By the sea, by the sea…

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Inn By The Sea…by the beautiful sea. That’s the location of the Inn by the Sea.

The inn, a collection of rooms, suites, and two-bedroom cottages evoking Victorian shingle-style architecture, has long been one of Maine’s finest accommodations. Now, one year after a multi-million dollar renovation, it shines even brighter.

IMG_0859Now this is not the place to come on a meager budget unless you snag one of the off-season rates or spring Habitat for Humanity programs, but if you got the bucks, well, you won’t find much classier accommodations in Maine, nor a better inn dining room, nor better service. Nor a place more accommodating to kids and pets.

Now add a cozy lounge, a spa (open to nonguests), a pool, a private boardwalk over the wetlands and dunes to Crescent Beach, a welcoming paw to pets, and ultra-green status—Heck, this place is a certified butterfly waystation and a certified wildlife habitat with  five acres of indigenous gardens, it offers eco-education programs, uses biofuel, has solar heating, a saline pool, amenities in recycled bottles, it has dual-flush toilets, and all the other musts of any green resort, from lightbulbs to bamboo sheets. No green washing here; this place is the real deal.

IMG_0857In the main inn are deluxe rooms (fireplaces), Garden Suites (ground floor level with patio; separate bedroom), and Spa Suites (bi-level with loft bedroom and balcony). Lucky me, I stayed in a spa suite. It was more than spacious, with an expansive downstairs living room, a wet bar with mini fridge and coffeemaker, a porch, and an upstairs balcony bedroom with a bathroom that’s larger than many motel rooms. It has a large spa tub, separate and humongous shower, water closet, dual sinks, and heated floors (loved those!). And the views! Over the gardens, lawn, and pool, to the shrubs shrouding the wetlands, and the ocean.

Throughout the inn the decor is contemporary with a nautical vibe and vaguely reminiscent of a tony yacht: dark wood, compass rose patterns in the floor tiles, images of boats, berth-like sofas, rattan chairs like you’d have expected to find on the Queen Mary, porthole-shaped mirrors. But make no mistake about it, the ocean views are the centerpiece, with big windows framing the gardens and lawns and beyond them, a short stretch of woods-framed wetlands, the dunes, the ocean.

My favorite part: At night,I left my window open to hear waves crashing on distant reefs and against the shore and, on the foggy night, a distant fog horn. That’s my kind of sleep-inducing symphony.

Sea Glass Dining RoomFOOD: If you can’t afford to sleep here, at least dine here; the Sea Glass restaurant is a treat. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner (entrees $18-29), and there’s also a tapas menu in the lounge. Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich gives an international accent to locally sourced Maine foods, but only the grilled gaucho steak and frites truly utilizes his Argentinian upbringing, with a chimichurri sauce.

I can recommend the Mediterranean scramble for breakfast (eggs, with tomatoes, spinach, feta, Kalamata olives), mmmm. And at dinner, the roasted mushroom tart appetizer was a surprise. More deconstructed, than not, with a housemade crust, topped with lightly roasted wild mushrooms, arugula, crumbled feta, and balsamic syrup. It was bright, crisp, full of flavor. The seafood and lobster paella was equally memorable, a classic done well.

I also snitched tastes off other plates . The pan-seared jumbo scallops are another house specialty and with good reason. These are served with truffle parsnip puree, shaved fennel, gaufrettes,and beurre monte—a lot of fancy words that added up to lingering flavors. The goat cheese gnocchi and marinated beet carpaccio also hit the mark, pleasant surprises, not the usual same-ole, same-ole treatments of goat cheese and beets.

WOOF: Seventeen rooms are dog friendly, one is cat friendly. Get this: Fido can order off a room-service pet menu and have an in-room massage, is welcome throughout the inn and on its grounds, and in winter, is allowed to play on Crescent Beach. If I return, I’m bring my Leos.

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