Donuts to Dumplings: A Non-Seafood Eater’s Weekend in Portland, Maine

What I long ago discovered about my personal travel style is that, as long as it’s new to me, it’s new and therefore interesting. So when I, a non-seafood eater, set off to the ultimate destination for “Lobstah Rolls”, I knew I would enjoy the visit even if only on a diet of fast food and hotel breakfasts. Had I bothered to do a little research (more like, if my busy schedule allowed), I would have known Bon Appetite named Portland, Maine 2018 Restaurant City of the Year and, I’m here to tell you, they were on to something.

Breakfast: You know a place is famous and most likely a do not miss when the locals tell you the operating hours quickly followed by the phrase, “but go early so they don’t run out of what you want.” Note taken and the only thing preventing me from getting everything I wanted at The Holy Donut was an inability to carry much less eat it all.

Lunch: While my friends set out to eat their way through every Lobster Roll joint in sight, I stumbled upon remarkable food finds while simply tagging along. Like this, the Frankfurter from The Highroller Lobster Co. A Maine’s own Shields Meats’ frank, toasted brioche bun and your choice of sauce (curried ketchup in my case) conspire to create a “not your average hot dog” delight! Make sure to give the Old Bay Seasoning fries a try and save your diet busting for one of “Andy’s Mom’s” Highroller Whoopie Pies. Incredible!

Dinner: The benefit to traveling with super-organized and curious friends is, they will totally pick up your slack and do the research for you, finding little gems like Mash Tun. Don’t let the small floor plan fool you; their food packs great big flavors! On top of that, they’re rockin’ a really inviting vibe and super service. I paired my burger and Parmesan Ranch fries with an Allagash Brewing Company I Believe in Love beer and my foodie heart skipped a beat.

Cocktails: After dinner, we decided to grab a quick cocktail. We’d heard a little buzz about Taco Escobarr and decided to give it a go. With a festive and casual atmosphere, it was easy to feel at home instantly. Plus, what they’re doing with specialty cocktails and infusions, is anything but boring. I was intrigued by the Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita and was not disappointed. The ideal balance of sweet and heat, it’s perfect for warming you up on a cold Portland night.

Morning, Noon, Night & Twice on Weekends: Please excuse me while I gush for a minute…my poor friends and family have heard more about these dumplings than the beautiful landscapes, historic lighthouses and fantastic public art I saw during my visit. Truthfully, my main regret about my Portland, Maine visit, is not having visited Bao Bao Dumpling House a second time. These Kung Pao Chicken & Peanut Dumplings were tender but crispy but crunchy and all things absolutely astoundingly delicious.

Next time you’re off on an adventure and not sure it’s gonna be exactly right up your alley…remember, if it’s new to you it’s still new.

Don’t psych yourself out worried about what you might not find; get excited for what you might!

Finger Lakes Surprise: A Day in Owego, New York

This past fall, I somewhat unexpectedly had the opportunity to visit the small town of Owego, New York, located in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. Since that time, I’ve rolled around those experiences in my mind and shared them repeatedly with many friends. From the beginning, I knew I should shine a light on this jewel with all of you but, as time has gone on, I now realize I MUST share this special little corner of the world. Truth is, some places just stay with you. Here’s a few of the reason why this one sticks with me.

Passion to make a change and preserve history. My first stop in Owego brought me to the, still under restoration, Belva Lockwood Inn. I was greeted and given the fascinating grand tour by owners Julie and Ike Lovelass, who also own local eatery, The Owego Kitchen. As Julie began to describe the importance of this historic building and the female trailblazer for whom it is named, she actually became a little choked up. It’s my experience, any venture entered into with this level of passion is bound to deliver a care and experience beyond compare. It so touched me, I’ve watched in delight from afar as they’ve opened their doors for business, hosted special events and created one of a kind moments for locals and visitors alike. I simply cannot wait to return and see, in person, all that’s been accomplished!

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Excitement to build something meaningful and new! Next stop, what do you get when a couple of restaurant industry pros have the opportunity to purchase a basement level eatery that then proceeds to flood three times in three years causing them to purchase the historic building in which it’s located, renovate and move to higher ground? Flexibility! And…some pretty delicious food. Whether it’s adapting their location or their menu to accommodate a gluten-free awakening, the family-owned The Cellar Restaurant & Bar is up for the challenge. I loved their welcoming atmosphere, obvious care and, certainly not to be overlooked by all the charm, THE FOOD!

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All the doggone adorable! One of my favorite things to do in any town I’ve never visited before is to just walk around and look at it. I know the words “quaint” and “charming” can sometimes have a negative, belittling connotation, but not in this case. Owego is just downright beautiful to look at!

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In addition to the finds I’ve mentioned here, there’s so much more to see and do in Owego! I was fascinated by the Tioga County Historical Society Museum and the treasures within.

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I was drawn in by the street-piped live music and perfect for mid-September pumpkin bar at Carol’s Coffee & Art Bar.

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I was deliciously tempted by local craft beer from The Farmhouse Brewery.

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So here’s my little reminder/small message for today. There are so many undiscovered and incredible places in our vast world. When you have the opportunity to explore somewhere new, whether big or small, sometimes it’s fun to stay with the road less-traveled because often times it will stay with you too.

This article was written in partnership with Experience Tioga. The views and opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s, based on personal experiences when travelling, and are honest and factual without any bias.

 

Corning, New York: A Glass Slipper, Liquid Shoes and my New Pair of Boots

Rookie mistake! After a long stretch of work travel and deadlines too numerous to count, I throw together the suitcase for my much-anticipated trip to Corning, New York, and Finger Lakes Wine Country. I’m off and on my way without so much as a glance at the weather report. Straight to bed after a late-night arrival at Elmira Corning Regional Airport (ELM), I awake to explore what I find to be an unseasonably cold and rainy September morning. But, as the affable Bob Ross used to say, there are no mistakes only “happy accidents.” Having brought along only ballet flats, and my first step out the front door of my hotel being directly into a puddle; my first expedition in New York? “Siri, find the closest shoe store!” In pursuit of warmer footwear, I’m led through the charming and picturesque streets of downtown; past cafes and galleries, public art and museums, all calling out to me to return when appropriately shod.

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Upon acquiring my toasty and waterproof boots at the handy-dandy Bass Outlet Store, I dive back into exploring; ducking in and out of storefronts, bouncing between the warmth of local shopkeepers and the cool drizzle outside. As I continue down East Market Street, located in the heart of Corning, a smartly dressed silver-haired gentleman steps out of one of the many art galleries along my path and quickly makes the usual weather-related quip, “My, what a lovely day we’re having.” I make some silly retort in agreement with this assessment of the day and we quickly strike up a conversation about what has brought us both to this little corner of the world (my travels, his art.) We snag a seat at the local coffee shop, Soul Full Cup; a great cup of coffee, homey atmosphere and tremendously friendly staff serve for the perfect backdrop for two strangers to share their life stories. I check my watch and realize it’s time to head off to the Corning Museum of Glass, where I have a prescheduled glassmaking experience to get to. My new friend, Dudley, walks me there.

Arriving at Corning Museum of Glass, I am taken aback by not only how diverse and extensive their collection is, but by the fact something this impressive resides in such a small community. I’m also painfully aware of my own ignorance of the vast possibilities in glass art. Oh sure, I’ve been wooed by the romance of kaleidoscope-colored stained glass at dusk, but THIS is something entirely different. My head spins trying to take in everything! There are light installations, history of glass exhibits, demos for days, furniture, animals and clothing made from glass and, yes, even a glass slipper (because, required). Some art exhibits I can only describe as “moods”. Like this work below; perhaps my favorite of the day.

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Carroña (Carrion), Javier Perez

I embark on my Make Your Own Glass experience. I’m just gonna say it, my instructor is an angel. She not only tolerates my inner-perfectionist second guessing each and every move I make but continually encourages me to press on and prevents me from getting in my own way of creating something amazing. This was hot molten therapy, people. I cannot recommend it enough!

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I proudly display my beautiful flower we created together on this day.

Parched from my time as a hardworking glass artist perched in front of the glassforming fire, it’s time to make my way back into town in search of a frosty beverage. The large, open, front window of Liquid Shoes Brewing allows the chatter inside to serve as Pied Piper, leading me to where the cool kids are hangin’. Sure they’ve got great beer here, I had the American Blonde Ale, but they’ve also got that effortlessly-cool vibe thing going on. As this fun-filled day fades into a delightful evening spent with the aforementioned raucous imbibing masses, it’s time to call it a night. I head toward my home for the week, the ultra-convenient not to mention brand-spanking-new, Hilton Garden Inn Corning Downtown. As I walk along, I think about new friends, new art and new memories made possible, at least in part, by my new pair of boots.

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