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by Nancy English
One of the best meals on the coast of Maine, for ambience, service, and great food
We had our best meal of the summer here, and that happened not because the food was well made and delicious, although it was, but because everything seemed to come together, as it sometimes does. There was a dish that my companion loved, and one that made me just as happy. The glass of Jacob’s Creek Merlot I drank on the porch at the end of a long day of traveling put me in the right mood, to be sure. And there was the wonder at the folded terry-cloth towels in the bathroom, in a stack waiting for use, with a basket to drop them in. How could they keep up? I wondered. But they did; on my last visit as well as the first, the room was impeccable.
Castine’s elms still tower over Main Street, and you can admire them from the Pentagöet’s porch, or attend a fund-raiser at the inn to help take care of them. Our visit was strictly selfish.
A puree of artichoke hearts, garlic, and oil came with warm focaccia to get us in the mood to eat. The salad with Gorgonzola toasts, port-pickled grapes, and olive oil ($7.50) had a fascination; the grapes were a cross between a raisin and a fresh grape, tasting more of fruit than wine, but delicious and a lovely contrast with the Gorgonzola. A glass of Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand ($6.50), fruity and intense, kept pace with the strong flavors.
A lobster tail and claw meat, mussels, and scallops, all tender, lay bathing in a dark rosy broth in the bouillabaisse I ordered, a special that night; flakes of luscious cod lapped in the peppery, fennel soup and filled my mouth with its perfection, and a long piece of crouton with lobster butter kept up the pleasure. The whole production demanded that I slant the bowl and scoop out the last spoonful.
My friend’s enormous plate of gemelli pasta with pulled Smithfield ham, peas, and shallots in black truffle cream could not be devoured so thoroughly, but she loved it just the same and put down her fork with regret.
Yellow chintz wrapped around cream poles at the windows, and red walls negate the feminine assault of the china knickknacks here, where the decor is balanced and still almost giddy with ornamentation. As with the over-the-top towel service, the place pulls it off. The fabulous desserts, a blueberry cobbler with homemade ice cream ($6.50) and a chocolate budino (warm Italian pudding cake) would have been our destiny if we hadn’t gone with the pecan pie with maple ice cream and a Maine blueberry tart with lemon curd. The tart triumphed with a preponderance of berries over curd, and the pecan pie’s light filling stood well with the sweeter maple ice cream.
A glass of port, or single malt scotch, would have gone well, but they will have to wait for another night. Eight wines by the glass, and a good range of reds and whites, many around $24, satisfy the thirst; and the champagne was popping on the porch early that summer evening.