Farewell to a Greek treat



Best wishes to the owners of Café Nostimo in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who have just announced that they’re closing their Greek restaurant at the end of today after 16 years in business. Time to retire. We can understand that, especially the part about working nights and weekends.

Theirs had become a must-stop on my return trips to the Seacoast region, and I was looking forward to indulging myself next Wednesday, before my Quaking Dover presentation at the Dover Public Library.

Wish I’d known about the place pre-Covid, when I lived in nearby Dover. I had heard that some nights even had Greek dancing. The restaurant did have a large tent pavilion beside it for summer dining and more.

Lamb shank was top-of-the-line, but their gyro wrap was heavenly. I could argue about some details elsewhere, especially in comparison to a favorite version in Watertown, Massachusetts, but their desserts lineup was unbeatable.

I’m viewing this like a great dinner and the time you look at the empty plate while you’re full of happy memories.

As the translations on their wall proclaim, Yamos! And: Epharisto!

Call it Victorian, if you must

By the time of the Civil War, Bangor as in Maine was the world’s leading lumber port. Some of that wealth is reflected in the proud Second Empire, Greek Revival, and Federal style homes that punctuate the Broadway Historic District and elsewhere through the city.

My elder daughter would find these to be models for her annual gingerbread houses.

Meanwhile, do any of them capture your imagination?

And you wonder where Stephen King got his inspiration?

A few islands in comparison

Islands come in all shapes and sizes, and even that can change dramatically with the tides. Now that I’m living on one, I’m really beginning to appreciate their variety. Some you can drive to or from, while others require a ferry or even an airplane. The better-known ones seem to be vacation or travel destinations.

Here’s a sampling, starting with home.

  1. Eastport, Maine, including Moose, Treat, Carlow, Matthews, and a few more: 3.6 square miles (12.3 with water)
  2. Manhattan: 22.7 square miles
  3. Staten: 58.5 square miles
  4. Martha’s Vineyard: 96 square miles
  5. Nantucket: 48 square miles
  6. Grand Manan, New Brunswick: 55 square miles (198.4 with water), but one side is a 20-mile wall of tall bluffs – the same length as Martha’s Vineyard.
  7. Sanibel, Florida: 16.1 square miles
  8. Mount Desert, Maine (home of Acadia National Park): 108 square miles
  9. Santa Catalina, California: 75 square miles
  10. San Juan, Washington: 55 square miles

Care to tell us about others?


Sometimes a small city can have a big impact

Bangor, Maine, has about the same population as Dover, New Hampshire – 30,000-plus.

But it’s the center of a wide region and has the spotlight to itself. In fact, though I live a 2½-hour drive away, it’s the place we often turn to for what many folks take for granted.

Here’s some perspective.

  1. It’s where the Penobscot River meets the ocean, so historically it was the world’s leading producer of lumber, which was floated down from the North Woods, milled, and then packed on ocean-going ships.
  2. Well, that did lead to Old Money, which can be seen in the remaining stately homes and churches built by lumber barons in the 19th century.
  3. The river also separates the city from Brewer, which adds another 10,000 or so to the metro population and provides some of the services and products we seek.
  4. Not just the mall and big-box stores, though some of them do deliver way out to our fringe of the state. Don’t overlook new auto dealerships and their service departments, either. Well, we do have one dealer out here in Sunrise County, but it’s not Toyota.
  5. The vast Northern Light Eastern Medical Center on the bank of the Penobscot River is the hub of an integrated health system spanning much of the state. Frequently, that means this is where your specialist is.
  6. Bangor International Airport. It’s where you have to go if you need to a commercial airline connection or are meeting an arrival.
  7. Media. Starting with the Bangor Daily News and Maine Public’s studio.
  8. University of Maine in neighboring Orono. Well, its impact spills over into downtown Bangor, should you be looking for funky.
  9. By the 1880s, Bangor was also a leading producer of moccasins, more than 100,000 a year. Should that be a footnote?
  10. The downtown was struck by major fires in 1856, 1869, 1872, and 1911 – the last one destroying the high school, post office, custom house, public library, telephone and telegraph companies, banks, two fire stations, six churches and a synagogue, about 100 businesses and 285 residences.


The world’s most glorious sauerkraut

For most of my life, I never would have thought sauerkraut could rise any higher than maybe a gag-inducing edible in an obligatory sort of way. You know, like liver. Something in some households you might be required to eat on New Year’s Eve to assure a good 12 months ahead. Think of lutefisk (lye fish) in Nordic cultures as a parallel.

Well, my best friend’s parents, of good German Lutheran stock, made their own, but they also composted for their garden, and back in the ‘50s, that seemed pretty weird.

I am convinced that there are certain dishes that will never become acquired tastes to some or even many tongues. (Feel free to make nominations here.)

That said, imagine my surprise in recent decades in discovering the joys of fine Chinese cuisine, along with the shock of learning that the filling on those snappy eggrolls and spring rolls was essentially sauerkraut, just by another name.

Maybe that set up the moment of revelation.

Morse’s in Waldoboro.

First came some nibbles after an old Mainer made his annual pilgrimage, returning with 20 or 30 pounds or so.

The taste was sweet and tangy, even refreshing. I do like pickles, but these are in a class all their own. I mean, they’re glorious. OK, I had come to prefer coleslaw with a vinegar dressing more than the conventional creamy one, so maybe that had prepared me. (Not that I turn down either.)

That’s set up our own trips in the family, including one with me in the depths of a very snowy February. The road out of the village to the store seemed to take forever, I was sure we had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but then the small store appeared, and it offered more crocks of pickled traditions than just kraut. It also had a small but very tasty German restaurant, which appears to have fallen victim to Covid restrictions. All in all, a delight.

Upshot is, it’s a dish I’ve come to anticipate each winter from our own ten-pound or so purchase.

Morse’s is, in itself, a fascinating story of a family business that’s undergone some transformations but maintains a small niche in an increasingly monolithic food industry. I have no idea if you can find it anywhere near where you live, but then maybe that might inspire another entrepreneur to rise to the challenge. Bigger is not always better.

Why there’s no Eastport, Massachusetts

From 1653 until 1820, Maine was governed by Massachusetts.

The westernmost port down there is Westport, beside Buzzard Bay. A lovely place, by the way.

And the easternmost port was Eastport, in waters subsidiary to the Bay of Fundy. As you’ve been seeing here.

But then, come 1820, the two extremes separated when Maine finally became independent as a state.

Now I guess that easternmost point down under distinction falls on Chatham, out on Cape Cod. And Maine has no Westport.

One year, while still living in New Hampshire, I was in Eastport one weekend, and Westport, the next. I saw it as some kind of weird coincidence, not knowing there really had been a rational connection.

Have you ever thought about the name of the place where you’re dwelling?

Where the local beer’s listed as ‘Imported,’ not ‘Domestic’

Welcome to the Hansom House in Dennysville, which is sometimes open on weekends. The stained glass is by the owner.


This is some of what’s over your head.


And this is some more. The shark’s not on the menu.


The red shoes belong to the stool, not the patron sitting on it.


Well, they do promote themselves as the World’s Most Absurd Bar.

And we’ve concluded the reference isn’t just to the décor.

In case you’d rather have your drink and nibbles by the fireplace.

Maine has a raft of unincorporated townships, and some of them even have names

For those of us who come to New England from other parts of America, the insistence that here we live in either a town or a city but nothing in between comes as a shock. There’s no saying “near” anywhere, even if the place has its own post office. Nope, either city or town, the difference being the kind of government it has.

Eastport, for instance, is a city, while neighboring Lubec, roughly the same size, is a town.

And each may have its own neighborhoods or villages, further complicating the picture. A town typically has its historic center, even when larger development came later somewhere else within the boundaries – maybe out along the railroad tracks, for instance, or the mills. Note that when you look at maps.

Maine adds a third twist to this model. Much of the state was surveyed into parcels, typically six-by-six-mile squares, that never lived up to expectations, at least in terms of habitation and development. They remain uninhabited, seasonally or year-’round, or lack sufficient population to self-govern themselves.

Here in the Pine Tree State, they’re designated as townships or even plantations, though some do have names or have reverted by necessity from self-rule to management by the state.

Thus, when driving along you might see a highway marker like the one announcing that you’re entering T26 ED BPP.

There are many more signs like this, equally baffling. This one translates as Township 26, Eastern District, Binghams’ Penobscot Purchase. Don’t ask me more, I’m already confused, as I’m sure you are.

There’s even another variation, PLT, for Plantation – and, no, it has nothing to do with fields of cotton or tobacco.

The Plt stands for plantation, which has nothing to do with a privately owned farm in Maine.

Significantly, more than half of the state is uninhabited. Hard to think of that, considering the urban and suburban density and congestion of so much of the rest of the Northeast.

Somehow, nobody’s counting mosquitos or moose in the equation.

What do you have to explain to others about the political setup of the place you live? Ward politics? The county sheriff? The nut jobs, right or left?