The Samoset Resort helps drive the local economy — and is a great place to stay and dine.

 

George

 

Five restaurants in 41 hours — my kind of weekend! While the Samoset Resort’s spectacular ice bar drew us to the Rockland area in mid-January, our culinary tour of the area added flavor to the weekend.

All 178 rooms at the Samoset were full and downtown Rockland’s shops and restaurants were very busy — a testament to the economic driver this resort is for the region. At lunch on Saturday at Home Kitchen Cafe, co-owner Susan Chiro told us she’d had to quickly call in a fourth chef when she saw the large turnout of customers. While we were there, we heard several guests seated at tables around us talking about an ice bar.

So let’s begin there.

We donned our long underwear and warmest clothes and shimmied (literally) up to the bar on Friday night where a stunning full moon shown above, splashing light on the ocean. Wow! Specialty drinks were ordered and then we moved to nice seats around a fire pit, visiting with a couple from Portland who were there to see the ice bar. They were planning to dine the next day at our favorite Rockland restaurant, Cafe Miranda — more evidence of the importance of the Samoset to the local economy.

For the record, we dined at the Samoset’s La Bella Vita restaurant, Bricks Restaurant, Home Kitchen Cafe and Salt Water Farm Cafe. We also made a quick stop at Thomaston’s Highlands Coffee House on our way to our grandson’s basketball game in Waldoboro on Saturday morning. Running late, we were looking for a quick breakfast enroute to the game when we spotted the Coffee House, an elegant bakery and cafe decorated with beautiful photos and serving yummy muffins, croissants and breakfast sandwiches.

After the game we headed back to Rockland, checked out the new Terra Optima Farm Market, enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Home Kitchen Cafe and then spent the afternoon and evening at the Samoset.

We’d arrived on Friday to bare ground, but by mid-day Saturday it was snowing. I really enjoyed sitting in the hot tub watching the heavy snowfall swirling in a wicked wind outside.

At 7 p.m., we enjoyed another wonderful dinner at the Samoset’s La Bella Vita, where the staff is very friendly and informative.

Having enjoyed a large lunch, we opted to share an appetizer and entree, with individual glasses of a very nice wine, Michelangelo Chianti, at $9 for a full-pour glass. With the wine came the best bread basket we’ve ever had, with Asiago cheese, potato/leek and chipotle breads and a delicious sea salt and chive butter. Linda said, “For the first time I’m not holding back on the bread. I’m going to eat all I want!”

Our appetizer, a Caprese salad, was nice and cool with a bit of sweetness with Burrata cheese, balsamic, olives and fresh mozzarella with a drizzle of olive oil.

The menu is extensive, and we sat for a long time enjoying the amazing view of lights just beyond our corner table looking toward the ice bar and ocean.

We finally agreed on Chicken Parmesan for an entree. The two pieces of chicken were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside — just perfect — and the marinara sauce on the linguine was really tasty. The staff kindly divided the entree in two, and either half could have been a full portion.

Matty B, a very talented singer with a saxophone, was entertaining guests in the restaurant and bar, and the place was jammed and jamming as we made our way out of the restaurant through the bar. We stopped to join in, singing and dancing along with the crowd.

The Samoset is a perfect place to unwind and enjoy a full day with no to-do list. During school vacation week, they offer nice discounted packages for families. We love entertaining our grandsons here. The resort is very affordable.

General Manager Connie Russell has become a good friend, making our stays here very relaxing.

Sure, you can work out in the gym — been there done that — but this weekend we simply luxuriated. Sitting at a small table in our third-floor room, writing this column and enjoying the inspiring view of the ocean on Sunday morning, I notice the snow has started up again, falling in very large flakes now. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Linda

I was under the impression that Bricks Restaurant in Rockland was just about pizza. We’d stopped there on one of our Pies on Parade outings. Even just the tiny piece I’d tried that day stayed with me as a sample of very good pizza. So it was a surprise when I opened the menu to find “Starters, Salads, Sandwiches and Entrees.” It wasn’t until I got to the last page that I read “And Now The Pizza…”

The decor here is comfortable, light and open with brick red textured walls offset with natural wood. It’s a family friendly place. In fact our daughter, Rebekah, comes here often and reports that our grandsons love to eat here. The tabletops are covered with butcher paper and a cup of crayons awaits your creativity. I overheard the little girls at the next table explaining their drawing to the owner who had stopped by for a visit, asking “Did you sign your artwork?”

We’d come for the pizza, so I tried not to get distracted by all the creative starters and entrees. Their wood-fired oven pizzas come in two sizes. Both the medium (12-14”) and the large (14-16”) serve more than one. Pies come with typical toppings or you can choose from the more creative options of Navarro (fresh spinach and chorizo), BBQ Chicken, Buffalo Chicken or Roasted Vegetable.

We decided on the Mediterranean which had black olives, artichoke, mozzarella and feta cheeses with and a little sun-dried tomato. The wood-fired oven makes their thin crust crisp enough to hold all those toppings. This is a slice that is not greasy at all.

I was finishing my second piece when I discovered there was no tomato sauce on this version. I asked George if he detected any sauce and he said no. I think that is why you could taste every ingredient — from the salty feta and black olives to the tart artichoke, a hint of garlic in the thin dough, and bits of the tomatoes. Pizza perfection. Our choice of a medium pizza was the perfect size for the two of us — in fact we should have stopped with a few slices left, but we demolished the whole thing because it was that delicious.

Local farmer Cheryl Denz of Terra Optima Farm, in Appleton, has opened a little market in Rockland right next door to Bricks Restaurant. A favorite market, Sweets and Meats, used to be in this space. I was hoping they’d kept the specialness of that little shop and was pleased to see they had. Cheryl has been farming for over 15 years and her products are available at the farm, the Rockland farmers market and through their CSA. Meat choices of the pigs, chickens, turkeys and Jersey cows she raises are also available in the frozen cooler at her market. A very friendly young lady, Molly, and her husband manage the store.

I delighted upon entering this market to be greeted by bushel baskets of tempting fresh fruits and vegetables. Nothing out of season or winter storage capabilities was in those baskets. I discovered a cache of ingredients to choose from: grits, beans and split peas, German mustards and Micucci’s pasta sauces and dried pastas. Once I discovered the coolers full of fresh herbs, produce, yogurts and fresh Morse’s sauerkraut, there was no holding me back.

Although we’d stopped in to take a photo and a few notes, I gathered a large package of bratwurst from the deli, spaetzle (something I’ve never seen at any other store), a quart of sauerkraut, a zucchini and a bag of very fresh mixed greens. If we had been headed back home that day, I would have tried some meats and pot pies from the frozen foods. The variety, exquisite ingredients and reasonable prices will keep me coming back any time I am in the Rockland area.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.