Sunday River’s Grand Summit Hotel is certainly grand, and it was packed with skiers including many families with kids. Guests were there from all over the northeast, and we even saw three vehicles from Nova Scotia. The views are spectacular here, and we enjoyed riding up and down the mountain to check out all the inns and restaurants.
We didn’t realize that the normal 4 p.m. check-in time was changed to 6 p.m. on weekends, so we arrived much too early. Fortunately, while we waited for our room, we could luxuriate in the outdoor heated pool and Jacuzzi, and later enjoy a cold microbrew at the inn’s great restaurant, Camp, where we visited with friendly bartender Aaron.
Dinner was really good. From Brian, who greeted us when we first entered and talked hunting and fishing with me, to our server Sarah, from Skowhegan, who has worked there for three years, we felt right at home.
Earlier, at the bar, we talked with Hollie who recommended the meatloaf. I really owe her for that. The meatloaf panetta wrap ($18) was covered with wild-mushroom whiskey sauce included fried shallots and a vegetable and was superb. My Maine Beer Company’s “Mo,” an American pale ale, was perfect for this dish.
My appetizer of venison chili ($8) was also tasty, with Pineland Farms smoked cheddar, scallion and cilantro sour cream. And don’t worry, the meat didn’t come from one of Maine’s wild deer. It actually came from North Dakota.
I was impressed that they had a dinner buffet just for the kids, all of whom were having a great time. In the back of the restaurant is the beautiful Foxfire room, seating up to 12 people, where chef Jennifer Watchhorn prepares custom meals. Boy, I want to get up there for one of those.
The hotel hosts lots of conferences, weddings and other events, and a kids’ playroom and adults’ health club are popular places. And you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy this place, nor must you come in winter. There’s a great array of summer activities, from mountain biking to L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools.
The image of camp in my mind is a small cabin in the woods. And though the huge restaurant at Sunday River is called Camp, it really did have a small “camp” feel with rough-cut wood on the ceiling and walls and birch bark sticks tied together. The ceiling of the bar was adorned with antlers. It was the first thing I noticed. Amazingly, George didn’t.
Chandeliers are logs holding lights that look like fat candles. And far back in the room, canoes hang with lighting inside them. This restaurant seats 275 people, and has a different feel depending on where you sit. I really enjoyed the spot toward the back where we were seated for dinner.
When Hollie described one of her favorite dishes, the Brined Pork Chops ($18), I was sold. For those who need to know, there are good gluten-free and vegetarian options.
I began my incredible dinner with the Camp Winter Salad ($10). It was baby arugula, roasted beets, toasted almonds, fresh blueberries and Pineland Farms feta, with a sherry mustard vinaigrette. This salad had all my favorites, so of course I loved it. The mixture of peppery arugula, sweet beets, berries and salty feta was great.
As soon as I had the first bite of my pork chop I said, “Holy cow, this is good.” Yes, the grilled chop was expertly cooked, the green beans were al dente, and the mashed potatoes memorable. But it was the smoked tomato chutney the made this spectacular and was reminiscent of being cooked over a wood fire. The mashed potatoes had herbed cream cheese and some potato skins in them. Yummy!
George assumed we wouldn’t order dessert, so was pretty surprised when I ordered up a slice of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake to share. The chocolate crumb crust with an ultra-creamy filling was a chocolate lover’s dream.
It was a hearty meal that I didn’t deserve, for I hadn’t skied all day like many of the other diners. I’d taken a long walk first thing that morning, thankfully. When I got to Sunday River my exercise was walking outside to the hot tub. The heavenly soak under blue sky and chilly air was terrific. Even the barefooted walk through a bit of snow felt great afterward.
Once again we were impressed when we entered Camp the following morning for breakfast, a very impressive buffet offered during the winter. Breakfast potatoes, eggs, crispy bacon or sausage and cut fruit awaited on one island. Choices of breads and pastries were in another section. An omelet station got my attention right away. I asked the omelet chef if I could get a one egg omelet. “I can make you a small one,” he said. And he expertly stirred and flipped my omelet of spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. Voila! It was hot and delicious.
It was then that I had to explore the crepe station. I did avoid the chocolate options, choosing the healthier choice of berries. I quickly put together two small berry crepes with mascarpone filling for George and I. Wow, what a breakfast feast. When we got home, we skipped lunch.
Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.