My favorite Rockland eateries

Article and photos by Josette King

Chef Kerry Altiero retrieves a dish from his brick oven

Chef Kerry Altiero retrieves a dish from his brick oven

“I don’t fancy a power struggle with my food,” my friend said as I was vaunting the merits of fresh-off-the-boat and right-out-of-the-pot Maine lobster. She was a Southerner whose sole experience of The Northeast was a long ago visit to New York City. Now that I had lured her to a girlfriends’ week-long vacation in Rockland, Maine, with promises of grand Victorian homes lovingly restored into luxury country inns, boating excursions to picturesque lighthouses along the craggy coast and a flourishing artistic life around the Farnsworth Art Museum and the many nearby galleries, I was not about to be stymied by a hard-shelled crustacean! “Forget lobster then. The town is full of good restaurants of all kinds,” I temporized, mentally crossing my fingers. I needed not be concerned. This quaint little seaport of 10,000 residents turned out to be a treasure trove of exciting eateries.

Although they differed broadly in cuisine and atmosphere, our favorites turned out to have some significant commonalities: all were chef-owned, with high-quality menus based on locally-gown organic products and freshly harvested seafood, and moderately priced to boot. Following is information on three restaurants we liked.

Café Miranda sign
Café Miranda sign

Café Miranda
15 Oak Street
Rockland, Maine  + 1 207 594-2034

With its 85 items menu, more than a few with impossibly kitschy monikers, Café Miranda (named after Chef Kerry Altiero’s beloved pooch) was not for the timorous, or the indecisive. As soon as I got past the veneer of irreverence of the menu (and the startling Elvis museum restroom) it became clear that it was not the entertainment value that had packed the place on a Tuesday night. Chef Altiero was serious about what got onto the plates: the freshest local ingredients, roasted or grilled in his kitchen’s wood-burning brick oven or sautéed to perfection before being rushed to the table. Many of the offerings had their roots in comfort foods of Italy, Poland and Lithuania that young Kerry had enjoyed, growing up in the 1960’s in a melting-pot community in the hills of Pennsylvania. This self-taught food artist then worked his way up the eastern seaboard, broadening his knowledge of ethnic and regional cooking along the way, to integrate it all into an imaginative culinary style that defied categorization.

Café Miranda’s Seared Sea Scallops with green chili tartare sauce

Café Miranda’s Seared Sea Scallops with green chili tartare sauce

My appetizer of Seared Sea Scallops, their sweetness enhanced by the bite of a green chili tartare sauce was a delight. So was my friend’s main course of herbed veal and pork Uptown Meatballs in a creamy shallot, garlic and Marsala sauce (we shared). We had reserved ahead to sit at the bar, where a handful of seats offered a full view of the frenetic action in the pocket-sized kitchen. The woman next to me volunteered that she was a long-time patron. “Did you try the “Pirogies”? She asked, tactfully nodding at her own appetizer while eyeing my main course of grilled baby tomatoes and fresh crabmeat. We exchanged forkfuls. The classic Polish potato and cheese concoction was livened up with sauerkraut and cranberries. Our respective friends got into the act and our meal became an impromptu tasting menu; every dish original and delicious. With its unpretentious, beautifully prepared food, friendly service and relaxed atmosphere, I plan to revisit Café Miranda anytime I find myself in Rockland again, and work my way down its imaginative menu.

Rustica sign

Rustica sign

315 Main Street
Rockland, Maine. + 1 207 594-0015

Located in one of the century-old storefronts that lined Main Street, with its aged wood floors, taupe and burgundy walls and profusion of green plants, Rustica was a cheerful, timeless eatery that welcomed its guests to lovely Italian classics. While Chef John Stowe’s menu featured a few of the mandatory pizzas and pasta dishes, I happily ignored them in favor of more original offerings such as Grilled Asparagus appetizer (wrapped in prosciutto and delicately drizzled with white truffle oil and freshly grated parmesan).

Rustica’s Sicilian Fish Stew

Rustica’s Sicilian Fish Stew

Rustica’s Tiramisu

Rustica’s Tiramisu

I followed with a Sicilian Fish Stew, a symphony of roasted haddock, lobster, shrimp and calamari simmered in a tomato fennel broth with a touch of orange and saffron. It was topped with steamed mussels, served with grilled Italian bread and lemon aioli that made me forget that I was not in a Mediterranean fishing village. One look at the sinfully rich Tiramisu robbed me of the willpower to pass on dessert, although I was willing to trade a few spoonfuls of it for some of my friend’s equally tempting crema brusciata (Italian for crème brûlée). Rustica did not take not take reservations, but although it was quite busy on the night of our visit, we were seated promptly. Had a wait been necessary, the sprawling bar against the back wall appeared to be a popular place to enjoy a drink while waiting for a table.

1Lily Bistro sign

Lily Bistro sign

Lily Bistro
421 Main Street
Rockland, Maine + 1 207 594-4141

I grew up in a world were charcuterie was often home made, so any menu that boasts Charcuterie Maison as its opening line gets my attention. Lily Bistro, the recently opened brainchild of chefs Lynette Mosher and Robert Krajewski (who have been a team since they met at Johnson & Wales University in the late 1990’s) was such a place; and its charcuterie plate attention-worthy. I loved the coarse pâté de campagne and smooth duck rillettes served with a wedge of artisan cheese, crisp cornichons and crusty baguette.

Lily Bistro’s Chicken Grand Mere

Lily Bistro’s Chicken Grand Mere

Lily Bistro’s Steak Frites width=

Lily Bistro’s Steak Frites

It was a suitable prelude to the delectable rustic French fare that followed. My Chicken Grand-Mère, roasted to perfection, was served over velvety puréed potatoes and tiny crisp green beans, with a ragout of chanterelles. It was worthy of my own grand mother’s cooking. The Steak Frites was a medium rare pan-seared steak topped with basil butter. It was served with a garnish of sautéed summer squash and chipolini onions and a small cast-iron pot overflowing with garlic French fries; an unconventional but excellent combination. This was honest bistro food, simple but flawlessly prepared from the finest ingredients. At the time of my visit, Lynette officiated in the kitchen, while Bob managed the dining room. From the number of patrons that he greeted by name, Lily Bistro, although it had been opened only a few months, had already developed quite a following.

Click here for more information about my visit to Rockland, Maine and its Victorian country inns, Berry Manor Inn, Captain Lindsey House and LimeRock Inn.

With video – we found luxury, amazing game viewing at Sabi Sand property

Article and video by Elena del Valle, photos and video editing by Gary Cox



Leopards at Londolozi

Our Tree Camp experience at Londolozi was outstanding. The boutique lodge, set in a prime area of the famous Sabi Sand Reserve next to South Africa’s, offered luxury accommodations in a lush bush setting. We thoroughly enjoyed the gourmet fare including a surprise tasting menu with wine pairings, boma dinner with staff dancing and singing, the handsome and spacious suite with private plunge pool, and creature comforts.

“You’re coming to Londolozi because you’ll have one of the best animal viewing experiences in South Africa and you’re going to be with a ranger who has a huge amount of knowledge which he will unfold for you,” said Duncan MacLarty, camp manager, Londolozi Tree Camp. “On the Tree Camp side you will have an experience which is very personalized.”


Sunset at Londolozi

We found that Duncan’s game viewing promise was fulfilled. Over the years, prior to our stay at Londolozi we stayed at dozens of bush properties in multiple African countries and had many, many outstanding game viewing experiences. In spite of that, our four-night stay at Londolozi Tree Camp stands out for the extraordinary game viewing we enjoyed.

It wasn’t just that we saw animals, including the Big Five and wild dogs.  It was the quality of the game drives and sightings that stood out. Also, our guides were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the bush, making our game viewing special.

Leopards are solitary animals, infrequently seen in groups or pairs. On our last morning we encountered mating leopards relaxed enough to allow our company. We spent six hours following, viewing and photographing the amorous couple. Click here to read a dedicated feature about Londolozi Tree Camp.

Click on the play button below to view video of some game we encountered at Tree Camp in the Londolozi Reserve.

Listen to audio interview with Nicholas More, co-owner, Lion Sands Private Game Reserve


Nicholas More, co-owner, Lion Sands Private Game Reserve

While in South Africa, one of our teams stayed at 1933, an exclusive rental villa within the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, part of the world famous Sabi Sand Reserve near They liked the property and as a result of their visit we published an dedicated feature on 1933 a few weeks ago. During the visit Elena del Valle had an opportunity to chat with Nicholas More, co-owner and operations director, Lion Sands Private Game Reserve about 1933 and the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve.

Click on the play button below to listen to their conversation.

Haute Cuisine in the Low Country

Article and photos by Josette King


Low Country Mansion

On a recent visit to the Low Country, the coastal plain where South Carolina melts into the Atlantic Ocean, I enjoyed a few days in Charleston, the historic, cultural and culinary crown jewel of the area. There, I had the pleasure of dining at Circa 1886 where I was able to observe first hand the artistry of Marc Collins, the restaurant’s executive chef.

Tucked away in the back garden of the Wentworth Mansion, in a low pink brick building that was once its carriage house (and named for the year the mansion was built), the restaurant could be easy to miss among the grand southern mansions of its historic residential neighborhood. But although only a discrete sign at the entrance of its vine-covered trellised walk announced its presence, the word had obviously gotten around. Even on a Tuesday night in the middle of summer, the quietly formal dining room was filled with local patrons as well as Mansion guests.


Circa 1886 dining room

The beautifully restored 19th century carriage house was an harmonious blend of original elements (such as the stable doors and heart-of-pine floors) and seamlessly integrated reconstruction features like elegant vaulted booths, boxed ceilings and flattering lighting. The timeless elegance of the décor was an appropriate metaphor for the style of Chef Collins who wove together elements of traditional southern cuisine and modern French gastronomy into an imaginative menu of understated sophistication.


Marc Collins, executive chef, Circa 1886

Chef Collins took over as executive chef of newly opened Circa 1886 in 2001 and quickly made his mark on the Charleston cuisine scene. After being singled out as chef to watch by Esquire Magazine in 2001, he went on to lead Circa 1886 to its current status as a AAA Four Diamonds and Mobile Four Stars recipient. His creations emphasized an intriguing modern approach to traditional southern cuisine, based on seasonally available local products, as well as sustainable and rebounded local fish and seafood. He found inspiration in antique cookbooks of the Low Country, where classic French and English cuisine were enhanced with vibrant Caribbean and African accents, as departure points for some of his signature dishes, such as crab cake souffle (made with mango puree) and his spicy grilled shrimp over fried green tomatoes with chow-chow.

On the night of my visit, I especially enjoyed the seared fresh foie gras first course. It was served on a glaze of Myer’s rum and garnished with bittersweet chocolate bread topped with banana gelato for an intriguing balance of tangy sweetness. My Key Lime Scallops main course was another unexpected combination: three giant seared scallops, each served on a small basil-corn flapjack, and topped with pureed buttered carrots, heart of palms and spring peas respectively; a light but satisfying dish that let the delicate freshness of the scallops shine.

The staff was polished, well informed of the particularities the menu and offerings on the wine list.  The service, discretely attentive, well timed and friendly, was flawless. Click here for more about my superb dining experience at Circa 1886.