Friday, December 13, 2013
George and Linda Smith
A foot-stomping, hand-clapping, body-swaying good time at Skye Theater in Carthage helped us work off (sort of) another great dinner at Calzolaio Pasta Company in Wilton.
AMC's wilderness lodges offer great adventures
The Appalachian Mountain Club’s three sporting camps, in the group’s 66,000-acre wilderness east of Greenville, offers outdoor adventures for all, from neophyte snowshoers to experienced grouse hunters.
Two winters ago Linda and I enjoyed — and wrote about — a winter trip to AMC’s Gorman Chairback Camps. A few weeks ago I visited AMC’s Little Lyford Camps to catch native brook trout.
John Boland, who retired this year from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, joined me to fish remote walk-in ponds settled below mountain peaks and surrounded by a splendid array of fall colors. The small trout ponds that are spread all over AMC’s property are well-managed treasures, and they have canoes stashed on them.
John and I picked out a pond at the foot of a mountain, hiked in and enjoyed a memorable day of non-stop catching. Many of the trout bore their gorgeous fall spawning colors.
You might think that the camps of the AMC would be full of hikers, but that week nearly everyone at Little Lyford was there to fish. Some had been fishing here for many years — although I didn’t run into anyone who’d visited the first year the camps were built: 1874. Understandable, really.
Every angler at the camps was eager to give us tips on where and how to fish, as was AMC’s professional staff, and we appreciated that. John started his fisheries career in this region, so it was fun to hear his stories about some of these waters.
Our cabin was rustic and comfortable with an indoor faucet and wood stove, and an outhouse a short distance away (some of the cabins at Gorman Chairback have indoor plumbing if you must have it). Little Lyford also has a nice bathhouse and a beautiful lodge where they serve exceptional meals. AMC members can get a bed in the bunkhouse and three meals for just $66 a day, while the price of $83 for nonmembers is still a bargain. There are nine cabins available, also with three meals a day, for $102/day for members and $123/day for nonmembers.
For the first time this year, AMC welcomed dogs to Little Lyford throughout the season, making this a fantastic place to hunt grouse and woodcock, away from the road hunters that dominate the sport in northern Maine. There are lots of side roads and trails where grouse hunters can enjoy this sport with their friends and dogs. I’ve gotta go back!
IF YOU GO . . .
APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB
Reservations: 603-466-2727 or online
Calzolaio and Skye Theater are two of our favorite places, both within short drives of our Mount Vernon home. It was especially great to enjoy this evening with our friends Tom and Shelley Doak, of Readfield, and introduce them to these great places. Calzolaio, located in the old Bass shoe factory in downtown Wilton, has been our special restaurant since well before we began writing these travel columns.
The Doaks had celebrated their anniversary the night before at a well-known, high-end expensive Portland restaurant and said the food at Calzolaio was far better. They were very impressed. Shelley had actually eaten lunch at Calzolaio in June.
So we weren't surprised when our server, Rachel, recognized Shelley. If there is a more personable and professional server in a Maine restaurant, we have not met her or him in the 21/2 years we've been traveling the state for our column.
Rachel not only remembered just about everything Linda and I have eaten in the last couple of years at Calzolaio, she'd given a lot of thought to what we should eat! While we initially had decided to share a salad, Rachel insisted we try the antipasto. It was sooo good!
After she told me she'd asked the chef to put Cioppino on the menu especially for me, I was hooked, even though I had been looking forward to either the eggplant parm or the veal saltimbocca, my favorites here. I took Rachel's advice and was so glad I did.
I've eaten a lot of seafood chowders and stews this summer along the coast, but this presentation was very different and very tasty. It was full of fresh mussels, clams, haddock and baby shrimp, in a delicious broth and served with grilled crostini.
Skye Theater is amazing. And the Crossroads International Celtic Festival was even more amazing, presenting five days of special events and spectacular musical performances in mid-September. The Festival featured 100 performers and 18 concerts in 15 western Maine towns. World-class musicians and performers were here from Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and across the United States.
Alas, we only made it to one of the concerts, but it had to be one of the festival's best -- the Acadian Showcase. Phil McIntyre, who organized the festival and constructed his Skye Theater's gorgeous concert hall in a large industrial building between Wilton and Dixfield, promised we'd love these four groups and we did. We also brought some of their music home on CDs. I'm listening to La Viree's Levons nos verres right now. Can you hear my foot stomping? They even had us singing in French!
Some people are in the know of great music or art that perhaps the rest of us just aren't aware of. I love live music but don't search out venues on a regular basis. Phil McIntyre is one of the people in the know where Celtic music is concerned. His vision of the Skye Theater proves this. The Celtic Colors Festival in Cape Breton was his inspiration and he (along with others) has worked for a decade to bring this to Maine. Four days of music at 18 venues is a pretty big undertaking.
We attended the Acadian Showcase performance which was incredible. Three groups from Canada and one from Maine performed, showcasing music I was not familiar with. Many songs were in French, but we loved the music even if we didn't understand exactly the words! Amazing musicians and great voices played for a couple hours. It was so great that we will be looking forward to next year's festival with a goal of attending more performances.
Dinner out at Calzolaio is consistently great and it's an evening I find myself looking forward to. This, of course, includes lots of thought. Which of their amazing dishes will I have? I had about a dozen more eggplants waiting to harvest in our hoophouse and had been cooking many eggplant dishes, so I had already ruled out my favorite entree here.
Sure enough, Rachel asked me right off if I was having the eggplant parmigiana. What a memory this server has! The Porcini Sachetti was something I hadn't tried yet. Two types of mushrooms sauteed with fresh vegetables like zucchini, corn and spinach were combined with pasta bundles filled with porcini mushrooms. A Marsala sauce made this a much lighter dish than a cream sauce would have. Flavors popped with every bite.
When we told Rachel we'd share a salad, she politely suggested that we really should try the antipasto plate. She was working hard to get us to expand our rather limited tasting of Calzolaio's menu. What came out was an impressively large plate of sliced meats and cheeses, marinated mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, marinated fresh artichokes (prepared here) and roasted peppers. This beautiful presentation looks like it will fill you to the brim, but actually is very light. The thinly sliced meats and fresh or pickled vegetables really wake up your taste buds. It is a display of fine Italian ingredients and far more than you'd get in Italy.
We had a great time visiting with the Doaks and appreciated the ambiance of this special restaurant. There is enough room between tables to allow conversation without having to be loud. Shelly enjoyed the pork tenderloin, remarking that it was perfectly cooked and savory with a sweet blackberry and blueberry sauce.
What I took away from our experience was this: George and I need to get out of our rut ordering the same dishes here. Everything I've ever had here is amazing. Oh yeah, and trust Rachel implicitly.
IF YOU GO . . .
Calzolaio Pasta Company
G.H. Bass Building
284 Main St., Wilton
Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Friday and Saturday). There is still time to sit on the outside deck, but we love the restaurant’s back interior room. It’s gorgeous.
Winter Hill Road, Carthage
Concerts are on Wednesday nights, with workshops and special events at other times.
Tickets are just $15. Come prepared to sing, stomp and whoop it up!
Visit George's website -- georgesmithmaine.com -- for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin' Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the "Best of Maine" section.
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