Linda

“Sometimes you just need to get away,” says a quote on Loon Lodge’s website. And this is certainly the place to do that.

Ariale’s friendly greeting when we arrived got us off to a great start, and as she gave us a tour, I was transported back in time.

Enormous round logs serve as support beams to brace the ceiling in the Great Room, anchored by a huge fireplace with a stone chimney. The “Old Hickory” couches and chairs have log frames with deep cushioned seats. George and I spent a lot of time in this room that emits a feeling of an era gone by — rustic, but at the same time elegant. Large windows open to a deck that affords a stunning view of Rangeley Lake.

We stayed upstairs in the Nordic room with a breathtaking view. Tawny beadboard encloses the room’s walls and ceiling. A king-size bed, with a headboard made by their carpenter out of hand-hewn logs, was draped with a wedding circle quilt. An old-fashioned chaise lounge and a wide antique chair added to its elegance. On a tour of the lodge we found all eight rooms to be just as homey, with quilt-covered beds and private baths. Many of the rooms face west toward the lake, making them a prime spot for spectacular sunsets.

JoAnne Taylor, the manager, has focused on weddings here and has 17 scheduled for this coming season. The photos of wedding guests seated on the lawn facing the lake, and fully set tables under a white tent, were proof that this is quite a spot for a wedding. Picturesque Maine, indeed.

Loon Lodge’s restaurant, open to the public, offers fine dining in a casual setting. Chef Patrick Popores, a real find for JoAnne, has been here since July and has put his stamp on the menu by making food from scratch, obtaining local foods when possible. Candlelight, wonderful art and quiet music add to the already beautiful setting.

Our server, Aaron, was attentive and personable. I started my dinner with the Loon Lodge salad — crispy winter greens were combined with cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese, and dressed with a tangy maple balsamic dressing. This was certainly big enough to share and, with the delicious warm rolls, made a perfect start to my meal.

I ordered the pork tenderloin Marsala, served with incredibly delicious mashed potatoes and perfectly grilled asparagus. I highly recommend the creme brulee as a fine ending to an elegant meal. Its crunchy, raw sugar crust gives way to a light and creamy filling. It is a good thing we split it, because I probably would have eaten the whole thing.

George

Built in 1899, the lodge has served as a private dwelling as well as an inn. Guy Gannett (former owner of the Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal) owned the lodge for a few years, and he allowed his employees to stay here. Lucky them! In the last decade, the lodge has been significantly upgraded, including installation of bathrooms in all rooms. But they wisely kept all the historic aspects, including the big buck mount over the fireplace. This is, truly, a step back in time.

We enjoyed visiting with JoAnne, who is a marketing and tourism professional who once worked at the Rangeley Inn and later at Saddleback Mountain. And she is hands-on here, even escorting us to our dinner table and helping us select a wonderful wine from their extensive collection (a Villa Antinori from Tuscany).

It’s been a tough winter for Rangeley, with little snow for snowmobilers (who, when there is snow, can snowmobile right up to the lodge) and the fact that Saddleback’s ski area didn’t open this season. So I was really astonished when we went down to dinner and found the Pickford Pub, in another section of the lodge, packed for $10 “Build-a-Burger” night as well as lots of customers in the restaurant, too — amazing on a Wednesday night.

But when I tasted my appetizer, sticky spare ribs ($10), I understood why the others were here. I thought seriously of skipping an entree and just ordering another appetizer of those ribs, slow-roasted in an oven for 30 hours. The meat slid off the bone and, oh, I thought the sauce was divine, until Linda explained it was not a sauce, but a great combination of spices that gave it a nice kick. Best ribs I’ve ever had, actually. There were four ribs on the plate, and Linda suggested I save two, noting, “We’ve got a fridge in our room.” Nice try.

In the interest of fully informing you, I did order an entree, pan-roasted chicken breast ($24) with poblano and carmelized onion sauce, along with butternut risotto and asparagus. Absolutely delicious. Chef Popores, who worked at some well-known restaurants in Rhode Island, can really cook. He’s creative, too. Chef Popores’ poblano pepper (I really wanted to write that) added a nice spiciness to the dish.

It’s worth a drive to Rangeley just to eat here, but when you arrive, you’re going to want to stay.

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.


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