A special Chef’s Table dinner by Arturo Montez drew us back to the Bluenose Inn — as if we needed an excuse to enjoy another luxurious visit to Bar Harbor!

George

Let’s see if we can design a luxurious weekend getaway for you. Perhaps you would begin with lodging. Maybe a suite on the top floor of a beautiful inn perched on a hill with an amazing view out over the ocean. The staff would be a super-friendly and interestingly diverse group of people from all over the world — all of whom will have time to visit with you and tell you their stories.

The suite would include a living room with a fireplace and huge TV and comfortable seating and a bedroom with a huge and super comfortable bed. An alcove would include a refrigerator and a coffee maker with a large assortment of teas and coffees to choose from.

You’d want a two-room bathroom, with double sinks in one room, a shower (with a therapeutic shower head) and toilet in the other and a huge assortment of shampoos and soaps.

A private deck overlooking the ocean would be the place you’d enjoy the chocolate moose that was presented to you when you arrived along with a personal welcoming note from the owner/manager. The next morning, in the warm sun, you’ll sit on the deck enjoying that cup of coffee and Paul Doiron’s new novel.

The inn would have a beautiful Great Room where pianist Bill Trowell would play for you in the evening while you enjoyed a drink by the fireplace. And you’d have an indoor and an outdoor pool for your diving pleasure, a fitness room and a spa.

The inn would include a wonderful restaurant with the best ocean view of any restaurant in Maine. One of the state’s top chefs would preside there, creating some of the best dishes you’ve ever tasted.
Linda and I have come to treasure our getaways to the Bluenose Inn where Jim Ash, part owner and general manager, is the state’s top host. Inns and restaurants where the owner is on the premises have become our favorites, but it’s very unusual to find a place as large as the Bluenose where this is the case. Jim Ash defines hospitality for us.

And we would follow Executive Chef Arturo Montez — at the inn’s Looking Glass Restaurant — anywhere, as we did for his wonderful New Year’s Eve dinner at the Black Bear Inn.

So when Jim invited us to Arturo’s July 19 Chef’s Table dinner at the Looking Glass, we were quick to agree. And sure enough, the dinner was extraordinary in every way. Our server, Kimball, handled the entire table professionally and efficiently. Guests were interesting and conversations lively. Wines were tasty and well-paired with each course.

The food was amazing. The price of $85 per person might seem high to some readers, but its less than you’d pay if you ever tried to order a five course dinner of creative food, with wine specially paired with each course. We have found these dinners to be the very best way to experience a chef’s creativity, and they always expose us to foods and presentations we’ve never seen.

Arturo hit a home run with me with his Caper Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Salad, with a very tasty light honey-mustard lemon topping. The sole entree included a fresh fillet with a peppercorn citrus rub in spring cabbage, poached with white wine and finished with a lemon wine butter sauce.
Because Lin doesn’t eat much seafood, I got her smoked salmon portion and it was a small miracle that I could continue eating after the sole entree, but the final entree, rack of lamb, was the star of the show for both of us. Wow!

Because we were writing about the dinner, I got to try all three “mini desserts.” Anything in the name of journalism.

And amazing even myself, I was back at the Looking Glass at 10 a.m. the next day for my all-time favorite breakfast: Eggs Benedict with Arturo’s spicy crab cakes. I enjoyed it both mornings of this visit. Having now enjoyed this dish five times, I can only say I can’t wait for our next visit!

Linda

As the summer heat wave continued in July we were scheduled for a visit to Bar Harbor. When we left Mount Vernon, the air was humid and stagnant. It was a pleasant relief when we got to Bar Harbor and felt a refreshing breeze off the ocean. It was also a relief to arrive at the Bluenose Inn, where we know we can relax and simply enjoy all that the area offers.

The inn faces the harbor giving way to breathtaking views of the ocean and distant hills, and sits up on a hill letting you take in the expanse of the bay. The Bluenose is far enough out of town to enjoy a little peace and quiet, yet close enough to walk downtown along the wide walking path. The hotel employs a top-notch staff that intends to make your stay an enjoyable memory. And it always is.

We were there to enjoy another wine dinner by Chef Arturo Montez. He is an extraordinarily creative chef and his talents shine when creating an amazing five-course dinner. Our table held 13 guests this year. Meeting out on the deck to get acquainted, we were able to enjoy that amazing view with a much-appreciated breeze. We moved inside to embark on a 3 1/2 hour dinner of incredible wines and food.

The first course of gnocchi was a contender for my favorite of the evening. The homemade spinach gnocchi was light and fluffy and baked with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. But the surprise addition of a tender lobster claw made this dish sing. I found myself loving warm lobster for the first time. The Wallace Brook Pinot Noir made an excellent pairing.

There are two separate entree courses in the Looking Glass wine dinners. For me, the rack of lamb was the biggest surprise of the evening. I had almost come to the conclusion that I didn’t love lamb until I tasted Chef Montez’s version. Two chops were seasoned with ground mustard, yogurt and red Thai curry sauce then baked and served with a port wine lamb sauce. The lamb was so tender and spices flavorful, but not hot. This was a spectacular dish and one I’d love to have again. A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley was perfect with the lamb.

Conversation at the table flowed easily as guests made connections with one another. When you get a table of foodies  together, one only needs to mention a town or a restaurant for instant connections to be made.

Our relaxing weekend flew by with some time at their outdoor pool, a drive down to Seawall (where it was 15 degrees cooler than Bar Harbor!) and up the “quiet side” of the peninsula, walks in the shade and a little shopping downtown — principally at Sherman’s bookstore, another favorite, where I (probably for the first time) purchased more books than George.

And when you visit Bar Harbor, don’t miss the spectacular breakfasts at the Looking Glass. As witnessed by the full dining room on a weekend morning, this is a place for wonderful breakfasts. Not only is every plate beautifully presented, the eggs are always cooked to perfection.

All staff here are serious about their duties. Cindy, the hostess, always has friendly smiles and checks in with each table personally. The tall young man resetting the tables was so meticulous, fussing over the placement of utensils, fresh flowers and napkins. A host of servers will check in often to top off your water and coffee. Everyone is smiling, especially the guests. Perfection!

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.