Woke up to, sigh, yet another sunny, warm day. We walk to breakfast at The Porthole on the wharf, taking in the sea air, which truth be told, is a little fishy scented. The wharf of which I speak is the same one where we ate last night. There are nice stores and tourist boutiques in the area but the wharf itself is beautiful in it’s fight to survive nature and all she throws at the structures that dare. Thankfully the wharf has not been Disneyfied. It is dilapidated and could use a coat of paint but that would raise prices and take away the charm. This morning there are a few puddles in the uneven cobbles and merchants going about early business.
The Porthole is distressed to say the least on the outside, but inside it is warm and inviting though not busy this Tuesday morning. A long copper topped bar runs the length of a large kitchen, fronted with empty stools. A few patrons are enjoying breakfast on the large patio. We decide to sit inside by the open window and enjoy the ambiance inside. Featured on the walls are folk art paintings and some antique signage, a piano and very old jukebox fill corners.
OJ is not fresh squeezed but it is amazing what a lot of ice does to improve it. No coffee today. Trying to forget yesterday’s coffee. Menus arrive and the choice is easy. I often get bored with the classic breakfast offerings, but when I see an egg and braised pork belly sandwich with kimchi, I am having it. Read no further. Rob orders the same and we split a side of cheese grits.
Our sandwiches come with potatoes that at first look disappointing, as we use potatoes as a measure by which to judge a breakfast joint. Don’t be deceived by looks though. The potatoes looked like those distressing deep fried cubes of ruined spuds but they are just fresh and hard pan fried in a lot of fat. They are excellent. Our Porthole Special Breakfast, a well made omlette of egg with scallions folded onto buttered toasty bread with American cheese all melty and gooey, with braised porkbelly, the fat cut with spicy kimchi, topped with more buttered toast is divine.
The grits are well made and peppery and have enough cheese to make them creamy but not taste of cheese, but they don’t rate belly space when faced with a sandwich of that magnificence.
Back on the road again we have to backtrack a bit and find ourselves back in New Hampshire. What a difference between Maine and the Live Free or Die State. When you have low taxes and no sales tax there is not a lot of civic pride in evidence. Sorry, New Hampshire but your charms are lost on me to date.
Today we are traveling to Boston via Essex and Salem. We sail into Essex, MA along Route 1. We are stopping at the renown Woodman’s for lunch. It is unassuming, well… for a large seafood shack in Massachusetts bedecked in flags.
You line up and order from a chalkboard menu, go to a separate line and get drinks, in this case, a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Beer, and find a seat to wait for your number to come up.
Our meal arrives in a box top and take out containers. Absolutely decadent, over stuffed lobster rolls on eggy, griddled buns served with potato chips, and the most perfect, sweet, lightly battered and fried sea scallops and clam cake. One look at the picture of the lobster roll and you will die just a bit because you are not here. I have never had scallops that fresh and perfectly made.
The clam cake well…it is what it is. A savory “donut” with chopped clam in the batter with barely discernible clam flavour. This is a regional specialty that I would pass on when you could have THIS lobster roll. Just sayin’.
Oh yeah…the Sam Adams was a great wheat beer with only a nice hint of cherry. Rob and I came up with some weird flavour profiles to describe it but while accurate, they didn’t sound that appetizing and we both enjoyed the beer, so we gave up. And so, after an epic seafood orgy of Caligulan proportions, we decide to visit a little 17th-century graveyard which features the graves of several Revolutionary War veterans.
Onward to Salem, Ma where we visited the water front which is in preparations for a large Maritime Festival beginning tomorrow. We explore the tourist traps a bit. Salem is very halloweeny this time of year and has extended its brand to include magic, wizards, faeries and pirates. Tsk, tsk.
We continue on to Boston where we will spend three days. The entire drive today has been a pretty saunter through quaint New England, past clapboard and shingled homes, saltboxes and Victorians, past deep blue hydrangeas, flamingo- pink summer phlox, black-eyed Susans, cleome, Rose of Sharon and gaily-coloured window boxes, past neat pickets, rustic rail and solid stone fences. And flags.