Rockland, Maine – The Little Town That Could

Monday, July 5th, 2010 | Posted by Tom Plant

It was cold and rainy when we took off from Portland., which isn’t that unusual for June in New England. Our group boarded a stretch Cadillac Escalade limo for the just under two hour drive to Rockland. Jim Gamage is the owner and founder of All Aboard Trolley & Limousine and he did a great job keeping us informed and entertained along the way. We were hosted by the Historic Inns of Rockland and were dropped off at four different inns: the Berry Manor Inn, the Captain Lindsey House, Granite Inn and the Limerock Inn. I checked into the Limerock, visited with my hosts and now friends, PJ and Frank, grabbed my umbrella and took the short walk to the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center.

I’ve long admired the work of Andrew Wyeth, but being close enough to touch it is a humbling experience. The Farnsworth is a grand museum and I spent some quality time there, soaking up the works of the Wyeths: Andrew, N.C. and Jamie as well as a stunning exhibit of  Arnold Newman’s photography.  I paid a visit to the lovingly restored home of the museum’s original benefactor, Lucy Farnsworth, and the headed back to the inn to get ready for dinner.

It amazes me that a town with a population of 8,000 has so much to offer. The downtown is loaded with charm and there are more excellent restaurants than you can begin to imagine. Frank drove me to the newly opened The Pearl. Jimmy Fanning greeted us and invited us to try everything. We did. Oh my goodness. Oysters, clams, lobster, tuna tartare, mussels, shrimp scampi, crab cakes and so much more. It was hard for us to conceive this restaurant had barely been open a week! You’ve got to love their slogan: “The fresher you are, the funner we get!”

Jimmy Fanning

Tuna Tartare

Raw Bar

I stayed in the Limerock Inn’s Turret Room, so named because it’s in one of the inn’s turrets. Frank and PJ decided early on to divide duties according to what they would least object to doing. Luckily for the inn’s guests, Frank has taken over the kitchen and his breakfasts are phenomenal. A visit to the Maine Lighthouse Museum was our first order of business for the day. 5,300 miles of waterfront make up the coastline of Maine and more than 60 lighthouses shine brightly in an effort to keep ships safe from peril. It’s a fascinating visit loaded with artifacts.

From the Maine Lighthouse Museum

All Aboard Trolley

The Pie Lady at Berry Manor Inn

Rockland’s Historic Inns sponsor the annual Pies On Parade and our group was treated to a mini version of this incredible event. Bobby Flay named Rockland “Pie Town USA” on a visit there and it’s not hard to understand why. Each of the four inns had one sweet and one savory pie for us to taste. We started at the Limerock Inn where Frank Isganitis kicked things off with a Pizza Rustica, a deep dish pie with mortadella, mozzarella, prosciutto and ham. For the sweet, he served us a mouth watering Key Lime Pie. The Pie Lady and W. Chuck were awaiting us at the Berry Manor Inn. Innkeeper Cheryl Michaelson took us on a tour of this charming inn. A surprise was in store for us as we entered one of the bathrooms.

At the end of the tour, Cheryl’s husband Mike, adorned in his pie cap, visited with us while we enjoyed a goat cheese, spinach and mushroom baked egg pie followed by a fresh raspberry pie. With four pies down and four to go, we took off for the Captain Lindsey House where Ken and Ellen Barnes showed us their magnificent B & B and served us Chicken Pot Pie with Fleur de Lys and a chicken baked into the crust. This was followed by what had to be the prettiest fresh fruit tart I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Our final stop of this mini Pies On Parade was at the Granite Inn. Ed and Joan Hantz welcomed us into the most contemporary of the four inns. It’s light and airy and overlooks Rockland’s harbor. A lobster pie was followed by mini lemon tarts. It’s heartwarming to see the camaraderie between these fellow innkeepers and it’s a sense you get when you visit any of the businesses in Rockland.

Limerock Inn

Frank Isganitis & PJ Walter

Pizza Rustica at Limerock Inn

Frank's Key Lime Pie at Limerock Inn

Cheryl Michaelson at Berry Manor Inn

One of the suites at Berry Manor Inn

Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Baked Eggs at Berry Manor

Spinach, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Baked Eggs

Raspberry Pie at Berry Manor

Mike "Pie Head" Michaelson at Berry Manor

Ellen & Ken Barnes at Captain Lindsey House

Captain Lindsey House

Chicken Pot Pie at Captain Lindsey House

Fresh Fruit Tart from Captain Lindsey House

Ed Hantz and Zack at the Old Granite Inn

Old Granite Inn

Guest Room at Old Granite Inn

Kitchen/Dining Room at Old Granite Inn

Granite Inn's Lobster Pie

With our appetites sated (okay, we were stuffed!) we made our way to Rockland’s Sail, Power and Steam Museum. Jim Sharp has poured his love of the maritime industry into this fascinating place. Scale models, tools, engines and paraphernalia of all sorts fill the various halls and Captain Jim is the ultimate tour guide. I purchased a copy of Captain Jim’s book “With Reckless Abandon“, had him sign it and then took a quick walk around.

Captain Jim Sharp

That evening, the Historic Inns of Rockland and various other businesses treated us to a reception at John Stowe’s Rustica, Cucina Italiana restaurant. Atlantic Baking Company, Cafe Miranda, In Good Company, Lily Bistro, Park Street Grille, Fiore Olive Oils, Geary Brewing Company, Cold River Vodka,  Amalfi On The Water, Sweet Grass Winery, Cellar Door Winery, Savage Oakes Winery and others put out a spread fit for royalty. I had my first taste of wine made with grapes grown in Maine and I looked forward with eager anticipation to the winery visits in the days ahead.

Lily Bistro

Atlantic Baking Company

Cafe Miranda

John Stowe of Rustica, Cucina Italiana with Stephanie

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Comments

  1. Maralyn D Hill says: July 5, 2010

    Tom,

    This is an exceptional story on Rockland and all it has to offer.

  2. Marti says: July 5, 2010

    OMG! You make Rockland sound so wonderful! Love the photos too!!

  3. Tom Plant says: July 5, 2010

    Thanks so much, Maralyn. I can’t wait to go back!

  4. Tom Plant says: July 5, 2010

    It was easy, Marti. I love Rockland.

  5. Linda Kissam says: July 5, 2010

    Great article and pixs Tom. You captured the essence of the first part of the trip so well. Look forward to more.

    PS If this gig doesn’t work out, I think you could start a side business of photographing people in unusual hats.

  6. Tom Plant says: July 6, 2010

    Thanks, Linda – you like the hat pictures, eh? I have a really good one of you in an unusual hat :-)

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