By Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
With its alluring rocky shorelines, rolling hills and majestic maples, oaks and pines, Maine and its marvels may surprise you. Portland, the state’s historic seaport and urban center, has something for everyone. Its past is rich and its present even richer. The Portland peninsula, abundant with lobsters and clams, was founded by the British in 1632 as a trading and fishing post and called by its Indian name Machigonne. After many wars, raids and fires, the city of Portland came to be in 1786 and the region separated from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to become the state of Maine in 1820. The city was rebuilt during the Victorian era after devastating fires. Today, the Old Port, once home to canneries, textile mills and warehouses, now flaunts nostalgic charm on its cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks with quaint shops, galleries, coffee houses, bakeries and bistros along the picturesque waterfront.
There are other landmark destinations to explore. The Portland Headlight, built in 1791, is the oldest US lighthouse still in use and well worth a visit to absorb the area’s maritime history and the stunning vistas of Casco Bay and its environs. Established American artists Homer and Wyeth have their Maine landscapes on view at The Portland Museum of Art and the Wadworth-Longfellow House is the childhood home of the renowned poet.
Widely acknowledged as serving the freshest lobster around, the city also has also gained a national reputation as the “foodiest small town in America “ where you can eat to your heart’s content. The diverse dining scene is casual or refined and embraces the farm-to-table movement. It highlights the use of everything organic, locally grown and harvested from amazing vegetables to fruits (especially Maine’s famous wild blueberries in summer and apples in fall), as well as a sustainable approach to seafood.
SAIL: Portland, Maine. Before sailing away, bring the flavors and flair of Maine home. As a major fishing city, the nautical theme is prevalent here in art, tabletop items and other treasured memorabilia. Besides everything lobster—from seasonings to claw crackers—the state’s summer wild blueberries are magnificent and apples are their autumn stars. Both can be found in jellies, jams, sauces and syrups. Freeport just up the way from Portland is a retail outlet haven and home of famous LL Bean and Bass.
SIP: Mulled Warm Cider. Apple orchards thrive in Maine and no sip is more pleasing than warm mulled cider on a crisp autumn afternoon. Apple cider mixed with allspice, cinnamon, a dash of cloves, lemon and orange zest creates a winning concoction that fishermen have been drinking, with or without rum, long after their last lobster catch!
SAVOR: Lobster. “Lovin’ Lobster!” is Maine’s motto and once you try it here you’ll understand why! No matter how you choose to eat it—steamed, stuffed, baked or grilled, in chowder or as a salad or sandwich–this delicious crustacean is the must-have menu item to order. As the largest exporter of lobsters in the USA, it’ll never taste better than when dining on Portland’s scenic shores.