notion as a 'dog pound'? Not so much.
The term "lobster pound" refers to the tanks holding the lobsters, such as they have at Thurston's, where fresh sea water is piped through to keep the ugly little critters healthy and happy. This is not be confused with "lobster car" which is an offshore large, submerged holding pen used to store the catch (but not for too long...they start eating each other!!) until the guys bring them to dock.
Yesterday, as we waited for our 'sea bugs' we saw boats unloading flippin' and fresh lobsters by the bin-load. Soon we tucked into a couple of large hard shells, steamed mussels and Bar Harbor Real Ale to wash it all down.
Does Maine lobster taste any better when you eat it looking at the scene shown here?
Tuesday June 1, 2010
Bass Cottage Inn Alumni - ANOTHER addition to the extended family!
In 2004, Zuzana arrived to help us during our first season as innkeepers. Along with her was her good friend Martina (see May 23 blog post). They were inseparable, doing almost everything together as they enjoyed their first Acadia summer.
It seems like they still do things together -- Zuzi had her baby boy within days of Martina having her daughter. Talk about timing.
Back in 2004 and 2005 Zuzi was a guest favorite. Her command of English was excellent, thanks to nanny experience in the UK. She also spoke nearly flawless German, which helped her explain breakfast to our German guests. Zuzi is also a great baker and shared some of her grandmother's recipes for sweet treats with us (Czech Quick Cake!)
Most of all, Zuzi was probably the most enthusiastic about hiking throughout Acadia National Park. She, along with Martina, savored the outdoor experience. Plus, she gives a dangerous..uh, I mean, good haircut...just ask Chef Chris.
Zuzi reports: "It is a huge change to have the little human being at home.. I am spending my whole time with him and have no time for anything else. It will change, I hope..:)."
Congratulations to mom, papa and a beautiful boy who is almost certain to make the Czech national hockey team.
Wednesday May 26, 2010
Calm Before Breakfast
Each day the kitchen at The Bass Cottage Inn gets started around 6am preparing for our guest breakfast. Fresh coffee is made and the guest pantry is set. Chris and Teri are in the kitchen; Jeff ensures the dining room is ready to go.
We've often compared a day at the Inn to putting on a a play (hopefully not a tragedy or comedy!). The stage is set and everything should be in the right place. Outside, on the breeze that filters into our open windows, you can smell the salt water and hear the fishing boats putting out. Inside, one can smell raspberry almond muffins baking and bacon cooking. The perfume of dark roast coffee is in the air.
Here, at left, you can see our Atrium sitting ready for breakfast. All is quiet. No guests are yet stirring except for two intrepid souls that have come in from an early morning walk along the Shore Path. Or maybe they were up early on the top of nearby Cadillac Mountain to catch the first rays of the morning sun to hit the United States.
Life in downeast Maine is great for locals and visitors alike...never better than the calm before breakfast at The Bass Cottage Inn.
Sunday May 23, 2010
Bass Cottage Inn Alumni - Where are they now?
Those of you who've been to The Bass Cottage Inn before have had the fortune of meeting some of our international students who work with us here at the Inn. Back in 2004 in our first season we were fortunate to be joined for part of the season by three smart girls from the Czech Republic - Ivana, Zuzana and Martina. Ivana has settled in Scotland. Zuzi is married and is just about to have her first baby. Martina, who had the longest tenure here at the Inn (3 seasons) has some news.
Pictured at left is Martina (now 28 years old and happily married to Pepa) and her new daughter Alena. It seems like yesterday when Martina first arrived. At first, she was hesitant to use her English but eventually she became quite comfortable in our foreign language. In the dining room during breakfast service she'd share her tips with guests about good hikes in the park. Martina (as well as Zuzi and Ivana) really enjoyed the outdoors....as well as the excellent chocolate mousse at Galyn's. Every day her then-boyfriend Pepa would call to speak with her and a few years ago they got married, as we always thought. The wedding photographs are like a fairy-tale and Martina was a beautiful bride.
Now, four years removed from her Bass Cottage summers, Martina has her hands full. "So my days and nights are made mostly of nursing and changing nappies and the same again. In the meanwhile I am trying to finish my diploma thesis that must be finished by June. I am very very tired but happy. Pepa helps me a lot and feels really like a proud father:-)"
Parents with every reason to be proud. Congratulations!
Monday May 17, 2010
Bar Harbor: Where The Wild Things Are
When people think about the great American outdoors they often think about the Rocky Mountains. But, did you know that we have beautiful wilderness nestled right here along the rocky Atlantic Coast in Maine?
One of the reasons we picked Bar Harbor for our Bed & Breakfast Adventure is that it is the only place on the Eastern Seaboard where you have mountains and forests and the ocean all in the same place. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast north of Rio de Janeiro. And, it's a one-day drive or less for millions of American and Canadians.
Obviously, the secret is out.
Tripadvisor members voted Acadia National Park the #2 destination for Outdoor and Adventure Travel in the USA.
USA Today touted Bar Harbor and Acadia for seeing bald eagles. "There has never been a better time to watch our national symbol soar in the wild...And there are few locations as scenic to watch bald eagles as Acadia National Park, where the rugged Maine coastline, sandy beaches and many islands provide habitat for more than 300 bird species -- a national park record. You can see bald eagles soaring over the Park Loop Road, however, the best way to see eagles is to take a Nature Cruise which departs just steps from The Bass Cottage Inn.
Of course, we have whale watches departing the Town Pier near the inn up to 3 times per day as well as a wonderful 4-masted schooner, the Margaret Todd.
If you are really into orienteering bring your own GPS unit and try Acadia National Park’s free EarthCache Program takes you on an adventure through much of the 47,000-acre Maine park. Supplied coordinates lead you to a location where you’ll see a posted clue in the form of a riddle or puzzle; solve it to reveal the next set of coordinates. It's a great way to learn about the park. For more info, call 207-288-3338 or visit http://nps.gov/acad/earthcache.htm
Of course, if you want a more muted nature experience, you can visit places like the Asticou Azalea Gardens which are in bloom just about now. Don't wait...make your plans to visit now since bookings are brisk.
Saturday May 15, 2010
We are open for season! Whew...lots of work, lots of good preparation -- all done. Now we can concentrate on being good hosts.
Getting The Bass Cottage Inn ready to open is like launching a Broadway show. You need to dress the set, you need the score, you need the audience. It's been a busy month and a half as we have made improvements to virtually every guest room and common area. One of the last things we do is to visit the local nursery for herbs and flowers that end up brightening your day....and your plate.
Since this is our seventh season of inn-keeping you'd probably assume that our opening day would be smooth and trouble-free. And you'd be wrong.
Back when I was in high tech marketing we often spoke about Murphy's Law of Marketing. If the projector could die, it would. If the software could crash, it would. Welcome to Murphy's Law of Inn-keeping.
Yesterday, as the last punch list item was checked off and as we got ready to hang the 'Vacancy' sign things started to go haywire. First, Chef Chris came into the office and said that we had no water. A quick check confirmed that he was right. Guests about to arrive and NO WATER???!!! A few calls to the Town and I learned that some workmen had broken a water main. It might, I was told, be fixed by dusk. Then, our food purveyor failed to show up with the order. NO FOOD??!!?? Then the ice machine stopped working. NO ICE???!?! All that as left was for the computer to crash and I'd be jumping out a window....
But, things worked out well. Water was restored about 20 minutes before our first check-ins (thank you Town of Bar Harbor!). A quick trip to the grocery store set us up for the weekend's breakfast service. The ice machine is fixed. Be still my beating heart!
So, it's been an eventful Spring Opening Day. With the unusually mild Spring we've had (actually we HAD Spring...usually it goes from frost to heat in about 2 weeks!) the local flora is about a month ahead of schedule. Lilacs are in full bloom. So it's a great time to come for a visit. Hint, hint.
Thursday May 6, 2010
Innkeepers' Ramble: Overnight trip to Camden/Rockland
Since we've been making outstanding progress getting The Bass Cottage Inn all ship-shape for our season opening on May 14th, we booked a little overnight getaway to be tourists ourselves in nearby Camden and Rockland. We stayed at the Camden Harbour Inn, another Yankee Magazine "Best of New England" selection like our inn. The rooms were modern, stylish and comfortable. After a brief rest we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Natalie's, the restaurant at the Inn. Many thanks to Oscar, Raymond and their gracious staff for making us feel welcome.
The real highlight of this brief ramble was Rockland. The Farnsworth Museum, known for its Wyeth collection, is a real treat and well worth the drive to Rockland all by itself. They also had a exhibit of Arnold Neuman portrait photography and some great modern art. The latter seemed to provoke Jeff (see pic) to start thinking about lunch. Near the Farnsworth along Rockland's main drag are numerous fine art galleries like Dowling Walsh Gallery, Eric Hopkins Gallery and studio (where we met the artist) and chatted for a while and Harbor Square Gallery. After that, lunch on the waterfront at The Boathouse kicked off by fresh oysters.
At The Bass Cottage Inn we are often asked, when the weather is less than perfect, about excursions guests might take. There are lots of great places to visit along our varied Maine coast (Bar Harbor first among equals, of course). However, we will certainly recommend an "artful" visit to Rockland.....followed by something great to "EAT".