A Tale of Two Meals

The Tale of Two Meals at The Lost Kitchen

Introduction

The Lost Kitchen, located in the small town of Freedom, Maine, is a hidden gem in the culinary world. Chef Erin French’s restaurant has gained fame for its exceptional food, charming ambiance, and unique reservation system. In this article, we will explore two dining experiences at The Lost Kitchen, highlighting the restaurant’s evolution and the unforgettable meals enjoyed by the author.

The First Time – A Hidden Gem

In the fall of 2016, the author had the opportunity to dine at The Lost Kitchen. At that time, the restaurant was still relatively unknown, operating in its third season at its current location. The author’s friends had secured a reservation but couldn’t make it, so they passed it on.

Walking into the restaurant for the first time was like entering a private club. The cozy post and beam barn housed only 40 seats, creating an intimate and warm atmosphere. The dining area was candlelit, creating a romantic ambiance. The author’s table was strategically positioned against the open kitchen, providing a bird’s-eye view of Chef Erin French in action.

The dining experience was nothing short of extraordinary. French showcased her culinary talent on the elegant Lacanche range, expertly preparing generous portions of fish, meat, and an abundance of fresh, beautifully presented vegetables. Each course was a work of art, from the oysters to the soup and the vibrant lettuce adorned with flowers. The attentive service and the gleaming stainless-steel French press pots for coffee service added to the overall charm.

Towards the end of the night, Chef French stepped into the dining room, her apron still spotless, and raised her glass to thank the diners for making her dream come true. The author considered it the best restaurant meal ever, despite the hefty price tag of around $300 for two people.

The Rise to Fame

In 2017, The Lost Kitchen experienced a surge in popularity. Within the first 24 hours of accepting reservations, they received an astonishing 10,000 calls. To manage the overwhelming demand, French implemented a postcard mail-in reservation system. Interested diners would send in postcards, and winners would be selected at random, receiving a call to confirm their reservation.

The author, intrigued by the unique dining experience, also tried their luck by sending in postcards annually since 2018. However, they have yet to secure another reservation. The demand for The Lost Kitchen has only continued to grow, making it even more challenging to secure a coveted table.

A Second Chance – Dining Amidst a Pandemic

In the summer of 2021, the author’s daughter lucked out and scored a reservation at The Lost Kitchen. She generously invited her parents to join her for the extraordinary dining experience. However, the author had mixed feelings due to the state of the pandemic and the prevalence of food insecurity in Maine.

Despite the reservations, the price of dining at The Lost Kitchen had increased significantly. The meal now cost $190 per person, excluding beverages, gratuity, and tax. The author highlighted that the restaurant’s prices had become one of the highest in the state, rivaling even more opulent establishments in New York City, California, and Chicago.

However, the author justified the cost, comparing it to the price of a ticket for a good seat at a popular Broadway show like Hamilton. They regarded it as a night of great entertainment and indulgence.

A Culinary Performance

Stepping into The Lost Kitchen in 2021, the author witnessed an evolution in the dining experience. The restaurant had upped its game to match the elevated price of admission. The servers appeared more glamorous, fit, and made-up, dressed in flattering black t-shirts and stylish linen aprons tied around their hips.

The candlelit ambiance and beautiful flower arrangements remained, but the overall service had become more refined. The author noticed more performance art and precision in the presentation of each course. The servers delivered unadvertised courses before the listed carrot and coriander soup. These included fresh and fried oysters, a mini pork burger on a house-made bun, and a delightful platter of Maine cheeses.

The main course featured perfectly cooked and generously portioned Gulf of Maine bluefin tuna, showcasing the restaurant’s commitment to using the finest ingredients. The meal concluded with a variety of desserts, including a semifreddo with salted almond brittle, lemon curd, and blackberries. Mini ice cream cones presented as if growing in a flower pot, tender donuts, and a platter of thin chocolate- and nut-covered wafers provided a sweet ending. The dining experience was complete with steaming glass tisanes and individual French press pots of coffee.

A Privilege to Dine

Securing a reservation at The Lost Kitchen is not just about enjoying a memorable meal; it is also an acknowledgment of privilege. The restaurant emphasizes its support for local farmers and the entire team behind the scenes. The prix fixe menu price not only covers the cost of the dining experience but also supports the local farmers who provide the restaurant with the highest quality produce.

The Lost Kitchen recognizes that dining out is a privilege that not everyone can enjoy. In their 2021 welcome letter, they encouraged diners to consider donating to the Waldo County Bounty, a hunger relief organization. By facilitating the transactions with a provided link, The Lost Kitchen raised over $330,000 to help combat food insecurity.

A Recommendation for Future Diners

The author concludes the article by urging readers to prepare their postcards for the upcoming 2022 season and stay tuned to The Lost Kitchen’s social media for reservation details. Despite the rising prices, the author wholeheartedly recommends others to seize the opportunity to dine at The Lost Kitchen. The unique privilege of experiencing Chef Erin French’s culinary mastery and supporting local farmers is an experience that should not be missed.

edible MAINE - The Lost Kitchen Now and Then
Image by caron&co photography