Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 14: Tastes Like Summer

I had the good fortune to be chosen for a focus group to critique some new menu choices and the overall service experience of Natalie's, the fine restaurant that is part of the Camden Harbour Inn. Ten of us sat down for lunch today, and three-and-a-half hours later, we got up from the table, replete.

Here's what I ate, in order:
  • A Pemaquid oyster covered with lemon air, a sort of creamy foam
  • Perfectly charred pieces of squid with Aleppo chilis, fat fava beans, a coil of fettuccine-like pasta, and olive oil
  • Haricot vert (green bean) and Boston lettuce salad with basil and red wine vinegar and creme fraiche dressing
  • Chilled lobster gazpacho with pieces of heirloom squash and a Parmesan cracker on top
  • Tender chunk of halibut in artichoke barigoule (a broth) on top of a big flat ravioli with tomato
  • Three mouth-watering pieces of rare lamb loin in a natural jus
  • For dessert, fresh peaches three ways: blistered, crepe, and sorbet (served on a block of slate)
When I ate my first mouthful of the haricot vert salad, I whispered to the woman next to me that it tasted like summer, it was so fresh, green, and garden-y. After the next course, the gazpacho, a woman at the other end of the table declared that it tasted like summer. In reality, the whole meal tasted like summer, if just because the ingredients were seasonal, fresh, and beautifully presented in a simple but somehow luxurious way. Everything was exquisite. And there we all were on a steamy July afternoon, enjoying the best food around, talking about food and what we like in a restaurant while behind us Camden Harbor and Mount Battie emerged from the fog. For a few hours I felt like I was on a mini summer vacation from work, from my every day life. It was sweet (and savory). (And the service was excellent, as always.) 

And five hours later I'm home eating a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats for supper. 

Mouthful of summer:
green beans, lettuce, and basil,
with a harbor view. 

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