Linda

Preparations for a busy season ahead were well underway when we visited Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth last week. Flower boxes were planted, the outdoor pool was open and guests were already enjoying the fire pit complete with s’mores. The inn has a great view of the ocean and a boardwalk that leads to sandy Crescent Beach State Park.

The inn’s Sea Glass Restaurant changed its executive chef two months ago, and we were looking forward to checking out chef Steve Sicinski’s new menu. His family has ties to Maine as his wife grew up here and he is delighted to be here. And after dinner, I can tell you we are delighted he is here, too.

The inn and its restaurant are known for their attention to detail. And chef Sicinski fits in well. All the plates we saw were beautiful. The first thing to arrive at a table next to us was a chopped salad. But oh, the presentation! It was a round tower layered with romaine, avocado, feta and more. George jumped up to take photos, with permission of the ladies at the next table.

I was happy to see that they still serve focaccia bread to begin dinner. There has been a change in pastry chefs here too, but clearly the new pastry chef is just as talented. Her version of focaccia was so light it reminded me of sponge cake — only savory, not sweet. It was flavored with rosemary and topped with a parmesan crust. Served with olive oil and pepper, it was heavenly.

Appetizers include everything from lamb meatballs to lobster dumplings. But the cauliflower soup caught my eye. This was no ordinary soup. It was made with almond cream, sherry, roasted garlic and caramelized onions. The thick soup was garnished with a bit of paprika-spiced cauliflower and almonds that had been blanched in oil and salt. There was a bit of spicy flavor, but I think it was pepper. It was delectable. I did share a couple of spoonfuls with George, but just a few. Luckily this is on their menu, not just a soup of the day!

The entrees are creative and include monkfish, from Maine’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative. I was struck by the wide variety of sides and sauces that were paired with each of the dishes. There has to be a whole lot going on in that kitchen.

The bone-in filet mignon was my entree choice, and when a towering piece of beef was served to me the diners at the next table joked, “I hope you will have enough to eat!” I did, but let me just say there wasn’t very much left. The very thick filet was cooked to perfection and the mushroom marsala sauce served with it added a deep, rich flavor. The blue cheese tomato relish matched well with the beef. The potato zucchini tart that accompanied it was held together with a bit of white sauce. The tart was so good I could have made a meal of just that. Everything on that plate held its own. And looking through the menu, my guess is that this is true of each plate the chef has designed.

Our leisurely meal was elegant. We ended it by sharing a strawberry rhubarb tart. The tart/sweet fruit in its flaky crust had a hazelnut streusel topping and was served warm. It was not overly sweet, so the smooth strawberry gelato created a perfect balance.

Put this restaurant on your to-do list. It’s worth the drive for the outstanding food, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views as you dine.

George

Well, Linda didn’t leave me much room for my part of the column! I guess you can tell she loved the new chef’s menu and food. Me, too.

Executive chef Steve Sicinski has enjoyed a distinguished culinary career at several up-scale properties in Arizona and Vermont. He is personable and very creative. In his short time here, he has transformed the dinner menu and made it his own. We especially like his focus on health and wellness.

My entree of sea scallops was very tasty and creative, with a sweet, spicy bok choy. I’ve never had anything like it and I loved it. My appetizer of Stuffy Clams with marash chile cocktail and crumbled brioche was unique and amazing. And my breakfast the next morning of braised corned beef hash was very good and filling.

Inn by the Sea Marketing Director Rauni Kew keeps us well informed about all the events going on here. We hope to return for one of their free jazz nights on the lawn overlooking Crescent Beach and the ocean, scheduled at 5:30 p.m. on four Sundays (July 5, Aug. 9 and Sept. 7). I also took note of the Lobster Bake by the Sea events scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesdays starting on June 23. Yes, there is always something wonderful happening here, including biking, yoga and lots of events for children.

I’ve always appreciated the inn’s commitment to wildlife, including their creation of habitat for cottontail rabbits, a species that was once plentiful and has now almost disappeared in our state. Eleanor Roosevelt would have appreciated this place, too. In 1946, the nation’s First Lady was denied a room in Portland’s Eastland Hotel because she was traveling with her dog. The Inn by the Sea dedicates an entire wing to travelers with dogs.

From our window seat in the restaurant, we enjoyed watching a dad play catch with his kids. Two kids at the next table even went outside to kick a soccer ball around between courses. Linda got it right: this is a wonderful place!

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.