Haute dining, good value

IMG_1003No matter what your budget, getting good value for your buck makes a difference. In a town where $40 entrees aren’t unusual, the White Barn Inn, Maine’s only five-star dining room and Relais & Chateau property, provides better R.O.I. then most other options.

The White Barn is most definitely not a budget option, but for those who can afford to drop $95 on a meal or can eek it out for a special occasion, this five-star, five-diamond, fine-dining restaurant delivers far more than it promises for its $95 (add $48 with wine pairings, $85 with reserve wine pairings) price tag, and that equals value.  No, really!IMG_1088

Ambiance: OK, I hate that word as much as you do, it’s so snooty, but let me tell you, the White Barn has it. Yes it’s a barn, and it retains the structure and roughness of a barn in its siding and beams, but it’s polished with white tableclothes, silver, glass and crystal, candlelight, soft piano music, fine art on the walls, and lovely silver ornamental critters on the tables. Walk in, and your eyes are drawn immediately to the humongous back wall window. Outside, tiers of flowers blossom, an explosion of color that’s front and center.

Dress: Gentlement must wear jackets. ‘Nuff said. That alone adds an element of class, of refinement, of subdued conversation (really!).

Service: Waiters/waitresses and assistants in black and white move quickly, efficiently, and professionally around the room. They can answer any question thrown at them, whether about the food, the inn, the area. Water glasses are kept filled; napkins  are folded when diners temporarily leave their chairs; plates are served to all diners simultaneously in a choreographed flourish. No one misses a beat. It’s spot on.

IMG_1062 Food: Classic fare with inspirations. Everything’s familiar, yet it’s not. It’s exciting, but not too so; intriguing, yet satisfying. Did I say delicious? Definitely that, too. Chef Jonathan Cartwright and his team change the menu weekly, but don’t get too carried away. Menu focuses on what’s fresh and seasonal, without being held hostage by local ingredients.

Value: An amuse-bouche, a pre dessert, a post dessert, a tree of petit fours and chocolates weren’t included in the four-course meal’s description, but were included in the price. They’re daily gifts from the kitchen to diners, little extras that turn a four-course menu into a seven-course one, and a pricey splurge into one with value.

• Hint: Sure, it’s a bit like Cinderella retreating from the ball, but if you sleep across the street at the strictly functional Franciscan Monastery Guest House, you can balance the savings against the splurge.

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