Wednesday, March 11, 2009

stimulating the economy with a staycation

i have had this fantasy for a long time about secretly planning a trip to some tropical island and surprising seth with it. its a fantasy i can't make a reality yet but i did try to come close.
back in early february i was checking out the weekly email from travelzoo about great travel deals, when i noticed a special at the inn by the sea in cape elizabeth. this small hotel sits right on crescent beach state park, one of my favorite beaches, and the deal was really great! i thought, i can book this hotel for seth's birthday on march 6th and surprise him with it. so that's what i did, and i almost made it all the way to his birthday without telling him. i thought he needed something to look forward to so a week before his birthday i told him about the surprise.
let me just talk about how amazing this deal really was. the price for a fireplace room for one night was $129. i know this is a splurge but this room is $300 to $400 in the summer. and it was truly a beautiful room. the whole place was redone in june 2008 and it is comfortably luxurious. the bathroom was obscenely huge with a glassed-in shower the size of my whole bathroom at home. we had a view of the ocean from our room, a plush king size bed, a comfortable sitting area, and a huge flat screen tv.
when i was making the reservations i check out the hotel restaurant, sea glass. the menu looked great but it was a little spendy so i figured i would find some place nearby to dine. around the same time i was checking out the list of restaurants participating in maine restaurant week, which just happened to coincide with seth's birthday weekend. and there it was: sea glass was participating in restaurant week. for $30.09 per person we could get a three course meal! so i made reservations.
the dining rooms is quite small, which creates an intimate feeling with the warm furniture and over sized chairs. we were presented with both the restaurant week menu and the regular menu, which allowed us to see what a deal we were really getting. most of the entrees at the sea glass are around $25 so to get a 3 course meal for $30 is really amazing.
for our first course i choose the beet and spinach salad and seth picked the lobster bisque. my salad was delicious with both red and gold beets and what the menu termed a "snow" of goat cheese and smoked bacon. seth really liked his lobster bisque but felt that by the bottom of the bowl the tarragon oil overpowered the other flavors.
for our main courses i choose the grilled gaucho steak frites with chimichurri sauce and seth had the maine seafood paelle. i think the cut of steak was a new york strip grilled to a perfect medium rare. i love when i can get a steak that has a little char on the outside but still manages to be pink and juicy on the inside. the frites were amazing and quite reminiscent of duck fat fries in the flavor but not shape. i'm a big fan of chimichurri sauce, but i did think this one could have used a little more brightness. though i'm not sure i am one to comment as the chef is argentinian (once grilling season starts i will share my recipe for chimichurri). the paelle was slightly modified from the regular menu with the omission of lobster, but seth love it just the same. it contained all native seafood with maine shrimp, wild mussels, local clams, and calamari. seth could not stop raving about the smokiness the chorizo added.
for dessert i got the flourless chocolate souffle cake and i talked seth into getting something different in the vanilla creme caramel. the chocolate cake was absolutely decadent and dense. i like the creme caramel which was basically a flan served with this amazing passion fruit sorbet, but seth didn't care for it.
they have a full bar at the sea glass but seth went with a couple of local beers and i had a glass of wine. they don't serve beer on tap but they do have a good selection of beers in bottles. their wines by the glass selection was decent and well priced. our server was great -- efficient and helpful and never left us wanting for anything. all in all it was a great meal and i would recommend that people go out of their way to dine at this unassuming hotel restaurant in cape elizabeth. a couple of weeks ago i did notice they were doing a weeknight special of three courses for $25 but i don't see it on the website now.
after dinner we headed back up to our room to do what seth most wanted to do on his birthday night: watch the celtics play the cavaliers on that big screen tv. the next morning we lounged around our room for a couple of hours, drinking the coffee by design coffee supplied with the coffee maker in our room. seth said it was his best birthday ever.
i made the statement to seth that we were stimulating the economy with this little indulgence. and that got me thinking that spending money right now is kind of a charitable act. so if you have a little extra money, go spend it on yourself and feel good about it! and even if you don't have extra money right now keep you eyes open for specials at the inn by the sea in coming winters as it is surely worth the splurge.