The conclusion to Part III of Saar Harel’s romantic road trip to Maine brings our readers a stopover in Boston, some badass clam chowdah, a few fancy eats and a Boston boutique hotel to die for. Just your standard run-of-the-mill escape up the east coast for a road trip from New York to Maine.
Nights end early up north and, for some reason, Mainiacs (yes, we were told that people from Maine call themselves Mainiacs) don’t stay up till the late morning hours like my wife and me. So, we headed home, well, our Inn by the Sea home. Morning came and so did breakfast. Note to travellers: make sure you wake up early as they do tend to close the Sea Glass Restaurant for breakfast at 10:30am.
My wife then headed to sample the spa and get a massage to get that vacation part well squared away, while I went running on the beach and nature paths. The scenery along the Maine coast really is remarkable as the seasons make a difference as the colors change from earthen brown and misty grey to burnt orange and sienna. Seeing the ocean, the sand dunes, forest and swamp while running makes for a much more interesting run than watching the news on your New York gym treadmill.
I even took the opportunity to try out the pool and since the spa was not fully booked they offered me the use of the premises. Among the amenities includes a pampering steam room that works like a steam room should – hot, and if you press the button, moist (unlike some NY gyms that seem to enjoy making you wait 30 minutes for a 5 minute burst of steam). But enough complaining and back to the room I am heading. The room is large and contemporary. The TV is huge – as it should be these days – and the view is lovely so you can read, watch TV, or just chat the day away with your special someone.
At the end of the day, if you don’t feel like going out, the restaurant below is well known among the locals and even they will come to dine on special occasions or when their guests come to see them. When I came back to the room, my wife had arrived singing the praises of her Deep Tissue massage. She noted that her therapist, Cheyenne (a coincidence that it rhymes with Cayenne?) had terrific technique, along with a warm, friendly personality.
So, as our east coast road trip began to come to a close, we decided to add another might so that we could stay the night in Boston, the city of my father-in-law. Well, he ran away from Boston because it was too cold, but we are arriving during the early autumn so it was perfectly crisp and comfortable. Plus, after hearing multiple stories of the exquisite Clam Chowder, we headed straight for it.
Before I get into how much we loved the cooking techniques of Todd English’s Kingfisher Hall, let’s talk traffic in Boston. It’s as bad as traffic in NY and the drivers are, well, not exactly the most patient. However, with a big Porsche Cayenne, nobody messes with you because the last thing anyone wants to do is pay to fix a Porsche fender. It was my first time visiting Boston and I was impressed with the charming surroundings. The hotel, XV Beacon, was smack in the middle next to Boston’s version of Central Park and a ten minute walk from the wharf. Parking is non existent so be prepared to shell out a daily stipend just to park it in parking garage.
As usual, midday hunger set in so we headed out for the what we were told was some of the best clam chowder in Boston. Located in the touristy outdoor mall-type area called Faneuil Hall Marketplace – “as alive today as it was in 1742 when our nation’s fathers proclaimed it “The Cradle of Liberty.” It combines “the glories of Boston’s past with the urban sophistication of the city today”, just as the website states.
Inside this area, you’ll find Todd English’s Kingfisher Hall, a lovely restaurant with a brilliant – and very pragmatic decorative feature – fish spinning over charcoal (see above). The staff also had a sense of calm, assertive efficiency so we knew we were in good hands. A few oysters later, and we ordered our clam chowdah. To say it was tasty would be an understatement. Unlike most American food, there was no cheese, no excessive fat, and it had the perfect consistency. The best soup I’ve had in the USA (other than my own of, course).
Well, out you go and the port is in front of you. So, you can spend an hour or more just walking and taking in the sights; from spinning horse carousels and yachts to birds and people. At last, we headed back to the hotel to relax and sample it too.
Fifteen Beacon is one of the top boutique hotels in Boston. A Preferred Boutique hotel, this Boston hotel is part of the Preferred Hotel Group which represents more than 800 hotels worldwide. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised. It had some truly great features including faucets that look imported directly from 18th century England.
They call the style “Jeffersonian” which also translates to: swanky and classic boutique hotel décor in the rooms and public spaces. The view left a bit to be desired as ours looked out at an office (with a nice young girl talking on her blackberry for hours and an employee surfing Facebook unaware. Oh, if I were their employer!!)
My wife was a huge fan of the property as the amenities looked like they came from Armani – complete with the hotel’s chic XV branding – and they even give you a small vanilla lip gloss. She loves those fancy little touches (and really, what woman doesn’t?). They, too, had a great Flatscreen TV and a fireplace. We also appreciated the unique artwork on the walls – particularly because Layla is a connoisseur of mixed media.
For a city, Boston is well set. Its city center is quaint, clean, and historic. It has a lovely waterfront, old buildings, the people were friendly, and they even dress up in cufflinks – a rarity in America, the Land of T-Shirts and Bored Shorts. Yes, Bored.
The restaurant scene does it justice too. As we headed over to Woodward, the restaurant at the Ames Hotel, part of the Morgans Hotel Group (Mondrian, Hudson Hotel, St. Martin’s Lane, etc.), we encountered a beautifully designed boite bathed in amber light with a fireplace for guests to complete the warmth. We sat and ordered our last round of vacation restaurant meals and the food was worth its weight in calories. Executive Chef Mark Goldberg delivers a New England-centric ingredient driven menu of composed plates with dishes like Island Creek oysters with ginger mignonette, short rib tortellini with Madeira and truffle butter, and a crispy poached egg, bitter greens, romesco and almonds salad that my wife couldn’t stop praising as ‘the perfect combination of light and hearty’.
As I’m from the Middle East and cook a mean chicken, I was anxious to try the pistachio stuffed chicken breast with duck fat roasted cauliflower and swiss chard. My wife and I, ever the picky palates – especially when it comes to chicken, both gave it a thumbs up. It was delicious and, surprisingly, not dry. I think she would have preferred more pistachios, but I thought it was perfect. As long as restaurants don’t add unnecessary oil or butter, I tend to have an open mind. I’m a purist and Chef Goldberg has created a solid menu that leaves you satisfied. Next time, I’ll have to try their lobster roll. Our hostess even gave us directions to the ‘till the morning hours’ drinking establishment that the inner circles frequent. We thanked her and headed straight for the hotel (since we’re officially in our thirties – a tad too old for raging).
As we left in the morning our Porsche was waiting ready to take us back, a quick 20 minutes and the lovely Lady of the Dashboard navigated us from the shark infested Bostonian drivers straight onto the Land of Freeways. The three hour drive went quickly and the sight of NY from afar did not fail to excite us. Well, back to the apple jam. An hour of traffic later, we made it home, parked our ride, and the gas bill for about 600 miles and 10 hours of freeway driving? A mere $100.
All I could think was… my frugal dad would be proud! Meanwhile, the list below is a round up of some of the best lobster shacks and seafood from New York City to Southern Maine. As we only had five days, we didn’t have time to taste all of the delicacies offered at the establishments below, but with a week or two, it’s a definite possibility and we strongly recommend ’em.
New York to Maine Road Trip Itinerary
Sept. 12th/13th – Kennebunkport, Maine – Captain Lord Mansion (Harvest Room)
Sept. 13th – Academe – Kennebunk Inn – Dinner
Sept.14th/Sept. 15th – Cape Elizabeth, Maine – Inn by the Sea
Sept. 16th – XV Beacon – Boston, Ames Hotel (Woodward) – Dinner
Top Food Picks
Maine Seafood Shacks and Restaurants