Our social calendar has been busier than usual. We went out to dinner with Bernadette and Jim on Friday evening. Bernadette was our general practitioner until she retired earlier this year. Jim is also retired, and he was previously a neurologist at Waldo County General Hospital. They have a place in Florida, but plan to spend 6 months of the year in Maine.
Anyway, on to the food story. We decided to try the Hartstone Inn in Camden. They have been one of our favorites, but we haven’t dined there in over a year. We had a nice evening catching up with Bernadette and Jim, but the food was disappointing. The Hartstone is known for excellence, and we have never had a bad meal. It is a very small restaurant, and it can get noisy, but the quality of the food has never been in question.
They have two options on the menu – a 3 course meal, or a 5 course Chef’s Tasting. Lou chose the tasting, as it had two of his favorites – lamb chops and duck breast. The rest of us went with the 3 course option, choosing the salad and haddock. For dessert, Lou and I picked the Grand Marnier Soufflé.
Lou started the meal with a carrot soup. He said this was very good:
The salad was just “okay,” not that I was expecting anything special, but then again, how often do you get fuzzy udder cheese?
Lou’s lamb chops came next … he didn’t say anything, but told me later they were terrible.
The haddock main course did not impress. I prefer halibut, but haddock is okay. This just tasted very weird to me, maybe it was all the flavors combined. Not a fan. Bernadette and Jim also ordered this and didn’t complain, but everyone was perhaps being polite.
Lou was served a couple of palate cleansers between courses, including berry-infused mineral water and a blueberry sorbet. His second main course arrived … the duck breast. He said this was bland, and really needed some type of sauce to go with the gristle:
The Grand Marnier Soufflés came out and they were fine. I only ate a small portion of mine since I was full. Bernadette and Jim ordered the Trio of Sorbets for dessert. I did not get a photo, as I could tell they were a tad puzzled as to why I was taking pictures of the food 📸 🥗📸🍗📸🍨
Lou treated us all to dinner, and while our guests objected, Lou explained we wanted to show our appreciation to Bernadette for putting up with us all those years, and it was a pleasure meeting Jim as well. Even though the food was less than exceptional, and the noise level in the restaurant made conversation difficult as more people crowded in, we still had a very nice evening. Once again, it shows good food can enhance the dining experience, but good company is the most important ingredient.
While gathering the details for this blog post (what, you think I just make this stuff up?), I saw something that struck me as odd. This was the lead notice on the menu page:
Chef Brian Granims? I don’t’ think this is the same Chef they have always had. Digging deeper (I take my job seriously!), I found this:
…we proudly welcome Brian Granims, our Chef de Cuisine of over six years alongside Executive Chef Michael Salmon and is now Head Chef of the restaurant!
From the Hartstone Inn Blog
Let’s hope this was just an off night. Our recent experiences at other local restaurants have shown us we need to give our favorites a second try. I will say, I am not inclined to go back to the Hartstone Inn any time soon, and I think Lou agrees. It is almost a 30 minute drive, the service was slow, the restaurant ambience declines as the decibel levels rise, and the food just didn’t cut it this time.
In the spirit of full disclosure, we were very upset with the Hartstone Inn last year. After patronizing them as locals for almost 10 years, we were told last summer that they only took dinner reservations for people staying at the Inn. We could have our name placed on a waitlist (friends chose that option and never heard back). They obviously changed their tune and the website now says they welcome outside reservations. So we put aside last year’s annoyance to try again, and it truly did not influence the review which I have just shared.
You are probably thinking this must be the end of the saga; how long can she drag out one dinner review? We aren’t quite done …
Curiosity got the best of me. If our experience was disappointing, what have others said? Overall reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp still look quite positive, but I read the individual reviews and found some unhappy ones, more than their previous excellence deserves. To be fair, there are still people raving about the place, and our friends had a nice meal there a couple of months ago. I did uncover another piece of the puzzle while reading reviews – the Hartstone Inn was sold in September of 2021! Mystery solved! While we wish the new owners well, the Hartstone will come off our favorites list.
Thanks for following along. We love a good mystery, preferably ones with a happier ending. A reminder of better times at The Hartstone:
Have taken a short break from blogging – all is well, just busy and catching up on our sleep. And just when I needed something interesting to write about, Beth comes through with her Southern California Blackberry Adventure. Thank you Beth!
It’s been so hot and humid here in Riverside lately, so when my good friend and coworker, Ava, asked me if I wanted to pick wild blackberries by a river in the mountains, I said what any person who has been sweating nonstop for the last month would say…hells yes!!!
Saturday morning we met up in Upland, which is at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and around the corner from the esteemed Claremont Colleges. (I know Sharon’s readers appreciate a little learning in their blog.) Ava was house sitting for her dad, who lives right off the main road up to Mt Baldy. Mt Baldy (aka Mount San Antonio) has a peak of 10,064 feet and is home to a ski resort and hundreds of hiking trails, and is the high point of the range. On clear days, you can see the top, often snowy, from Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.
We drove up up the road for about 10 minutes before we pulled off. A very short hike down and there it all was…a flowing stream of crystal clear, cold water, lined on both sides by overgrown blackberry bushes covered with both ripe and unripe blackberries! There were a number of small to medium pools where people made dams over the years, but the stream flowed. And the water was really refreshing. It was cooler where we were, but still a warm day. We picked all the ripe blackberries we could find and then sat on the rocks with our feet in the stream. It felt like a jungle oasis!
And then what did I see out of the corner of my eye? A giant snake! It was on the hillside we had walked down, but we didn’t think it was a rattlesnake because it was very dark drown. I kept eyes on it while Ava picked blackberries. I admit, it was pretty far away and we were in no danger. But still! It slowly made its way up and across and eventually under a fallen log.
We hung out a little longer and then decided after we picked all the ripe blackberries we would look for another spot higher up the mountain. We drove to other places but neither had water in the stream so we ended up a little further downstream from where we originally started. Here’s Ava and a good pic of the mountainside, which is very rocky. It’s quite a contrast from the tree covered hillsides in the neighboring mountain range.
We were hot enough at this point that we decided to just walk in the stream in our shoes. That way we could also reach the berries on the far side of the stream! All of a sudden, a lady yells over to us to be careful when we leave because there’s a big rattlesnake on the trail and pointed out exactly where it was. We thanked her profusely and decided to walk upstream away from the snake. But first we had to sneak a peak at it! We swore it was the same very dark brown snake that we had seen just upstream but this time, we saw its rattle, and it was big! If you zoom in, you can see he has an almost white rattle that was 2-3 inches long. It didn’t seem bothered by us and a few other people taking a look, but we all kept our distance. Here it is, unfortunately just below a piece of trash.
It was not crowded at all so we decided to walk the stream a little longer, picked more blackberries on the way and then eventually headed back down the mountain.
We wanted to grab a sandwich before heading back to the house, stopping at one sandwich restaurant (they only had chicken salad and French dips left – what?) and then a bagel sandwich restaurant (they ran out of bagels, 50 wire bins on display and not one bagel in any of them). Really?!?! This was making us very hangry, and the next place we laid eyes on was a walk-up crepe restaurant. I ordered a Thanksgiving crepe, which oddly enough tasted like peanut butter. Not a place I’d go to again. Thankfully, the crepe place happened to be next to an ice cream store so…easy decision there! 🍦
We headed back to Ava’s Dad’s house where we spent the afternoon lounging in the pool. It was an adventurous, fun day and I’m looking forward to going back!
Here’s what’s left of our bounty:
Thanks again, Beth. I would not have enjoyed seeing a rattlesnake!
You may remember our last visit to The Coplin Dinner House. It was Lou’s birthday dinner, and things did not go well; he got served prime rib instead of lamb chops, and I didn’t care for my steak. Delighted to report last night’s meal was back to the excellence we experienced on our first few visits.
Lou started with the Tuna Poke Tower – he seemed to like it a lot, and it disappeared in about 30 seconds.
I always have a salad to start with, but picked the Fresh Warm Burrata, mainly because I wanted a new photographic subject. Oh boy, this was to die for. Too much food for one, but it was very tasty. I expected it to be more like a bruschetta, but it was served as a big ball of burrata, with squished tomatoes, pesto, and a balsamic-honey glaze.
I was already full after just eating half, but I had time to rest and catch my second wind as Lou enjoyed his Lobster Bisque:
Next came Lou’s Rack of Lamb, and my Halibut. Both were excellent.
Neither one of us cared for the side of zucchini in a light tomato sauce, but that is a very minor quibble.
Neither of us had saved room for dessert, although Lou did sample the Gifford’s German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream once we got home and convinced the dogs we had not abandoned them. It was a nice evening out, and I have my burrata appetizer for lunch (fortunately, there was no glucose spike with this, probably because the cheese and oils overwhelmed the carbs from the small pieces of bread).
Catherine shared some new photos of Tory. Apparently the volleyball team has a professional photographer now, and these photos are awesome. Wishing the UC Davis Aggies a good season. This will be Tory’s sophomore season.
We drove up to Sugarloaf yesterday. That is, I drove, since Lou is still cautious about driving. The doctor did release him to drive when he is ready. It was a beautiful day, and all is well at the cabin.
Unfortunately, Tom & Karen decided to head back to Arizona, since Karen felt like she might be coming down with something. They had hoped to travel to Canada from our place at Sugarloaf, but that wouldn’t have been a good idea. We very much enjoyed their visit.
It is supposed to get into the low 80s today and tomorrow, then cool down again.