It’s hard to imagine a more romantic place to spend Valentine’s Day than New England in snowy February.
For the holiday last year, my husband and I spent a romantic weekend at The Red Lion Inn, in the Berkshires. This year, we journeyed further north to Maine’s Kennebunks for the annual, month-long Paint the Town Red festival. For the entire month of February, love is celebrated with large, lit-up red hearts, red buoys and special events throughout the Kennebunks.
Dinner at The Burleigh
On our first night, we had dinner at The Burleigh at The Kennebunkport Inn, where we indulged in delicious Maine mussels Thai-green-curry style, Brussels sprouts with radicchio, and grilled shishito peppers. And those were just our appetizers! Cam and I then enjoyed a beet salad with arugula and a winter greens salad with pomelo and ricotta salata cheese. We finished by sharing a main course of short rib and polenta.
Our table by the fire was cozy amid the antiques and sea-themed paintings. Cam loved the Shipyard Ale from Portland, Maine and I had the house-made sangria, which was not sweet but deliciously tart. Afterward we went into the historical bar to watch The Fossils play 60s and 70s tunes. The band was so good that I thought Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was doing an impromptu reunion in Kennebunkport!
Nights at The Port Inn
The Port Inn on Route 1 in Kennebunk is super dog-friendly. We were able to bring our dog Indigo (she was even allowed in the lobby). Details like down pillows, ambient lighting, high-thread cotton sheets, and a large shower added to our excellent experience at The Port Inn, as did the uber-friendly staff (Angela the GM, and Nate, David and Margaret at the desk).
A visit to Gooch’s Beach
A continental breakfast on the first morning of pink grapefruit, coffee and blueberry muffins gave us a quick start before we headed to Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk with Indigo. The beach is dog-friendly all winter and in the summer before 9am and after 5pm. We met lots of dogs and felt safe letting Indigo run free as the beach is protected from the road by a high sea wall.
Breakfast at Salt and Honey
Next we returned to Kennebunkport for a second breakfast at Salt and Honey. Cordon Bleu-trained chef/owner Jackson Yordon served us his homemade buttermilk blueberry pancakes with lemon curd and real maple syrup. They reminded me of sourdough pancakes I’ve had in San Francisco. Jackson told us that the place has a whole different vibe at night, when locals go for craft beers, cocktails and Maine-inspired fish tacos, burgers and creative salads.
“Drinks through the Decades” (Paint the Town Red event)
We took a great walk through historic Kennebunkport (full of charm and little shops) before our next Paint the Town Red event, billed as “Drinks through the Decades” back at The Burleigh (see above). The $40 entrance fee got participants a “tutorial” and a cocktail recipe book with delicious, popular drinks through the ages. Among them: an 1800s “Old Fashioned”; a 1930s “French 75,” made from gin, lemon and simple syrup and paired with a succulent crab cake; and my favorite cocktail of all time, “The Bee’s Knees” (1920s), made with gin, lavender, honey, and lemon. Host Ben made the event fun. Our final cocktail was a margarita, maybe the most popular of all and maybe made so by Jimmy Buffet. All cocktails were paired with appetizers.
The “Avalanche Party” (Paint the Town Red event)
The weekend had more than met my expectations but there was still more to come…with the “Avalanche Party” at Old Vines Wine Bar. Outside a tented patio with blue and purple mini-lights served as the backdrop for a performance by a rockin’ blues band called the John Merrow Experiment and an ice bar, from which an enthusiastic bartender named Richie served rum punch. Back inside, two ambitious girls shook up 20 different cocktails and poured excellent wine from an extensive list while a DJ spun records—and everyone danced!
Tables were laden with flatbread pizzas, salads, and many more appetizers on the first floor and under the vaulted ceiling on the second floor. We arrived at 7pm and left at 11pm, right after the band had to quit (if they hadn’t we may have stayed longer as it was so much fun). The evening was topped off by an unexpected snow storm that dumped six inches on the seacoast town.
The perfect last meal
The morning after, we met my good friend Anne and her brother and went back to Gooch’s Beach with the pooches (Indigo and dog Belle) for more exercise before a goodbye, jazz-filled brunch at Pearl Kennebunk. We were lucky to meet chef/owner Rebecca Charles, who also owns Pearl Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village.
The jazz brunch at Pearl’s features the duo of bassist Jim Lyden and guitarist Peter Herman, who had us tapping our toes as we were warmed by the huge beach-rock fireplace. Outside the sun shone on recently fallen snow. Spicy Bloody Marys, blueberry-bread-pudding French toast, a lobster roll, and Atlantic salmon on a johnnycake with creme fraiche were all as good as they sound. (The jazz brunch is on Saturdays and Sundays from May through Labor Day, and right now the Pearl is taking a little break until April). It was the perfect ending to a sweetheart of a weekend!
For more on the Kennebunks, visit gokennebunks.com.