Unbeknownst to my friend, my husband and I will be attending a wedding at the Stone Barn in October, but she invited us to one of their Thursday night farm-to-table dinners open to the public throughout the summer….and what a marvelous evening the three of us had!
The Stone Barn is on the grounds of St. Joseph’s College which borders Sebago Lake on Whites Bridge Road. The barn is part of the original Verrill estate and was renovated by the college in 2016 as part of their deep commitment to sustainability, wellness, and the local community. It reminds me, on a smaller scale, of the magnificent stone barn for horses at Shelburne Farms on Lake Champlain in Vermont, built by one of the Vanderbilts that began a tradition of agricultural innovation.
The Maine Stone Barn at St. Joseph’s can hold events for up to 250 guests for private parties, fund raisers, weddings, and corporate gatherings.
On the summer weeknight we visited, the weather was perfect – cool-ish with brilliant sunshine that waned as the evening turned to dusk. The large barn doors, front and back, were wide open throughout the evening, so we could enjoy the natural grounds of fields, trees, a pond with a croaking frog, white and blue hydrangeas cascading in abundance along the entire gray, stone foundation, and wild flowers further afield.
Cocktails and appetizers were served outdoors – locally made cheeses, olives, baguettes and hearty crackers, black berries and grapes, cured meats. Scallops in bacon were passed along with a delicious zucchini app. Strawberry basil gin drinks were offered upon arrival, a perfect way to wind down after our work day and busy commute getting out of downtown. We stood chatting at a rustic farmhouse table. Mason jars of just-picked wild flowers were scattered here and there on tables. Folks chatted quietly, caught up with friends, introduced visiting family members to others.
Everyone working at the barn was gracious, passionate, and proud of the work they’re doing. They were warm and welcoming and seemingly effortlessly serving dinner for 80 on the night we were there at two long family-style dining tables. Home made oatmeal bread and sweet butter were shared; pickles, passed. Each evening offers a different main dish: halibut, beef, pork. Then, the chef creates a menu around it based on the bounty secured just before the evening of your meal from local farmers and makers.
We had a fresh salad of leafy green with pea shoots, pork piled high with new potatoes and roasted root vegetables, and a chocolate zucchini cake served with a thimble-sized glass of house-made mead.
Candles flickered as the clinking of silverware on mismatched country dishes intermingled with laughter and conversation – the hopeful kind of talking about summer and vacations and gatherings. Stars began to twinkle outside the barn doors as the dark of night sky settled over this inviting scene.
After dinner, my partners took the shuttle across the street to our parking spot, but not me. I meandered along the curving, lit path beside green grass and split rail fencing, wanting to prolong my evening, in no hurry. I just don’t seem to get out enough on summer evenings; the bugs usually drive me in early.
But here at the Stone Barn, I could have danced all night, so-to-speak.