The Kennebunkport Festival | The Unofficial Start of Summer in Southern Maine
There are all kinds of time-honored signs that summer has finally arrived in southern Maine – the first lobster roll from the Clam Shack, the first opening night at the Ogunquit Playhouse, the first barefoot stroll on Scarborough Beach. Since 2004, however, summer in southern Maine unofficially begins when the Kennebunkport Festival kicks off the […]
The View from the Deck at a href=”http://boathouseme.com/dining/” target=”_blank”>David’s KPT
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
There are all kinds of time-honored signs that summer has finally arrived in southern Maine – the first lobster roll from the Clam Shack, the first opening night at the Ogunquit Playhouse, the first barefoot stroll on Scarborough Beach. Since 2004, however, summer in southern Maine unofficially begins when the Kennebunkport Festival kicks off the season with six days of culinary events ranging from intimate gatherings in private homes to dockside galas in the enthusiastic company of hundreds.
The Kennebunkport Festival is a dining adventure on a grand scale meticulously organized by the staffs of Maine magazine, Old Port magazine and Maine Home + Design. When my wife received the invitation for us to be their guests at the 2015 festival, we immediately started dreaming about sunshine, cocktails and coastal breezes. And when the good people at the Kennebunkport Resort Collection — the same folks who had hosted us at Hidden Pond for the previous year’s festival — offered to make The Lodge on the Cove our home base for the weekend, we called the dog sitter and started packing.
What was once your run-of-the-mill motor lodge providing no-frills accommodations to families arriving in wood-paneled station wagons is now a “retro-chic” resort with a heated outdoor pool, complimentary beach cruiser bikes and lawn games to help modern families unplug and enjoy some old fashioned family fun. Our room within the completely renovated motor lodge offered a captivating combination of coastal charm, hip design and top of the line amenities. From the coiled lobster rope encased under the glass top coffee table to the sleek bathroom fixtures no detail was missed in the transformation. But with the dinner waiting for us at the Wood Fired Grand Cru event, we were only in the room long enough to freshen up and change our clothes before heading to the bucolic Wells Reserve at Laudholm.
Hosted in a barn that was built in the early 1900’s, The Wood Fired Grand Cru event kept the “retro” theme going in grand style. You might think that such a rustic setting would be an odd fit for artisan cocktails, fancy hors d’oeurves and four elegant dinner courses. As we watched the sunset through the large open door while enjoying one of the best tasting salads we’ve ever had, the experience was close to perfect.
On Saturday morning, we enjoyed the continental breakfast in the lobby of the Lodge on the Cove before striking out for a day of sightseeing and gallery walking designed to recharge our appetites for my favorite part of the Kennebunkport Festival–the Grand Tapas Event. Where else can you sample the skills of over 25 of Maine’s most talented chefs and try as many wines as you dare under an expansive white tent with a picturesque harbor in the background?
When faced with an eye-popping array of dining options, I usually head straight for the first bit of spicy, salty or saucy meat that catches my eye. So I was shocked to find myself mesmerized by the chefs of Azure restaurant in Freeport as they pierced fresh scallops with a stick, poached them in a pot of boiling water, dipped them in a creamy sauce and rolled them in a magical blend of mild spices and crunchy textures. The result was a 4th of July fireworks show for my mouth that I came back for at least five more times. Despite the 75 degree warmth, I was also captivated by the spicy tomato soup and grilled cheese appetizer prepared by Chef Shannon Bard of Zapoteca in Portland, Maine. Sure, the fact that she used Backyard Farms tomatoes was the initial draw (full disclosure: I work for BYF), but I soon discovered that the crunchy, cheesy bread dipped in flavorful soup was almost as addictive as the scallops.
We could have stayed at the Grand Tapas Event all day and truth be told, we almost did. But as the chefs and wine purveyors started breaking down their displays, we realized it was time to head back to the hotel to rest up for the Grand Finale at David’s KPT. I’ve never aspired to be a celebrity and I tend to prefer informal gatherings to lavish parties. Those sentiments went out the window the moment we walked through the door and were greeted by smiling servers on either side of the hall offering trays of different cocktails and appetizers. After choosing our first round of beverages and navigating a long table of additional appetizer options, we made our way to the outdoor deck to take in the gorgeous view and listen to the band. As David’s KPT filled to capacity, the smiling servers began passing around more trays of delicious dishes while chefs manned stations where they prepared fresh pasta sauces to order. As the sun went down outside, the music cranked up inside and the dance floor became the place to be for the duration of the evening.
If six days of feasting, wine tasting, cocktail sampling and beer drinking is sounding more like Sin City than southern Maine, please know that a portion of all event ticket sales from the Kennebunkport Festival go to charity. Specifically, a wonderful organization called Full Plates Full Plates Full Potential that is on a mission to end food insecurity for Maine’s children. Last year, the Kennebunkport Festival raised $30,000 for Full Plates Full Potential and that’s an event that everyone can feel good about celebrating.
So if you’re looking to get your summer off to a truly festive start, consider the myriad options available to you at the Kennebunkport Festival. It could very well end up being the highlight of your entire year.