Sitting on a high point under a towering fortress of century-old pines, the view of the lake is magnificent. Sebago, Maine’s deepest water, stretches out beneath you. Looking west, the randomness of the Dingley Islands is a labyrinth of perfection. Sunset is a beautiful time on a Maine lake in August.
Breathe in the pine wind and let any remaining tension of Route 302 traffic dissolve from your psyche, a helpful server will be with you shortly for that drink order. Relax. You’ve slipped back in time – an era when the elite escaped the overheated cities for the unspoiled tranquility of Maine.
Migis Lodge in South Casco (pronounced MY-gis) has been serving up this experience for nearly 100 years. Since 1916 the meal plan has been crafted as a memorable and noteworthy part of one’s stay – a place of lakeside cabins, but with all the offerings of a five-star hotel.
For the past two years, proprietor Tim Porter has extended the Migis dining experience to the general public. Just call ahead and reserve a table. Porter arrived here in 1978 and has added two sections to the dining room in recent years.
“There was a time when we couldn’t take anybody from the outside,” Porter said. “We didn’t have the space.”
The fare is American. Dinner is a multi-course offering with some older recipes often listed, such as beef Wellington or sauteed veal a la Oscar. John Strain is the executive chef; 2011 marks his 27th year at Migis. A staff of some 25 is under him.
“The veal Oscar is somewhat traditional and also very good,” Strain said. “It’s simple and straightforward: sauteed veal that’s mounded with crabmeat and asparagus with a bearnaise sauce.”
In his tenure here, Strain has seen some dishes fall out of favor only to come back again a decade later. Some, like beef Wellington, which runs on a two-week cycle at the lodge, have been reinterpreted for the lighter appetites of today.
“Covered in pastry, beef Wellington is considered a pretty fancy way to serve roasted tenderloin of beef,” he said. “It can be quite heavy, but we butterfly the beef and leave out the pastry portion. I characterize it as ‘beef Wellington light.’“
In keeping with another custom of earlier times, men are required to wear dinner jackets in the dining room.
“Though some may not be used to it, I think people really appreciate it,” said staff member Scott Malm, who’s been assisting guests since 1988. “People think it’s a neat tradition. It sets us apart.”
“If we were to do away with the jacket requirement, people would be up in arms,” he echoed. “The overnight guests have come to expect and appreciate it.”
Jackets are required every night except Friday, when an informal lobster bake takes place down by the water. The staff makes sure Maine lobster is found on the menu each and every night at Migis.
And it’s not just dinner; Migis takes outside guests for breakfast and lunch as well. On Wednesdays until Labor Day, you can get a ride in the lodge’s 1936 Chris-Craft for a midday lobster bake on one of the Dingley Islands. Lunch is served from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. daily; breakfast is open to the public on Sunday only from 8 to 9:30 a.m.
Come to Migis by car or by boat. If coming for dinner, the pressure is off. Migis does not “turn over” tables. Your table is yours and yours alone for the entire evening. So take your time having that drink under the pines – your table awaits whenever you are ready.
Reservations are required for any meal. Call the lodge at 655-4524. Dinner is $45 per person. Cash and personal checks are accepted, but just like decades ago, credit cards are not.
Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org