When you decide to move away from where you spent most of your life, you have to adjust to all kinds of change: Starting a new job, working with different coworkers, remembering how to get to the grocery store without getting lost, and meeting new friends.
One thing that you may never get used to is knowing you can no longer make last-minute plans with your friends back home. Living a few minutes away from each other once made grabbing a beer after work a breeze. Now, hour-long drives and rush hour traffic make coordinating schedules for a weeknight dinner about as easy as peeling yourself away from a Netflix marathon on a rainy Sunday – nearly impossible.
If there is one thing I’ve learned after moving from the New Hampshire seacoast up to Portland, it’s that there’s a silver lining in all the suckiness of losing the familiarity of your social life: it makes getting together way more awesome. Cheese city, but true.
A few weeks ago, one of my best friends and I were doing our normal ‘haven’t seen you in forevs’ text dance – trying our best to squeeze in catch-ups (since we can never find the time to talk on the phone) and tossing out date suggestions for when we might be able to see each other. Once we reached an agreement on a night that worked for both of us, the next task was determining what we were going to do – and where. Thankfully, she is a saint and will often volunteer to meet me halfway, despite the pile of nursing homework and lonely pup she has waiting for her at home. She also happens to be a great detective when it comes to discovering awesome new restaurants to visit. After she suggested Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunk, I took one glance at the online menu and was sold without getting past the ‘From the Coast’ section. Crunchy glazed pork ribs? SAY NO MORE. We both decided to ignore the steep price tags (a casual $165 ribeye, for example) because…YOLO.
For the record, we did not order the ‘enormous’ ribeye.
On my way to girls night, I was obviously running way behind schedule because that seems to be my M.O. and traffic heading out of Portland is always a treat. To complicate matters, the hidden part of the restaurant was no joke – even my GPS was confused, telling me repeatedly that my destination was an unhappy woman’s driveway. A few wrong turns and some choice words later, I came upon a questionable-looking dirt road with the unmistakable “Hidden Pond” signage at its entrance. The landscape of the lengthy driveway leading to the venue gave off fairy house vibes, with tree-lined paths extending from the road and stopping at cabins sporadically placed throughout the woods.
Once you make it to the front entrance of Earth, a word of advice: take advantage of the valet service. There seems to be no real rhyme or reason for the parking situation, which is dispersed between sporadic trees.
Inside the restaurant, I couldn’t help but shamelessly swoon over the modern light fixture that dressed up the lobby area. ICYMI: I have a small obsession with lights and snag any opportunity to take photos of them.
No detail throughout the venue was overlooked, as wildflowers decorated barn-inspired walls and large tree branches hung from the tall ceilings. We later learned that everything on the dinner menu was either grown onsite or locally sourced, hence the name ‘Earth’ and appropriately-theme decor.
We ended up having to wait at the bar for a table, which gave us the chance to talk with an older couple who could not stop raving about the flatbread pizza and meatballs. About a half-hour later, we were finally brought to our table on the back patio. A swimming pool served as the centerpiece of the deck, with low-set country-style tables lining the edge. Tiki torches and live music provided the perfect backdrop for a summer dinner.
Cocktail to try: Tree Line
Someone really nailed this light and summery concoction: a mix of Kettle One vodka, St. Germaine, and fresh mint leaves. The unique blend of sweet elderflower and refreshing mint make it a dangerously delicious drink that helps to combat the discomfort found in humid summer evenings. At $15, it’s probably wise to limit yourself to just one – but it ain’t gonna be easy.
Plate to try: Flatbread Pizza
…And not just any Flatbread Pizza. Pizza with ‘Marscapone, Fennel Sausage, Calabrian Chile, Oil Cured Olives, and Pepper Cress’. Not even sure what some of those ingredients are, all I know is that together, they offered up a light and delicious pizza with a kick. I was actually so into it that I didn’t have the chance to take a photo.
Experience in Summary
The only drawback to our whole experience was the wait time. On top of the 30 minutes spent waiting at the bar, no one came to our table until I mentioned something to the patio bartender, some 15 minutes later. Otherwise, the food was excellent (albeit a tad pricey),the setting was tasteful, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
A fun fact that we learned from talking with the bartender inside: Hidden pond rents out the cabins I had seen on my drive in for secluded getaways. The venue also offers private event cabins located off the back of the restaurant, perfect for intimate dinner parties. The transparency of Earth’s garden is pretty amazing; they grow the majority of their ingredients on property, and their garden is accessible to guests.
To learn more about this establishment, visit www.earthathiddenpond.com