Our fall trip to Monhegan Island took us to the Island Inn restaurant for a special dinner. George had planned this one to fall on my birthday. So I had to “work” on my birthday by taking notes on a heavenly setting serving heavenly food. Clearly not a hardship.

The setting feels intimate even though it is an open dining room. There is nice lighting, fresh flowers on the tables and so much art by featured artist Stan Moeller on the walls that it could be an art gallery. And that is the feeling owners Michael Brassard and Jaye Morency were going for. When we arrived for dinner, there were two other tables dining, but soon the restaurant was full.

As I watched people coming in to be seated, I had the odd experience of recognizing almost everyone in the restaurant. I didn’t know anyone’s name, but I had either sat near them on the ferry over to Monhegan or we’d spoken with them on our walks around while birding. It is a small island, and this is the place to go if you want a very nice dinner.

As a starter, I asked for a cup of the soup du jour. That night it was black bean soup garnished with crispy tortilla strips and sour cream. It was thick and creamy and perfect for a foggy fall evening. It was flavored with warm spices and a hint of heat.

You will be gifted with an incredible basket of rosemary French bread with sea salt to begin your meal. I say gifted because it is no ordinary bread — more like a present. Baker Kacie Keele studied in Paris, so she is able to make the real thing. I tried to pace myself and did pretty well in that I saved the last piece to go with my soup. Mmmm.

My entree of pork roulade with a cheddar cheese, sauteed spinach and cornbread stuffing was elegant. Three roulades made a big plate of food, but the pork was very tender and oh so good. Served with this was a caramelized onion and smoked bacon risotto with pan gravy. Yes, a celebratory dinner.

I’d made it clear to George that he was not to mention my birthday to the servers or anyone else. No public show of candles and singing, please. So he was pretty pleased when I ordered the peach and cherry crisp with vanilla ice cream to split. The cherries were the special kind of sour cherries that my parents would pick and freeze for a winter of pies.

It was just perfect — not too sweet with cold ice cream melting over the warm fruit. Thank you Kacie for a very memorable birthday dessert!


The Island Inn has become the place — and our place — to eat on Monhegan. Owners Michael and Jaye, since purchasing the inn four years ago, have made many improvements in the inn and the restaurant. We enjoyed a stay here two years ago, so I knew this would be the perfect place to celebrate Linda’s birthday.

Chef Mathew Hickey worked his way up from line cook and is doing a superb and creative job here. As we entered the restaurant, we got a warm greeting from Andrew, a young man who now lives on the island year-round.

Our server, Elizabeth, has worked here off and on for two years and was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu which was good because I had a tough time making my choices.

I settled on the mussel appetizer ($15), and because I’m a big fan of Monhegan Brewing Company’s beers, I chose that preparation out of the four choices available. In addition to the microbrew, the dish included garlic, shallots, thyme and oregano.

The large portion of mussels was so delicious, I ate them all. And the broth was drinkable good (of course, given that the Weber’s beer was in it). A man at the next table also had the mussels and summed the dish up nicely, saying, “Garlic and beer, can’t be beat!”

Luckily, I still had room for an entree, choosing the pan-seared scallops ($30) with chevre polenta, roasted pepper, Kalamata tapenade, arugula, pesto and an asiago crisp. The five large scallops were perfectly cooked, and the polenta with goat cheese was delicious with Mediterranean flavors — very unusual for a scallop dish.

Exiting the restaurant, we were surprised by the darkness, noting that everyone else had flashlights. So we walked very carefully back to our apartment, enjoying the stunning starlit night.

Ferry rides from Port Clyde on Monhegan Boat Line are always a treat, and we really enjoyed our sunny afternoon ride back, sitting on the deck. Getting through the long winter ahead will be helped by the knowledge that we’ll be back on Monhegan next May. And yes, probably for Linda’s birthday next year, too.

Maine Harvest Festival

One of our favorite annual events is the Maine Harvest Festival, scheduled at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center on November 11 and 12. It’s an amazing showcase of Maine farms, food processors, brewers and artisans. For tickets and more info, go to or call the Cross Center at 561-8300.

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

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