February 14, 2013

TRAVELIN' MAINE(RS): Do yourself a favor, find your way to Lost Kitchen

George and Linda Smith

It once was lost, but now it's found. Chef Erin French has created quite a find at her Lost Kitchen restaurant in a beautiful old Belfast bank building.

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Argentinian Culinary Adventure

What do you get when you mix an Argentinian chef with Argentinian food and Argentinian wine? Well, you get the Thursday, Feb. 21 culinary adventure at the Sea Glass Restaurant at Cape Elizabeth’s Inn by the Sea.

Nationally acclaimed chef Mitchell Kaldrovich’s popular annual Argentinian Wine Dinner offers four courses — each paired with an appropriate wine — for the astonishingly low price of $62 per person.

This do-not-miss event begins at 6:30 p.m. with music and light hors d’oeuvres in the lounge. Dinner begins at 7 p.m., with music throughout the evening.

Reservations are required, and we made ours three months ago. Call 799-3134 to join us. And if you want a really big treat, book a room at the luxurious Inn by the Sea and schedule a massage in their elegant spa for Friday morning. It’s heaven — in Maine!

George

Erin French began her culinary adventure by offering weekly dinners in a private supper club for 24 diners. Those dinners became so popular that she was able to open Lost Kitchen a year ago this month. We'd heard a lot about the restaurant and were delighted when Kimberly Callas (Belfast Creative Coalition) suggested we join her and Bre Babb (Our Town Belfast) for dinner there on our initial foray into Belfast.

The bank that was once in this architectural gem of a building never looked this good. Erin and her husband, Todd, restored the two ground floor rooms, including a gorgeous pressed-tin ceiling. Guests can sit at the long bar, looking out toward the street, or choose from one of two rooms.

Although the beer list is very impressive -- with beers from all over the world -- I began this culinary adventure with the evening's special Margarita: blood orange juice, cilantro syrup, lime juice and silver tequila in a glass rimmed with salt, sugar and orange. Best Margarita I've ever had.

Candles lit the table at our interior room and the wine list was so extensive that the small print and lack of light befuddled me, until Kimberly took charge and ordered a wonderful bottle of Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Toscana for the table. Ah, those young eyes.

What I was eyeing (and, thankfully, in much bigger print) was an astonishing menu of unique and creative cuisine. Having checked out Lost Kitchen's Facebook page a couple days earlier, and seen Erin's post raving about fresh scallops, I focused on that entrée -- Seared Maine scallops, parsnips two ways, grapefruit, fennel and local micro greens.

Erin's commitment and focus on local products and produce drives her menu, which changes every night. She did not steer me wrong on the scallops, which were prepared perfectly with a nice sear and very tasty sauce.

Before I got to them, I enjoyed a large bowl of Pemaquid mussels, skillet roasted and accompanied by lime and whole branches of rosemary. Invasive green crabs have wiped out most of Maine's mussels, and it was good to know that the folks in Pemaquid are still finding some.

I've been sometimes disappointed by rubbery overcooked mussels, but these were delightfully tender and juicy -- certainly among the best I've ever had. The portion was generous and could have served as an entrée.

Meghan, our server, was professional and attentive, eager to tell us about the restaurant, chef and food. We spotted some folks we know from central Maine at a nearby table who were in Belfast for a curling tournament, and they stopped by to visit on their way out, insisting that we try the frozen terrine for dessert. So we did.

These folks were enjoying their third dinner at Lost Kitchen, and we were very glad we took their dessert recommendation. The terrine was amazing.

While the restaurant and bar were full and people constantly arrived throughout the evening, no one suggested it was time for us to leave. We lingered at our table from 5:30 to 9 p.m., enjoying the conversation with Kimberly and Bre, who are excellent ambassadors for the arts community and the downtown businesses respectively.

Belfast is not a long drive from central Maine, so we've put Lost Kitchen on our favorites list for a return visit. We now understand why, in just its first year, this place is drawing national attention.

Linda

We had heard great things about Belfast's Lost Kitchen, and it turns out that they were all true. This is the most photographed building in Belfast. I was a little confused when the window on the end said "Bank," but as you continue along the side of the building you will find a door with The Lost Kitchen etched in the glass. From the moment you enter you will know that this is going to be a special meal.

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