Destination Dining at its Best: Xanthus at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine

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Aug 192011

We had had a busy day on Mount Desert Island.  In the morning we went to the annual Somesville Library Book and Blueberry Fair.  In the afternoon we kayaked on Somes Sound, where we saw an eagle and two seals who were almost as eager to look at us as we at them.  After a cocktail party at the Causeway Club in Southwest Harbor, we headed to dinner at the Claremont Hotel.  

We got lost.

Even at the risk of a wrong turn, the Claremont Hotel is a destination worth finding because, among the many excellent restaurants on Mount Desert Island, its restaurant is one of the rare finds that inspires diners equally with its cuisine and setting.

The Claremont Hotel is at the end of Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor, then you must take a left onto Claremont Road across from the harbor.  There stands the grand summer resort hotel from 1883, known for its outdoor activities and spirited competition on the croquet court.  In fact, it offered such a sublime Maine coast summer experience that, in 1885, well-known landscape artist Xanthus Smith painted it in exchange for an extension of his stay there.  The restaurant is named after him, and today that painting hangs in the dining room overlooking the same view it depicts.

 Even though we were seated at a table for two to enjoy both Somes Sound and Acadia’s mountains, as I began to consider my dinner options, I couldn’t help but notice the activity through a side window.  It was a good sign.  A woman from the kitchen was picking fresh herbs in the garden.

My selection of an appetizer, a goat cheese tartlet with roasted beets, featured a nasturium from that garden.  My partner chose a panzanella salad with mozzarella, olives, red onions, and red and yellow tomatoes.  Our candlelit dinner continued with grilled swordfish and pan-seared duck breast.  The fish was so fresh and the charcoal essence of the grilling so compelling that the mango/avocado salsa was only an enhancement, not the focal point of flavor it often is.  I received only one offer of a taste of the duck from my partner who usually volunteers to swap entrees. 

Chef Daniel Sweimler, who had stints as executive chef at two NYC restaurants, is well known today as one of Maine’s top chefs who feature local and organic in their foods.  Among his sources for produce for Xanthus is 14 Angels Farm in Cherryfield, owned by his mother.  Sweimler, who seems as popular with his staff as diners, changes the menu at Xanthus daily.

If you are visiting Acadia National Park for an anniversary or other milestone, consider dining at Xanthus.  Unlike most other restaurants on Mount Desert Island (even the best ones), you won’t see people there in their hiking boots.  In fact, you’re sure to see more than a few blue blazers.  Xanthus is the perfect place for dinner to mark a special occasion or to end a vacation in Acadia National Park.

To plot a day like the one I’ve described here, visit OUR ACADIA.  It offers itineraries, recommendations for guides and outfitters, and extensive reviews of restaurants throughout Mount Desert Island, including Bar Harbor.

2011 Lecture and Concert Series at the Historic Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine

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Jul 162011

Rowboats, croquet, and a lecture and concert series are all a part of the “classic” Maine resort experience offered by The Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, Maine.  Since 1884, guests have been finding refuge here on the shores of Somes Sound.  And, fortunately, even if you are not a guest at this historic hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, you are invited to enjoy the lectures and concerts.  The Thursday evening lectures are free; the Saturday evening concerts cost $10.

Last year we attended a fine illustrated talk by the Maine State Historian.  Among this year’s lecturers are prominent scientists, writers, and academics.  Similarly, concerts range from classical to blue grass. 

Thanks for The Claremont Hotel for this valuable contribution to the rich and varied experience of a Mount Desert Island vacation.  For more information, you can call the hotel at 207-244-5036 or visit


7-21 John Marin & Maine Modernism

Thomas Denenberg – Deputy Director & Chief Curator, Portland Museum of Art

7-28 The Rise and Fall of the Euro: Aspects of an Unavoidable Crisis of the European Union 

Michael Naumann – Editor & Publisher Cicero Magazine, Berlin

8-4 Understanding Climate Change and the Climate Change Debate

Andrew J. Pershing, Ph.D. – Research Scientist, Gulf of Maine Research Institute & Assoc. Professor, Univ. of Maine School of Marine Sciences

8-11 Voyages of Discovery: Polar Phytoplankton, Climate Change and the “Global Squeeze Play”

Dr. William Balch – Senior Research Scientist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

8-18 Writing for a Living and Other Mistakes I Have Made

Alex Beam – Boston Globe Columnist and Author

8-25 Miners and Sappers: Rethinking Lincoln’s Political Strategy Before the Presidency

Jamie McKown, PhD – Wiggins Chair of Government & Polity, College of the Atlantic

9-1 Poetry: A Dialogue between our Private and Public Selves

Betsy Sholl – Poet Laureate of Maine (2006-2011), Assistant Professor, Univ. of Southern Maine, Poetry Faculty, Vermont College of Fine Arts


7-9 The Capital Duo – “From My Homeland.” – Music of Beethoven, Smetana, and Schubert

Duncan Cumming -piano, Hilary Cumming – violin

7-23 Frank Glazer – Distinguished Classical Pianist Artist in Residence, Bates College

7-30 Jerks of Grass – Blue Grass

Jason Phelps – Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals; Carter Logan – Banjo, Dobro, Guitar, Vocals; Melissa Bragdon – Fiddle, Vocals; Kris Day – Upright & Electric Bass, Vocals

8-13 The Sheepscot Jazz & Swing Company – Traditional and Dixieland Jazz

Dr. Barney Balch – tenor,alto & soprano trombones, Richard “Lefty” McAuslin – tenor & alto saxophones, Herb Maine – bass, Kenny Gaspar – piano, Billy Friederich – drums

8-20 Tom Snow Trio – Traditional and Contemporary Jazz

Tom Snow – piano, Ralph Norris – saxophone, Marshall Wood – bass

8-27 Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Hancock County – Music of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas

For more ideas for your Maine vacation, visit OUR ACADIA.  You’ll find reviews of Bar Harbor’s best restaurants, ideas for hiking and biking trails, and recommendations for boat cruises and kayaking guides.  There’s even a seven-day itinerary to help you plan your visit to Acadia National Park.