Steuben Gems

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First, let’s get the pronunciation right, it’s stewBEN. Next, let’s nail down its location: It straddles Route 1, wedged between Gouldsboro (Schoodic Peninsula) to the south and Milbridge to the north. Now, here’s why it’s worth noodling off Route 1 to find it.

Previously I posted about the Painted Pepper Farm, a family-owned organic farm raising Nigerian goats and making amazine yogurts, ice creams/gelattos, jams and other delicious products. That’s one reason.

Here’s another: Wildflour Bakery. It’s on the Village Rd., which loops off Route 1 on the ocean side. It’s only open 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. It may open another day, but that’s not planned. Auto mechanic-turned baker Rich Chevalier turns out creative breads, muffins, English muffins and–you know I’m a chocolate-chip-cookie-aholic right?–some of the BEST chocolate-pecan cookies I’ve tasted. Of course, I did manage to get them right out of the oven, so they were all goey and melty.

Also on the Village Rd. is The Shaw Place Antiques, in the barn of the town’s second-oldest home. It’s filled with not only bona fide antiques, but also Jan Whelan’s hand-knitted sweaters, all made from magnificent yarns. Her ancestors were 15th-century British wool merchants, so she figures it runs in the family. Jan also know the region’s deep history, and delights in sharing it. Check out the guest register: Shoppers have included Robert Redford and Tom Selleck. Oh, by the way, these sweaters aren’t inexpensive.

Veer off the Village Rd. onto the Rogers Point Road to find the first of two woodworkers worth a visit. Arthur Smith is master of chainsaw carving. He’s a gifted folk artist who looks at tree, and instead of seeing firewood, sees an animal, perhaps an eagle or great blue heron or wolf. His wife, Marie, paints his works in realistic colors, and she also weaves baskets reflecting her Native American heritage.

Return to Route 1 and head down Pigeon Hill Rd. to find Ray Carbone, who is to fine woodworking as Arthur is to folk craft. He also crafts stone and bronze sculptures and birdbaths. Beautiful work.

Hungry? Country Charm is just down the road a piece. Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside has, well, country charm. At least in the first dining room; the others are purely functional. The food is classic Down East family fare: inexpensive, big portions and damn good fish ‘n chips and chowders.

Walk it off in the Petit Manan section of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, at the end of the road. It’s renowned for birdwatching, but it’s simply a beautiful spot to take a walk, and from the tip, on a clear day there are fine views of Petit Manan Light.