The weekend I visit the Spruce Point Inn is misty, damp, and gray. Fog rolls in off the ocean and envelops the property. I love this kind of weather; it adds an element of mystery and romance to my surroundings. I check in at the main inn, and walk through the library, admiring the photographs of families who’ve vacationed here for years. The inn was built in 1892, and I’m impressed that the innkeepers Angelo DiGiulian and Joseph Paolillo have maintained its historical charm while incorporating modern conveniences for comfort and luxury.
My guest and I unpack our belongings and settle into one of the three Seabreeze lodge rooms; it’s spacious and charming, with light blue walls, high ceilings, and a huge bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. From the front porch we can hear the ocean, but tonight there’s only sea spray and mist.
We arrive for an early dinner at 88 Restaurant and are seated at a beautiful corner table overlooking the ocean. The dining room is grand; windows let in natural light, tables are covered in white tablecloths, and a restored player piano provides soft background music. Our server greets us with a splash of sparkling wine and in minutes we have homemade, warm cheddar biscuits with a hint of caramelized onion. I spread a bit of the Maine butter and sea salt on the biscuit and watch it melt. It’s so good I have to stop myself from asking for more. There’s a lot to sample this evening.
Our first course is a beautiful plate of seared scallops with a bright citrus gastrique, salted cucumber, and micro kale. The rosemary sprig threaded through the golden brown scallops imparts an herbal quality, but it’s the gastrique, made with vinegar, sugar, caramelized citrus, and a touch of habanero pepper, that gives the dish balance and dimension. The scallop appetizer is refined, while the next dish is simple and rustic. It’s a plate of my favorite foods, sautéed shiitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms with a poached egg and grilled bread. When broken, the egg oozes a bright orange yolk and mixes with the thyme-infused mushrooms. There’s a certain duality of refinement and comfort woven throughout this experience: jacketed waiters serve homemade cheddar biscuits, and appetizers range from rosemary skewered scallops to a French peasant breakfast. It’s fun and different and it absolutely works.
Executive chef Peter Stiles and his sous chef Mark Weinerth are working together for now, sourcing local food and building even more farm connections, but at the end of the 2013 season, Stiles will retire, handing the reins over to Weinerth. Weinerth has a background in French cooking, but isn’t wed to that style. He draws from experience, travel, and fresh Maine ingredients to create his menu.
Our next course is a plate of Glidden Point oysters with a beet root and red wine vinaigrette. The oysters come from Edgecomb, 11 miles away, and are plump and briny. The vinaigrette may sound simple, but it’s packed with flavors of ginger, allspice, and black pepper.
MacMurray pinot noir is a medium-bodied, slightly fruity wine that pairs well with seafood, pork, and even steak. We try the incredibly tender Curtis Farm beef sirloin with black garlic jus, truffle shoestring potatoes, and roasted cauliflower. It’s a hearty meal even without the meat; the potatoes are addictive and the cauliflower is caramelized and sweet. And then theres the thick cut pork chop, also from Curtis Farm in Buxton. Chef Weinerth brines the meat with fennel and juniper, which adds moisture and flavor. The chop comes with grilled spring onions, cherry tomatoes, Masala sauce, and chive mashed potatoes.
We need a moment to collect ourselves after such a feast, and as we sit and enjoy the rest of the wine, we hear other couples enjoying themselves. Some are staying at the inn and others are taking advantage of this fine establishment right in their backyard. In addition to 88 Restaurant, Spruce Point Inn offers casual dining at Bogie’s next door and outside dining at the Deck Oceanside Café.
It’s finally time for dessert. We sample miniature lemon curd and basil whoopie pies and a chocolate smores. Pastry chef Clara Kruger knocks it out of the park; these desserts are fun and upscale. The light and herbal whoopie pies are served with a drizzle of basil simple syrup, while the chocolate smores, with chocolate ganache, smoked and brûléed marshmallow topping, and a chocolate dipped graham cracker, is reminiscent of childhood yet sophisticated at the same time.
This night, misty, moody weather and all, is exceptional. Before we leave to return to the Seabreeze lodge, our server brings us a homemade muffin to enjoy in the morning. It’s these little details that elevate the Spruce Point Inn experience and make dining at 88 Restaurant special.
88 Grandview Avenue | Boothbay Harbor | 207.633.4152 | sprucepointinn.com/88