Rusticating at The Rusticator

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As I noted previously, this year the Oakland House, in Brooksville, has embarked on a relationship with Richard Hansen, of Cleonice, in Ellsworth, to operate its Rusticator Restaurant. The slogan is from the place and of the time, and while that sounds vague, it springs to life on the menu, which features familiar foods from local sources in contemporary renditions.

We dined there Saturday and Sunday nights, and it’s obviously a win-win situation. Guests at The Oakland House cottages have dinner included; guests at the Shore Oaks Inn can opt for a dinner plan. If you’re not staying here, don’t despair. The Rusticator is open to the public, too. And judging from the crowd in the dining room, the public is discovering it.

First the setting: The dining rooms are located in The Homestead, a building that dates from 1865. Separate dining rooms are allocated to young families, letting those without young ones dine in a quieter space. That dining room overlooks the inn’s gardens, and during dinner, a sprinkler on the roof provides background water music. It’s really quite delightful.

Guests arriving early for the 7:30 p.m. seating relax on the screened-in porch, enjoying drinks and complementary hors d’oeuvres, before being shown to their tables. Appetizers include the restaurant’s signature Maine Coast in a Box ($11), a sampling of tiny lobster and fried clam rolls. On Saturday, I had the house-cured duck prosciutto and lamb braciola with dried figs ($9), served with crackers; absolutely delicious, and the four-bite size was enough for a taste. My husband had the Blue Hill Bay Mussels, served a white wine with tarragon and Raye’s Stone Mustard; again, nice blend of flavors. my dad had the poached Overlook Farm free-range egg with Four Season Farm spinach, smokey bacon and cider-sage vinaigrette ($7); he loved it.

Next came a basket of foccacia and bread sticks, along with a salad of baby lettuces that for my tastes were slightly under dressed.

Entree choices ($22 to $33) included fresh-picked lobster succotash, roasted dayboat bluefish filet (with Nervous Nellie’s Hot & Sweet Pepper glaze), The Farro of Egypt, Maine (a risotto made with farro from Webb’s Farm and Ann Bossi’s chevre along with local seasonal vegetables and herbs; available vegan). We each chose the roasted hook and line caught halibut, served with Castine Clipper Ship chutney, Maine shrimp kedgeree and grilled zucchini. The halibut was perhaps the best I’ve tasted; a large thick portion that was cooked perfectly throughout, nice and moist without losing the toothsome texture of this fish.

Choosing a dessert was tricky. Possibilities included choclate eclairs, raspberry-blackberry buckle, fig bread pudding, stawberry shortcake, lavender Overlook Farm custardand a lemon mousse in a cookie cup with blueberry sauce. We were all quite full, but I choose the lavender custard. Oh. My! It’s to die for–thick, rich, creamy; so good that I ordered it again the next night.

Sunday night, I began with Rebekah’s crab fancy, kind of a crab fondue served with homemade crackers. This would be easy to split with someone, as it’s very rich. Tom ordered the Napoleon of roasted Four Season Farm gold and red beets and sweet onions, with walnuts and Great Hill blue cheese; it was a work of art in presentation (and flavor).

For the entree, I chose the grilled sirloin lamb chops, paired with kitchen garden mint, tomato and cucumber relish fingerling potatoes, and grilled Artesian Farm zucchini and squash.   Tom had the pan-seared sashimi grade yellowfin tuna, served with a blue cheese Indian pudding and grilled fennel. Again, it was all delicious, and the portions were quite generous.

The Rusticator offers two seatings, one at 5:15, the other at 7:30. Another option is The Coop, a back-of-the-house shared table.