These days, with the rise of gastro-tourism, people are experiencing culinary journeys to places far and near. With it, foodie vacations are on the rise. That bodes well for Maine. The ‘Pine Tree State’ has long been known as “Vacationland’ for its natural beauty. Glacier-carved lakes, rolling mountains, deep forests, and a majestic, rugged coastline have drawn visitors for generations. Now you can add to that list what Mainers already know. People everywhere are fast discovering the state as a culinary destination—a veritable foodie vacation paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie vacationer or a vacationer in search of foodie experiences, here are five culinary destinations to help in planning an itinerary as you weave your way down east. Bon appétit, and enjoy your culinary adventure!
Elda. Biddeford, Maine.
First up is Elda. Named in homage to award-winning Chef Bowman Brown’s great-grandmother, this gem of a restaurant is located on Main Street in Biddeford. The menu is driven by season and sourcing and draws its inspiration from coastal Maine. Noted for the food, atmosphere, and service, foodie’s will not be disappointed by the variety on the menu that showcases the region. Norumbega Oysters, Grilled Squid, or Rhubarb Mousse, are but a few of the dishes you may find on Elda’s ever-changing fare, along with their craft cocktail program designed to tailor the seasonal menu.
Drifter’s Wife. Portland, Maine.
No doubt seasoned foodies will find plenty of choices in Maine’s largest city, Portland, only a few miles further north from Biddeford up I-95. One recommendation at the top of the list is Drifter’s Wife. You’ll find it on Washington Avenue, a few blocks away from the historic Old Port. Nationally recognized for its excellent wines and Chef Ben Jackson’s imaginative food, Drifter’s Wife was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant award in 2017. The menu changes daily and includes dishes such as Seafood Stew and Poached Tuna, and some of the best pours of biodynamic and organic wine throughout the region.
Taverna Khione. Brunswick, Maine.
The next stop on your foodie vacation is Taverna Khione on Mill Street in Brunswick. Taverna serves authentic Greek fare in an intimate space. Chef Marc Provencher’s take on Greek cuisine is like a culinary tour through the Greek countryside. You’ll find such dishes as cuttlefish stew, or grilled octopus over fava, common in Santorini. Hearty dishes, such as braised goat with molasses, carrots, and couscous, come from the northern area of the country. Baked fennel fritters with feta and mint originating from the Island of Tinos. The menu highlights local and seasonal, and the Taverna Khione wine list is one of the largest all-Greek wine lists in the United States, honored by Wine & Spirits magazine August 2016 issue.
Natalie’s. Camden, Maine.
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The further down east you travel the more enchanting your food vacation will become. The next stop is Camden, the jewel of the mid-Maine coast. Long known for its rugged beauty, you will not be disappointed by the picturesque harbor town. In Camden, the mountains meet the sea, and it is where you’ll find Natalie’s award-winning restaurant. Located within the friendly confines of the Camden Harbour Inn, Natalie’s is not only one of the best dining experiences in Maine but throughout the entire region. Whether dining on Rabbit Cannelloni or Maine scallops, Natalie’s team of Executive Chefs Chris Long and Shelby Stevens have created seasonal menus infused with a taste of local Maine farms and fishermen, combined with culinary influences from around the world.
Havana! Bar Harbour, Maine.
Travel further down east to Mount Desert Island, and the last stop you’d expect to find on your foodie vacation is a taste of Havana! But there it is—Havana—serving up American cuisine with a Latin flair on Main Street in beautiful Bar Harbor. From the time it opened its door 20 years ago, the restaurant made a commitment to serve organic meats, humanely raised without steroids, antibiotics, or hormones; organic produce; and sustainably harvested seafood largely from the Gulf of Maine. Whether it’s a Seafood Paella of lobster, mussels, shrimp, scallops, chorizo, tomatoes, peppers, and smoked chicken, or steamed mussels in tequila harvested in Frenchmen’s Bay, or a Mandala Farms baby spinach salad, you’ll not be disappointed with Havana’s locally and regionally sourced foods.