Monday, May 30, 2011

In Good Company

My mom is always cajoling me into doing one thing or trying another, and today was no exception. She managed to get me to attend a book signing (for the surprisingly approachable cookbook Maine Classics at the River Run Bookstore) 60 miles from home and convinced me to try lobster, roasted arctic char, onion rings, baby bok choy, and cauliflower. Not too shabby for a self-declared homebody with a limited palate, I'd say.

I was thrilled to meet Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows Restaurant (which was voted one of America's Top 50 Restaurants by Gourmet Magazine and one of America's 10 most romantic restaurants by Bon Appetit). Hint hint, Boyfriend! Look at the menu and faint at the prices...but look at the pictures of the food and fall in love. I'd love to take a walk through the Arrows garden, which supplies almost all of the produce for the elegant farmhouse restaurant.

The refreshingly down-to-earth duo (who were voted best chefs of the Northeast in 2010) charmed us so much at their event that we opted to stop in Ogunquit at another one of their restaurants for dinner - a posh but unintimidating American Bistro perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Atlantic coast called MC Perkins Cove Restaurant.

Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, ME - Undeniably Touristy, Unquestionably Picturesque

MC's Restaurant

2nd Floor View   

We lucked out with a last minute reservation at MC's (on Memorial Day weekend no less!) and sat down to enjoy our meal and the sight of crashing waves, the frenzy of swooping birds, and the final flickers of sunlight. Chef Mark popped out from the kitchen to greet us soon after our garden greens salad (which looked too pretty to eat topped with a blueberry vinaigrette and ranch dressing) arrived - and we caught a second glimpse of that unpretentious, infinitely welcoming, and sincerely appreciative air about him.

This is not a restaurant in which you have to feel uncomfortable about dropping your fork or saying that regular water will do just fine. This is also not a restaurant in which the chef politely discourages you from whipping out your camera to visually document all of your courses.

My mom got a steamed whole Maine lobster with onion rings (that were coated with a barely-there and slightly salty breading that even I loved). The lobster was cooked to perfection and tasted even sweeter dipped in melted butter.

Beady Eyes...But Oh So Good

At the waitress's suggestion, I got the proscuitto and herb wrapped roasted arctic char with tarragon sauce. The spicy sauce was the ideal complement to the proscuitto and arctic char (which thankfully had a much lighter taste than the salmon-esque flavor I was hoping to avoid). I also got an enormous bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes that was largely neglected due to my newfound appreciation for onion strings (which we were delighted to find under the "Evil Carbos...choose me" section on the menu).

Proscuitto-Wrapped Roasted Arctic Char with Tarragon Sauce, Pail of Mashed Potatoes 

Mark also surprised us with two little extras from the "Virtuous Vegetables" list: baby bok choy with garlic and saffron cauliflower with golden raisins and onions. Both were "new" vegetables for me - and both were liberally drizzled in olive oil and absolutely delicious.

Veggie Pails, Gratuitous 

For dessert my mom got the chocolate brioche bread pudding with caramel and house made Bourbon ice cream. We both learned what brioche bread pudding is and probably won't ever order it again (although I'm sure brioche lovers would swoon).

Not My Favorite Dessert, Not My Favorite Picture

Not to worry - we made short work of my chocolate brownie with house made marshmallow and coffee ice cream...which was a dreamy pairing of warm, dense, and dark chocolate decadence under cold spoonfuls of mocha and espresso.

Chocolate and Coffee - What A Marriage

In the end, the so-so brioche was only one tiny blot on an incredible evening and experience. Even if we hadn't already been charmed by the staff and the location, the menu's "Evil Carbos...choose me" and "Virtuous Vegetables" headers would have done the trick. Glowing thumbs up for a casual-yet-chic restaurant with a view and a plethora of seasonal and local options.

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