When a bartender at Earth gets an unusual request for, say, asparagus, they will likely walk out to the restaurant’s immaculate organic gardens and get it. And then they will proceed to make up a drink on the spot.
New bar manager Jon Greening says this is just how Earth rolls.
Two months into its fifth season, Earth is the restaurant and bar at Hidden Pond, a 60-acre luxury resort nestled deep among the balsam and birch trees of Kennebunkport. In association with the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, Hidden Pond offers a serene escape for guests (cottages range in price from $300 to $900 per night), and Earth, started in collaboration with James Beard Award-winner and Boston restaurateur Ken Oringer, features an upscale menu and dining experience in a place you might least expect it – the woods.
The front walkway to Earth (valet parking available) is adjacent to the resort’s pool, which is pristine, and bordered by flame torches like something out of the reality TV show, Survivor.
But the real show is inside, where Earth’s walls are mostly covered by cross-sectioned logs built from the trees that were cut to clear the land (Timber, a steakhouse in Portland created something similar in design). And just beyond the Edison light bulb chandelier is the restaurant’s centerpiece – a preserved apple tree hanging from its base, with bare branches adorned with ivory lights that extends over the bar and several tables. It seems everything at Earth is meant to “wow,” including the colossal floor-to-ceiling shelving display that’s lined with hundreds of bottles of alcohol (most are empty).
From concept to design, right down to service and fare, Earth isn’t just dinner and drinks, this place is a “special occasion” destination.
Greening and his team of skilled bartenders (most hail from other established Maine restaurants) are enthusiastic about drinks, eager to make you something delicious (especially if you don’t find what you want on the cocktail list), and can speak with ease about Earth’s ever-changing and seasonal menu. The bar is lined with mason jars filled with fresh berries, herbs and citrus fruits, which the bartenders deftly use to make the list of 13 cocktails, or a drink on the fly.
The Turmeric Smash is one of Greening’s newest creations. He muddles fresh turmeric root from the garden with light rum, kaffir lime leaves, and palm syrup. What’s produced is an earthy, citrus-spicy concoction that’s smooth and bright. While none of the drinks are less than $12 (the Garden G & T was the cheapest on the list), Earth doesn’t shy away from offering tastes of this or that, if you’d prefer to, say, try the White Sangria before forking over $15. Or the Milk Punch ($14) that takes days to prepare, steeping green tea, Meyer lemon, Jamaican rum, pineapple and warm milk until a (surprisingly) crystal clear, smooth and complex drink is made.
Earth’s wine list is by the bottle only, but the bartenders often have something – a bottle or two – up their sleeves for sampling or for a patron insisting on one glass. The bartenders are knowledgeable about almost everything at Earth, but will likely wave over their sommelier when asked about the wines – perhaps more for show of service.
In all its stunning glory, there is one thing off at Earth – the washrooms. While clean and perfectly operable, a rattling vent fan and stark lighting in the women’s restroom is enough to take you out of Earth’s magical orbit and back to the reality you might have hoped to leave behind for a few hours. At another restaurant, this might not be an issue, but with all the detail put into Earth’s décor and menu, it’s surprising the same amount of care wasn’t applied to lavatories. The good news is that Earth has plans to renovate the bathrooms this month.
Open seasonally (May 1 through November 1), Earth has relied mostly on word-of-mouth exposure, as well as the resort’s steady stream of guests throughout the summer. High profile guests aren’t unusual – Executive Chef Justin Walker created the menu for Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday celebration last week and Earth hosted the after party.
354 Goose Rocks Road, Kennebunkport | 207-967-6550 | www.earthathiddenpond.com
HOURS: Starting June 25, Earth will be open nightly for dinner at 5:30 p.m.; until then, they are closed Tuesdays. Check online schedule as hours change throughout the season. Earth closes for the season at the end of October.
AMENITIES: Hearth & lounge space with huge leather couch; outdoor seating by pool; private dining options; open kitchen; wine wall; views of gardens from porch room
PARKING: Private parking lot, as well as valet service
BOTTOM LINE: Earth is the restaurant and bar at the luxury resort, Hidden Pond, part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection. The restaurant is a stand-alone building amongst a lush oasis in the woods. The food and drink are as “farm to fork” as you can get – much of the ingredients used in the cocktails, for example, are harvested or foraged from the gardens and property. The atmosphere is impressive, with walls built with trees cut from the property, a preserved apple tree dangling from the ceiling, and a massive floor-to-ceiling display of liquor bottles behind the bar. You won’t find better service, cocktails, wine or bar eats anywhere else.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes