“Maybe we’re in heaven,” I said to my husband. “Maybe this is how people dine in heaven.”

It may sound corny, but that is precisely how I felt, midway through our eight-course meal at The Lost Kitchen in Freedom.

If you love food and live in Maine — or anywhere else in the U.S., for that matter — you likely have heard of the restaurant, tucked away in the tiny, rural town in the heart of the state.

The Lost Kitchen has been written up in a lot of major publications for its simple but brilliant concept — a restored grist mill in the middle of nowhere that features exquisitely prepared local food, much of which is grown by the women who work there.

Erin French, left, owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, is seen Thursday night. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

The eatery is the brainchild of owner Erin French, whose story is as extraordinary as the food she serves and has been recounted by others much more adept at storytelling than I, so I won’t go into detail here (a quick Google search will do).

Suffice it to say that French’s gorgeous, restored mill, elegant in its simplicity, is the setting for what became for me and Phil a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we shall treasure and remember fondly well into our old-age. And I don’t say that lightly.

After parking our car, we walked across a footbridge to the mill, entered a wine cellar where patrons chose from a variety of domestic and foreign wines to complement their dinners and toted the bottles in handled baskets up to the main dining area overlooking the falls.

The room was lit with candles, tables adorned with fresh flowers, music playing, French and the other women cooking, plating, pouring.

The inside of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom is seen Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Each course of the meal was a work of art, carefully prepared and beautifully presented on an eclectic collection of antique and modern plates and offering a variety of flavors that surprised the palate at every turn.

The four-hour dining experience was a feast of the four senses, accompanied by a dreamlike din of voices and laughter permeating the room, through which French and the other women floated like gazelles, serene smiles on their faces, laying dishes on tables and sweeping them away so deftly as to be unnoticeable.

This, I said to Phil, is the essence of life: taking  locally grown food, pairing it with simple, fresh herbs and creating something beautiful that offers a complexity of flavors that delight, capture the imagination and serve as balm to the soul.

“Taking ample time to eat, savor, breathe and enjoy is how they do it in Europe,” I mused. “Would that we did this here.”

Beef Tenderloin is served at The Lost Kitchen in Freedom on Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

He agreed, lamenting the traditional, fast-paced ways we Americans feed our bodies, arguably our most precious commodity.

But here, at The Lost Kitchen, things are different. It is no wonder getting a place at the table requires patience, and a lot of luck.

After it opened several years ago, the seasonal eatery became so popular that thousands of people called for reservations, 24 hours a day. So, the staff devised a reservation process by which one must send a postcard to The Lost Kitchen during a two-week window in April and wait for a phone call. If it never comes, take heart: it may still, if someone cancels.

Which in our case is what happened, despite the fact that they got 20,000 postcards this year.

Several days ago, I got the call. Since the reservation was for four people, I invited our friends, Karol and John.

Being food lovers, we four had tried to get a reservation for The Lost Kitchen years ago, when it first opened, but were unsuccessful.

The outside of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom is seen Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

So, we were particularly delighted to get in Thursday, which fell two days after our wedding anniversary. Since I had to work the night shift on our anniversary, we decided we’d celebrate it at the Lost Kitchen dinner.

I mention this because something amazing, to me at least, occurred, once we were seated at our table.

We looked around the room and of the 50 patrons there, we recognized no one. And then, a woman who had come with a group of her friends sat next to us and I was delighted to discover it was Mary, an old family friend from Canaan whom we had not seen in ages, and neither of us knew the other was coming.

I began to piece together the serendipity of the moment. Mary had officiated at our wedding many years ago, where John and Karol also spoke.

I looked across the table at them, and at Mary beside us, and just shook my head.

This could only happen at a such a beautiful, magical place.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

 

 

 

 

 


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