Cape Elizabeth, South Portland + Scarborough
Easing into the weekend
It’s just a 30-minute drive from our home in Yarmouth to Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, but because my husband, Ted, and I want to ease in to the weekend, first we stop at Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, a newer brewpub we’ve been meaning to visit. Bar manager Jeff Hodenberg is our affable host and beer guide; we’re not familiar with Foulmouthed’s beers because they are on tap only at the brewpub, and the lineup is always changing. I try the malty English-style brown porter, Wharf Rat, and Ted chooses the Garbage Pale Ale, a crisp beer with hints of citrus and pine. The brew break and cheerful vibe are just what we needed, and by the time we pull into the driveway of the inn, we feel far away from our regular weekend routines.
We’re accompanied on this trip by our two border- collie-mix dogs, Dixie and Mavis, who are as thrilled as we are with our spacious, well-appointed suite. Inn by the Sea not only allows dogs, it welcomes them as honored guests, with L.L.Bean dog beds, dog bowls, homemade treats at the ready, a special menu, and even massages. Well-behaved dogs can stay alone in the rooms as long as their owners are on the inn property, but because we have dinner reservations elsewhere tonight, we’ve made arrangements through the inn for a dog sitter.
A cozy South Portland dinner
We stop first at the local hangout Bird Dog Roadhouse for a pre-dinner beer before the short drive to David’s 388 in South Portland. This charming neighborhood restaurant feels especially cozy and warm on this raw winter night, and we’re soon relaxing with glasses of red wine and chef David Turin’s warm rosemary focaccia as we study the menu. We are in the capable hands of general manager Kelly Frederick, who simply smiles when Ted asks for the bread basket to be filled again…and again. To start, we share a luscious small plate of sea scallops with preserved figs and bacon and a perfect rendition of beef carpaccio, followed by pork osso buco for Ted and porcini pappardelle for me. Both main dishes are loaded with umami flavors and deeply satisfying. Back at the inn, we take the dogs for a short walk before all four of us pile onto the king-sized bed, ready for a good night’s sleep.
But first, coffee and a massage
Our suite has a kitchen stocked with all the essentials, and while we’re not planning to cook, it’s a treat to enjoy a good cup of coffee from Portland’s Coffee by Design while still in our pajamas. I leave Ted with the pups and head off to the inn’s luxurious spa, where I’ve opted for the Sea Wave massage: the bodywork is done on a special surround-sound table that makes me feel as if I’m lying on an especially comfortable beach, feeling the vibration of the waves as they roll in. Afterward, I spend a few minutes in the steam room and hit the multi-head “experience shower” before reluctantly leaving this serene cocoon.
In addition to visiting local shops and restaurants, our mission for the day is to give the dogs plenty of exercise. Our first two stops are a favorite South Portland routine: coffee and a breakfast treat from Scratch Baking Company and a walk on Willard Beach. Dixie and Mavis are ecstatic to be running on sand instead of snow, and we walk the length of the beach meeting other dogs and their owners as our two chase after balls.
Route 1 shopping and lobster rolls
With two sandy, salty dogs sacked out in the back of the car, we’re ready to make a few stops along Route 1 in Scarborough. At the Cheese Iron a wine tasting is underway, and after trying a blush cava appropriately named Biutiful, we pick up a bottle to enjoy later along with a few cheeses from the shop’s enormous selection. At the back of the same building is Centervale Farm Antiques, which has an impressive collection of rugs, furniture, paintings, and folk art. I can’t resist a stop at the chock-full Southern Maine Indoor Flea Market, vowing to return alone so I can take my time looking for treasures.
For a late lunch, we head to Bite into Maine, opened just off the highway by the owners of the food truck that spends its summers at Portland Head Light. We share a well-made lobster BLT on a buttery brioche bun while figuring out our next move, and decide another beach walk is in order. At Pine Point Beach, Mavis plunges into the surf after her ball while Dixie trots along the shoreline, and we are awed by the surprising sight of two big draft horses hitched up to carts being driven over the dunes and onto the beach.
Before returning to the inn, we wind down the day with cocktails at North 43 Bistro, the contemporary American restaurant that opened at Spring Point Marina in South Portland last June. We find a convivial crowd at the bar and stunning views of Casco Bay outside the floor-to-ceiling windows; we can’t wait to come back in the summer.
Dinner with the dogs
At Inn by the Sea’s restaurant, Sea Glass, dogs are allowed to dine with their owners on the deck in season as well as in the cozy lounge. Friends are joining us, so we settle in at a corner table for four. After Dixie and Mavis eat their dinners—both have the Bird Dog with grilled chicken, rice, vegetables, and a dog biscuit, ordered from the inn’s doggy menu—they lie quietly at our feet. Our pups are in good company; we count at least ten well-behaved dogs in the room with their owners. We’re already fans of chef Andrew Chadwick’s inventive food and tuck happily in to lobster tacos with radish, sweet chili, and avocado mousse; salmon with black rice crouton, bouillabaisse sauce, fermented fennel, and roasted carrot; and scallops with Bay of Fundy shrimp, couscous, charmoula sauce, asparagus-citrus relish, and crisp kale. After our friends leave, we head back to our suite with two glasses of maple bourbon from the bar, which we sip in front of the fire while watching the Olympics—a perfect finish to the day.
Art and lighthouses
There’s rain in the forecast, so after a quick cup of coffee, Ted and I walk with the dogs to Crescent Beach, which stretches in front of Inn by the Sea. The sea air makes us hungry for a hearty breakfast, and Dixie and Mavis are happy to lie down by the fireplace in the lounge while we indulge in a cured salmon plate and the Farm House: two eggs with corned beef hash, asparagus, and hollandaise. Then it’s time to load the car and hit the road, with a stop at C Salt Gourmet Market to peruse the diverse offerings and warm up with a cup of coffee from Carrabassett Coffee Company.
Our final destination is Rachel Walls Fine Art, a gallery housed in the former bachelor officers’ quarters at Fort Williams Park. Cape Elizabeth native Rachel Walls gives us a tour of Dahlov Ipcar’s Century, an exhibition showing some of the famous Maine artist’s lesser-known works, including soft sculpture and needlepoint. Walls’s friendship with Ipcar, who died in February 2017, makes the experience fascinating. We don’t have time to see it all, but I plan to return without dogs in the car.
Before heading for home, we take a look at Portland Head Light, majestic even in the rain, and gaze for a few moments out at the Atlantic Ocean, glad to know that, when we get back to Yarmouth, it—and everything we’ve experienced—will still be close by.