Hartstone Inn’s Electric Daisy restaurant in Camden a delight + bonus recipe

by Nov 12, 2023Recipes

Hartstone Inn Young Broccoli By Dustin

Hartstone Inn’s new Electric Daisy restaurant in Camden, Maine, offers creative, sustainable food that showcases local farms and foods. Plus, many of Chef Dustin Shockley’s dishes include the Szechuan pepper flower called “electric daisy” for an extra tongue-tingling delight. Subscriber Club members get an insider bonus recipe.

After a couple of weeks , we had eaten our share of lobster rolls, fresh oysters, and Maine seafood. All yum, but our taste buds were seeking a flavor change. We got that and so much more at the Hartstone Inn’s Electric Daisy restaurant, one of the best Camden dining establishments with its focus on sustainable, locally grown fare and a dash of crazy fun from Chef Dustin Shockley.

At the helm since December 2022, Shockley’s creativity was given free rein at the Hartstone Inn when he arrived. He transformed the menu at the long-time fave Camden inn’s restaurant, taking it from its longtime traditional focus on classic French fare to delicious, eye-popping, gorgeous surprises with every plate – all at a reasonable price for such excellence.

“I wanted to be recognizable and comforting, but I also like pushing the envelope – from the flavors on the plate to the creative process we use to get it on the plate,” Shockley told me.

Chef Dustin Plating Electric Daisy Restaurant

Recognizable and comforting? Think New England chowder and pan-seared hanger steak, for example. Sounds pretty normal. But then comes the Shockley twist when he pushes that envelope: The chowder that has a less creamy, ramen-style-based broth, and pickled mushrooms adorn the steak. And everything is not only a treat to the palate – making me cast my eyes heaven-ward in pure delight. But it’s also a visual feast. My husband and business partner, Michael, and I wanted to just stare at the culinary artistry – but then our stomachs convinced us to pick up our forks and knives and chow down.

What is that electric daisy thing at the Hartstone Inn restaurant?

Electric Daisy Szechuan Button Dustin Shockley

Let’s talk about that thing called the electric daisy after which Shockley named the new iteration of the beloved Camden restaurant. “Electric daisy” is what the pretty little “Szechuan Button” yellow flower is called colloquially. It is something you find Shockley slipping into his mains and desserts – and everyplace else he can sneak it into. It is something he first tried a decade ago – “and I’ve been infatuated with it ever since,” he said. An innocent looking little daisy-like flower, “Spilanthes oleracea,” as it is known botanically, it adds an electrifying tingle to your tongue and mouth. Not so much spicy and definitely not hot or painful, but rather a bit of a surprising tingly feeling that borders on exhilarating

Camden Hartstone Inn Lemon Tingle Sorbet

We were so fascinated, we had to ask for a sample – and we got a bud of this little sweet-looking daisy delivered to our table, looking rather lonely on a plate. Just nibble a petal or brush your tongue on it, and your mouth says zippity-do-dah. Put it in a dish, as Shockley does, and it adds a zing that you can’t quite place, almost like the subtle sparkle in some wines that just brightens them up and adds a dash of whimsy. If you get the three-course menu, as we did – a superior deal at $65 in 2023 for its gourmet goodness – you get a bit of sorbet between the first and main courses. Our sorbet palate cleanser that evening was called “Lemon Tingle.” We loved its lemony tang – only to find out when we chatted with Shockley later that the tang had been upped by some electric daisy tingle, too. That’s what that was! For the curious, this flower is also called toothache plant, paracress, buzz buttons, Sansho Buttons, tingflowers, eyeball plant, peek-a-boo plant and jambu.

Trendy? No. Shockley said he really doesn’t like trendy foodie descriptions like “molecular gastronomy,” which you could use to describe his cooking and recipes. Instead, he said he just likes to use things in different ways. Think of that Szechuan Button. I myself call his style “complex simplicity.” Interestingly, his menu item descriptions sound yummy, but don’t quite give away the little secret ingredients or touches you might discover when dining at the Hartstone Inn’s Electric Daisy.

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Chef Dustin Shockley Bw Electric Daisy

“My head bounces all over the place,” he said. I create “whatever comes out of my crazy, haphazard head.”

And praise be for that, we say.

Dining at the Hartstone Inn in Camden Maine

Camden Maine Hartstone Inn And Restaurant

A staple for MidCoast Maine dining for several decades for both inn guests and others, the Hartstone Inn in 2021 had an ownership change. Restaurant and hotel owners Michael and Mary Jo Salmon sold the inn and restaurant. Salmon, as the chef, focused on classic French fare with a Maine touch, and the new proprietor, Oneil Khosa, wanted something a bit different.

He and his team found Shockley, who went to high school in Maine and had been working in restaurants across the country for a dozen years as he worked his way up the culinary ranks. Shockley arrived at the Hartstone inn at age 39 and immediately brought together his love for local, sustainable, Maine foods and ingredients with his penchant for Asian influences and his familiarity with regional Maine farmers. Remember the ramen-style broth in the traditional chowder or the pickled mushrooms with the steak? You got it. Not necessarily in-your-face Asian, but hints hidden here and there.

Today, the kitchen at the Hartstone Inn’s Electric Daisy restaurant in Camden offers a three-course menu and in late 2023 introduced a new menu concept that offers small, medium, and large plates to mix-and-match and share (or not!). Yes, you betcha that little electric daisy will pop up its head here and there, too.

Our dinner experience at the Electric Daisy in Camden

Electric Daisy Camden Maine

For our dinner, Michael and I tried different dishes from the three-course menu. Michael started with the New England chowder, which he said was super fresh and not as heavy as traditional chowders, with the flavor of bacon and thyme butter coming through cleanly. Later, we found out the ramen broth secret that kept it from being overly heavy.

Hartstone Inn Young Broccoli By Dustin

I started with a dish called “young broccoli,” something that sounded so simple (see cover photo). What was delivered to me took me aback with its delightful mixture of ingredients that went so beyond young broccoli, adding a sunny side up egg with a beautifully runny yolk, fingerling potato chips, and a sprinkle of salmon roe, with a carrot vinaigrette. The flavors combined beautifully.

HITT Tip: If you want to recreate Shockley’s Young Broccoli dish, it is available free to members of our Subscriber Club. Joining our club is free of course, with other books to download and benefits. Join by clicking here

Hartstone Inn Hanger Steak Dustin Shockley

For our mains, I choose the pan-seared hanger steak, which sounded to be a great taste change from Maine seafood. It arrived cooked precisely as I had requested (rare), with a fan of slices spread across a bed of farro grains with pickled mushrooms, plus dabs of beautiful green salsa verde encircling the plate.

Crispy Skin Black Bass Electric Daisy Camden Maine 7564

As a lover of well-done black bass, Michael selected the “crispy skin black bass,” which is not always easy to find done well. It was “delectable,” he said, with the fish flaky and moist. It came with jasmine rice, young squash, and kimchi chutney, which added a slightly tart bite to the fish.

Chocolate Dessert Hartstone Inn Maine 7565

Then we were on to dessert! We had to rock-paper-scissors decide who got what: Michael had the chocolate terrine, which was appropriately rich and velvety, dabbled with Amarena cherry, vanilla anglaise and tiny crispy chocolate pearls for that dash of texture.

Usually being a chocolate fan, I instead took the pistachio gelato — in part because I am also a nut for anything fig and there was a fig compote with this. It was a somewhat lighter dessert: a scoop of pistachio gelato on a plate spread thin with the compote, garnished with a white chocolate swirl, and served with a couple of rich little cookies. I dipped and wiped til it was all gone!

From start to finish, Shockley’s menu and presentation was divine perfection, leaving us already dreaming of a return to what must be one of the best Camden restaurants. The intimate bar also serves up some nice drinks, too.

Gin Cocktail Hartstone Inn Electric Daisy Restaurant

Now about that recipe for the Young Broccoli dish: Shockley shared it with us exclusively for our subscribers, and it really is worth trying out at home. It’s not that complicated and will most certainly wow your family or guests.

Get the “Young Broccoli With Sunny Egg recipe” for free

Young Broccoli Recipe

Premium Subscriber Club members can read our Young Broccoli With Sunny Egg recipe for free. 

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