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JULY 2007: Bangor, ME
boat_day.jpgEvery other year for the past 10 years my husband and I make the long and arduous trip from Los Angeles to Bangor, Maine for a week's vacation at his family's camp on Lake Pushaw. There's nothing like relaxing on the dock with a nice glass of wine and listening to the Red Sox games on the radio. Usually we have to stop in New Hampshire or Massachusetts to get anything remotely drinkable because, in past years, the wines found in the grocery store were for emergency use only.

Always on the lookout for wine shops with a wide selection and affordable prices – it's my not-so-secret obsession – I noticed a listing for the Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. on the Bangor city website and was intrigued. Since they don't have a website, I still stocked up in MA before we left, because we couldn't be left high and dry. A week is a long time without good wine.

After the 5 hour drive, all my husband wanted to do was get to the lake and relax, but he humored me and we popped into the store. Owner Leslie Thistle warmly welcomed us. After looking around, I was thrilled to see that I wouldn't have to haul wine across state lines ever again. It's a small space, but it's packed with everything a wine junkie could want. They cover all the bases, carrying at least a few bottles from everywhere in the world, and will even try to carry your favorites (if you happen to be a local). The shop also holds monthly wine tastings – which we sadly missed – and carries a wide range of cheeses.

boat_sunset.jpgThanks to Allan Clark we found a new taste sensation that we just can't get enough of – grilled Haloumi cheese. It's from Greece and comes in a 3" x 4" slab. You just cut it into 1/4" slices, throw it on the grill or into a frying pan and wait for it to get brown and gooey. It doesn't exactly melt, just gets soft and warm. We've since found it in Gelsons and Whole Foods and it's become a BBQ appetizer mainstay. You can top it with just about anything because it keeps its' shape, but we like its' salty goodness plain the best. Adding to the fun, it squeaks against your teeth when you eat it.

Even more shocking was the change in the Orono Hannaford Supermarket. They now have a gourmet food section that rivals most found in Los Angeles and a wine aisle that doesn't only feature jugs and boxes. Why they spruced up this store in particular is a mystery to us, but we were sure glad they did. I'm not quite ready to move there full-time (we need running water for that); however, at least now we have a few places that will make those lazy days much more enjoyable. They better be there when I go back.

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