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Mary Ruoff

Freelance writer Mary Ruoff of Belfast wrote the "Way Down East" chapter of Fodor's "Maine Coast" travel guide and has contributed Maine content to other Fodor's guides.

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Posted: December 9, 2015

Bed & Breakfast & Cooking Lesson: Take a culinary class at a classic Maine inn

Written by: Mary Ruoff
Michael Salmon, left, chef/owner of Hartstone Inn in Camden, instructing during a cooking class. Photo courtesy of Hartstone Inn

Michael Salmon, left, chef/owner of Hartstone Inn in Camden, instructing during a cooking class. Photo courtesy of Hartstone Inn

Do your thoughts turn to preparing béarnaise sauce or butchering meat when you’re daydreaming about a weekend getaway? If not, maybe it’s time to think again. This is a mere sampling of the skills you can acquire by taking a culinary class at a classic Maine inn.

A smattering the state’s B&Bs and smaller inns offer instruction on cooking and food-related topics for guests, and sometimes nonguests, too. Not surprisingly, classes are often at inns with a restaurant and may be packaged with lodging and meals. Several Maine establishments have made the cut for lists of the nation’s top culinary B&Bs.

If your appetite is whetted, the timing is right. In Camden, Maine’s other foodie destination (after Portland), a handful of B&Bs offer or expand cooking classes in the off-season. Sure, this helps boost business, but it’s also when innkeepers and chefs have more time to share their love of cooking with guests. Besides, what better time than late fall or winter to nestle “inn” for a romantic weekend?

We’ve spotlighted a half dozen inns – all but one open year-round or through December – that entice guests with convenient classes and workshops. Most but not all involve the cooking arts.

whitebarninnWhite Barn Inn, Kennebunk

The restaurant at this long-acclaimed, very high-end dining, lodging and spa destination is in two renovated barns. Cooking class participants (four maximum) take on the role of apprentices to Chef Derek Bissonnette and staff as they prepare the evening’s four-course prix fixe meal. Tasks range from breaking down fish or poultry to making “mother sauces” to crafting cold appetizers and desserts. Open to non-lodging guests, the two-hour classes are $215 per person ($315 if you stay for dinner, a bit of a savings). Classes are sometimes part of special packages (check the web site). The inn also offers instruction on beverage (not only wine!) pairings. There’s no charge, except for the drinks. Breakfast is continental at White Barn, which has guest rooms in the historic main inn and an annex as well as cottages.

White Barn Inn, 37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk, www.whitebarninn.com, 207-967-2321

The restaurant at Westport Island’s Squire Tarbox Inn has a main dining room, shown here, as well as a screened deck and a small upper dining room. Photo courtesy of Squire Tarbox Inn

The restaurant at Westport Island’s Squire Tarbox Inn has a main dining room, shown here, as well as a screened deck and a small upper dining room. Photo courtesy of Squire Tarbox Inn

Squire Tarbox Inn, Westport Island

With cooking classes taught by innkeeper/chef Mario De Pietro, daughter Lara contributing a talk on nutrition (she has a degree in the subject), and much of the food coming from the inn’s garden and son Kyle’s nearby farm, cooking sessions here are a family affair. Classes were introduced a few years after Mario and his wife, Roni, bought the historic country B&B and restaurant in the early 2000s. There are two choices for a two-night package that includes three culinary sessions and all meals: “Sauces and Beyond” and “Butchering 101.” The price for two (double occupancy) is $975 on weekends, $900 weekdays (less if only one of the two takes the class; there’s a singles rate, too). The inn, which will close January through mid-April in 2016, also offers private 2.5-hour cooking classes with Mario, a native of Switzerland and former corporate chef; private nutrition sessions with Lara; a six-week cooking course for locals; occasional specialty classes; and a mushroom foraging package.

Squire Tarbox Inn, 1181 Main Road, Wiscasset, www.squiretarboxinn.com, 207-882-7693

 

Left: Michael Salmon, left, chef/owner of Hartstone Inn in Camden, instructing during a cooking class. Right: Hartstone Inn in winter, a great time of year for a cooking class getaway at the Camden B&B. Photos courtesy of Hartstone Inn

Left: Michael Salmon, left, chef/owner of Hartstone Inn in Camden, instructing during a cooking class. Right: Hartstone Inn in winter, a great time of year for a cooking class getaway at the Camden B&B. Photos courtesy of Hartstone Inn

Hartstone Inn, Camden

Mary Jo Brink savored questions about cooking classes while tending an outdoor pizza oven in Tuscany, Italy, on a “Foodie Adventure” with her husband, chef Michael Salmon. They own Camden’s upscale Hartstone Inn, a B&B with a fine dining restaurant. Hartstone started offering cooking classes more than 10 years ago. Next came spring and fall European “Foodie” trips, structured around cooking sessions with Salmon. Back at the inn, themed two-hour cooking classes are held on select Saturdays and Sundays from November through June, taking a spring break when the innkeepers are in Europe. Classes aren’t just for inn guests, but there are two-night cooking class packages, from $357 to $575 (double occupancy). They include breakfasts, a candlelit dinner for two, and one class slot (a second is $45). Hartstone also has private four-hour “Chef for the Day” sessions year-round. New on its cooking school menu: “In the Chef’s Kitchen,” themed four-course dinners (limit 8 people) prepared and enjoyed with the chef at the innkeepers’ home.

Hartstone Inn, 41 Elm St., Camden, www.hartstoneinn.com, 207-236-4259

Left: Inns at Blackberry Common is along U.S. 1 in the heart of Camden. Rooms in this 1800s home, one of two that compromise the inn, are available year-round. Dinner is served at the Inns at Blackberry Common in Camden, which in the "quiet season" (November into June) hosts guests-only dinners. Photos courtesy of Inns at Blackberry Common

Left: Inns at Blackberry Common is along U.S. 1 in the heart of Camden. Rooms in
this 1800s home, one of two that compromise the inn, are available
year-round. Dinner is served at the Inns at Blackberry Common in Camden, which in the
“quiet season” (November into June) hosts guests-only dinners. Photos courtesy of Inns at Blackberry Common

Inns at Blackberry Common, Camden

Just uphill from Camden Harbor and the downtown business district, this well-appointed B&B (no restaurant) occupies an 1846 Victorian-style structure and, next door, an 1806 colonial (shuttered in winter). From November through June, the inn holds occasional guests-only cooking classes. The innkeepers customize sessions, perhaps in conjunction with a private dinner (four person minimum for the meal). Or cooking instruction may be part of special event for inn guests, like a Valentine’s Day dinner or a seafood night (check the web site). “We love to cook, and we love our guests,” noted Jim Ostrowski, who operates the inn with his wife, Cyndi. He’s the house chef, known for his breakfasts. The inn is featured in the 2009 book “Gourmet Getaways: 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn.”

Inns at Blackberry Common, 82 Elm St., Camden, www.innsatblackberrycommon.com, 207-236-6060

 

Left: Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast in quiet Waldoboro, not far from busy U.S. 1 in the Midcoast. Right: The Goldfinch Room at Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast in Waldoboro. Photos courtesy of Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast

Left: Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast in quiet Waldoboro, not far from busy U.S. 1 in the Midcoast. Right: The Goldfinch Room at Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast in Waldoboro. Photos courtesy of Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast

Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast, Waldoboro

With a relaxed artsy vibe, a writer innkeeper, and an arts photographer in residence, this farmhouse B&B near hilly Waldoboro’s quiet village is an ideal base for an art-inspired getaway. Le Vatout, closed for the off-season until late spring, offers oil painting, pastel, watercolor, weaving and woodworking workshops in partnership with local artists. Sessions are held at the instructor’s studio or workshop, or a scenic locale. Most of the inn’s art packages are three or four nights and cost $1,200-$1,300 for two (double occupancy) or $600-$650 for one; they include picnic lunches and breakfasts. There are also nature tour, mushroom foraging and cooking packages (at a local caterer). Friends, take note: two of the four guest rooms have a pair of single beds.

Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast, 218 Kalers Cr St., Waldoboro, www.levatout.com, 207-832-5150

Noble House Inn in Bridgton is near downtown and across the street from Highland Lake. Photo by Brian Cervini

Noble House Inn in Bridgton is near downtown and across the street from Highland Lake. Photo by Brian Cervini

Noble House Inn, Bridgton

“Shoulder season” workshops at Noble House Inn in Bridgton are the brainchild of Cindi Hooper, who bought the year-round B&B in December 2012. A scrapbooking retreat, with lodging and meals, was held on Halloween weekend at the longtime western Maine B&B, which touts “casual luxury.” Fishing is the focus come spring: a casting and lure-tying workshop in being planned for April. Guests won’t get out on the water (Highland Lake is across the street) but are to practice casting on the spacious lawn. Noble House also hosts occasional Thursday concerts (donation).

Noble House Inn, 81 Highland Road, Bridgton, www.noblehousebb.com, 207-647-3733

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