George

We would follow Arturo Montez anywhere. One of our favorite chefs, Arturo cooked for years at the Looking Glass restaurant at Bar Harbor’s BlueNose Inn, but that place was closed in the winter so he had to move here and there for winter employment. Finally, last year, he moved to the year-round position as chef at the Lucerne Inn just east of Bangor.

That’s lucky for us, because the Lucerne Inn is also a favorite of ours. And because it has new owners and a new chef (ok, we are very familiar with him), we thought it was important to revisit and bring you up to date on this place. That was our excuse for returning a couple of weeks ago.

While we had enjoyed dinners at the inn in the past, I can report that Arturo and his staff have ramped it up with a lengthy and creative menu. New owners David and Jayne Silverman did not intend to leave their home in Long Island, New York, but heard that the Lucerne Inn was for sale, made their first trip to Maine and were hooked, both by the inn and by our state.

The historic Lucerne Inn was established in 1800. Some of the inn’s first guests named the inn because the astonishing view of Phillips Lake and Bald Mountain reminded them of Lucerne, Switzerland. We’ve visited Lucerne, Switzerland, and they were right.

During our visit with the Silvermans, they were effusive in praising the staff and certainly recognized how lucky they are to have Arturo in the kitchen. The inn is a very busy place with a nice variety of 31 rooms and a separate building and outside space for weddings and other events. For Thanksgiving, their restaurant served 600 guests.

Our suite was very comfortable with a couch, chair, desk and more. Like most of the rooms, it had a gorgeous view of nearby hills and the lake.

Our dinner was spectacular. I’ve been hooked on Arturo’s crab dishes for years, so I started with the crabcakes ($14). The roasted garlic, spicy mustard aioli sauce was tasty, and the portion astonished me. Two huge crabcakes filled my plate — which turned out to be a good thing because Linda ate quite a chunk of one of them.

The entree decision was tough, but one of the recommendations of our friendly, helpful server Christina (who has worked at the inn for five years), was the Shrimp and Scallop Alfredo ($30). I have enjoyed this dish many times, but never has it included so many scallops and shrimp. Christina had praised the white wine and blue cheese sauce and, I have to say, it was the best I’ve ever had with this dish. The Alfredo was originally only a special, but proved so popular that it is now on the regular menu.

About halfway through the dish, Linda claimed I was gasping. So, a bit later, I stopped eating — and there was still half of the Alfredo left.

Linda

You can’t help but notice the beautiful grounds and buildings of the Lucerne Inn as you drive by. The golf course sits on both sides of the road, and the massive, white inn overlooks Phillips Lake. If you have never stopped here, I urge you to. The dining room has a wonderful view, and the friendly staff and great food will assure that you return.

We stayed on the third floor in a comfortable junior suite. Heated towel racks, Jacuzzi tub, great shower and fluffy towels make you feel pampered.

Their Sunday brunch is popular, but it was calm and quiet on the Sunday night we arrived for dinner. We sat at the same fireside table where we dined on our first visit here six years ago.

The extensive menu is full of tempting choices. I chose the goat cheese-stuffed mushrooms for a starter. The filling was creamy with a nice hint of garlic. It was light but not filling. And I admit I could not be limited to just one taste of George’s crab cakes. Both appetizers were done well.

Chicken saltimbocca is a favorite of mine, and theirs did not disappoint. Tender chicken breasts were wrapped in prosciutto and finished with a parmesan, white wine demi sauce. Shallots, garlic and sage added bright flavors. Carrot slices, pea pods and broccoli were served on the side along with a root vegetable mash. Wow, that was good! Turnips, carrots and potatoes really elevated plain old mashed potatoes.

We were way too full for dessert, but Christina delivered an elaborate tray so we could bring a slice of chocolate torte up to our room. An hour later, it was divine.

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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