Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond

354 Goose Rocks Road, Kennebunkport, ME, 207-967-6550 earthhiddenpond.com

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond

When we were inquiring about good restaurants in the Kennebunkport area during our recent vacation, we were directed to Earth at Hidden Pond. Ken Oringer, famed Boston chef and James Beard award winner, created this "farm to fork" restaurant with a vision of forging a close knit community and relationship with local growers and purveyors of meats, produce and seafood.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
We were told that the restaurant was supposed to be "experiential" with walls built from the trees cut to clear the site and outdoor dining by a lake complete with nightly bonfire. Alrighty! Outdoor dining by water and fresh food sounds good to us and we made a reservation. But, as it turned out, we sort of wish we hadn't.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
The surroundings and decor are beautiful in a rustic, camping in the woods, sort of way. Lots of weathered wood and screens to keep out mosquitoes. But it really is pretty. We chose to dine early because we wanted to secure a table outside while there was still light so we made the reservation for their opening time of 5:30.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
We arrived at what we believed was the exact time but were informed by a vacuous young blond at the hostess station that we were 4 minutes early and therefore could not be seated. Alrighty. We'll just stand here for the next 4 minutes. Another hostess overheard the exchange, informed her that she was an idiot (she didn't use that word) and led us to a lovely outdoor table by the lake.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
Fortunately our waitress was friendly and experienced. But we felt sorry for her and all the other servers that had to tend to outdoor tables. Instead of solid ground, the designers had chosen to dump quite a thick layer of loose gravel everywhere. The result was that chairs became buried in it and walking through it was perilous. A warning to any woman choosing to dine here is to not wear shoes with heels under any circumstance. But our waitress persevered and gave her thighs and calves a workout by tending to our needs. We certainly always heard her coming!

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
While we were reconciling ourselves to the pretty environment and the ridiculous gravel, we ordered cocktails. A bourbon drink arrived in a watered down, undrinkable fashion with lots of extra chipped ice for good measure. Back it went, twice in fact, until it was reasonably made. A pear drink was fine but weak.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
We were presented with menus tied to lacquered fake wood panels made to seem as if they were part of the earth. Experiential, huh? How about pretentious?

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
Since the cocktails were a bust, we were hoping for some great fresh food. We started with a Caesar salad with farm lettuces and which was very tasty.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
Our other appetizer was a Peekytoe crab toast with avocado, French cocktail sauce and garden greens. It was quite delicious and had a very interesting balance of flavors.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
For an entree, Brian chose the Bigoli pasta with confit of tuna, olives and sweet tomatoes. It was an enticing combination of ingredients but he couldn't taste any of them due to the overwhelming amount of salt in the dish. He didn't send it back but should have.

A Review of Earth at Hidden Pond
I'd noticed an entree of fried chicken with potato salad, watermelon, crispy pickle and spicy ranch on the menu and it was just too irresistible to pass up. I rarely eat that way and this just seemed like the perfect time for a treat. The waitress also commented that it was well worth having. Alrighty.  But "fried" is apparently a synonym for "baked" at chez Earth because that is certainly what the chicken was. The batter was tasty over over-salted and it fell completely off the chicken. The best part of the dish was the fried pickles or, rather, pickle pieces. Little, tiny pickle pieces. I got three little tiny pickle pieces. Brian ate one and then I had two little tiny pickle pieces. Rats! We decided to skip dessert in favor of a walk through town with ice cream cones.

When we got home from our vacation we checked this restaurant's reviews and found rather a lot of complaints about over-salted food. I'm assuming that Mr. Oringer, too busy with his restaurant empire, was not actually the one cooking our dinner. Were I in his position, however, I would note the large number of similar complaints and have a strong word with my chef. As for us, next time we'll skip "experiential" dining in favor of better cooking. Because the only  experience we had was to have been separated from about $200 of our money.

12 comments:

  1. Huh, I liked the concept, but it sounds like a pretty lackluster experience! So sorry-that's the worst!

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  2. Ouch...that's a lot of money for a disappointing meal. It is a pretty place though. But scenery does not make up for an over salted or not-so-good meal.

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  3. place looks amazing, food as well. I like places where I can eat and have a friendly service, it creates the whole atmosphere. Very nice review.

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  4. That cocktail looks pretty too bad it wasn't good! Not a good note to start off on! That us a lot of money for a salty mediocre meal!

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  5. I grew up in Maine but not in trendy Kennebunkport. I like nice surroundings but for me it's all about the food. I wouldn't have been impressed.

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  6. How disappointing! So sorry you paid all that money for a underwhelming experience. We try to always look up reviews before trying a restaurant to minimize our bad experiences :)

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  7. Yikes, 200 buckaroos and not being wowed is a huge bummer. So sorry it wasn't better.

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  8. Amazing you could spend that kind of money these days every customer experience counts with the competition and lack of business.. sorry it wasnt better on the other hand the pasta and chicken looked pretty tasty.

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  9. Funny how sometimes the most expensive dinners can be a let down and potlucks with friends can be lifetime memories. Sorry you had a bum experience there. At least you let us all know so we won't make the same mistake!

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  10. Yikes...sorry that this spot was a bust. Too bad the food wasn't as tasty as it was pretty.

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  11. I hate when you expect something wonderful, especially on vacation, and it turns out to be not.

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