In order to keep with our lazy, relaxed vacation vibe, Keith had scoped out some local restaurants for us to try during our stay in Cushing. Our first stop during the week was Francine, set on a quiet residential street just outside the Camden town center. It wasn’t quite warm enough to eat on the flower-framed patio, even with our layers and scarves. Instead, we sat in the cozy dining room and checked out the menu, which changes daily based on the availability of local, organic produce.
Since we were on the coast, it seemed only fitting — well, fitting and delicious — to try the rope-grown mussels ($12.00). They arrived in a cast-iron skillet along with some lime quarters; underneath it all was a miniature pine bough. I can’t recall having eaten something imbued with a pine-y essence before, but I can tell you it added a really nice woodsy-ness to the mussels; it complimented the zesty lime spectacularly. I only wish that the dish skillet came with some bread to sop up the delicious juices. The back of my spoon didn’t do it the same sort of justice that a hunk of baguette would have done.
I stuck with my self-imposed shellfish trend for my main course, choosing the herb-roasted lobster with ramps, oyster mushrooms and bacon-mashed potatoes ($28.00). Now, lobster’s all well and good, and this one was quite lovely, but in my mind the highlight of the plate was the produce. The oyster mushrooms were creamy and delicious, and full of concentrated flavor, like the most intense soup. The ramps were so fresh that it felt as though they had been picked moments before my plate was placed before me. I wasn’t too crazy about the level of smokiness the bacon imparted on the potatoes, but that’s just me — I have smoke issues. It’s just not my cup of tea.
Francine is located in what looks to be a converted house. From the outside, it looks fairly conventional, with white siding and pleasantly weather-worn trim around the patio. Inside, however, the dècor is an unpredictable mix of modern details and the traditional touches. For example, we sat at an antiqued table beneath a frosted-glass window, our backs resting on bold graphic pillows. The cuisine seems to reflect Francine’s interior design — classically influenced, but altogether something new.
55 Chestnut Street
Camden, Maine 04843