Kennebunkport Festival: Art of Dining at the Granetz Residence
The Art of Dining dinners at the Kennebunkport Festival are a unique opportunity to enjoy the offerings of Maines most talented chefs prepared in the kitchens of Kennebunkport residents. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to experience this level of cooking in a home setting.
I arrive at the oceanfront shingle-style home of Marc and Kris Granetz as guests are gathering on the large stone patio surrounded by swaying allium and peonies about to burst forth. An icy raw bar filled with lobster tails, shrimp, and oysters beckons, while attentive waitstaff offer a cold glass of wine. The house is sited just so, allowing us to enjoy a grand view of the setting sun. With the help of developer Tim Harrington (partner and creative director of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection), the Granetzes have created a comfortable and inviting home. The house is spacious and airy, done with lots of white trim, native stone, and as many shades of blue as the moody ocean beyond. The library is painted a brilliant shade of peacock blue that is the perfect backdrop for the owners’ collection of Maine art.
Marc and Kris are generous hosts and warm and gregarious as they invite their 30 guests to join them at the elegantly set table. There are plenty of candles creating a glow among overflowing vases of lilacs and hydrangeas. I am lucky to be seated next to Kris and facing the huge window that showcases the spectacular view. There are old friends, new friends, and friends of friends. There are business partners, designers, and landscapers, all of whom seem to have had a hand in making Kennebunkport a prime destination.
And then there is chef Justin Walker. Walker is the executive chef at Earth at Hidden Pond. This restaurant is a favorite of the Granetzes, who are also investors in the resort collection. Kris asked the chef if he’d participate in the Art of Dining dinner at their home. When he agreed, they sat down together to work on the menu. “It took all of ten minutes,” said Walker. ”Kris knew she wanted some of her favorites. I made a few suggestions and it was done.” And what a menu it was.
Passed hors d’oeuvres included Kris’s favorite mini peekytoe crab toastsa luscious bite that contained more ingredients than most weeknight dinners at my house. Also offered was possibly the most sophisticated grilled cheese sandwich ever created with buttery brioche, buffalo mozzarella, and thinly sliced black truffles. At the table, the first course was a salad of seasonal wild greens with ramps, fiddleheads, and rhubarb vinaigrette. The plate was gorgeous, bright and tasted like spring on the verge of summer. Everything was either grown in the extensive gardens at Hidden Pond or sourced from nearby farms.
The second course was another request from Kris and it’s easy to see why. Tiny, delicate tortelli were filled with hand-dipped ricotta. I was not alarmed to see black foam on top of the pasta, as chef Walker had already explained the black trumpet emulsion to me. Last year they picked several hundred pounds of mushrooms and dehydrated much of them for use this year. The taste was exquisite, earthy, and rich, but with such lightness. Complementing the pasta were favas, spring onions, and a hint of Aleppo pepper. Perfection.
Walker’s wife Danielle is an integral part of the team at Earth, serving as general manager and running the wine program. She and Marc chose the wines for the evening, relying on several from Austria, where she had visited with winemakers. The T26 Grüner Veltliner served with the first two courses was just right for the complex dishes. The Flowers Pinot Noir from Sonoma was the perfect choice for the main course, a contemporary version of surf and turf with beautifully roasted skate wing and wood-fired short ribs.
After such a meal some people may hesitate to indulge in dessert. How is that possible when the chef is offering a strawberry trifle with cocoa nibs and sweet mascarpone? And a vanilla semifreddo served in a glass with peach and nectarine salad. And a tiny, indulgent bite of flourless chocolate cake. Plus a chewy macaron made with black pansy from the garden and lemon curd. I did not hesitate for a second to enjoy them all.
So much thought, preparation, and heart went into this event. This year, proceeds from the evening (and all Kennebunkport Festival events) benefit Full Plates, Full Potential, an organization working to end childhood hunger in Maine within the next five years. The charity believes it’s possible to increase the number of children enrolled, participating, and consuming nutritious meals available through the safety net of child nutrition and school-based programs.
To attend such an evening was an absolute treat, an experience I cannot recommend highly enough. Mark your calendar for next year and get your ticket early. I can’t wait to see what the Kennebunkport Festival cooks up then.