DEER ISLE — “My husband and I are always looking for that next big thing,” said chef Devin Finigan, whose restaurant Aragosta was just named “Best Waterfront Restaurant in Maine” by Down East Magazine.
Finigan and husband Luke Hartmann, a jeweler, found just that through their acquisition of the historic Goose Cove Lodge, which dates back to the 1940s. The shingled lodge and cottages straddle 21.9 acres and the property boasts more than 672 feet of shoreline.
The coastal resort abuts the Barred Island Nature Preserve in Deer Isle.
“It’s true Maine,” Finigan said, citing the rustic cabins and rocky beach. “This is a one-of-a-kind spot.”
The former master gardener turned chef recently relocated Aragosta from Main Street in Stonington to the resort, which overlooks Goose Cove and the Atlantic Ocean.
Scores of subcontractors have transformed and modernized the main lodge and seven cottages scattered around the property.
“We wanted to create an experience for our guests,” Finigan said.
Indeed, one early reviewer described the property as “stunning.”
Go for dinner and cocktails then stay a couple nights. Or just visit for cocktails or dinner or lunch or brunch. Reservations for lodging and the restaurant are recommended.
Plus, the new venture is truly a family operation. Hartmann has a studio on-site.
The family, which includes daughters Annabel, 4, and Emmy Lou, 2, live on the premises. Finigan’s nieces, who serve as au-pairs for the family, live above the main lodge.
“They’ll get to see their mama,” Finigan said of her daughters. “They love being in the kitchen. They’ll cut flowers for the tables and come to staff dinner.”
Speaking of dinner, Finigan’s new kitchen is much larger than her previous one and features a hearth for wood fires as well as a commercial fryer.
The hearth will allow Finigan to infuse foods like little neck clams with wood smoke.
Finigan will continue to source her produce, meat, fish and other fresh food locally. Virtually everything that isn’t grown on the land or harvested from the sea is made in-house, including the butter.
Lobster is Finigan’s specialty, thus the name Aragosta.
The current dinner menu features Stonington Lobster Casenchelli with citrus salad, beurre blanc and fresh herbs.
Or, diners can order a whole lobster cooked in a saltwater butter and served with drawn butter and green salad.
A few days before the June 20th opening, chef Dennis Phelps was busy slicing halibut fillets procured from Deer Isle fishermen. The halibut will be served in a broth with lobster, baby zucchini and pea tendrils.
Finigan also is serving red snapper as a crispy whole fish with chili sauce, cilantro and steamed rice.
Steak and duck round out the menu. There is a braised bok choy main dish also served with rice cakes, smoked aioli and poached farm egg.
Breakfast and lunch will be served as well. In July and August, the former will be available daily. Finigan once was a breakfast chef.
Finigan said she spent 70 percent of the renovation budget on the dining room.
Hartmann refinished the ceilings adorned with shell chandeliers. He also carved the sign for the property. Local blacksmith Eric Ziner and metalsmith Farrell Ruppert have made the brackets.
Kral Builders did a lot of the work, including construction of the deck, which surrounds the front of the main lodge as well as the wine cellar below.
Finigan said customers will be able to walk into the cellar themselves to choose a bottle for dinner.
The chef has chosen fixtures for everything as well as the trees, bushes and flowers gracing the property.
“It will take years to get the place where we really want it,” she said.
Weddings are another part of the enterprise. Four wedding parties already have been booked for this summer and three already for 2020.
“We can sleep up to 40 people,” Finigan said. The group can have a lobster bake on the shore. Finigan has vintage china befitting a wedding celebration.
“I feel like I’m living a dream here,” Finigan said.
Finigan had a culinary upbringing and possessed a passion for cooking from a young age. Her father, Kevin Finigan, is one of Vermont’s great chefs. Finigan began working in kitchens at age 14 and has never stopped.
Throughout her culinary career, Finigan has worked alongside many well known chefs including Thomas Keller (The French Laundry and Per Se), Jean-Georges Vongerichten (Jean-Georges), Dan Barber (Blue Hill and Blue Hill at New York’s Stone Barns), Melissa Kelly (Primo, Rockland) and Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread Farms, California).
For more information, call 348-6900 and visit aragostamaine.com.