We rarely share restaurant experiences, but felt the need to share this one as a travel post. Because this restaurant? It’s a destination! Today, we’re sharing our recent experience dining at The Lost Kitchen, Erin French’s restaurant tucked away in the woods of Freedom, Maine.
It was a 12-course tasting experience that lasted about 5 hours! You can read this post, but be sure to check out the short little vlog we made, so you can relive the experience with us.
If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to go, have been trying to snag a reservation for years, or have enjoyed her books or TV show, this post is as much a treat as the little gem of a milky white scallop served on the half shell, topped with a teeny tiny magenta-stained viola flower that we had as an appetizer.
Some of you may have seen that we recently headed back to Maine for some family fun. The reason for our return? Dinner at The Lost Kitchen!
Watch the full high-res vlog of our experience above. Head over to our YouTube channel to check out more of our videos.
Finding Freedom, Maine
Sometime in 2021—in an isolated haze—we stumbled upon The Lost Kitchen on Magnolia Network. Before us unfolded the story of Erin French and her success of a restaurant.
For years, the restaurant was a well-kept Maine secret: a Michelin-esque dining experience that was hyper local and lovingly curated by an all-female team of friends, led by Erin French, who grew up in and around her dad’s diner and had fallen on hard times more than once before opening her restaurant in the hometown she’d tried hard to escape from.
You can learn more about Erin and the restaurant here, but suffice it to say, things took off even more after the show came out.
This year, Sarah just happened to see that The Lost Kitchen was accepting reservations, and we decided to throw our hat into the ring, because, funnily enough, my dad / Bill is the biggest fan of The Lost Kitchen in our house. He watched all the episodes of the show first and bought Erin’s cookbook!
We ended up snagging a reservation around Father’s Day back in June, and felt super lucky to get that call from Freedom.
How to Get a Reservation at The Lost Kitchen
Part of what makes The Lost Kitchen so intriguing is their reservation system. You basically have to win a lottery to get a seat.
To enter, you send in a postcard through the mail and cross your fingers that you’ll get a call back for one of the limited slots for their seasonal dinner service—just a small collection of tables and one seating each night.
The postcard draw goes from the first day of spring to May 15 (you can read all about it here). Multiple people from your party can send in a postcard, but sending in multiple postcards per person isn’t allowed to keep things fair.
All in all, we sent in 3. Apparently, the pizazz of the postcard helps! Sarah sent in our Woks of Life stationary, I sent a postcard of a Chinese painting from the Met, and Justin sent a vintage outer space postcard. Surprisingly, we really didn’t have to wait long. Just a week or so after sending the postcard, Sarah got the call!
We were able to select our preferred date and confirm the number of people who would be dining with us. (Anywhere from 1-7 people—we grabbed our cousins and made a res for 7!)
People send postcards from all over. When we were there, there were about 40 diners, including us. There were a few tables from Maine, and one from as far away as Tennessee that had gotten on a plane that morning for the occasion!
One kind local sitting next to us said that during one of the three times she’d dined there, a family from Japan had flown over just for the meal.
Dining at The Lost Kitchen: $250/PP
It has to be acknowledged that this is a VERY pricey meal! And that’s not including the travel to actually get to Maine. It’s a meal and an experience all wrapped up in one.
This is part of why we wanted to share this post. It’s a doozy of a price tag, and we’re grateful we were able to go and also well aware that it’s not feasible for many people.
Our fellow diner at a neighboring table shared that she first came way back in the day when the restaurant was more of a local secret (it opened in 2014). She said the cost was only $90/pp!
That said, all of the ingredients are sourced from local farmers, personally selected based on what’s in season, and prepared by what felt like a happy, fairly compensated, and super attentive team of people.
The menu changes weekly. It was a huge splurge for the family, but a fun special occasion experience for Father’s Day.
The Trip Into Freedom, Maine
As you can imagine, planning a trip around Freedom was a funny sort of experience. After all, Freedom is lovingly referred to by Erin and others as being in the middle of nowhere.
It’s a 90 minute drive away from mid-coast Maine, where we stayed in Boothbay Harbor (near the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens), which was a great place to set up camp for a little while.
Since we were driving from New Jersey anyways, we committed to the 1½ hour drive to Freedom. I think the only downside was driving on those quiet country roads on the way back, full from the meal and tired from all the stimulation at 10:30 at night.
They say to arrive at 4:30-5:00 pm, with dinner starting at 5:30pm.
The Lost Kitchen is situated in an old grist mill that was lovingly restored by locals and is now owned by The Lost Kitchen (for anyone interested in the real estate of it all, you can read more at the Mill website).
There’s a waterfall that powers a hydroelectric turbine that actually does generate power! It’s a beautiful view, as it’s surrounded by lush Maine woods.
Upon arrival, you walk through an outdoor dining area into the Lost Kitchen shop. Everyone is given a little something to sip on—in this case, a rhubarb shrub over crushed ice with mint.
The Lost Kitchen Shop
While you wait for someone to walk you to your table, you can peruse the little shop of homewares.
Everything is so beautifully curated and admittedly cozy that at one point I bumped into someone and sheepishly said that I didn’t know what to do with myself—he laughingly agreed that he didn’t know either!
We contemplated some Japanese pruning shears and little wooden pinch bowls, but keep in mind if you want to buy something, you do so after dinner rather than before.
Next Stop: Drinks
From there, we were walked over to a beautiful and extensive wine cellar where a sommelier helps you select a wine pairing for dinner (the sommelier is actually Erin’s mom, Deanna).
You can also choose from a selection of sodas. You pay at the till and walk your bottles over to the dining room in a wicker basket.
I mean…in case you’re rolling your eyes, let me say that swinging a basket of Italian orange soda while strolling over to the dining room was a delightful experience.
The dining room is beautifully decorated. The photos don’t do it justice. There are repurposed mill parts incorporated into the decor and the vases and flower arrangements were so beautiful.
There were also shelves of cookbooks all around, and we brought a signed copy of our book as well as our copy of The Lost Kitchen for Erin to sign!
This is a picture after dinner. We chatted cookbooks and thanked Erin for an beautiful meal. We also said hi to her husband, Michael who signed our book, too!
Here’s a shot of our menu from the night. I’ll spare you the squinting and jot it down here:
- Roasted carrot & coriander soup with fried chive blossoms & honey
- A salad for early summer of bibb & little gem lettuces, shallot vinaigrette, blossoms & herbs, with a trio of cheese
- Spring run halibut with creamy polenta, asparagus, turnip & capers
- Candied ginger shortcake with roasted rhubarb compote, vanilla bean custard and whipped cream
One of the most fun parts of the whole experience is that Erin actually did serve the food to each and every table. It was super fun to have her introduce the dishes, as well as watch her work the stove when the entrees were being prepared to ensure the halibut turned out perfect.
Four courses were initially promised, but there was much more than that. I’ll give you a rundown of what actually showed up at the table:
1st course: Nibble board
The original famous nibble board has bone marrow butter. Ours had a selection of cured meats, olives, nuts, and homemade potato chips.
2nd course: Deer Isle Oysters
Locally caught oysters from Deer Isle, Maine with mignonette, garlic, and chives. They were wonderful. Also—sip your brine first, and chew your oysters people! Advice courtesy of an oyster expert on Somebody Feed Phil. (My whole life, I’ve wondered why people never chew their raw oysters. Now I am vindicated. Also we have been binge-watching Phil nonstop lately!)
3rd course: Scallop
A fresh scallop caught that morning, with the bare minimum of seasoning and flaky salt.
I don’t even remember what the specific flavors might have been—just that it was a flawless bite, and when our waitress saw that I had set aside my pearlescent shell, she very knowingly and kindly offered to put it in a box for me to take home. Hehe.
4th course: Pork belly
A crispy pork belly with fennel pollen and whipped mayonnaise was simple and delicious. As seasoned pork belly cooks, we’ve noticed that in most non-Chinese restaurants, pork belly is prepared on the sweeter side, but this was nice and balanced. Embrace the salt and spice for your pork belly, folks! The mayonnaise was also a revelation.
5th course: Lilac sorbet
Here is when a little palate cleanser was trotted out in the most adorable and delightful “hen on a nest” glass containers. Lift the hen off her nest, and within is a little melon baller scoop of sorbet. (You can find something similar here on Etsy.)
6th course: Soup
After all that, we got the first actual course on the written menu! It was a great soup—carrot and coriander are a match made in heaven, and the fried chive blossom was delicious.
We were pretty delighted to see these, as frying chive blossoms go way back for us. You can check out a recipe we’ve got for chive flower tempura from 2014, just a year after starting The Woks of Life!!! Another delicious recipe is chive flower flatbread. Don’t waste your chive flowers, folks!
7th course: Salad
Next came a stunning nest of bibb and little gem lettuces festooned with flowers, lightly dressed in a shallot vinaigrette dressing.
Check out the vlog at the top of the post!
I forgot to catch photos of the soup and salad, but check out our vlog if you want to see what they looked like!
8th course: Entree (Halibut and Polenta)
This is one of The Lost Kitchen’s specialties. Halibut is seared in copious amounts of butter in tiny cast iron skillets, each one lovingly tended to, finished in the oven, and topped with some fried capers.
There was asparagus on the side with a creamy parmesan polenta that was *incredible*. We could have eaten a whole bowl of the stuff and wished there’d been more!
Fresh Chamomile and Mint Tea
For dessert, glass teapots stuffed with chamomile flowers and mint made their way to the tables along with little Bodum pots of locally roasted coffee.
10th course: Homemade Honeycomb Ice Cream Cones
The first in our dessert parade were these truly special honeycomb ice cream cones. Both the ice cream and cone were homemade, and the cone was a marvel. Crispy, crunchy, and perfect.
Sarah had two, since my mom isn’t a fan of ice cream. As you can see, she was really happy about that.
11th course: Donuts and Milk with Cream on Top
Little mini donuts tossed in sugar with an individual petite glass of milk. I mean…I’ll never say no to donuts. The milk is what made it though! I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a cold glass of milk on its own, and it was a treat. (Where my lactose-intolerant Asians at?)
12th course: Rhubarb Shortcake
So this was the official dessert of the night. It was an enjoyable light little cross between a shortcake and a scone with rhubarb compote.
After Dinner Chocolates
This chocolate took up the last ounce of space in my stomach, and I wasn’t sad about it.
At $250/pp, it’s a steep price to pay for dinner, but it is a singular experience. Having dined at our share of Michelin-starred restaurants, this was right up there in terms of specialness.
That said, there were just a couple of instances where we wanted more. Not to sound like gluttons for excess, but the halibut would have been truly fantasmagorical with an extra few dollops of polenta on the plate to balance the firmness of the fish, and the salad could have used a few extra hits of dressing. The whole experience was next level refined with fancy restaurant-level restraint, but hey, this is why we’re just a family of home cooks.
As for favorites, those oysters were some of the best we’ve ever had, if not the best. And the homemade ice cream and perfectly crisp cones will live on forever as fantastical taste memories.
All in all, they did a great job of pacing the meal, such that by the end you were quite full but not unpleasantly bursting at the seams.
At the end of the night, we rolled ourselves into the car and trundled on back to Boothbay, everyone just about collapsing into bed.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this journey to The Lost Kitchen!