January 10, 2013

TRAVELIN' MAINE(RS): Chef Arturo Montes brings his kitchen artistry to Orono's Black Bear Inn

George and Linda Smith

Regular readers of this column know that Linda and I are big fans of the Lafayette inns throughout the state. This Bangor family attracts top staff, focuses on customer comfort and service and owns inns that are both conveniently located and remarkable -- from their Fireside Inns to our personal favorite, Bar Harbor's BlueNose Inn.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Additional Photos Below

GET YOUR TICKETS FOR PIE

Rockland is the place to be the last weekend of January. One of our favorite annual events, Pies on Parade, is scheduled from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27. More than 40 businesses, inns and restaurants offer a spectacular array of sweet, savory, creative and unusual pies for sampling as participants wander the streets of the city. Yummy!

Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under, with all the money going to the local food pantry.

Tickets and special lodging opportunities are available by calling 877-762-4667 or 596-6611. You can also buy tickets the day of the event (if there are any left) at the Maine Lighthouse Museum on the Rockland waterfront, where the pie parade begins.

From Jan. 18-27, the Samoset Resort will create a must-not-miss FROST Ice Bar and Lounge, inspired by the original ice bars and lounges in Scandinavia. Teams of designers are already working at the resort to carve and assemble 300-pound blocks of ice using chisels and chain saws.

FROST will feature a 15-foot ice bar, ice luge, ice seats, couches, tables and stools, along with life-size ice sculptures, an ice skating rink (bring your skates!) and even ice glasses. But don’t worry, there’s also a warm fire and fur cushions! We’ll see you there!

George

Regular readers of this column know that Linda and I are big fans of the Lafayette inns throughout the state. This Bangor family attracts top staff, focuses on customer comfort and service and owns inns that are both conveniently located and remarkable -- from their Fireside Inns to our personal favorite, Bar Harbor's BlueNose Inn.

And that's where today's column begins, because Chef Arturo Montes, who presides over the Looking Glass restaurant at the BlueNose Inn from spring to fall, has served us delicious, creative and memorable meals during our visits there.

So when Brock Bradford (Lafayette's manager of several properties, including the Black Bear Inn in Orono) told us that Montes was cooking this winter at the Black Bear and invited us to his first Chef's Table dinner, it was a very easy decision.

The dinner was amazing, as expected, from the decorations in the intimate dining room to the seven-course, three-hour feast. Seated with a local couple, Brent Hartley and Cathy McKay, we enjoyed a delightful evening. Brock was a great host, Montes cooked up a storm and the conversation with Brent and Cathy made the three hours pass very quickly. In fact, when the dinner ended, Linda asked me what time I thought it was, and I guessed 9 p.m. -- it was actually 10 p.m.

Linda

George and I tend to have very low-key New Year's Eve celebrations, usually staying home. But this year Chef Montes drew us out for a truly memorable evening. The small restaurant at Black Bear Inn had been transformed into an elegant space -- beautifully prepared with white linens, lots of tableware, lights and greenery.

I thought I would never come to enjoy scallops, but Chef Montes' first course of sesame crusted scallops won me over (much to George's disappointment). The combination of perfectly cooked small scallops, bathed in a soy/sesame dressing, balanced well with grapefruit.

The fruity white wine served with this course paired perfectly. It may have been my favorite dish of the evening, but there were many other contenders.

I'd like to know what that savory spice was that made the winter squash soup so tasty. It was the best squash soup I'd ever had. A salad of baby arugula, fresh pears and goat cheese was incredible. Then, a house-made blueberry sorbet won us all over. I hope Brent was listening when Cathy mentioned that this sorbet was what she'd like for Valentine's Day.

Let me pause here to say that one can eat this much food only due to the timing of the courses. I will also say that, though I finished my first three courses, there was no way I could finish each plate after that. But I enjoyed every mouthful to be sure. A leisurely pace with pleasant conversation had us dining for three hours.

This incredible meal continued with a plate of three seafood crepes. I loved the shrimp crepe and George said the salmon and the lobster crepes were equally as good. The vegetables with this were perfectly prepared. Cathy and I agreed that we could make a meal of these veggies.

The four of us were unanimous that the pepper-crusted beef tenderloin was incredible. Extremely tender beef was topped with a demi glace that included blue cheese. Whoa. Montes included a squash-stuffed squash -- sort of summer meets winter -- with whipped winter squash served in a summer squash. Very creative.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

  


Further Discussion

Here at OnlineSentinel.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)