Arborvine celebrates local produce, seafood

If you’re a regular at Arborvine, located on Main Street in Blue Hill, the Hikade family will have your favorite table prepared. They will remember if you like ice in your water, whether you prefer cocktails before the meal or if anyone in your party possesses the quirkiest of dietary restrictions. It is the kind of attention to detail that has sustained the family business over two generations.

John and Beth Hikade founded Arborvine in 2000; these days, it’s run primarily by their sons, Tim and Andrew.

“We hold each other to a high standard,” Andrew said.

The Arborvine Spring Salad features fresh cherries, avocado, and baby greens from Four Season Farm in Harborside.

Operating in a renovated farmhouse that was originally built in 1823, the pair grounds their menu around locally sourced food. Produce generally originates from area farms — Four Season Farm in Harborside, Carding Brook Farm in Brooklin, and Horsepower Farm in Penobscot, among others. Oysters typically come from the nearby Bagaduce River Oyster Co. and the Taunton Bay Oyster Co.

The ability to attain high-quality local ingredients is of utmost importance to the Hikade brothers, and something they attribute to long-standing rapport with area suppliers.

“Doing business around here is all about the relationships you develop,” Andrew said.

The Arborvine menu credits local farms so diners too know where their food comes from. Menu items vary slightly each night based on seasonal seafood and produce, although a few items, like the popular crispy duck, are always available. Some days, the restaurant buys fish straight off the boat.

“I’ll get a text from a lobsterman like, ‘I got a halibut. Do you want it?’” Tim said. “And then an hour later it will be here.”

Halibut season only occupies May and June, while scallops — a popular menu item — are harvested in Maine from December through April. The mollusks also freeze well, which allows Arborvine to store and serve them year-round. The restaurant only uses diver scallops, meaning the scallops are hand-harvested by divers rather than scooped up via a dragger. It’s less disruptive to the ecosystem.

The Hikade family has been in the restaurant business since the 1970s, when John and Beth first opened Fire Pond in Blue Hill. They sold the establishment in 1988.

“I think we’d just got to be too much of a handful,” Tim said. “Two kids and a restaurant.”

Diners enjoy a meal on a Saturday night.

Still, the family kept up a catering business, and Tim and Andrew grew up shucking peas and shrimp for weddings and cocktail parties. When Arborvine first opened, Tim — the older of the two — had just graduated from the nearby George Stevens Academy. He left for college but still worked at the restaurant during the summers, before returning to Blue Hill and the restaurant well over a decade ago.

Both men credit their father for teaching them how to cook. Now in his 70s, John has left them in charge, although he still helps out as needed with everything from cooking to dishwashing or taking out the trash.

These days, the brothers are accompanied in the kitchen by garde manger Larry Gray, who has been with Arborvine since 2013. He is responsible for many of the cold plates — salads and desserts, and is talented with chocolate shavings and candied oranges, among other creations.

The family’s pride in the restaurant extends far beyond each night’s menu. The brothers are their own groundskeepers and handymen, determined to maintain the building’s historical character. Arborvine’s outdoor gardens serve to welcome visitors, and the flowers and herbs harvested on the property sometimes garnish dishes and decorate the tables.

The Hikades know that first impressions matter. It’s why they pay such close attention to the landscaping, why they fresh bake bread each day, and why they make such an effort to remember each customer’s preferences.

“We just try to make it a special night for anyone who comes out,” Tim said.

Arborvine is located at 33 Tenney Hill in Blue Hill. Tel: 374-2119. Website: https://www.arborvine.com/.