Newport, R.I., vs. Kennebunkport, Maine
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Kennebunkport: The ivories get tickled on Friday and Saturday nights this time of year in the classy piano bar of the Kennebunkport Inn (1 Dock Square, 800-248-2621 or 207-967-2621, www.kennebunkportinn.com). The music may be cool, but many of the top drinks are hot.“Hot Figgin Cidah” features fig-infused cognac and hot Maine apple cider, while the “Thin Mint” adds Irish Cream and peppermint schnapps to hot chocolate.
Advantage: Toss-up. Is your idea of romance a pulsating beat or a sentimental trip downMemory Lane?
Newport: Transient slips in the marina drive up summer demand for rooms at the Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina (49 America’s Cup Ave., 800-955-2558 or 401-847-9000, www.newporthotel.com), but this time of year the spacious quarters are a relative bargain. The renovated pool is slated to open on Valentine’s Day.
Kennebunkport: Small and friendly, the Rhumb Line Resort (41 Turbat’s Creek Road, 800-337-4862 or 207-967-5457, www.rhumblineresort.com) is a perfect hideaway in the woods a quarter mile from the ocean. Refurbished king rooms are the best bet and the outdoor hot tub is the perfect place to spend the evening looking at the stars. (Wimps can choose the indoor pool or hot tub.)
Advantage: Kennebunkport. It’s hard to beat warm water, cold air, and the Milky Way.
Newport: Take advantage of the Goat Island location by requesting a bay-view room for treatments at the Stillwater Spa (Hyatt Regency Newport, 1 Goat Island, 401-851-3225, www.newport.hyatt.com). Couple’s massages can be augmented with a bottle of champagne and a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries.
Kennebunkport: It’s hard to take the mumbo-jumbo about chakra points too seriously, but it sure feels good to have warm stones from the Kennebunk River lying on your body while you’re being massaged. The Breakwater Spa (127-133 Ocean Ave., 207-967-5333, www.thebreakwaterinn.com)
offers the treatment as a couple’s massage as well as a signature river stone manicure or pedicure.
Advantage: Kennebunkport. Mainers don’t let anything go to waste.
Newport: Hearty eaters find the gastropub fare of Buskers Irish Pub and Restaurant (178 Thames St., 401-846-5856, www.buskerspub.com) a godsend. The Irish get a bum rap for their cuisine, especially when you consider how good a lamb stew or a corned beef dinner tastes when accompanied by a true Imperial pint (20 ounces) of Guinness. Although Buskers bustles, three high-backed wooden booths with stained glass offer more intimate dining.
Kennebunkport: It’s best to eat early at The Ramp Bar and Grill (77 Pier Road, Cape Porpoise, 207-967-8500,
www.pier77restaurant.com) so there will be enough light to enjoy the view of Cape Porpoise harbor and avoid the otherwise inevitable wait for a seat in this magnificently funky boaters’ bar with shockingly good food and a broad choice of the beverage known locally as “bee-ah.”
Advantage: Kennebunkport. The seafood stew of clams, mussels, prawns, and fresh fin fish in a saffron tomato broth is worth any wait.
Newport: For a splurge you can start with a half dozen oysters from the raw bar and a couple of glasses of Dom Perignon at The Mooring (Sayer’s Wharf, 401-846-2260, www.mooringrestaurant.com). This harborside restaurant can seem cavernous, but you can request a table in the alcove with a fireplace (though it’s not guaranteed) for an intimate dinner of Georges Bank scallops, Maine lobster, or pan-roasted salmon with ricotta-thyme gnocchi.
Kennebunkport: Some local boats fish all winter, so lobster figures extensively on the menu of hip bistro-trattoria 50 Local (50 Main St., Kennebunk, 207-985-0850, www.localkennebunk.com), located in the inland village a few miles from Kennebunkport. The crustacean is paired with mussels and calamari to grace the tagliatelle, added to a plate of gnocchi, or served as shelled meat poached in butter with lemon risotto on the side. You’d expect the fish to be local, but so are the pork and beef.
Advantage: Kennebunkport, for the taste of place, even in the most challenging season.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.