Category: Friends

Friends

Mystery Night at the Hartstone


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.

Photo Credit: Hartstone Inn website

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:

ROASTED CARROT SOUP – port wine cream, candied walnuts, port reduction

The salad was just “okay,” not that I was expecting anything special, but then again, how often do you get fuzzy udder cheese?

LOCAL GREENS – FUZZY UDDER GOAT CHEESE
wild raspberries & blackberries, toasted sunflower
seeds, lemon-herb dressing GF

Lou’s lamb chops came next … he didn’t say anything, but told me later they were terrible.

CAJUN SPICED LAMB CHOP
chimichurri, sundried tomato pesto GF

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.

LOCALLY CAUGHT HERB SEARED HADDOCK – BACKDOOR FARM tomato confit, caramelized onions, garlic & roasted shallots 

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:

CAST IRON SEARED DUCK BREAST
bacon & roasted garlic white bean puree, Swiss chard GF

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 📸 🥗📸🍗📸🍨

Grand Marnier crème anglaise, candied orange peel

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:

Stay Safe!

Eating Well

Tom pointed out most of our conversations centered around food (that is what happens when politics are a discouraged discussion topic). In between talking about great meals we have experienced, and good food we hope to enjoy, Tom and Karen have been exploring Maine. Lou had a doctor’s appointment in Bangor on Tuesday, and got a good report, as well as some strategies to reduce ongoing pain issues.

On Monday evening, we dined at the Whale’s Tooth Pub in Lincolnville. This was our first visit since the restaurant changed hands last year. We had heard mixed reviews. Happy to report, we all enjoyed our meals, and happy to see some of the wait staff remains. Tom had, no surprise, lobster. The rest of us had fish and chips – delicious!


Last night was Aster & Rose at the Youngtown Inn. We had a pleasant evening, nice ambiance and good company. Our food, for the most part, did not live up to expectations. Lou had the duck rillette appetizer, and said it was good. When asked just now if he liked it, he emphatically said, “It was excellent, and I would have it again in a minute. It was served properly with toast points.” OK, sounds like he enjoyed it.

Lou loved this.

Karen & Tom both ordered the chicken liver pâté, but it was overdone with blueberries, and not too flavorful.

This did not score well

I stuck with the Local Greens Salad. It was not as tasty as the previous times I’ve had it, but it served it’s purpose – a green starter before dinner definitely cuts down the glucose spiking:

Basic mixed green salad

Tom chose the pasta with lobster (of course), and mussels and stuff. It is called Squid Ink Cavatelli. It was rather bland:

Squid Ink Cavatelli

Karen and I both went for the Fettuccine Bolognese. I had heard rave reviews about this dish. Not tonight, folks. It was just “OK,” not flavorful at all as one would expect from a pork and beef bolognese.

Fettuccine Bolognese – spices took a vacation tonight

Lou ordered the Braised Short Ribs – they received an “OK” rating. Probably not something he would order in the next minute, like the Duck Rillete.

Braised Shortribs

There you have it. A nice meal and good company at the Whale’s Tooth Pub. A pleasant evening out at the Youngtown Inn, even though the food was not as good as usual. We will go back to both restaurants again. The Whale’s Tooth was a pleasant reconnection, and Aster & Rose may have just had an off night.

We are all heading up to the mountains tomorrow. The Coplin Springs Dinner House is on the menu for Saturday night. Fingers Crossed it is back to it’s previous excellence. See, our time together really does revolve around food.

Stay Safe!

Houseguests!

Karen and atom (oops, that should be Tom, not atom – thanks for catching that, Lou) arrived yesterday. We had a good visit, and Lou grilled steaks with baked potatoes and corn on the cob. Everyone chipped in with preparing dinner and clean up as well 👍

Stay Safe !!!

Fun with Neighbors


We had a nice time on Friday evening, finally getting a chance to catch up with Donna and Pat. Donna has been gallivanting around the country and Pat has had family visiting.

It was my turn to do dinner. Since we have become disenchanted with our local pizza place, I brought take out from Rice & Noodle, the Thai restaurant in Belfast. We enjoyed the food, and appreciated the chance to visit.

I guess we are no longer the neighborhood Pizza Pod. For now, we will have to be the Pod Thai (sorry, folks, that is all I’ve got).

Stay Safe !!!

Good Visit


We had a nice visit with Kathy & Steve. Yesterday, Steve and I played golf and had a great time. Can’t believe I forgot to take a photo. There was a breeze when we started at 9am, but it was getting muggy by the time we completed 9 holes.

Kathy & Steve cooked dinner for us last night – filet, carrots, and baked potatoes. It was very good. They tried out Lou’s Ninja Grill, and he provided the requisite supervision:

Steve & Kathy – thanks for cooking!
The beginnings of a smile! Lou needs a haircut.
I need a haircut worse than Lou! My new expensive shampoo, highly recommended by my friend, Jennifer Garner, is not quite transforming my look … Also, don’t miss the spot of lunch on my shirt.

Kathy & Steve headed home this morning, and Kathy had plans for some shopping adventures along the way. We are looking at another warm day – 80 degrees in Maine is 🥵, especially when the humidity is high.

Aster & Rose Review


We did something last night we haven’t done in a long while. We went out to dinner and tried a new restaurant. Aster & Rose is the newly opened restaurant at the Youngtown Inn. The restaurant at the inn was one of our favorites, but they changed hands last year, and the new restaurant just opened.

Kathy & Steve are visiting, and Lou felt up to a night out, so we gave it a try. This was Lou’s first dining out experience in a few months – he did well, although his knee was tired after being down so long.

The verdict- Excellent! The service was great, they didn’t crowd the restaurant by filling all the tables, and they had working air conditioning (not always an option in past years). The menu is limited, but there were enough choices to please everyone.

Steve and I chose the Local Greens Salad to start. It was nice and fresh – a perfect starter to the meal to come:

Kathy chose to skip a starter, saving room for her entree. Lou decided to try the Scallop Crudo, and he raved about this dish. Said the scallops were tender and almost sweet. It certainly was pretty:

For our main course, Kathy, Steve, and I all chose the Halibut. This was an excellent choice! Not only was the fish flaky and tasty, the light lemon sauce was perfect. I almost always choose Halibut if it is available. I can’t say which is best because they are all prepared differently, but this ranks right up there with both the Coplin Dinner House and The Hichborn.

Lou went with the Bone In Pork Chop. He liked this very much, and said the Polenta was excellent. I didn’t get a great photo of the chop, but it was quite a large serving. Lou ate every bit. He did not eat his veggies 😜

You would think this would be enough for us, but we had to sample their desserts. Lou chose the brown butter almond cake with strawberries. He did not offer to share so I can’t comment. I believe he liked it, but thought the cake could have been moister (is that a word?).

Kathy picked the chocolate custard, and was kind enough to share with me. We both thought this was ”okay,” but probably not something we would order again. It was a very large serving, and was too rich for us (we also thought it was a chocolate mousse, and didn’t figure out it was custard until we asked the waitress). Some would love all the chocolate decadence, so we certainly wouldn’t discount our excellent rating for the meal.

This brings our dinner adventure to a close. It was fun to share a nice meal out with friends. We will definitely be returning to Aster & Rose. I am looking forward to trying the pasta selections.

Stay Safe !!!