After being closed for around 15 years, the Carriage House Restaurant in East Boothbay will open its doors again, with a new owner and fresh ideas.
Kelly Farrin, 33, from Ocean Point in East Boothbay, has purchased the restaurant and adjoining property on Route 96.
The restaurant was a popular eating and drinking spot before closing in 2001. It was known and loved by the community for its good food and quirky atmosphere.
Sarah Morley worked (and played) at the restaurant in the mid-1990s. “The Carriage House was loved because there were no agendas, no time constraints … just good food and great company,” she said.
The broker for the transaction, Jonathan Tindal, said Farrin's restaurant will be a boon to this community. “The community support has always been there, and Kelly's going to bring it back and put his own spin on it. With his family's resources, including his father's (Pat Farrin) business they're going to spruce it up beautifully. This restaurant has a legacy, and Kelly has a reputation as an accomplished chef. It's going to be a restaurant that will draw people from all over.”
Farrin's partner, in life and in the business, is mixologist Sasha Morin. Morin said the two have been talking about opening their own restaurant since they met six years ago. “It's always been our passion. It never left our minds, it was just a matter of the right opportunity. We're both ecstatic.”
Originally from Bethel, Morin manned the bar at the Thistle Inn in Boothbay Harbor for five years, and presently works at 3Crow in Rockland. Morin loves mixing up new drinks using fresh ingredients, and putting her own spin on them. A favorite is the “Sailor’s Delight,” that includes fresh muddled strawberries, a house-made rhubarb shrub and fresh lemon juice. And she has a special interest in drinks from days gone by. “I want to bring that old tradition of cocktails back, using the old recipes and putting a twist on them,” she said. “Old Fashions are huge right now.”
Farrin has been involved in the restaurant scene since he was 18. “I started out at Andrews' Harborside making toaster-cooked pancakes and French toast,” he said. After Andrews, he worked at Rocktide for three years.
After graduating from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont in 2008, Farrin went to work at the Ocean Key Resort in Key West, then came back to Maine to work as sous chef at the Azure Cafe´in Freeport, where he and Morin met.
In 2010 Farrin won the coveted Lobster Chef of the Year Award at Harvest on the Harbor in Portland. A few months later he met Melissa Kelly, the owner and chef of Primo, in Rockland. In 1999 and again in 2013, Chef Kelly was a James Beard Foundation Award winner. She was named one of the upcoming new chefs of the 90s by Food & Wine Magazine and has been cited for her culinary expertise in such prestigious publications as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Chocolatier, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Town and Country and New York Magazine. Farrin worked under her guidance in the kitchen at Primo for five years.
In an email, the award-winning chef had this to say of Farrin: “Kelly worked at Primo for several years. He was a line cook and a huge part of the Primo family. He came to us as a seasoned veteran and contributed his skills and passion to my kitchen. I think Kelly learned a lot during his years at Primo and I hope he puts some of the Primo philosophy into practice. I know this has been a dream of his to open a place in his hometown and I am sure he will be a great success.”
Like Chef Kelly, Farrin subscribes to the "full circle kitchen," or farm to table philosophy. “Melissa's style of cooking has carried over into my mentality and thought process about how to prepare food, keeping everything homemade, and utilizing sustainable products where possible,” he said. “I want to know where my food is coming from, and I'll do my own butchering and use a whole piece of meat to its full potential.”
Getting down to his favorite subject, food, Farrin becomes animated. “I'm going to make the best Caesar salad you've ever had,” he said. “With white anchovies, house-made dressing and croutons and shaved parmesan cheese, on grilled romaine.”
Before the Carriage House was established in 1987, there was a small take-out stand in the spot — the No Name Sandwich Shop. In keeping with that theme, Kelly will be serving some epic sandwiches. His favorite — the Reuben — corn beef brined, then braised and sliced, with homemade Thousand Island dressing made with diced pickles from Morse's sauerkraut, served with house-made french fries or fresh fried chips.
Aside from some items that will be regulars on Farrin's menu, many will change with the seasons, and availability of ingredients. There will be a homemade pasta of the day, fresh ground burgers, and seafood chowder. The chef has won awards for his seafood chowders. And Farrin will be making brioche buns for sandwiches.
Every Thursday there will be a fresh roasted turkey. “That was a tradition here,” Morin said. “We'll do our own rendition of it, and serve it with gravy and garlic mashed potatoes.
“We're going to be making typical home-cooked food, but jazzing it up, with our own interpretation of it. We want people to come and feel that they can relate to the food.”
Farrin's father, Pat, has been pitching in to help his son. Within a couple days after the closing, he laid down a quarter-acre parking lot, complete with crushed stone. Eric Marden was there doing some carpentry work one day last week. “I'd jump through hoops for Pat,” Marden said. “I'm glad to help out. Pat is so good to the community. He'll drop everything to help somebody.”
Farrin said he's happy to be back in the area with his family again. “This has brought our family together again. It's really cool to be around all of them, including my grandmother. She has always been involved and supportive of my dad and her grandchildren.”
Farrin said he considers Morin family too, though they aren't married. Yet. “I told her that once we get the business running we're going to get married. We're on the right track. We have the business. Now I just have to wait for the right moment.”
“It's great to be in the restaurant scene again,” he said. “It's a little bit overwhelming. There's been a big wave of support, because that's how our community is.”