August 14, 2011

Dine Out Maine: Earth to diner: Come experience an out-of-this-world meal

By NANCY HEISER

(Continued from page 1)

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Earth’s surroundings say rustic, chic and lively; the service is skilled, and the food exceptional. A visit to the Kennebunkport restaurant, which is open evenings, can include a stroll among the vegetable gardens, where nary a weed is to be seen.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

DINING REVIEW

EARTH (at Hidden Pond resort), 354 Goose Rocks Road, Kennebunkport. 967-9050; hiddenpondmaine.com

*****

HOURS: 5:30 to 9:45 p.m. (last reservation taken)

CREDIT CARDS: All major

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $10 to $18; entrees, $18 to $39; $45 for wood oven roasted lobster

VEGETARIAN: Yes

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes. Will accommodate any dietary restrictions.

KIDS: Welcome

RESERVATIONS: Highly recommended

BAR: Full. Includes specialty cocktails and mocktails, three single-malt scotches and four beers on tap. Sommelier selects wines, an international and distinctive list of about 75 bottles ($30 to $630); half are under $100. About 20 choices by the glass, $9 to $17.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: Earth, which opened in June, brings an exhilarating flair and sophistication to Maine. Prepare to be blown away by the food -- its creativity, artistry and depth. All senses are involved in this dining experience. Dishes are expensive, but the food is exceptional. The service is skilled and unstuffy. The atmosphere of Earth's spacious dark wood building with vaulted ceilings, a massive fireplace, porch and gardens is at once rustic, chic and lively.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

* Poor  ** Fair  *** Good  **** Excellent   ***** Extraordinary

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

Lamb chops are slow roasted and tender, and come with a delicious and novel sidebar: artichoke hearts filled with braised, ground lamb shoulder. A gorgeous ricotta-stuffed squash blossom adds color and buoyancy to the plate ($39).

Grilled skirt steak with wild mushrooms is richly flavored, chimichurri adding an exotic note ($39).

Buttermilk fried chicken, deboned and juicy, is served over bacon-braised Swiss chard. Add sweet potato corn bread and pickled watermelon rind, and you've got a divine Southern alchemy ($30).

The kitchen assembles a strawberry shortcake like none other. Dabs of whipped cream flavored with lemon verbena nestle next to three buttons of warm biscuit, underscored by fruit and candied fennel. It's spread on a large plate with swirls of connecting sauce and white space. It's kind of like an Alexander Calder mobile.

Do I exaggerate? Maybe. But the flavor meld surpasses any strawberry shortcake I remember. A rectangle of an intensely dark chocolate cremeux, topped with banana ice cream shaped like an egg, is another luscious finish.

Oh my.

Looking for a destination meal? Head for the barn, the gardens, the fire. Savor an extraordinary dinner. You've found heaven. At Earth.

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer who lives near Portland. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications.

 

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