December 20, 2012

TRAVELIN' MAINE(RS): ROCKLAND AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

George and Linda Smith

We decided not to wait for Christmas to enjoy one of our mutually given gifts — a weekend of pampering at Rockland’s Berry Manor Inn and fine dining at Primo and Café Miranda. We also picked up gifts for others (and ourselves) at Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars. Merry Christmas!

George

You should stay at Berry Manor Inn just to take a shower. Six jets, aimed anywhere you want on your body, with piping hot water — an example of the high level of elegance found at what has become a very favorite destination for us.

When you stay here, you are remembered. Amy (who greeted us at the door) began a tour of the inn in the dining room with an explanation of the menu for the next morning’s breakfast. She casually asked, “Do you both still take your coffee black?” Even my best friends don’t remember that!

What did I love about our room in the Carriage House annex? The blend of comfort and beauty — thick warm robes, lighting to fit every mood and need, an exceptionally comfortable lounge chair for stretching out, foot stools, a writing desk, the drapes and decorations, an array of pillows to fit every head and an amazing bed. And it was only 10 steps from our room to the pies in the guest lounge! Also to-die-for are the breakfasts.

At the end of our dinner that night at Primo, as our server finished reviewing the lengthy list of desserts, I told him, “There’s just one problem. We’re staying at Berry Manor Inn and …”
I got no further. “Say no more! Say no more!” he said dramatically. “Berry Manor’s guests come here all the time and no one orders desserts!”

We really feel at home here now, largely thanks to Cheryl Michaelsen who owns the inn with her husband, Michael LaPosta Jr. Cheryl is vivacious, interesting and is always up for conversation, even in the kitchen while she’s cooking. She’s also a great ambassador for the Rockland area, filling us in on upcoming events right through 2013.

One of Cheryl’s stories really touched our hearts. A lady from away has been staying at the inn for the last five or six years while visiting family in the area and attending Rockland’s Christmas parade.

Every year, she arrives with hats and mittens that’s she’s knitted, and she goes to the parade — not to see it, but to walk along the street, looking for kids who don’t have hats and mittens and giving them hers.

Her hats and mittens are always bright red, and each year she sees more and more kids wearing them.

Primo

On Friday night we dined at Primo, often named one of Maine’s top restaurants. We’d read that it’s tough to get a reservation, and that it is expensive. But we got our reservation online on Wednesday through OpenTable.com. That was the first surprise.

The second was the cost. For a restaurant that would be in the top of any ratings in any city in America, prices are not exorbitant. Sure, Primo is more expensive than most Maine restaurants. It’s also better than most Maine restaurants. With a bottle of wine and a generous tip, we spent $140. And our meal was tasty, creative and memorable. Very memorable.

Alas, Primo closes for the winter, so you only have about another week to eat here, but we’ll tell you more about this fine restaurant when it reopens in May.

Café Miranda

While Primo is undeniably a special treat, Café Miranda remains our favorite Rockland restaurant for many reasons. Chef/owner Kerry Altiero is amazingly creative, passionate about food and very entertaining.

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