One Stanley Avenue offers an elegant step back in time.Linda

I still remember a very special dining experience we had at One Stanley Avenue 15 or 20 years ago. Chef and owner Dan Davis, who lives with his wife Susan upstairs at One Stanley, has poured his life into this historic building that includes his impressive collection of stained glass in the windows and walls.

For dinner, our server Tammy seated us in “The Arch” in the first of two intimate dining rooms. Tammy owns a preschool center in Phillips, so she and I had a lot to talk about.

The tin ceilings in this room are very intricate. Bathed in rose pink, the rooms are romantically lit with candles on the tables and quiet music in the background. One look around and you know you are in for a special meal here.

A whiff of their warm, fresh wheat bread will have you swooning. Chef Davis grinds his own wheat. His European travels have influenced the type of food he serves here, but he melds this with the favors of Maine. So fiddleheads meet juniper berries and hemlock, and meats such as duck, rabbit, lobster and venison are classically prepared. But classic does not mean boring. The dishes are beautiful and the flavors pop.

Entrees run from $22 to $36, with most hovering around $25. That includes the bread, a mixed greens salad served with a house-made dressing, fresh vegetables, rice, potato or Shaker dumplings, and coffee or tea. This is an opportunity for gourmet food at reasonable prices.

I started my meal with artichoke hearts. It was a simple dish of three artichoke hearts with an amazingly light fresh basil dressing — a perfect appetizer and one I have never seen on a menu elsewhere. It’s one of those dishes I will end up craving.

My entree, the Beef and Chestnut Pie, was another unusual option, served in an oval dish and encased in gorgeous pastry. Chunks of beef tenderloin combined with chestnuts and mushrooms rested in a heavenly gravy. Two of the ingredients listed were molasses and garlic, so maybe that is the secret of the sauce. I was only able to eat half, but the leftovers were almost as pretty as when it came out of the kitchen. They had formed a swan out of the aluminum foil. No detail is overlooked here.

Three Stanley Avenue, next door to the restaurant, is Dan Davis’ beautiful six-room Victorian B&B. I would describe the decor as elegant simplicity. Patterned lace sheers hang on the windows between shades and curtains and the effect of white on white is stunning. A wicker love-seat with patterned cushions and pillows sits beside an antique free-standing clothes rack. The bed is covered with pretty quilts and pillows that are softer than soft. There is no TV here. It is comfy, quiet and special. Our room reminded me of those one would find in Europe.

At breakfast the next morning, the sun streamed through five exquisite panels of stained glass. We were seated on the porch — the very same room where we dined all those years ago. Dan had the border of narrow transom windows specially made. We were treated to fresh coffee poured out of a silver pot, orange juice and blueberry pancakes with syrup.

Just when I thought my day couldn’t get off to a better start, Dan asked if we would like to see his remodeled kitchen. Dan’s creative ideas are showcased here. Three skylights flood the space with light. A metal rack is filled with pans and utensils. He has incorporated an antique cooler from an old store in Canaan. Half of the cooler opens in his kitchen while the other side opens in the walk-in cooler. An antique cabinet has been repurposed into the end of the island. The two gigantic ovens are the original ones he’s been using since 1972.

Stanley Avenue can accommodate special occasions such as rehearsal dinners and parties for up to 30 guests. They even have a restored gazebo and spacious lawns for outdoor weddings. But if you are looking for an elegant special meal, hurry up to Kingfield. The normal dining season for One Stanley Avenue is from mid-December to mid-April.

George

I love many things about One Stanley Avenue, opened by Dan Davis in 1972. It’s a step back to a day of elegant, unhurried dining. The food is exceptional. Chef Dan is very personable and interesting. And the restaurant is close by — Kingfield is only 20 miles from Farmington and 45 minutes from our Mount Vernon home.

Nevertheless, we chose to stay in Dan’s next-door inn to experience and write about it. And I’m glad we did, because it gave us a chance to step away from the TV, computer, chores and other things that keep us busy at home. Yes, the inn does offer WiFi, but we chose not to go online that night.

At just $85, the rooms are a bargain and close enough to Sugarloaf to attract skiers. I also noted that a snowmobile trail runs behind the inn’s four wooded acres, making this a wonderful overnight stop for travelling snowmobilers.

Arriving at the restaurant at 6:30 p.m., we were invited by Dan to enjoy a drink in the lounge. It’s really a lovely living room, featuring a gorgeous piano and antique furniture, with family photos spread throughout and a bar tucked in the far corner. The steady tick of the grandfather clock was the only sound — what a great place to relax! Tammy, who would serve us throughout the evening, recommended a St. Francis cabernet sauvignon, which was really good.

Dan came out of the kitchen briefly to visit with us, and we were delighted to discover we had many friends in common. He graduated from Kents Hill School in Readfield.

It’s really no surprise that Dan is an accomplished and creative chef. He traveled the world in his earlier life, cooking all over Europe and the United States, sometimes with famous chefs. But he has made the menu at One Stanley Avenue his own, calling it Classic Cuisine of Maine. He even forages for some of his ingredients.

The year each entree first appeared on his menu is noted. And I just loved the fact that the most current one was added in 1998! Dan must have been way ahead of his time, because his dishes are very creative and unusual.

I began my culinary tour with ($6) smoked Maine mussels with dill dressing. It was delicious with a dressing from Dan’s grandmother. Best mussels I’ve ever had. I passed the dish over to Lin who took a big bite and exclaimed, “Oh my God, that’s lemony!” She’d grabbed a chunk of the lemon along with the mussel.

I was very tempted by the beef dishes but Linda insisted I be more adventurous, so I ordered the ($26.75) Saged Rabbit with Raspberry Sauce, added to the menu in 1986. The rabbit comes from a local farm, and is served in thin slices wrapped in duck skin. I’ve eaten a lot of rabbit over the years, but nothing this creative and tasty. And, as Tammy told us, “We don’t provide sharp knives. Everything can be cut with a butter knife.”

The dumpling must be experienced. I loved the texture.

I insisted on a dessert, “so we can get a photo,” and Lin ordered the ($6) Raspberry Creme — their smallest dessert and a perfect ending to our meal.

We adjourned again to the lounge — I just loved that space — to visit with Dan and his wife. The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast, Dan told us he will keep the inn and restaurant going for another eight years, until he’s 80. “Its home,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I’ve still got my home.”

Well, it’s been working very well for 42 years!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.