George

The best Sunday brunch in Maine is found at Freeport’s Harraseeket Inn. Check out the Feb. 8 menu, published with this column, and see if you agree. Better yet, experience this yourself. During yet another snowstorm, we cozied up to the fire next to our table and proceeded to dine for two and a half hours.

Employing a new dining strategy, I managed to experience 10 of the 14 appetizers and entrees and one of the desserts. My strategy was simple: Take small portions, at least initially, and put your fork down after every bite. When I bragged to Linda about my strategy, she said, a bit incredulously, “Now you’re going to give advice on how to eat?”

Well, it worked for me. After working (yes, as a travel writer, I can call eating “working”) my way through all of that food, with the help of a tasty mimosa, I was still able to try some heaping helpings of my two favorites.

Who knew I loved clafoutis? I’m still not sure what it is, even after Lin explained it, but I sure did find it delicious. The savory ham, mushroom and chive clafoutis included gruyere cheese.

The Griddled Wild Salmon was my other favorite, served on dirty rice with lemon mosto oil. The salmon was cooked perfectly, and I was entranced by the spicy dirty rice. Lin said it was a New Orleans dish, so no wonder I loved it.

Brunch guests are free to eat in either the Maine Dining Room or the Broad Arrow Tavern, which includes outside seating in the summer. The amazing array of food is presented in the inn’s large tea room, and there are many offerings that are not on the menu, including sauces and sides. A chef is there to cook something special for you. The dishes were so colorful that I took more than 50 photographs.

Many guests have a hard time getting by the very first table, featuring a tall platter of lobster. I saw an awful lot of diners going by us in the dining room with plates full of lobster and little else. I started out with just a half lobster but enjoyed it a lot. I’d barely started eating when Linda said, “You’ve got lobster on you.” Well, that’s how you eat lobster, isn’t it?

Our server, Celeste, has worked here for 22 years, something we especially value at the inn. The staff members love working for the Gray family and tend to spend their careers here. Celeste’s son Jacob was also working as a busboy. The Harraseeket is definitely family-friendly.

Chef Elizabeth DeFranco has cooked here for 10 years. On the Harraseeket’s website, she defined what we expect in a great brunch. “I view brunch as an opportunity for myself and the guests to explore new items and areas of the culinary,” she wrote. “I change the menu every week, trying new preparations, using interesting local products. My goal is simple: to create unique culinary dishes with flavors, tastes and smells that are remembered long after the event has passed.”

It isn’t just the staff that has been here a long time. We met guests who come to brunch here every Sunday, including one delightful lady who is now a volunteer, helping decorate the tea room before the hungry hoards move in. A large table behind us was full of folks we know from Fayette, and in the other dining room we visited with folks from Winthrop. All had driven to Freeport in a snowstorm that morning to enjoy brunch here. Impressive.

I happened to be seated facing the bar, where six desserts were arrayed. And all I could do was stare at them for over two hours until, satiated and stuffed, I waddled over to select the chocolate almond tart. I added a large portion of vanilla ice milk, something I enjoy often in the Broad Arrow Tavern where it is always included in the luncheon buffet. The tart was decadent and the ice milk refreshing. I’d lined up Jacob to help me up out of my seat and out the door but was able, rather surprisingly, to do it myself.

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.

Harraseeket Inn Sunday Brunch

February 8, 2015

Steamed, then chilled, Potts Harbor Maine lobster halves, drawn butter, lemon garni

Slow-roasted Cajun prime rib of beef, port wine demi

Marinated, then blackened cusk loins on a cedar plank, served with ragout of rice and white beans, hush puppies

Cream cheese biscuits with confit of chicken salad, hot pepper jelly or carrot jam

Griddled wild salmon on dirty rice, lemon mosto oil

Baked brie in puff pastry with apples, cranberries and strawberries

A split pea soup with ham hocks and roasted croutons

A beet salad with local farmers cheese and roasted red Anjou pears

Steamed brocolini with cayenne cashews, sunchokes and Nuoc Cham dressing

Simply fondant of colored fingerling potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt

Seasonal vegetable medley with colored carrots, rutabaga, parsnips and cauliflower

A special ramen noodle presentation with kombu, dashi and tare, pork, chicken and ribs

Chef-made noodles, soft poached eggs and sesame oil

Savory Ham, mushroom and chive clafoutis with gruyere cheese

Snickers cheesecake

Lemon poppy seed cake

Gluten-free chocolate brownie pudding

Apple pie

Chocolate almond tart

Other Favorites

Buffet brunches are fun, but so are those that offer at-the-table ordering. In addition to the Harraseeket, we love the Sunday brunch buffet at Sea Dog Brewing Company in Topsham. And for brunches where you order from the menu, it’s hard to beat the Salt Water Farm Cafe in Rockport.


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