When you drive down Goose Rocks Road in Kennebunkport, Maine, you’ll need to have Waze or Google maps on because you won’t see Hidden Pond from the street. Tucked away behind trees and unseen from the road, this understated yet luxurious resort is indeed hidden and a main aspect of its allure. It’s a true getaway—from the fray, from the crowds, from civilization. I came here one glorious summer weekend to experience the many charms of Hidden Pond, especially its notable restaurant, Earth, and to check out other high-end options for dining in Kennebunkport.
From the outside, the cottages scattered around Hidden Pond look a bit ordinary, but once you check in at the main lodge then enter your adorably-named cottage (mine was Day Dream), you’ll see just how special each cottage is: there are gas fireplaces, chic furniture, high-end bedding, and an overall comfortable luxury not often found at vacation abodes. There is a kitchen with all the gadgets one needs to make a meal and each morning, staff drops off a thermos with hot coffee, homemade muffins or pastries, and the newspaper of your choice. It’s so pleasant not to have to run outside to have your first sip of coffee. Instead, you can sit on your private deck and enjoy the peacefulness of the trees swaying in the wind, the birds chirping at their perch.
Before I arrived at Hidden Pond, I’d heard about its highly-acclaimed restaurant, Earth, and thus I couldn’t wait for dinnertime. I don’t say this lightly, but Earth, is one of the best dining experiences I’ve encountered. From the gorgeous grounds to the garden-inspired cocktails to the friendly and informative staff to the food that surpasses some Michelin-starred restaurants where I’ve dined, Earth is outstanding. Even if you don’t stay at the resort, you can still dine here and I suggest making a reservation ahead of time. Earth is a special place…from the “earthy” atmosphere to how the cocktails and dishes are made with local ingredients: vegetables, herbs and flowers are grown in the on-site garden. The food at Earth is fresh, creative, memorable.
I sat at the bar, often my favorite seat, and was able to chat with the bartenders who made suggestions and offered their biased recommendations. The aromatic gin and tonic came with flowers from the garden. Oysters came in tubes with amazing sauces, and a spectacular rendition of humble roasted carrots. The carrots were served over beet hummus and sprinkled with a unique Middle Eastern spice mix called ras al hanout, a blend consisting of what is considered the “top shelf” spices at a Middle Eastern spice shop, not necessarily the same ones each time, but ras al hanout may include ginger, allspice, coriander, chile peppers, fenugreek and hot paprika. Like the cocktails, the short ribs were decorated with garden flowers for not just a pretty dish but tasty one, too. A seafood stew almost looked too pretty to eat and short ribs were aromatic and tender. For dessert, the bartender said I must try the donut and though that wouldn’t have been my first preference it was a standout dessert.
For brunch, head into town and dine outside at The Burleigh. A Bellini with fresh Maine blueberry puree and some eggs Benedict with lobster is a veritable weekend pleasure best enjoyed before strolling around the shops in Kennebunkport or before heading to the beach. If you prefer to stay in town, The Kennebunkport Inn, which is home to The Burleigh and was once a tea merchant’s mansion, is chic, cozy, and casually elegant with its nautical-themed decor. While Hidden Pond is remote, The Kennebunkport Inn is right in town, making it a fun, festive place to stay.
While Earth surpassed my expectations, I was still craving another high-end gastronomic experience, so I ventured to Ocean at The Cape Arundel Inn & Resort, which has sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Even the dining room overlooks the ocean, a picturesque setting for the modern French/Mediterranean food made with local ingredients. Ocean is a special place from beginning to end: smart and pretty cocktails, a wine list, a cheese course, and entrées you’ll remember long after the last bite like the lobster shown above. The soup, lemongrass-crab, was silky and sublime. Desserts, too, were masterful with classic French techniques imbued with modern touches. Like Earth at Hidden Pond, the dining experience at Ocean was superb.
After dinner at Ocean, I walked across the street and listened to the waves as the sky darkened, enjoying Maine’s beauty. Then I drove back to Hidden Pond, fully satiated from another amazing meal. Not wanting to go back to my cottage just yet, I stopped into the main lodge and went out back where there’s a fire pit and surrounded by chairs and even beautiful beds for lounging; it’s a relaxing oasis. With the stars twinkling above, the torch lamps lighting up the dark, and the sound of people swimming and having fun in the pool, I sat down to enjoy my last night at Hidden Pond, a truly enchanting place. As someone who will travel miles for good food, I was so glad I’d driven up to Kennebunkport, Maine, for an indelible weekend of wining and dining.