As a suburban Jersey girl with extended forays in city living, I’ve never had much experience with country life. However, I’ve always had romantic visions of rural weekend getaways; so with images of wildflowers, quiet trails, and true farm to table food floating in my head, I searched for a country retreat for my husband, Ken, and I for a “parents getaway” when our son was away one lovely, long summer weekend.
Hidden Pond was evidently made with us in a mind: a bit of agriculture gone glam in the beautiful Maine woods just outside of posh Kennebunkport (you know, of George and Barbara Bush fame). Building on the new trend of glamping (glamour camping where you enjoy the outdoors without lifting a finger), Hidden Pond is what I’m calling a “glodge,” a glamour lodge with a destination farm-to-fork restaurant, Earth.
Our personal view of paradise was from “Wanderlust,” a cabin out of central casting (the property is comprised of private cabins scattered through the manicured woods), with a screened living room that led to an interior with 20-foot vaulted ceilings, gas fireplace, and a four poster bed, along with myriad luxurious touches such as an expansive marble bathroom that led to a sleek outdoor shower (closed in, though, from prying eyes).
The room also had a sleek kitchenette stocked with local coffee, glass bottles of milk and juice, and decadent home-made granola loaded with a pantry’s worth of hazelnuts and pistachios. Even better, every morning an insulated Hidden Pond bag is hung on a hook by the cabin door, in it, along with a newspaper and a list of the day’s activities, were a thermos full of coffee, warm breakfast pastries, and mini-quiche, my favorite of which during my stay was a blueberry coffee cake (it is Maine after all).
We finally dragged ourselves from our Architectural Digest-worthy cabin to explore the expansive grounds, grabbing complimentary cruisers to explore the paths around the property, heading out to chilly Goose Rocks Beach, and then lounging by the heated salt-water pool with cocktails in hand (this was a grown-up weekend away, after all).
Later, completely relaxed by our time by the pool, we wondered through the lodge’s Monet-esque garden overflowing with herbs, flowers, and vegetables. The garden is so abundant, in fact, that shears and glass beakers fill the garden shed, and guests are encouraged to cut flowers for their room or to pick any of the vegetables they want to nibble.
As Ken and I picked a veggie bouquet, we spotted Earth’s executive chef, Justin Walker, picking kale and having his picture taken with adoring guests (he’ll later flash fry the kale to top ethereal meatballs at dinner, but more on that later). Considering he’s already tended to his own goat farm and foraged for mushrooms before coming to work, he’s wonderfully friendly, and happy to chat about some of the highlights of the menu. We make a mental note to try the paella and chicken later that night and head back to the cabin.
Later, we make our way to dinner along paths illuminated by lit torches. Earth turns out to be a true highlight of our stay at Hidden Pond; a collaboration with James Beard award-winning Boston restaurateur Ken Oringer, Earth serves what Chef Walker calls “refined, rustic-American” in a glam barn filled to capacity with a mix of boisterous locals and vacationers alike. The menu focuses on local ingredients showcased in dishes like “local chicken”. The unambitious name belies the chicken’s intense flavor created by brining a local farm bird overnight before roasting it on the bone in the wood-burning oven. It’s served with Chef Walker’s foraged black trumpets and chanterelles, al dente bites of homemade cavatelli, and creamy fava beans. Ken took one bite and proclaimed it “best.chicken.ever!”
And don’t even get me started on the meatball appetizer. Although I couldn’t pry all of Chef Walker’s meatball secrets from him, I did get a few: ground pork belly, loads of egg whites, and a trip through the kitchen’s massive wood-burning oven. I wouldn’t even dream of trying to recreate them at home.
However, I did dream of them. So the next night we cancelled our “romantic” reservations elsewhere and jockeyed for seats together at the rough-hewn wood bar so we could indulge in a few more of those meatballs topped with the crispy-fried kale I had seen in the garden. To say we had a great time as we indulged in the delicious food, sophisticated cocktails, and the charming chic barn atmosphere would be a grand understatement.
After dinner, as we sat around a private bonfire in the cool Maine woods, staring at the stars and inhaling the wood smoke, congratulating ourselves on having found the perfect getaway, I realized I might just be a country girl after all.
354 Goose Rocks Rd
The Tree Spa — Treatment rooms here are suspended on stilts up in between the trees creating tree houses for organic facials and deep massages.
Fitness classes (yoga, hiking, paddle boarding)
Breakfast delivered to your cabin
Nightly bonfire and s’mores
Beach cruiser bicycles
Dinner shuttle to Kennebunkport
In the Area
Goose Rocks Beach – Grab a bike from Hidden Pond and you can peddle the quick 1-mile road to postcard-perfect Goose Rocks Beach, a happily un-crowded sandy cove. Beach-side Tides Beach Club, Hidden Pond’s sister property, provides complimentary beach chairs and towels and even offers chair-side lunch service that you can charge back to your HP room.
The Clam Shack – There’s lobstah, lobstah everywhere on the Maine Coast, but this landmark spot in the middle of Kennebunkport served the best lobster roll, not to mention fried clam bellies, of my trip. Boats bring their wares to the backdoor of the Clam Shack, and then the tiny spot serves the super-fresh shellfish out the window in front. The lobster roll is a full lobster on a hamburger roll, napped with your choice of mayo or melted butter.
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art – Thirty minutes south of Kennebunkport, this petite museum captured my attention as much for its stunning setting as its collection of 20th century American artwork. Floor to ceiling windows fill the entire back wall and the views sweep out over the fishing port of Perkins Cove, past the rocky cliffs, and straight out to the Atlantic.