Linda

One of the great things about traveling around our state is finding places that are so special — some of which we’d never heard of. Such is the case for the Chandler River Lodge, which we have been driving by on our way to Lubec for years. Tucked up on a knoll, well off U.S. Route 1 in Jonesboro, sits a beautiful historic home (circa 1797) that is now a B&B and restaurant.

Emily Fitzsimmons has to be one of the most energetic, organized, busy people I have met in a while. She is the chef at this fine dining establishment, but it turns out that is not her only responsibility. She is the one who takes the reservations, greets the guests, creates the menus, cooks the dinners, prepares and serves the breakfasts and even cleans the rooms! And she has four kids, 3 of which are six or under. Her youngest is 4 months old and, if I remember correctly, that is when most mothers are still in exhaustion mode. You would never guess she has so much on her plate by her easygoing “can do” attitude.

We stayed in the Hannah Weston Room — a light, tastefully decorated space that included a TV, coffeepot and desk with a wrought-iron base. Wallpapered walls were decorated with artwork and on the wall above the bed was a collection of gorgeous old clocks.

Layers of beautiful linens were on the bed: elegant sheets, comforter, cotton blanket and an intricate bedspread. Atop all this rested a folded quilt. With all the pillows, I was very comfortable sitting on the bed to work on this column.

Our suite had a large bathroom. Terrycloth robes hung nearby, and one gets the feeling of being pampered by the variety of bath products and number of towels. Lace curtains over the glass-paned door gave it that older home coziness.

The dining room continues the Colonial feel of this house through its wallpaper, lace curtains, refinished wooden floors and fireplace. White cloth covered tables are set with an extensive amount of silverware and candles. It is a fine place for friends to gather or for a romantic evening out.

Emily is free to create whatever she wants and changes the menu every four weeks or so. Linda Patryn, our server, shares the history of the house with ease. It turns out that she worked on the history of Jonesboro, so she is very knowledgeable. Both Emily and Linda are Jonesboro natives.

We ordered an appetizer and an entree, but the surprise here was hidden courses that come out as well. The small amuse bouche that evening was a tiny crepe filled with blueberry, Gouda and pulled pork. One bite and we knew it was going to be a special meal.

We ordered the bacon and blue cheese stuffed mushrooms ($10) and out came a beautiful long, narrow dish with seven stuffed mushrooms. This was definitely a great choice for sharing, just as the two ladies at the next table were doing. Our two favorite ingredients came in a creamy stuffing of baby portabellas. Enough said.

We also ordered the bruschetta ($8), topped with fresh basil pesto, parmesan and tomatoes and finished with aged balsamic vinegar to lend some sweetness. Delightful.

Next out was a salad and tasty housemade sweet focaccia bread. I thought it was odd that the menu didn’t list salads. So when you go, note that the price of the entree includes the salad course.

When I found out that Emily makes the pasta, my decision for a main course was made: the Lodge Pasta ($25). Their fresh wide fettuccine pasta comes with a garlic cream sauce, which is elegant, and can be topped with shrimp, beef or my choice — grilled chicken. It was a lovely pasta dish and I later enjoyed it reheated as leftovers.

You know we are full when George does not persist in his quest for dessert. He’d earlier asked our server what would happen if he wanted dessert, now that his four forks were already used. She assured him she would bring him whatever he needed. Turns out he needed nothing. We were too full for another bite — at least until their great breakfast the next morning.

George

Linda hasn’t gotten that quite right. Two friendly ladies at the next table, after I asked them if I could photograph their dessert, shared it with me!

Poking through the guest books, I noted that folks from all over this country and Canada have stayed and/or eaten here. A lot were from all over Maine (including Waterville), but it was the local towns that explained how the restaurant can remain open all year round. I noted guests from Machias, Milbridge, Jonesport, Beals, Cutler, East Machias and Steuben. We were in Lubec the previous week, and a lady there told me she and her friends drive all the way to Jonesboro just to eat dinner here.

While they do accept drop-in guests, you are strongly urged to get reservations for both rooms and dinners. When they don’t have reservations, they sometimes choose not to be open that day or night. They also do a lot of catering, weddings and special celebrations inside and outside the inn.

I loved this place so much that I took 11 pages of notes. There’s no way to convey all of this to you, but here’s a short version.

I loved Emily and her amazing work ethic, her smile, stories and her enthusiasm for her family. “My husband is awesome!” she exclaimed when I asked how she could do so much. The entire family was scheduled to begin raking blueberries in their own fields the next week.

I loved Emily’s cooking. She graduated from Eastern Maine Technical College’s culinary school, cooked at another nearby inn, a couple of restaurants and Washington Academy for 8 years, before taking on the Chandler River Lodge three and a half years ago. She lives right across the road. When I asked for her favorites on the menu, she said she liked them all. “I love to eat!” she said.

Well (ahem) me, too!

I loved our server, Linda Patryn, her historical knowledge and stories, her smile, the fact she could handle the entire room and, when someone stepped in from outside to inquiry about a room, she took them upstairs to show them the only vacant one. Linda does it all, just like Emily. They are a great team.

I loved the setting, far back off Route 1, with a small pond and lots of lawn overlooking the Chandler River. I loved the history. Hannah Weston’s story was framed on the wall in our room. She helped drive the British away when they attacked Machias in 1775. Bet she never imagined a day when British guests would be welcomed here!

I absolutely loved our dinner. And I’m not the only one. “This is wonderful!” I heard from a lady at a nearby table. Later, at another table, a guest in a party of four turned to her friend as said, “Thank you Steve. Great choice of restaurants!”

Beginning with a Cellardoor Winery (our favorite in Lincolnville) Cantina Rossa, a nice red blend for just $22, enjoying the tasty amuse bouche, consuming every bit of the two appetizers (I was in garlic heaven), slowing down on the salad and bread (getting too full!) and then having my palate cooled by a nice little scoop of blueberry sorbet — I staggered on to the entree: the Sam Watts ($35).

Emily likes to use the names of local historical figures for some of her dishes. This was a seafood-stuffed haddock with crab, shrimp and scallops, served with a tomato beurre blanc. I’ve enjoyed haddock dishes all over Maine and can tell you this one is exceptional. I was in seafood heaven. And I even enjoyed the carrot puree that came with it. I told Emily it was good enough to bring Sam Watts back from the dead.

Later, when I told Linda, “I’m really glad we didn’t have dessert,” she responded, “Oh my gosh, I wish I had a tape recorder.”

We took our remaining wine to the deck to enjoy the cool evening and sparkling nearly full moon shining on the river. Serene. Dreaming of a return to this special place and these special people.

Remote Beaches

Just south of Jonesboro, you will find two of our favorite places: Roque Bluffs State Park and Jasper Beach.

At Roque Bluffs, there’s an inland water pond for swimming, with a nice picnic area, and across the road lies one of the state’s most beautiful (and always uncrowded) fine sand beaches.

After a brief walk around the park, we drove on to Jasper Beach in Bucks Harbor. We hadn’t been there in years, but remembered the astonishingly smooth stones and stunning views. We got confused by the route, saw a lot of the peninsula and finally found Jasper Beach, where we enjoyed a wonderful picnic, sharing the huge beach with just 10 other people.

Two more reasons to visit Chandler River Lodge!

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.