Time: 7:00pm, Saturday March 8th, 2008
With: Hubby, Sabrina, Zee Zee
Where: At the Camden Harbour Inn, Camden, Maine
In celebration of the Hub’s 40th birthday (an admittedly momentous occasion), the Hub, Sabrina, Zee Zee and I went to Camden; back to the scene of the crime, so to speak. It was two New Years Eve’s ago that the Hub and I were married here in Camden. So, in thinking of a special place to have an overnight celebration, where else could we go?
For Hubby’s special birthday meal we went to the Camden Harbour Inn, and specifically to their very chic restaurant, Natalie’s.
The Camden Harbour Inn is located on the top of Camden, overlooking the whole town. It is an ideal location for seeing the dual sites: The ocean and the incredibly picturesque village. It is located in a renovated Victorian mansion, recently updated to amazing results. Although we stayed elsewhere (more on that later) we will be staying here in the future, make no mistake.
Natalie’s is one of only a few truely fine dining locations in Camden, and is suitably dressed to impress. We sat in the corner of a window filled room, surrounded by the porch and the twinkling lights of the trees outside. All of the table linens were stark white – crisp and clean, matching the pristine white paint of the trim. This was all accented by the shock of a vibrant red sprinkled throughout: the tasseled drum lighting, the comfortable fabric armchairs at each table, and the single rosebud as the centerpiece. The light is diffused but enough to see the menu by (a pet peeve of mine). It is entirely comfortable and elegant and lovely.
We decided as a table to brave the Menu Saisonnier, a four course meal decided upon by the chef. We were not disappointed, as each of us got something completely different. I think that throughout the evening (easily a three hour affair) we tasted most of the items on the menu.
This is the Hypnotic Martini. It will make you lose several hours…
It all started with an amuse bouche, a delight of raw scallop and herbs in a light vinaigrette, served in a Chinese spoon. Even though I am not normally a fan of raw seafood, it was very tasty.
Next came the true first course. Our waitress (more on her later) had suggested that the chef might be persuaded to prepare two different options, so that we could share. She must have been very persuasive, as we all got different hot and cold appetizers. A few of the most wonderful apps were the Salad of Baby Spinach with braised onions, bleu cheese dressing and bacon; a crisp Shrimp and Calamari “Frito Misto” Crespelle salad; Seared Scallops over pureed celery root; and Baked Gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce with pine nuts and currants. All were wonderful, but the standouts were the baked gnocchi (tender and flavorful) and the scallops (perfectly cooked). I had never tasted celery root, and it was a great surprise.
Our entree courses were next. Yes, courses. We sampled (since we all passed our plates around like madmen) all of the following: Roast Breast of Chicken with fingerlings and turnips (perfectly cooked and tender chicken); Sauteed lobster with truffles and smoked tomatoes (amazing smoky taste); Veal sirloin cooked in milk (I am not normally a fan of veal, but it was excellent); Saffron braised Cod; Seared Salmon; and Double cut Pork with crispy Polenta (excellent polenta, excellent pork).
The only miss of the evening was a Lobster Bisque – it tasted a little burned, and had a strange, we-couldn’t-figure-it-out flavor. However, since we ate almost 12 different items (not including dessert), it was easy to forgive.
Speaking of dessert, it was also wondrous. Sabs was delivered the lemon meringue tartlet (it was tart and zippy); Zee got the chocolate molten cake (orgasmic), Hubs got the sticky toffee pudding (yum) and I got the creme brule (two kinds, of which I think my favorite was chai tea flavored). It was an amazing way to end the meal.
Our waitress for the evening was Ellen, and she was just as great as the food. She was funny and charming and hip and happening, but also elegant and distinguished and implacable and professional. She was attentive without being obtrusive and catered to our every need. She’s the kind of waitress that you want to be friends with. In fact, Ellen, if you are ever in Portland, give us a call. We’ll hang.
We were met by Raymond, one of the owners of the establishment. He is very Dutch. You can almost tell, just by looking at him. He is tall and blond and speaks with a slight accent and has wooden shoes. You could hear him coming from across the restaurant. Clomp, clomp, clomp. Just kidding. He was wearing very sensible shoes. Unfortunately. More wooden clogs, Raymond!
We asked and were treated to a tour of several of the rooms at the hotel and let me tell you, if we are within 20 miles of Camden ever again we are staying here. The rooms are sophisticated without being stuffy and charming without being silly. And they have some amazing wallpaper.
All in all, this was one of the best places I have ever eaten. As a whole the experience was unforgettable and delicious. If you get a chance to go to Camden, stay at the Camden Harbour Inn. If you want an amazing dinner, take the trip from Portland (go the Route 90 shortcut). Just do it. It’s worth it.
5 out of 5 stars.
PS – Ask for Ellen. She’s awesome.