The city of Portland is a place that native son Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called his "jewel by the sea." Most people who are familiar with this gem of a city agree that his 19th-century sentiment still rings true today. As one of the Northeast's most sophisticated small cities, Portland pulses with a delightfully vibrant urban atmosphere, yet retains all the warmth and charm of a close-knit community.
Per capita, Portland is said to be home to more places to dine than any other American city, save San Francisco; the caliber of the fare to be found here has been noted in Bon Appétit, Travel and Leisure and Wine Spectator. Portland also maintains a thriving arts tradition, evidenced in its many galleries, theater and dance companies, performance halls and museums.
A walk through the Arts District lining historic Congress Street rewards you with access to many of these arts venues. Prominent in this streetscape is the Portland Museum of Art, a landmark I.M. Pei-designed building, which houses one of the most revered collections of art in the Northeast. The museum hosts exciting exhibitions and programs that showcase the work of artists including Mary Cassatt, Andrew Wyeth, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Pierrre-Auguste Renoir. Of special note is a body of 19 significant works by Winslow Homer.
The Portland Performing Arts Center's elegant theater seats just 290 people, but has earned a reputation for the wonderful performances it hosts. It is home to the Ram Island Dance Company, a notable modern dance troupe.
New on the Portland Arts scene but already making a huge impact is the Center for Cultural Exchange, which hosts diverse and lively musical performances and events, featuring artists from all over the world. The newly-renovated 1913 Merrill Auditorium has also taken center stage in the recent past; it has hosted entertainers as diverse as Lyle Lovett, Taj Mahal, Itzhak Perlman and STOMP, and a Boston Globe opera critic deemed it "drop-dead gorgeous." Beautifully appointed with vaulted ceilings, balconies, elaborate ornamentation and a massive 5,000 pipe Kotzchmar Organ, the auditorium is well worth a visit - preferably when the resident Portland Symphony Orchestra is giving one of its celebrated performances.
The breadth of things to see and do in Portland warrants a stay one of the number of inns and hotels in the city proper. On the Portland "must-do" list is shopping and dining in the brick-and-cobblestone Old Port District; taking a scenic ferry ride to one of the Casco Bay Islands; visiting the highly regarded Portland Museum of Art and the adjacent Children's Museum of Maine; and touring the incredibly ornate, Italianate Victoria Mansion.
From Portland, we head south on Route 77 to South Portland, where the Spring Point Light rests on a breakwater adjacent to the Portland Harbor Museum - which features as its centerpiece the bow of America's last clipper ship, the Snow Squall. This 157-foot beauty was left to rot in South America in 1864, but portions of the vessel were recently recovered and are being restored at the museum.
Further south on 77 is Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, offering heart-stopping views of the sea and access to world-famous Portland Headlight. Commissioned by George Washington in 1791, this light enjoys a long and fascinating history, and has spawned its fair share of legends. A local favorite dates to the early 1900s, when the lighthouse-keeper's parrot (who reportedly cursed like a pirate) acted as a barometer, telling the keeper to turn the light on when a storm was approaching. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also visited the light frequently, and is said to have penned some of his poetry here. Learn more about this landmark beacon at the museum housed in the former lighthouse-keeper's quarters.
A few miles south on Route 77 are two beautiful sandy beaches at Crescent Beach State Park and Scarborough Beach State Park - stop to soak up some sun and frolic in the surf. Continue on 77 to 207, where you can take a side trip to Prouts Neck(where the actress Glenn Close calls home), home of revered painter, Winslow Homer. An unmarked trail beginning at Winslow Homer Road (ask for directions at the nearby inn) winds along the cliffs where the artist was often inspired.
We will continue north on Route 1 to Brunswick, where you can roam the grounds of Bowdoin College and take in a show at the celebrated Maine State Music Theater. Exploring Maine Street is a great way to spend an afternoon - boutiques, galleries and historic homes line the wide avenue. At the top of the Village Green is the First Parish Church, where it is said that Harriet Beecher Stowe first conceived of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Also of interest is the home of Joshua L. Chamberlain, a Bowdoin College professor who, with no prior battle experience, went on to become one of the Civil War's most influential generals. After reportedly having several horses shot out from under him in battle, he became the Union hero at the Battle of Little Round Top, and later carried out the ceremonial duty of accepting the Confederate surrender at Appamatox. His home on Maine Street is maintained by the local historical society, and is open for tours.
This proves to be a full day of exploring the local area on their first trip to The Maine House! Estelle's will welcome the weary travelers home to our easy Italian night.
Estelle's is serving this family favorite appetizer!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft. Stir in Cheddar cheese, sour cream, green chilies, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, green onions, artichoke hearts, salt and pepper.
Slice the top off the bread, and hollow the bread out. Spoon cheese and artichoke mixture into the bread bowl. Replace the top of the bread, and wrap entire bread bowl in aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from oven, and stir in tomatoes. Serve hot with bread cubes or fresh veggies!!
Estelle's Pasta in a Pot
This is a terrific recipe to prepare in your
Bread Maker machine!