In the Weeds: 36 Hours in Maine
In the Weeds is a blog series that allows readers to drop mid-stream into the creative process at One Design. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and live vicariously through our adventures in the field.
Earlier this spring, we immersed ourselves in the food culture of the North Atlantic Coast to better understand what it would take to translate an authentic vibe to a new Midwest culinary destination.
We left on a 6:00am flight with a change of clothes, three packs of Field Notes, and a loose itinerary.
After sardine-ing into our seats in Row 28, we tried to find sleep—which proved to be an impossible task amid the mild chaos of a crowded domestic flight. In a few hours, we landed in Boston and made the drive to Portland, Maine (a place unknown to us all).
Giddy with the faux energy that a sleep-deprived body provides, our eastward drive through the rain was spent in an absurdist brainstorming session where we developed marketing pitches for a popular mattress company. We carefully filed each concept in a make-believe desk drawer, where an assortment of bad ideas has continued to stockpile.
Our first stop in Maine was somewhat serendipitous.
Before arriving in Portland, we took a quick trip to a town called Cape Elizabeth. We had heard about a lobster shack that was worth an excursion. The road went from highway to two-lane street and eventually to gravel. We passed old gas stations, faded chic mansions, and fields.
When we arrived, we got out of the car, walked up wood steps to the humble eatery and fell silent. Without saying anything, we walked forward—away from the restaurant and past the picnic tables. We drew closer, climbed over slippery rocks, towards the water.
The sea summoned us.
Lost in awe, we felt the constant motion—the power of the Atlantic. Time stopped. Nature took over.
Then James almost fell in the water and we retreated to the safety of the shack and the comfort of their lobster rolls.
Well-fed and nautically enlightened, we continued on to Portland where we rambled from restaurant to restaurant, trying everything. The savory details are best conveyed visually. Suffice it to say, we have new standards for seafood.
Somewhere between our second lunch and third dinner, we were informed of a bar equipped with karaoke. So, after one last meal, we treated an unassuming crowd to a scream-o rendition of No Doubt’s “I’m Just Girl” and, after some pleading with the disc jockey, lessened the patrons’ confusion with a coherent performance of “Billie Jean.”
We woke up the next morning and continued gourmandizing, indulging in a half a dozen donuts and coffee. In the coffee shop, people were reading books and newspapers, sharing friendly banter and lot of direct eye contact. Cell phones and laptops were absent despite the free WIFI.
Maybe it was the fog of an April afternoon by the Atlantic, but it felt reminiscent of a time before our days were be filled with constant micro-stories and pieces of information.
Before leaving, we took a quick stroll down cobblestone streets—along quaint shops—through classic New England. There was an utter lack of pretense in everything we saw.
The food, the people. It was all genuine. Simple.
We left Portland dazed and satisfied.