Taste of Bar Harbor 2012

My courageous battle with Dessert Night at the Taste of Bar Harbor 2012.

In only its second year of existence, the Taste of Bar Harbor festival has already come quite a long way. Organized by the Chamber of Commerce, it was created to showcase what the town has to offer outside of lobster and other classic tourist fare.

Highlights of the 2012 festival included a “Pub Tour” involving 80 thirsty patrons descending upon a progression of local watering holes, as well as the “Chef’s Table,” a seven course dinner with wine pairings and limited availability at four separate restaurants. There’s also “Dessert Night,” which I attend with my friend Melissa Walls, who works for the Chamber of Commerce and has taken on a great deal of the organizational duties for the festival. For Dessert Night, several eateries have agreed to offer a special dessert in honor of the festival, and my job is to sample every single one in one night.

My base of operations for this endeavor is the Bar Harbor Inn, a beautiful waterfront property that is one of the oldest hotels in town. My room is spacious, dominated by bold colors and simple patterns, as well as a large, plush leather chair. A private balcony overlooking the ocean provides a perfect sanctuary in which to drink a bottle of wine upon arrival, in an attempt to prepare myself for the onslaught of sugar that lies ahead.

Melissa and I conclude that the restaurant situated within the inn, the Reading Room, is a reasonable place to begin. Though we have dinner plans later, I will not be allowed to consume anything savory, outside of beer, until I have sampled all six desserts that await us. The task is daunting for me, but, because I am the consummate professional, I accept this responsibility.

The decor of the Reading Room certainly pays homage to eras gone by, with panoramic views of both the water and the Margaret Todd, the famous 151-foot schooner. There are two dessert offerings this evening, a citrus and a chocolate, and in the name of being thorough, we order both. The early stages of an eating marathon are the most dangerous, as it is generally the only time one feels any kind of hunger, thus it is important not to become overzealous and to realize that there’s no shame in not cleaning the plate.

The “chocolate” plate features various truffles, an Oreo cookie tartlet, chocolate crème brulèe, and a rich chocolate torte. Conversely, the “citrus” dessert consists of a lemon cheesecake, a key lime tartlet, a meringue that I can only describe as a “dreamsicle,”crème brulèe, and citrus wafer cookies. These all pair surprisingly well with a glass of Sauza Hornitos tequila on the rocks, which I sip with the intention of both maintaining my appetite and taking up as little space in my stomach as possible.

Next it is on to Galyn’s, where they have prepared a flourless chocolate raspberry cake with a fresh raspberry coulis, matched with a glass of Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui. Though this is supposedly a “half portion” of the dense and rich cake, after one bite I realize that there is no way we are going to finish. I do, however, finish my Rosa Regale, which is actually a dessert on its own.

The barrage of confections continues at Route 66, a 50s-themed diner with the usual trappings of T-Birds, Marilyn Monroe, and other Americana. They offer a whoopie pie sundae, as well as a whoopie pie martini. Realizing that I’m already pushing toward the threshold of sugar Hell, I happily forego the martini in favor of Atlantic Brewing Co. Bar Harbor Real Ale, a local nutbrown that is clean, malty, and refreshing. The components of the whoopie pie sundae are presented in a cardboard car, giving the impression that the pie and the ice cream are engaging in some kind of illicit romantic encounter. I interrupt this by taking several bites of each, before finishing my beer and moving on.

My mood begins to shift rapidly from sugar overload, and at one point while on the way to the Side Street Cafe, I become unsure as to whether I want to laugh hysterically or break down in tears. Luckily, the strawberry rhubarb shortcake with basil cinnamon whipped cream at Side Street is slightly savory, enough to pull me out of my tailspin. The strawberry pound cake used as a base for the fruit is so good, in fact, that we finish the entire dessert very quickly. As bar patrons begin packing in, I become aware of how ridiculous I must look, seated directly front and center, huddled over a plate of shortcake. Luckily, because I am with Melissa, it probably just looks like the world’s most awkward first date.

After a brisk walk for the purpose of digestion, we arrive at Mache Bistro. Chef/owner Kyle Yarborough, after hearing of my struggles, takes mercy on me, sending out a plate of smoked duck and sweet potato brandade, garnished with duck cracklings. At the time, I consider the non-dessert the single greatest thing I have ever eaten. After a short break, Melissa reminds me that it is getting late and we still have one stop left on our agenda, so we sample Mache’s delicate chocolate pot de crème before hoofing over to McKay’s Public House.

Though we had initially planned to enjoy dinner at McKay’s, our dessert crawl has taken longer than anticipated. Despite the fact that the kitchen closes just before we arrive, they kindly prepare us a platter of fresh oysters, mussels, and potato cakes, in addition to plying us with beer and tequila. My mood quickly stabilizes and begins to elevate, even to the point where I am mildly excited to taste their dessert offering, a hazelnut raspberry Bakewell tart. The bright, tangy fruit and crunchy hazelnuts are topped with whipped cream and garnished with fresh strawberries, making this a fitting end to the madness.

Afterwards, we make a brief pit stop to visit a friend who is tending bar at Joe’s Smoke Shop. After sampling the “Scorned Woman,” a citrusy, hot pepper infused liquor best enjoyed in shot form, I am ready to make my way back to the hotel.

In the morning I spend an hour sitting on the balcony, clearing my head and enjoying the view. After checkout I proceed directly to one of my favorite breakfast spots, Cafe This Way, for a plate of lobster eggs Benedict to fortify me for the long drive home.

When I speak with Melissa later, she informs me that next year I am being re-assigned to the Chef’s Table portion of the festival, a responsibility that I feel far more accustomed to. Looking back though, it does me good to get out of my comfort zone every now and then, even if it does involve consuming 15,000 empty calories.

Bar Harbor Inn + The Reading Room

Newport Dr. | Bar Harbor | 207.248.3351 | barharborinn.com

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