I blame it on my “sphere of activity”, a convenient phrase I use to describe routine daily movement whether it be back and forth to work, hitting the grocery store, or even taking day trips. We fall into a pattern of convenience and familiarity…which makes perfect sense for doing everyday tasks. But for travel and vacations, this can be very limiting indeed. Living here in New England most of my life, I can count on 3 fingers how many times I’ve visited the strikingly large state of Maine…large for New England that is. But this changed last week when I visited mid-coast Maine’s Rockland.
I’m betting that if you’re not a foodie, travel writer, or local tourism board staffer, you had no idea that Rockland Maine is also known as Pie Town USA. About an hour drive from I-295 winding down mostly rural Route 1, you quite suddenly arrive in an historic village overlooking the rocky shores of Penobscot Bay. My January visit, coinciding with the 8th Annual Pies on Parade was a much different experience than visiting during summer when Windjammer tours continually set sail just offshore, fresh caught lobster is celebrated with another more widely known Lobster Festival, and the ocean’s beauty attracts droves of sea
kayakers, fishing enthusiasts, and all-around fun-in-the-sun junkies.
For a town with a main street that can be driven through in 5 minutes, Rockland boasts an impressive array of eclectic restaurants and cultural attractions that put other typical mid-size towns to shame. The secret is historic preservation which enables the Farnsworth Art Museum‘s extensive collections to be showcased alongside local shops like Rock City Coffee Roasters and the Grasshopper
Shop. These solid multi-story brick blocks are punctuated by side streets leading to residential streets studded with stately Victorian homes, some of which are now magnificent B&Bs. I was lucky to be a guest at the Limerock Inn which was a Pies on Parade participant serving their signature key lime pie tartlets. The other 20 “parade” stops were all within walking distance of each other offering both a sweet and savory pie.
As I made my way from Amalfi on the Water all the way up to the Berry Manor Inn armed with an officially stamped recycled metal fork, I discovered that this was not only a great way to sample a ton of delicious pies ranging from classic Maine blueberry to seafood and German onion pie, but the perfect opportunity to taste a restaurant or inn’s cuisine and meet the owners behind the inspiration. It would be impossible to accomplish this under normal circumstances.
Sometimes the pie theme was skewed a bit to accommodate eateries who didn’t have anything resembling pie on the menu like the deconstructed chicken tamale with red mole at Park Street Grille and the turkey & sweet potato empanadas at Rheal Day Spa.
My absolute favorite pie was Café Miranda’s Apple and Mascarpone Pizza on Cocoa Dough. This small bistro with a gigantically diverse menu helmed by Chef Kerry has an open kitchen behind the bar and a wood-fired brick oven that really gives life and substance to pizza crust…not to mention the huge chunks of Focaccia bread served in baskets at each table during regular restaurant hours. I highly recommend that you table your usual ski vacation next winter and book a weekend Pies on Parade package with one of the Historic Inns of Rockland.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky and Lime Rock Inn. Coverage made possible courtesy of a partially sponsored trip.