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".
Sunday May 2, 2010
"Java Jive" - that great old song by The Inkspots - often helps set the mood during breakfast at The Bass Cottage Inn. And, why not? Coffee is an extremely important part of the morning ritual. I don't know about you, but we can't function until we get a cup of rich, dark morning joe.
Believing in the important of excellent coffee, Teri and I sampled a number of New England 'micro-roasts' during 2003 as we were refurbishing and restoring The Bass Cottage Inn. There are a number of fine purveyors of locally roasted (but not grown!) coffee in these parts. We chose to work with Carrabasett Coffee Company of Kingfield, Maine.
Carrabassett Coffee is a small-batch specialty roaster – wholesale, mail order and retail. They roast only the highest grade beans and offer what they feel are the finest “single source” coffees available. Tom and his crew at Carrabassett also provide us with great customer service -- tuning up the coffee machine each spring before the season and rushing us fresh coffee when - ahem - someone forgets to tell the innkeeper we're almost out.
Feedback about our coffee here at the inn has been very positive. Over the past year or so, we've worked with Carrabassett to tweak the blends we use. Now we're pleased to offer Bass Cottage Inn House Blend to our guests starting this year. Our House Blend is a special robust dark roast in the West Coast style. It's dark, smoky and alluring.
And, starting this year, you can buy a pack or two for yourselves before you check out. So maybe on some winter weekend you can relive breakfast at The Bass Cottage Inn.
Of course, our decaf is tasty as well. We offer Carrabassett's Sumatra Decaf - rich and satisfying and especially good to have when you come back to the Inn after dinner.
See you at breakfast....let's share cup of coffee together this season.
Monday April 26, 2010
Bass Cottage Inn recognized by Yankee Magazine "Editor's Choice"
The Bass Cottage Inn was just named Editor's Choice / Best of New England in Yankee Magazine's May/June New England travel issue. We are pleased to be the ONLY Bar Harbor lodging establishment selected, and, one of only two selected from Mount Desert Island as a whole.
Quoting Yankee Magazine:
"Editors' Choice – Yankee Magazine (2010)
Jeff and Teri Anderholm turned an in-town 1885 white elephant into an elegant, contemporary retreat, while preserving architectural treasures, including magnificent woodwork and stained-glass windows. Rates: from $185, including full breakfast."
Sunday April 25, 2010
The Seven Year Itch
This has nothing to do with the famous Marilyn Monroe movie, nor our marriage (25+ years plus now). With Teri returned from corporate life to inn-keeping full-time the 'seven year itch' refers to the redecorating itch. Back in 2003 we bought, restored and completely redecorated The Bass Cottage Inn imbuing the inn with a sophisticated, soft style the guests have found really comfortable.
So, we're done, right? Uh....no. As a guy I'd be content to leave the furniture exactly where it is for, oh say, fifty years. But Teri is 'polishing the diamond' this,, our seventh season - the biggest decor overhaul since our first year.
So, while we live up here near lighthouse scenes as you see at left, we aren't seeing much of Acadia ourselves these next few weeks before opening day (May 14). Your intrepid innkeepers are busy patching paint, moving furniture, deploying new linens and bedspreads and hanging new art.
Ibuprofen, hot soaks and hearty dinners like Mussel and Smoked Ham Gratin with a watercress salad and French Chablis are seeing us through!
Every guest room has gotten attention. All now have flat panel TVs. Many have new bed coverings or new chairs. Teri has reevaluated the art work, adding new pieces and shifting some around to keep things fresh. I must admit - as much as I love our guest rooms before I love them even more now.
Tomorrow the plumbers come to turn on the water, heat and gas service. Chef Chris will reassemble his kitchen so all is gleaming and in order. Soon the inn will be filled with the scent of his homemade granola. Each guest room will be meticulously cleaned and outfitted. The herb beds will be planted, flower beds cleaned up, the grass mowed, the sign hung and everything will be shipshape for opening weekend just under 3 weeks away.
Maybe we'll have time to watch "The Seven Year Itch".....
Sunday April 18, 2010
Bits and bites...
One of the off-season things I have to shrug off each spring is PROCRASTINATION. It's easy to procrastinate during the sleepy off season when the Inn is closed and not much is really happening. One of the first things I learned as an innkeeper is to hop on something that needs doing immediately. Once November comes along, I revert to my standard operating procedure. Teri wanted to talk about my procrastination, but I said I would do it later...
Far from procrastinating, Teri's been busy organizing her culinary library. We have a huge closet devoted to cookbooks collected from literally all over the world. During the process, we each discussed which cookbooks we really liked, really found useful. That lead to an 'individual top 5 list discussion' over roast chicken and Provencal rose tonight.
So, here are our individual TOP FIVE COOKBOOK lists (subject to change as soon as this blog is done...):
1. The New James Beard (James Beard) - a classic that was published when nouvelle cooking was just taking off in America. Stands the test of time.
2. La Varenne Practique (Anne Willan) - the essential culinary reference for French cookery (apologies to Julia).
3. Dishing Up Maine (Brooke Donjny) - classic recipes that capture authentic Down East flavors. Lobster. clams or corn anyone?
4. Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Suzanne Goin) - with a focus - as we focus - on fresh, local ingredients; chef Goin owns Lucques restaurant in Los Angeles and is a veteran of the kitchen at Chez Panisse
5. Mastering Simplicity (Christian Delouvrier) - combination cookbook and memoir from the former chef at New York's Lespinasse.
1. Bistro Cooking At Home (Gordon Hamersley) - classic bistro recipes from Hamersley's Bistro in Boston. Gordon has ties to downeast Maine.
2. Fifty Chowders (Jasper White) - a classic Boston chef offers great chowder recipes including Scallop and Leek Chowder, farmhouse corn chowders and Portuguese-style with sausage and tomatoes.
3. Real Cooking (Nigel Slater) - legendary London food writer offers everyday recipes that reflect English traditions energized with flavors of the former Empire. Handful of this, knob of that....
4. Thrill of The Grill (Chris Schlesinger) - from Cambridge MA's East Coast Grill, new wave" of grill cookery pits smoky tang against searingly hot seasonings. Great for big flavors on a hot day.
5. the Internet (Al Gore) - www.epicurious.com and www.foodnetwork.com are invaluable online resources that answer the daily question "What should we have for dinner today?"
Other current and past inspirations:
- The Joy of Cooking - we all start here...
- The Silver Spoon Cookbook - Italy's "Joy of Cooking"
- Everyday Harumi - Japanese home-cooking from Japan's Martha Stewart
- Jasper White's Cooking from New England
- River Cafe Cookbooks - from famed London nuovo Italian mecca on the Thames
- any Julia Child, Alice Waters, Madeline Kamman or Nancy Silverton cookbook
Of course, we have always treasured our copy of "Manifold Destiny", a book of recipes for cooking on your car engine. But we're not driving a much as we used to so it's just not practical.
Buckle up and bon appetit!
Friday April 9, 2010
Innkeepers' Ramble: Next Stop Wonderland
With the spectacular Spring weather we've been having and with a few weeks to go before opening day at The Bass Cottage Inn, Teri and I are setting out to enjoy areas of Mount Desert Island and downeast Maine before we get too busy. Last weekend's ramble was to the Wonderland Trail in Acadia along the Seawall shore near Bass Harbor.
Following an abandoned road you walk out to the coastline through pine woods with vernal pools scattered about.. It's not a tough hike; the trail has both level and hilly sections. Toward the end, the trail leaves the woods and opens onto the shoreline at the tip of the Wonderland Peninsula. There's a westward facing beach looking out toward Ship's Harbor with Swan Island in the distance. You can also get a great view of Great Cranberry Island across the sparkling and clear water.
Pine trees and pink granite blocks line the coastline - perfect for kicking back in the warm Spring sun and pleasantly wasting some time. Which we did...
Teri was enjoying the first week of her FINAL retirement from corporate life in Boston. She will be on deck at The Bass Cottage Inn every day from now on. Riley the Airedale enjoyed poking his nose into tidal pools but was confounded by the water that was too salty to drink.
When the weather gets THIS nice THIS early innkeepers get a little antsy about getting ready to open for the season. Still plenty of time to patch, paint and polish...and to savor our little slice of heaven here in Bar Harbor and Acadia.
Tuesday March 30, 2010
There's been plenty of activity around Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island the last week or two. You'll see trucks and trailers loaded up with lobster traps heading for the harbor. Some of the lobster fleet anchored at the dock (in the off season it's still cheap to get a slip). There are also floating docks in the harbors stacked up with new or mended wire lobster traps ready to go.
In Maine, lobsters can only be legally caught in lobster traps, also called pots. Inshore lobstermen have a limit of 800 pots per license, and regularly pull between 200-400 pots per day. Lobster caught in this region must be fished for only between sunrise and sunset, although this regulation is rarely enforced in the hour before dawn. If you're up early during your visit to The Bass Cottage Inn take a stroll along the nearby Shore Path and watch the lobster boats plow out to pull traps at full-throttle. No need to hem and haw, wastin' time!
While you can certainly buy lobsters year-round (and you should!), the local lobstermen pull their traps in late October/early November so that the often savage Atlantic weather does not destroy their equipment. Plus, it's often nasty to be out on the water in winter.
Lobster prices often peak just around this time of year. The lobstermen haven't pulled traps for months and inventory is down. Plus, the Easter holidays see a big demand in Maine lobster from European markets.
Fortunately, when The Bass Cottage Inn opens in May the price per pound has already headed down. Over the past few years we've seen retail lobster prices in the $5.00/pound range. Even with restaurant mark-ups you can't pass up eating lobster several times during your visit to Bar Harbor. We even make a beautiful Lobster Quiche at The Bass Cottage Inn. So set sail for Downeast Maine and plan on a few 'sea bugs'!!
Wednesday March 24, 2010
You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...
And, with apologies to Bob Dylan, the wind was blowing warm air up from the south this past weekend as Teri, Riley the Airedale and I spent a few hours around Little Long Pond. Despite a few fits and starts, Spring is wedging its foot in the door a little early here on Mount Desert Island.
As you can see in the photo, the ice is gone, all the snow has melted and even the last vestiges on the mountains are almost vanished. Our opening day at The Bass Cottage Inn (May 14th) will be here before you know it. So, while we start painting and other annual pre-opening projects you should check our website to pick your days in pristine Acadia.
Speaking of the weather, as innkeepers we are often asked questions like "what's the weather going to be while I'm there?" or "when is peak foliage?". Well, this is New England and folks often say "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes!" (that's the Yankee equivalent of a knee-slapper).
But here is some helpful info on normal temperatures and rainfall for Bar Harbor during our season (May 14 - Oct 31).
(ACADIA NATIONAL PARK Weather station, 4.15 miles from Bar Harbor)
Month May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Max °F 65.0 74.2 79.8 78.2 69.2 57.9
Mean °F 53.7 62.8 68.5 67.3 58.7 48.2
Min °F 42.3 51.3 57.1 56.3 48.1 38.4
(ACADIA NATIONAL PARK Weather station, 4.15 miles from Bar Harbor)
Month May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
Inch 4.53 4.10 3.38 2.93 4.42 4.86
Of course, we've seen 90F and higher on a few days but normally it's very pleasant weather - perfect for hiking, kayaking and especially sleeping.
My southern relatives often call us in the winter to take personal credit for the warm weather they're having. But, we bask in the beautiful balmy weather we have in Maine for six months of the year...just the time folks in the hot cities or down south need to get away and get refreshed at The Bass Cottage Inn.