Home Away From Home: Part 3

Because Veteran's Day fell on a Tuesday this year and eliminated the possibility of a long weekend, my mother and I had to rearrange the usual plan for our Veteran's Day shopping weekend in Maine.

I took a half day on Friday, and we decided to stop in Kittery for our first round of shopping instead of plowing straight on to Freeport and hitting LL Bean so late that everything else is closed, as we would normally do.

We arrived in Kittery around 3:30 p.m. and immediately stopped into the Crate&Barrel outlet. I scanned the store for any new gadgets, dishes, or cookbooks I might want. Somehow I only bought some boxes for giving away Christmas cookies and escaped without buying up everything in the place.

We went to a few other stores and decided to stop for a "snack." Unfortunately, there aren't too many options around. There's Bob's Clam Hut, which is great for fried seafood, if that's what you're in the mood for, but we weren't. There's Weathervane, which I really don't like. There's Burger King, which doesn't even count. And lastly, there's Robert's. I love Robert's. I make it a point to go there any time I'm in Kittery.

Thinking we would just pop in, sit at the bar, and have a couple of appetizers, we headed in that direction. Drinks were easy enough: The bartender said "raspberry cosmos," and we said, "OK." Then we started looking at the menu... and the specials.

Our order ended up being two Duxbury oysters, steamed mussels a la Howard, the fall salad, and the linguine with clams special. So much for a snack!

Soon after we ordered, the bartender brought over some crackers and an artichoke spread. We munched on these and sipped our cosmos until the oysters and mussels arrived. I wasn't in an oyster mood that day, so I didn't have one, but my mother said they were delicious.

The mussels a la Howard were definitely my favorite part of the meal. The steamed mussels are served in a bowl of cream sauce with fennel and sausage. I would scoop each mussel out of its shell, swirl it around in the cream sauce, and spear a piece of sausage to eat with it. I've had a lot of steamed mussels in wine sauce dishes before but nothing like this.

Then the fall salad arrived. Knowing we were splitting it, the bartender had asked the chef to put it on two plates, so we each got a dish of greens with cranberries and walnuts, topped with goat cheese and a roasted shallot vinaigrette.

By that time we were ready for new drinks. My mother ordered a blueberry martini made with Cold River potato vodka. We had been to Freeport earlier this year for a food and drink tasting and had sampled this particular vodka. I found the aftershock too harsh, but my mother didn't. I ordered a pumpkin martini, which I think had rum rather than vodka, as well as some nutmeg... and based on how I slept that night, possibly some espresso.

Our entree arrived, also split between two dishes. It was wonderful and was my mother's favorite. I loved it but didn't think it took rank over the mussels.

And to finish our "snack," we had bite-size desserts. I can't even tell you what a great idea this is. By the time I finish dinner, I usually want dessert but know most of it will go to waste because I'm so full. At Robert's you can get any of the desserts in a bite-size version. My mother ordered the blueberry crumble, and I got the mocha fudge cake. They came served in small ramekins. We had enough to sample our own desserts and try a little of each other's. It was the perfect ending to the meal.