We had started planning this special trip to Maine to mark our 25th Wedding Anniversary back at the end of 2019. Then the pandemic happened. One of the difficulties was selecting restaurants for special dinners to mark the occasion. Many were short staffed, operating at 50% capacity or closing early after a tough season. This was especially pronounced in heavy tourist areas such as Bar Harbor. Our first choice was CIAO, Kyle Yarborough’s new undertaking after owning Mache for many years and where we had celebrated for our anniversaries on past visits. The demands placed on the restaurant industry due to the pandemic convinced Kyle to close up for the rest of the season and take a well earned rest.
When we stayed at the Balance Rock Inn in 2018, we ate dinner at The Verandah Bar and were familiar with the quality of the food and dining experience. I love that they often have game on the menu and their creative approach produces amazing flavors. More than a bar, Verandah is a intimate dining space on what was an old porch/veranda, hence the name. Now enclosed and warmed by dark wood and low lighting, it is cozy and romantic. It is not a place for children, but a retreat for adult diners with discerning palates. (I won’t apologize if this sounds snobby. It is what it is.) It was a great choice for our special dinner. One thing we did miss on this visit, was Harry the bartender, an affable guy who is always a pleasure to chat with. He is from Jamaica so travel restrictions prevented him from coming to the U.S. to work this season.
Upon being seated at our reserved table, I noticed the lovely detail that the printed menu referred to our anniversary and we were welcomed with two glasses of Prosecco. The Amuse Bouche was a hit with this pumpkin lover – grilled pumpkin & mashed pumpkin. I had never thought to grill pumpkin, but I will certainly be trying this at home.
Appetizers consisted of Reindeer Blood Sausage “Bolognese” with endive and pear selected by my husband while I enjoyed Quail Cipollini with mustard sauce. So much flavor in this tiny bird.
We selected entrees of Roast Cod with little potatoes and kale with grain mustard and leek powder and Venison Chop with polenta and a tiny roasted crab apple. The venison was tender & perfectly cooked medium-rare. The polenta however was cubes which were a little disappointing creamy style or cake style (think crunchy edges) polenta has better texture and taste. The bread was a house made Clover roll that reminded me of the ones my mother made for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It made me think of my Mother who has passed away (not from COVID), a month before this trip. This roll went to another level with truffle dust & sea salt butter.
For dessert, I had Gingerbread with Vanilla Ice Cream made in house. I am a gingerbread fanatic but this was not as good as some I have had other restaurants – it had pears baked in it which I don’t care for & came as a slice from a loaf. The lush thick caramel sauce and creamy ice cream saved this desset. There were bits of roasted sorghum accent (like tiny pieces of popcorn) for interesting texture. Service as always was professional, yet friendly and well paced. One of our servers was from Machias where I had lived when I was growing up, so it was good to reminisce. It was a memorable meal to mark such a important occasion.