July 18, 2013

TRAVELIN' MAINE(RS): Fine dinner, fine art

George and Linda Smith

When we were invited to tour the expanded Colby Museum of Art, it gave us an opportunity to combine fine art with a fine dinner at Waterville's 18 Below.

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IF YOU GO . . .

Colby Museum of Art
Colby College campus, Waterville
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Visitor parking is available adjacent to the museum.
The museum is free and open to the public.

18 Below

18 Silver St., Waterville
No reservations.
Dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
You can enjoy a drink in the gorgeous upstairs lounge if you have to wait for a table.


The quote on the front of the stunning addition to Colby's already-impressive Museum of Art said it all for me: "The museum is a school; the artist learns to communicate; the public learns to make connections."

I wish, as a writer, I could communicate this well. But I was able to make the connections that move you from one work of art to another and from room to room to room. This place is so big you might need your GPS unit to find the exit.

Frederick Fisher, a California architect who designed this beautiful glass Alford-Lunder Family Pavilion, was on hand for our tour. His explanation of how light played a major role in the design was fascinating. Inside, the natural light changes with the time of day and seasons. And in each room, the amount of natural light is paired appropriately with the art exhibited there.

The major expansion of the museum was made possible by a very generous donation from Peter and Paula Lunder, including $100 million of art comprised of more than 500 works.

Lest you be as unsophisticated about art as I am, let me assure you that not only is this worth seeing, the collection is certain to wow you into becoming a regular visitor to the museum. The works by famous artists are certainly impressive, and you will undoubtedly recognize the names -- from Winslow Homer to Alex Katz, Georgia O'Keefe to James McNeill Whistler, Rockwell Kent to Norman Rockwell.

You won't be surprised to learn that I most admired a painting of Mount Katahdin from the West Branch of the Penobscost (one of my favorite fishing spots), an Ansel Adams photo of western mountains, Frederick Remington's "Buffalo Hunt" in the "Man's World" room, William Michael Harnett's "After the Hunt," a huge painting of a canoe by Alex Katz and a collection of weathervanes.

And the man playing cards, artist Duane Hanson's father, at a table in the second room we visited, is so lifelike that at first glance, I thought he was real. It will be something you'll never forget. The typewriter eraser and clothespin are other works that will make you smile.

Dinner at 18 Below will also make you smile. Since first writing about this great Waterville restaurant, coming up now on its second anniversary, we've been delighted by the number of readers and friends who have eaten here and raved about it. And they were right to rave.

It was a long time from November 2012 to last Friday night to wait for more of 18 Below's fabulous Prince Edward Island Mussels, sauteed with Shipyard Export Ale, shallots, garlic, tomatoes and orange wedges. But they were worth waiting for. Priced at $10, the huge portion could easily have been my meal -- and half of them were, the next day!

Our server, Steve, impressed us once again when he remembered what we'd ordered last year. We were even more impressed with his superb attention to every detail of our meal, including offering us samples of wine before we selected a bottle, and bringing out an appetizer for us to look at and photograph. As we discussed the entree specials with Steve, one really jumped out at me: Toasted pistachio crusted fresh mahi mahi, served with saffron rice, fresh broccoli and spicy mango coulis priced at $24.

When I described the sauce as "flavorful" Lin laughed at me. Then I asked her where the coulis was on my plate. More laughter. Of course, the coulis was the sauce.

(Continued on page 2)

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