In this day of economies of scale, the popularity of fusion cuisine and a seeming infinite variety of imported products, a restaurant striving to serve local meals in the true sense of the word seemed to stretch the imagination. Intrigued and drawn by Vinland’s approach to cooking rooted in the land, sea, and traditions of Maine, and the culinary and nutritional wisdom of indigenous cultures with all local ingredients, we went out of our way to sample their food. We also wondered how the influence of new Nordic cuisine (especially restaurants Noma and Faviken where the chef had worked) would translate across the Atlantic to Maine’s similar bioregion.
By local the restaurant meant no citrus or cane sugar, plenty of yogurt whey, rhubarb, sumac, cranberry, maple, honey, and dozens of other ingredients, including herbs, fruits, nuts, roots, and mushrooms. While the wines were all imported they offered the most natural and organic wine list we have come across.
The Inn by the Sea offered a long list of features we appreciated and enjoyed during our fall visit to Maine. From the beginning, we were impressed with our comfortable and well appointed two bedroom suite with full kitchen, gas fireplace, large balcony and fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean and colorful fall foliage. Lovingly maintained lawns and planters, excellent spa services, an exercise room, and quick access to walking and running paths added to the property’s desirability.
It wasn’t until restauranteur David Turin opened nine restaurants that he founded the restaurant he had wanted to open for many years, his opus. That led to the restaurant’s name. Although entering through David’s Monument Square, the restaurant’s larger sister eatery, was a bit jarring, dinner at this restaurant within a restaurant was the most upscale dining experience we had in Portland, Maine.
Cold, rainy gray weather made it challenging to enjoy the features, facilities and amenities of the Inn to full advantage. The 22 acre property had pretty green lawns and 500 feet fronting a rocky beach. Perhaps because the 32 rooms were spread across three separate buildings the only time we became aware it was full was at breakfast and when the parking lot overflowed.
After strolling around a gray, dreary and rainy Camden, Maine during a chilly autumn day, and a disappointing lunch in town we were loathe to drive back in the rain for dinner. We had heard good things about the restaurant and had hard to come by reservations so we moved forward as planned. As we drove down the dark two lane slick road from Lincolnville Beach south toward Natalie’s we wondered whether we would be better off returning to the dry and warm comfort of our inn.
The first surprise we had regarding the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was how popular it was when we arrived at midday on a Friday in the fall to find most of the parking space was already taken. The second surprise was how many areas beyond the immediate entrance felt secluded despite the number of people we knew were inside the attraction.
The 270 acre tidal shoreline park was the largest botanical garden in New England and the only botanical garden in Maine. It had display gardens, shore land trails, wild woodlands, 50 sculptures on exhibit (and rotating art exhibits inside the Bosarge Family Education Center), and educational programming. We liked the cleverly organized design of the attraction itself, its interactive features like the fairy garden, varied plant life, water views and separate garden sections. We especially appreciated the serenity of the contemplative garden.
It was evident the management and staff dedicated much thought and effort to the layout and maintenance of the Gardens. It was a pleasant place to spend time enjoying and admiring nature. We would gladly return should we be in the Portland or Boothbay area of Maine again.