Woke up early this morning to the sun and sparkling waters of Lake Champlain. We headed down to the harbour to check it out before heading to The Spot for breakfast. This little local dive, open to the outside from within, serves a tasty breakfast in a surf shack that is someplace between California and Polynesia. Surf company stickers, thatched awnings, palm trees, surf boards, leis, tiki carvings and a tropical fish tank, lend a bright, light-hearted, casual vibe. Chairs are comfy and there is a large patio.
I order the Ole burrito with chorizo, eggs, cheddar, red onion, black beans. A small bottle of no-name, mild hot sauce, fresh guacamole and sour cream come on the side. Rob ordered a “make-your-own” omelette, given the array of great looking ingredients. He asked for chorizo, banana peppers, avocado and cheddar, with a side of cafe potatoes and rye toast.
Coffee and orange juice arrives first. The coffee is, well, horrible. Undrinkable really. OJ is from a carton. The Spot really could upgrade their drinks. Our breakfasts arrive next. The Ole is a beauty to behold. Eggy filling is divided between two nicely charred flour tortillas. The chorizo is abundant and flavourful, and the eggs are well scrambled and delicious. A very good breakfast “taco”. I found the serving size is really a bit too large. One taco was sufficient.
Rob’s omelette was tangy with spice and the avocado and cheese tempered the heat with creamier coolness. A perfect combo. Accompanying small red potatoes were cooked on the flat top and seasoned with a spice mix, and the rye toast was cut thick. A great breakfast all in all.
The green mountain state of Vermont is picturesque, dotted with small farms and homesteads in the valleys. The mountain roads are cut through walls of shiny black shale, veined with copper coloured rock. I-89 is not cluttered with box stores and billboards.
At some point we cross unknowingly into New Hampshire. There is no sign to welcome us and we are denied a photo of a huge “Live Free Or Die”. We will have to be satisfied with the mega liquor store that is planted at all access points to the state. We get off the highway in Manchester…major miscalculation. We thought we could grab a quick bite, but the entire town was under construction. After fooling Stella, our GPS into taking a detour to avoid the mess she was trying to lead us back into – we are back on the road. Soon we have the option of getting off the interstate and on to Route 1, a pleasant meandering drive through coastal Maine.
We hit gold right away. Rob spies a seafood shack roadside. 3 Buoys Seafood Shanty and Grille. So glad we waited out New Hampshire. We exit the car and stretch. 3 Buoys, a perfect dive shack, done up in nouveau fishing boat chic delivers exactly what we are looking for.
A homemade seaside business serving up fresh seafood. With the Olympics on the flatie, or should I say, the all-American games and some other teams of little or no interest, we order Blue Moons, clam strips and lobster rolls.
The clam strips are lightly seasoned and well fried. Not greasy. I pass on the tartar sauce. I was raised to eat them with ketchup like a good maritime Canadian.
The lobster rolls come with home made fries. The fries are hand cut but the oil wasn’t hot enough. They are just ok. The lobster rolls. The lobster rolls. Wow. Hot dog bun, split, buttered and made toasty good on the flat top, stuffed, really stuffed – with lobster lightly dressed with mayo. Washed down with Blue Moon beer, it was exactly what the moment called for. The perfect storm. I cannot get it out of my mind. I will have another somewhere on our journey tomorrow. There is no shortage of shacks along the way.
Route 1 to Portland takes us past classic New England towns, bustling with tourists and residents this Monday. We past small resorts, old school motels with turquoise cement pools, cafes, patios, clapboard houses with colourful shutters and antique stores. Nice to see the occasional Canadian and pride flags amongst the American. Past the little towns of Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport and Arundel, on to campgrounds and cottage country and finally into Portland, Maine. We settle in for a bit and decide on J’s Oyster for a late dinner. Portland has so many places of interest for dining but we have only one night here. J’s comes to us from Roadfood.com.
The oysterhouse is a three minute walk from our hotel so we set out on foot and explore a bit. J’s is right on the commercial wharf, which means seedy – but fresh. They do not take reservations and even though it is late on a Monday evening, we face a 30 to 40 minute wait. We take a seat on the windy dockside. There is patio seating but the night is quite cool, so we wait it out.
Eventually we are called and seated. J’s is dimly lit. The entire center of the room is occupied by the bar. There is seating around much of it. This is authentic wharf dive bar classic. Paper placemats with important lobster facts printed on them appear in front of us along with cheap cutlery. There is no water on the table and if you want rolls, you ask for them. Our waitress drops by with menus and we order Rolling Rocks to start. For apps we decide to share the garlic bread and crab and bacon stuffed mushroom caps. The caps are garlicky and have both a lot of crab and bacon.
I however seem to have developed an aversion to any meat paired with bacon. I love bacon. I love crab. I did not like the flavour combination. I believe though that the fault lies with me. The garlic bread was however, amazing. BEST EVER. A white hot dog bun split, spread with garlic butter and chives, then toasted on the flat top. Chewy, steamy, garlicky. Cheese on garlic bread only complicates things.
For our mains, I get the lobster pernod and Rob opts for the lobster scampi. My dinner arrives. Large chunks of lobster meat are lightly sauteed with mushrooms and cream with a dash of pernod, and served over linguine pasta. The lobster is wonderful and there is lots of it. I appreciate the light hand with the pernod but if I were to make this dish at home I would bump it up a bit because I love anise.
Rob’s lobster scampi was rich with butter, garlic, bell peppers and lobster. The luxurious and garlicky butter sauce was used as bread dip for both of us.
Both of our meals came with well made but completely unnecessary coleslaw. All in all, dinner at J’s was excellent, a great end to a long day of travel. We walked back along the harbourfront to our hotel, ready to make plans for tomorrow.