Red Sky, Southwest Harbor
Some restaurants tantalize you with sumptuous menu descriptions or the scented steam of an open kitchen. To get in full anticipation mode for a meal at Red Sky in Southwest Harbor, just go online and read some of their reviews. You’ll find out Red Sky, navigated by owners Elizabeth and James Lindquist, “takes New England ingredients to creative heights” (Frommer’s)—such as a “filet of sole special that absolutely melted in your mouth” (Trip Advisor) and “homemade desserts that flirt with heaven” (Yankee).
First or early food memory: In seventh grade, I attended North Country School in Lake Placid, New York. I remember sneaking out of the dorm one night after “lights out” and going to the chicken house and stealing a goose egg. I had a one- burner Coleman stove under my bed and I used it to cook a goose egg omelet for my friends. We had some butter leftover from a camping trip and some salt. It was good.
Early cooking experiences: When I was 4 or 5, I was the official pepperer of the coleslaw. I also went clamming or fishing with my father and everything we got would be cooked fresh that night.
Family influences on your style and taste: I come from a pretty big family. By necessity, everything was fresh and from scratch every night.
Where you studied and/or apprenticed: I’ve learned everything on the job as I’ve gone along. I got a job dishwashing at a restaurant in Stonington, Connecticut, and one day the boss was in a terrible car accident and I was immediately promoted to the only cook. The manager took over running the restaurant and taught me how to prepare the whole menu, really fast. When I worked as a waiter, I always worked at places where I was welcomed in the kitchen. When I was a waiter at the Manhattan Ocean Club, the dessert chef let me stay late while he worked.
When you realized you really were a chef: I never thought of myself as a chef. I always thought of myself as a cook.
Pivotal career move: Opening our own place [Red Sky].
Things you do that keep you growing professionally: Travel a little every year to break out of routine and continue to be exposed to new things. Even if we go somewhere where the food isn’t particularly interesting, the change of pace usually sparks some creativity.
Your favorite restaurant (besides your own): I don’t really have a favorite restaurant. I like going to different places depending on what I’m in the mood for.
Your new favorite ingredient: Aleppo pepper.
Longtime favorite ingredient: Cumin.
Your least favorite job-related task: Putting away dishes.
Ways you’ve become smarter businesswise over the years: I’ve finally learned that it pays off to take the time to teach others rather than trying to do everything myself.
Favorite night of the week at your restaurant and why: Sundays—no orders, no deliveries, and the night is usually pretty relaxed.
What you would want your last meal to be: Burritos and beer.
The last time you really impressed yourself in the kitchen: This year I started experimenting with an old smoker we had in the basement. My smoked salmon and smoked duck breast came out great!
Memory of a great meal you had in Maine: For our wedding anniversary this year, we had a dinner catered by Josh Heikkenen. We had Chateaubriand for two and two other courses—he had to carry everything down a long hill and across a busy road—but we had a private “dining room” with ocean view and delicious food.
Something you’d like to learn or study: Surfing.
Something about you that people would find surprising: I had to take two years of dance in college.
What a perfect day off looks like: Go for a sail, let someone else cook dinner, call in at the restaurant, and everything’s A-OK.
Favorite item on the menu: Our Mexican-inspired Cioppino. I love the fresh-that-day ingredients, the bright flavors, the light heat, and the depth of flavors.
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Red Sky Restaurant
14 Clark Point Road • Southwest Harbor
Hours: Vary seasonally. Closed in January. Open 7 nights a week in the summer.
Specialties: Everything is from scratch, local and organic whenever possible, housemade desserts.
Accolades: People’s Choice winner at the Abbe Museum Chocolate Moose Festival, write-up in The New York Times cocktail column, Down East magazine article, Yankee magazine Editors’ Choice.
First-timer’s tip: Order a martini, have a taste of the evening’s featured wine.
Sample menu item: Fresh, local cod pan-browned, served over kale sautéed with local bacon, finished with a triple citrus beurre blanc and crispy bread crumbs. $24
Directions: From Route 3 coming onto Mount Desert Island, follow signs for Southwest Harbor taking Route 102 into town. Take a left at the light. Red Sky is the fifth door on the right.