Friday, May 24, 2013
George and Linda Smith
The blend of old (traditional) and new (creative) makes the Anchor Inn Restaurant in Round Pond a very special place, a delight to guests who return year after year as well as first timers like us. Rick Hirsch and Jean Kerrigan are the husband and wife team who met in culinary school, bought the restaurant 25 years ago, and have left just the right traditional features — including the weathered exterior — to satisfy their regular customers. And inside — well, once you open the menu, you’ll know immediately that this is much more than the traditional fried-fish place!
The same summer day we visited Anchor Inn Restaurant, we spent a couple of enjoyable afternoon hours at the Maine Brewers Guild second annual “Craft Beer Comes To Boothbay.” The proceeds support the guild and its mission to promote the craft-brewing industry in Maine.
Maine brewers have won an international reputation for their craft, and all of the of state’s brewing industry leaders were there, including Shipyard’s Fred Forsley. Dan Kleban, guild president and co-owner of the Maine Beer Co., predicted, “It’s going to be tough to find a better place to be on a July afternoon in Maine.” He got that right!
Linda and I were handed a nice four-page program as we entered the grounds of the state”s newest brewery, Boothbay Craft Brewery. Twenty-nine brewers were listed in the program, each offering samples of three of their beers. Wow!
My goal of sampling one beer from each brewer quickly ran askew of Linda’s constant reminder that, later in the afternoon, I had to drive us to the Anchor Inn Restaurant in Round Pond. No response from me that she could drive seemed to work!
Let me note that one of our “hometown” brewers — the Liberal Cup in Hallowell — shined, as usual, with its Dunkel Johns Band and For Richer or Poorter. Bull Jagger’s Baltic Porter was superb. And Belfast Bay’s McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout was a favorite. Understand, I had only a very limited opportunity to sample the array of beers available that day.
If you’ve never been to a brewfest, please know that you get a small glass — samples only — and are offered the chance to dump out any beers you don’t like. This is not a drunkfest. But these festivals are fun — a nice mix of music, superb beer, and knowledgeable brewers and beer enthusiasts. Boothbay’s festival is one of the best — so put it on your schedule for next July.
But you don’t have to wait because many of these Maine breweries offer public tours that include sampling. Last summer, we loved the tour at Bar Harbor Brewery, partly because the brewery is right next to Maine-ly Meat, an outstanding barbecue place.
But you don’t have to go that far, because central Maine sports several great brewers. The list is available at the website of the Maine Brewers Guild, www.mainebrewersguild.org. Visit at least five of the 25 brewers on the Maine Beer Trail and win a gift!
After enjoying a fantastic meal at Rick and Jean’s other restaurant, the Damariscotta River Grill, we quickly put the Anchor Inn Restaurant on our must-visit list. But when we turned into the dusty gravel parking lot and saw the one-story, weathered-shingles building, I was astonished. I’d been expecting an elegant inn — one of the upscale coastal places that caters to tourists for a few months in the summer, then closes up.
This is not that place. And the local people who filled it that night know it. Jean gave us a greeting that made us feel like members of her family and escorted us to a corner table for two on the screened-in porch — the place we strongly recommend for the breeze and the gorgeous view of the harbor.
Given that it was 90 degrees and Lin had made me walk around Round Pond for an hour before dinner, I quickly ordered a thirst-quenching Pemaquid Scottish Ale. They’ve got a limited but good selection of Maine brews.
But it’s their wine list that really shines. I like the way they organize the list, with an entire selection offered for $19.96 a bottle or $6.45 a glass. Of course, there are other wines too, including the “Anchor Over Achievers.” The Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut, at $33.88, was an impressive find at a great price in tiny, out-of-the-way Round Pond.
Feeling fishy that close to the ocean, I started out with a cup of clam chowder from the “Maine Starts” list. It was rich, creamy, with lots of not-too-finely-chopped clams — very traditional and very tasty.
Then, it was on to the “Cool As A Salad” list where my choice of the Chevre Delight combined two of my favorite things by encrusting goat cheese with warmed pistachio. Toss in mesclun greens, dates and dried apricots, and this was creative cuisine at its best. I ordered the small portion and it was the size of a normal salad in most restaurants.
Looking around the room, I pointed out to Lin the guys in shorts — she’d forced me to dress up for dinner. There is no dress code here, but I had to admit many customers did dress up — probably to match the fine dining experience. Most of them were Mainers, so I know it wasn’t to show off.
When it came time to order an entrée, the lengthy menu got the best of me. Something from the “We Cha Cha Charred,” section perhaps? Maybe from the “I’m Royally Broiled?”
I was leaning toward the Sea Bake — Gulf shrimp and scallops baked with crabmeat in light buttery crumbs — until our server, Jessica, recited the entrée specials. Fresh Canadian halibut — my favorite fish — jumped out at me. Ever since I caught and ate halibut in Alaska, I’ve been a big fan — as long as it is fresh.
The presentation included a mustard and dill sauce that sounded superb, but by the time we got around to ordering, no sauce was left. Jessica checked with the chef, who came up with a very creative replacement that included — believe it or not — both strawberries and crabmeat on top of the halibut. I took the bait.
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