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This past May, self-taught Chef Erin French, proprietor of The Lost Kitchen located in rural Freedom, Maine, published her first cookbook. It piqued our curiosity. We had heard almost mystical stories of her travails in the culinary grapevine, right up to the opening of her 40 seat restaurant housed in a charming restored grist mill in a small farming community called Freedom. We saw the first copies at bookstores in New York City but decided to wait until we got to mid-coast Maine to purchase one.
Getting a reservation was near to impossible unless you were one of the early 10,000 or so callers who swamped her answering service last April. The restaurant was booked right thru the end of the year. You could sign on to a waiting list, if you wished...
While taking a run thru Belfast, after a nice lunch at Chase's Daily, we looked at each other and said: "Let's go to Freedom!" We pinpointed the spot on our GPS and drove west, about 16 miles inland.
It was a magical drive thru panoramic rolling fields and farmland, so lovely. Finally, there was the sign for Freedom.
We pulled up to the grist mill parking area that sits alongside a bubbly river. Crossed over to it by bridge and hesitantly opened the door. It was mid-afternoon and we had not called ahead.
Inside was simply decorated in an airy country style and just beautiful. Staff was at work prepping for the evening dinner. Each table setting had a book placed on it: 'The Lost Kitchen: Recipes And A Good Life Found In Freedom, Maine'.
A lady walked over to us and asked: "Can I help you?" It turned out to be Chef French's mother Deanna Richardson. She did not appear surprised to have strangers drop in so unexpectedly. I told her we had heard so much about The Lost Kitchen back in New York and wanted to get a copy of their new cookbook first-hand, signed, if possible. She smiled and told us to wait right here while giving me permission to take some photos of the dining room and exterior.
A few minutes later she came back with a signed copy of the book. Chef French was busy downstairs. And, thanked us for coming. "So much has happened since Erin opened. Who would have believed it back then?"
We got our signed copy of the cookbook, but alas, no meal. We did leave our name on their waiting list for sometime in the future. The drive back to Camden was just as picturesque...
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