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Chow report, Boston-Maine-NH-VT - long

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Chow report, Boston-Maine-NH-VT - long

dickson d | Jun 29, 2003 04:15 PM

As a visiting Chicago chower, I posted and researched here a couple of weeks ago for a trip - Albany-Bethel, Maine-Albany - I was to take over a few days. Got some good recs and ideas. Here is my report.

This covers places in Essex, MA, Portland, ME, Gorham, NH, and Montpelier, VT.

Took the southern route up, and based upon postings, found a way to have lunch at Essex Seafood, followed by a long walk in Gloucester. Wonderful clams, as posted. Clam Chowder was also good, and corn on the cob was acceptable. Ate too much, but really enjoyed it. Nothing more to add beyond what has been posted here and at the Boston board. Excellent reco.

The next few hours were lousy as I made the mistake of driving up the coast from there (how bad could the New Hamsphire beaches be on a Tuesday afternoon in June, I thought). Terrible. My son, who had veto power at this point, vetoed the recommended Chauncey Lobster place in Kittery, to my chagrin. So we proceeded to Portland.

Ate there at the Roma Cafe - slightly upscale, but comfortable with son in shorts and T. Service was a bit raw at times, but the food was quite good. Started with a (tomato-based) seafood chowder. Light on the garlic for my taste, but lots of good chunks of various seafood, and not overcooked. Son had the tomato soup (considered that both soups started with the same base, but not sure). Sweet and tomat-ey. I had the lobster special, two for $18. Son had the seafood linguine in a wine/olive oil sauce. Both excellent. Pasta was, again, lightly seasoned. But in this case that allowed the profusion of excellent seafood (scallops, shrimp, lobster, mussels) to really shine through - it really was the high point. Wine selection was passable. Good meal over all, and a nice seafood fix for this midwesterner. Made my Chauncey regret more bearable.

On to Bethel for a last lunch before dropping off the son. Went to the Finish Line Pizza, beacuse it was there. Son had pepperoni pizza, which was surprisingly good. Chewy, seemingly freshly prepared (it did say hand-tossed) New York style crust, good sauce and toppings. Maybe I should have just had my son order. I had a lobster roll. It was constructed properly, but the lobster was a bit mushy. Maybe over or under cooked? Anyway, decent pizza place and could be okay for Lobster if you need a fix in the Maine mountains.

Had dinner at the Town and Country Inn in Gorham, NH. Very old school comfort food, and nothing special. Salad heavy on iceberg lettuce. Prime Rib fairly tasteless and floating in "au jus." Decent Yorkshire pudding puff on the side, and a pretty good bread pudding dessert. I guess you have to go with the pudding. Probably a decent meal for the place, but really just mediocre comfort food.

Climbed a mountain in the oppressive heat (hey, New England was not supposed to be like that), and then on to Vermont, and air conditioned comfort. Dined at the Chef's Table in Montpelier, a New England Culinary Institute fine dining spot. Amateur service, indeed, but it should not be any surprise. My waiter was pretty decent, but after listening to the waitress fail to explain anything about the food properly to the party at the next table, I could not help but share what the ingredients really were. The food was also spotty. One dish, a cajun rubbed fish with a little bean salad, and a corn relish served in a re-hydrated ancho chile with a touch of sherry, was delightful. The chile and corn relish was the high point. The wine was also good, but with a proviso - over half the list consisted of wines currently or formerly in my basement classified as "daily drinkers." Bonny Doon, Villa Santa Maria, etc. Good wines, all, but nothing new. The cheese course was also pedestrian and blah. I will not deconstruct and critique the other dishes here as they were specials on the Prix Fixe menu, and it seems mean spirited to beat up the students. Pretty good meal at a reasonable price.

Finished at Shelburne Museum, where the cafe served a decent, if pricey, museum meal. Clam Chowder, Vegie/Hummus wrap (too heavy on the sesame oil). Then across the lake and back down to Albany.

Essex Seafood was the high point, but to my surprise, I cannot say I had a bad meal, though the Town and Country was the worst.

As it seems that Western Mass and Upstate New York are part of the New York Tristate board, will post the last sections there.

Thanks to all, and hope this is of some use.

d

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