My trip home to Maine was... beyond words. I thought it was going to be fantastic and it blew my mind just how incredibly relaxing and soul-cleansing it was. I needed this... a lot. My internship the first semester blew up and crashed in a pile of flames fueled by methane produced from manure. I was at the lowest of my low by the time it ended just before Thanksgiving, it was like living a nightmare. But then, the morning hit. The magnificent Jeff Rizy and the beautiful Murphy McArdle picked Andy and me up in the wee hours and drove us to the airport. We slept on the planes and had a brief layover in Philly (one of my least favorite airports, soon to be topped by the before unvisited Washing D.C. Reagan).
Once we arrived our bag was one of the first to emerge and we were greeted by my mother and my brother Thomas. We then went straight to Full Belly Deli. If you ever go to Maine Full Belly Deli is a MUST SEE! Right on the Westbrook/Portland border this place is a diamond in a strip mine... mall! I meant mall! I had the same thing I have had there every time: a burger melt. This burger melt is not your simple burger melt. It's ambrosia from the Gods! It is a nice, large burger patty (high-grade beef, I'm sure) with cheese thoroughly coating it and sandwiched between two large pieces of buttery garlic bread. It is served with fresh fries and the entire meal is most likely more calories and fat than I ever care to know about. It is one of the greatest, most comforting foods I have ever put in my mouth.
My mother always gets the same thing. I have tried it with bacon and mayo but, seriously, this sandwich works best in it's pure form. My brother had the hot pastrami on marble rye, which he swears is actually their best sandwich, and a knish (beef, he was almost heartbroken they were out of potato). Andy indulged in their Southwest burger. This thing was crazy! Every time I've gone to Full Belly Deli I've thought about the Southwest burger as a possible substitute for my burger melt. I've even convinced myself I'd order it. But every time I reach the counter the words "burger melt" burs from my mouth like a song of praise. The Southwest burger has carmelized onions, bbq sauce, bacon, cheese, beef, and I can't remember what else. I had a few bites and I have to say this thing was crazy good.
After that we went to explore Freeport, one of my favorite spots in Maine. The town is so quaint and has a lot of high-quality stores including the ever-expanding glory of the L.L. Bean flagship store. Their new hunting section is very, very impressive. My mother and I visited the bathroom at one point and were surprised to find vintage sinks and faucets from the 1930s, very cool. The L.L. Bean store should never be attempted by a newcomer to Freeport if they are not willing to spend an entire day. This place has an insane amount of goods. I really recommend waiting until Autumn and Winter since the company really breaks out the big guns as far as fashionable cold-weather wear.
After this we went home. The beautiful home I grew up in that has this perfect aura of comfort and joy. Our parents served Andy and me lobster for dinner. I have had an intense aversion to Lobster since I was very young. I never wanted to try it and just would rather leave it alone, but this trip I decided it would be different. That's right, I lived in Maine most of my life and had never really eaten lobster until his trip at the age of 22. I must say WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING?! This stuff is seriously good! I'm a convert, end of story.
The next day was the joy that is Thanksgiving. My mother made us her world famous sticky buns for breakfast along with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, and sausage. There is really no describing how good my mother's sticky bus are so let's just leave it with this word: scrumtrelescent. For dinner was (of course) turkey, stuffing (cooked INSIDE the bird, thank you, the turkey taste is the best part of stuffing and it's been in a super hot oven for a long long time, ain't no buggies in there!), green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, crescent rolls, and, for some at the table, oyster stuffing (ick) and rutabaga (YUCK!). My mom is a fantastic cook so everything was crazy good. For dessert we had both pumpkin and pecan pie. I had never tried pecan pie with ice cream and I need to say, it's a great combo. Almost as good as pumpkin pie with a healthy dose of whipped cream.
Friday we decided to go and see the new version of A Christmas Carol in 3D. I am still disappointed with 3D since they have not yet managed to make glasses that comfortable to wear over prescription glasses. Seriously, 3D glasses are a pain in the freaking ass when you are visually impaired. The film was good. Not great, not bad, good. It it an extremely accurate adaptation of Dickenson' classic, but did not make me go into my usual fit of Christmas-feeling joy. The Muppet Christmas Carol, however, makes me giddy as a school girl every time I think about it. Carrey does a very good job, as do Oldman and Firth, but I think the technology of live-action CGI is just not up to snuff with their performances. The subtlety, the life in the eyes, the soul of the acting was absent and sorely missed.
Friday night was spent with a two-bar hop in the Old Port district of Portland. We started out at Gritty McDuff's. My broth assured me that their best bitter is one of the best beers he's ever tasted. Sadly, I do not drink, so my review of a bar will be missing a crucial aspect. The bar itself, though, is very nice. There are many long beer garden style tables and benches throughout with a few tall, more intimate tables scattered around. The service was very prompt and we had a waitress checking on us regularly.
After Gritty's we went to $3 Deweys, the oldest bar in Portland. The story of $3 Deweys' name is very interesting. The bar used to cater almost exclusively to sailors and, in true sailor bar fashion, it had prostitutes. The bar actually started as a brothel. The price break-down was $1 lookeys, $2 toucheys, $3 deweys. Charming, right? The bar has the same beer-garden-esque layout as Gritty's, but with a lot more open floor space since it's in a less-cramped part of the city. The service, however, is sub-par. There were only two or three bartenders serving customers and it took a hile for them to notice when you needed service. There was never-ending popcorn, though, which is a nice touch and really makes you buy more to drink.
Saturday's lunch was done just right with a visit to J's Oyster Bar in Portland. This shack-like building right on the pier is a beautiful pearl representing Portland's view towards seafood: lots of it, no frills, and fresh as it can be. The males at our table enjoyed some fresh from the ocean raw clams (since that is what maes the place an Oyster Bar). We then warmed up with some soup. Our table tried botht the clam chowder and the lobster stew and both were out-of-this-world and with large chunks of their namesake seafood. Most of us had either the lobster or the crab rolls (my brother Robert opted for a very large bowl clam chowder). These rolls are just what the name says: lobster or crab on rolls. These rolls have NO fillers. If you want mayo you need to apply it yourself. The lobster used for these rolls is some of the highest quality lobster available. It's tender, it's sweet, and you get entire claws and a very lightly chopped up tail in your buttered and toasted roll. The crab roll was no slouch, either. I have no idea why this location has yet to be on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Saturday night's dinner was my mother's home cooked deep-dish pizza. There is no possible way I can tell you how good this pizza is, just come to Maine, we'll fix you up right.