George

A new executive chef at The Looking Glass Restaurant in Bar Harbor was our excuse to return to one of our favorite restaurants in July, with family in tow. But really, you don’t need an excuse to dine here. Both the outside deck and the inside dining room, surrounded by full-length windows, provide an amazing ocean view from high on the hill behind the Blue Nose Inn, where son Joshua, daughter-in-law Kelly, and 16-month-old granddaughter Ada were spending the week.

Our daughter Rebekah drove up from Union to spend the day with us. An afternoon at the spectacular Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor put us in the best of moods, as we eagerly anticipated a great dinner. New chef Matt McPherson has cooked all over the country, from Alaska to the Florida Keys, and he’s made the menu here his own.

We enjoyed a brief visit with Matt, talking mostly about Alaska, where he cooked at a restaurant right outside Denali National Park. Linda and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Denali and shared some of our memories with Matt.

Matt is focused on local food and has created his own impressive garden just outside the restaurant. Jim Ash, co-owner and general manager of the restaurant and inn, told us how pleased he’s been with Matt’s menu and food. By the time we were finished eating here, we fully agreed.

While some of the menu items are typical, Matt has added his own creative flare to each and every one. With five adults and Ada at our table, we got to try a lot of things, and honestly, we enjoyed every single one. For the record, our appetizers were Oyster Rockefeller, crab cakes, lobster fritters, wild mushroom tart and roasted beet salad. Yum!

I had the Oyster Rockefeller, six local Taunton Bay oysters stuffed and baked with smoked bacon, watercress, garlic, onion, pernod and bechamel, with a gruyere cheese and herb crumb topping. It was really, really good.

Our entrees included halibut, lobster mac and cheese, scallops, pistachio herb falafel, and wild mushroom risotto. What a feast. I had the scallops, locally caught and pan-seared over fava bean sauce, with applewood smoked bacon, grilled corn, green onion, fennel, radish and citrus zest. Like most of the entrees, this was gluten-free. I savored it while sampling all the other dishes. I was quite surprised to find that I really loved Rebekah’s wild mushroom risotto, and Kelly’s halibut was spectacular.

Linda

We were neglectful parents, never having taken our kids to Bar Harbor when they were growing up. I didn’t realize this until Josh said he’d never been, reminding me that we’d always avoided busy places when it was time for a vacation, many of which we spent at our camp in the north woods.

Josh and Kelly don’t have that aversion to crowds, so they planned a week in Bar Harbor this summer, staying at the Blue Nose Inn. Josh and Kelly especially liked the fact that the inn has both indoor and outdoor pools to keep our little granddaughter busy. And they looked forward to exploring Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, beautiful places for sure.

At Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor, we oohed and aahed over the vibrant colors of the gardens while Ada toddled around. And then we headed to our favorite local restaurant, The Looking Glass. The view is spectacular and so was our dinner. It was fun to have so many people at the table, because we could order many different appetizers and entrees and share them all. Not only is the new chef’s menu varied, but his preparations are artfully prepared and beautifully presented.

Ada waited patiently and was very excited to get her kid’s mac and cheese, exclaiming “Ooooh” when it arrived. Kelly noted that there was a good variety of dishes for kids beyond the usual fare. Ada’s dinner was made with smoked gouda, which she happily enjoyed.

I had to order the pistachio herb falafel because it had all my favorites in it: quinoa tabbouleh, baby Brussels sprouts, tahini yogurt sauce, and incredible pan-fried falafel. This offering, like many others on the menu, was gluten-free.

After dinner, Rebekah had to head home, but the rest of us strolled down the hill to the Blue Nose, where Bill Trowell was playing the piano in the lounge, something he’s been doing for a remarkable 25 years. His music is magical and always a highlight of our trips here. George purchased more of Bill’s CDs for us and for Josh and Kelly, so we all took a little bit of Bar Harbor home with us.

The next day, to help Josh and Kelly enjoy some kayaking and exploring with a lunch on their own, George and I baby-sat Ada. Well, it turns out that Ada is happiest with us when we put her in the stroller and walk (and walk and walk). We walked Bar Harbor’s spectacular 1-mile shoreline trail, turned around and walked back. By the end of the day, we’d covered over 5 miles because, whenever she woke up and we took her out of the carriage, she let us know that she wasn’t going to be happy unless we were moving along.

Whether you are moving along, or sitting in the pool at the Blue Nose or dining at The Looking Glass, you’ll enjoy a trip here, too.

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.

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