It’s hard to believe we missed this gem just 10 minutes from our house for all these years, or that we first heard about Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant in Belgrade Lakes from our friend Wende Gray over in Bethel! The inn and restaurant turn out to be well-known to patrons of fine dining and comfortable lodging. And now that we’ve experienced it, we’ll become regulars!

Linda

Sometimes you don’t know what’s right in your own backyard. Open for dinner Thursday through Saturday nights, Chef Christopher Anderson — who owns the inn and restaurant with his wife Tracey — offers a $62 fixed-price menu of five courses that changes weekly. Unlike special wine dinners, where you have no choice in the courses, the fixed price menu gives you choices for each course.
Joined by friends Ben Tucker of Norway and Margot Pullen of Oakland, we encountered food, atmosphere and service of the highest quality, at a leisurely pace. The first thing that struck me as we entered the driveway to the inn, was the beautiful flower gardens.

They offer two seatings here at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (one doesn’t need to be out by eight, they just start seating a new group then).

Perhaps you will be lucky enough to wait in the main entrance room before being seated. There are so many things to look at, and we even wandered into one of the inn’s rooms to get a peek at a spacious and elegantly decorated bedroom. (Hopefully, we will get to try out the inn someday!)

I loved the way they have designed the restaurant seating. They’ve afforded privacy through multiple rooms and dividers. The dining area where we sat is stunning — chandeliers, rose-colored tablecloths, candlelight and fresh flowers alert you to the fact that you are about to have a very special dinner.

Though several tables of guests were there that Thursday night, it remained quiet enough for pleasant conversation and we could still hear classical music being played in the background.

As our appetizer arrived, all four of us leaned in for a deep whiff of the amazing aroma of caramelized onion and smoked blue cheese tart. It was as delicious as it smelled.

I seem to be on a case study of gazpacho, and found theirs to be light, a bit spicy, and so flavorful. Topped with a large crouton and a small dollop of goat cheese floating in its center, this gazpacho is my winner thus far! Let’s just say that once I slid my bowl over for George to taste, he tried to keep it.
Our Caesar salads were perfect — extra crunchy lettuce, asiago cheese and great croutons and dressing. George had his anchovies and asked for mine.

There were four outstanding entrée choices on that night’s menu: a beef, a fish, a poultry and a vegetarian dish. I chose the Cornish Game Hen with beet green risotto and baby carrots. Each and every dish that came from the kitchen was picture worthy.

The chef told us that people eat with their eyes first, and he certainly knows how to present a beautiful plate. I haven’t had Cornish Game Hen in years. This one was moist, tender and delicious.

I chose the Dark Chocolate Flourless Truffle for dessert. It was dense, rich and sinfully delicious. I probably should have shared more than I did!

George

Yes, she should have.

Seated at the center table in the dining room, it seemed like we were the only ones there that evening. This place is very intimate and elegant, a historic building that retains many of its features — reminding us of our own house that was built in 1790.

The dining pace was just right for us, about three hours from start to finish, allowing for great conversation and a respite between courses (I hate those restaurants that hustle food out and pile the courses up in front of you, hoping to turn over your table quickly).   

You are a valued guest here, much more than a customer. Both our server Rick and chef Christopher were personable and very enthusiastic about answering our questions. I really like restaurants where the chef comes out to talk about his or her food with the guests. There are only 16 inside seats, but summer dining offers an array of tables on the porch.

It is important to note that reservations are required, dress is business casual and children are discouraged — nicely — by this statement, “Our menu and atmosphere generally do not meet the needs of young children.”

The restaurant has no liquor license but encourages diners to bring their own. Ben and I each brought a favorite red wine, and we handed our bottles over at the front desk when we arrived. They were opened and draped in serving towels on our table when we were seated.

Christopher and Tracey met at the Culinary Institute of America, an experience they describe as “love at first bite.” That’s not uncommon, we are discovering in our travels around Maine. Cooking is apparently a very intimate experience!

After Lin refused to share her amazing gazpacho, I made sure to order my own Caesar salad, and it was on the high end of all the Caesars I’ve had — plus I got those extra anchovies that Lin wouldn’t eat!

But it was my entrée that was the star of the evening for me — Terrace Major Au Poivre, a top-of-the-line shoulder cut of beef,  cooked exactly to my medium-rare request, with a tasty sauce to match, plus spicy roasted potatoes and Haricot Vertes (French green beans). The beautiful presentation matched the quality of the beef.

A big fan of “rubub,” I quickly selected the Rhubarb and Raspberry Cobbler with Bourbon Crème Fraiche for dessert. Wow! It was spectacular.

We lingered at the table, and again in the waiting room, checking out the books, games and handsome old furnishings and artwork — not wanting to call it an evening.

But anticipation is often the best part of our adventures and experiences, and we’re now enjoying the anticipation of a return visit to the Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant — just 10 minutes from our home!

IF YOU GO . . .

WHERE: Wings Hill Inn and Restaurant
ON THE WEB: www.wingshillinn.com; PHONE: 1-866-495-2400
Reservations required
HOURS: Open Thursday-Sunday from Memorial Day to Columbus Day in October. Fridays and Saturdays from then to New Year’s Eve. Jan.-April only open Valentine’s and Easter weekends. Fridays and Saturdays from there to Mother’s Day.
DIRECTIONS: Traveling north on Route 27 pass through the village of Belgrade Lakes, cross the bridge, and the inn is immediately on your right.

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

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