November 21, 2012

TRAVELIN' MAINE(RS): Indian food and Winslow Homer A GREAT COMBINATION

George and Linda Smith

Our friend Jim Pinfold said South Portland's Taj has "the best Indian food in Maine." He spends a lot of time in India, so he should know.

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THE FAMILY: Mom and chef Sailatha Guntake with her sons Paul, left, and Sai.

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Freeport’s Harraseeket Inn still high on our list

An overnight stay at Freeport’s Harraseeket Inn, to enjoy an election-night celebration nearby, reminded me of all the things we love about this inn including its exceptional Maine Dining Room and Broad Arrow Tavern.

Unusual for inns these days, the Harraseeket includes some rooms with wood-burning fireplaces. They had my fire ready to go with paper and kindling, but I returned to the room too late to have a fire.
I was asleep seconds after my head hit the pillow on the huge and very comfortable bed. But I woke up ravenous and eagerly anticipating the Harraseeket’s amazing breakfast buffet. I’ve always been impressed that, in addition to an astonishing array of hot and cold foods, the buffet includes baked beans. Our daughter Rebekah, a key volunteer on the King campaign, joined me for breakfast.

Linda and I have written about the Harraseeket a number of times, giving it our “Best Sunday Brunch” award in 2011, and feasting in the Maine Dining Room during the month of  February when they offer a wonderful wild-game menu.

General Manager Chip Gray is a leader of Maine’s tourism industry and a fishing guide, and it’s always great to catch up with him on tourism issues — and swap fishing tales!

If you’ve never tried the creative culinary luncheon buffet in the Broad Arrow Tavern, wonderfully decorated with moose mounts and historic outdoor gear, treat yourself soon. I guarantee, after your first lunch in the tavern, you will never shop in Freeport again without eating here. — George

Harraseeket Inn, 162 Main St., Freeport, 800-342-6423

And Jim was soooo right! For an appetizer, we spent two hours at the Portland Museum of Art, enthralled by the Winslow Homer exhibit.



Winslow Homer said, "The life I have chosen gives me my full hours of enjoyment. The sun will not rise, or set, without my notice, and thanks."

Lin and I got a two full hours of enjoyment at "Weatherbeaten" -- an amazing collection of Homer's work at the Portland Museum of Art, billed as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view many of his most critically acclaimed masterpieces together."

That it is. And you must not miss it. This collection can be viewed through Dec. 30. Many of these works will not be seen in Maine again for a long time, and certainly will not be seen together. This is a rare opportunity.

I've always been drawn to Homer because he lived his life outdoors, and painted it. From crashing waves to foxes and geese, he recorded it all in etchings, oils and watercolors. Large and small, these works of art are stunning.

I was especially intrigued by the informative presentation available by cell phone as you stroll around the exhibit. After dialing in, I simply punched in the appropriate digit at each display for a fascinating history of the pieces of art I was viewing. Tours with a museum guide are also available.

There's a lot of information on the walls, including a chronological timeline of Homer's life and work in and out of Maine. We absorbed it all and learned a lot.

Don't miss the fourth floor, where four photographers were assigned 19th century techniques to use in photographing Homer's studio and surroundings. Fascinating.

The wide range of works on the second and third floors are tied nicely into his life and works, making the entire museum visit an immersion in all things Homer.

If you want more, you can really immerse yourself with a unique tour of Homer's Prouts Neck studio, recently restored and opened to the public.

I learned that Homer, whose studio was not insulated, would make plans to head south in the winter when the water froze in his studio bucket. My kind of guy!


When friends Alex Carter and Jim Pinfold found out that we were on the lookout for great restaurants and we love Indian food, they suggested their favorite place, Taj, in South Portland. Jim told us that it was an unassuming restaurant serving very authentic Indian cuisine.

Jim really wanted us to experience Southern Indian cuisine. So we were grateful that he took charge and ordered the meal that would give us a good idea of typical flavors.

But sometimes life sends you the unexpected, and this particular evening the Taj had a rather large assignment -- catering an Indian holiday meal for 300 people! (Originally scheduled for 100, it turned into about 500 people!) So one son raced back and forth with more food to the event, while the other son tried to serve a packed restaurant.

We ended up having a very delicious meal, albeit without Southern Indian cuisine. All of the Dosas, Bhel Puri and Uthappam had been made in large quantities and sent to the huge event. So we sampled a variety of vegetarian dishes from the northern region of India, and each and every one of them was full of the rich, delicate flavors that make me love Indian food so much.

Paneer, a homemade cheese, was something new for me. Our Paneer Tikka Masala was cooked in a tomato sauce with a bit of cream. My favorite entrée was Navaratan Khorma -- nine fresh vegetables in a spice-laced cream sauce. To go with all this we shared basmati rice as well as spiced rice called Veg Biryani.

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