Less than 30 minutes from L-A, the Fore Seasons Restaurant at Turner Highlands Golf Course in Turner sits on a picturesque slope dotted with manicured gardens and views of distant mountain peaks.

The public golf course opened in 1993 as a nine-holer, and in 1997 the second nine was added. Although the golf course closes in November, the restaurant at Fore Seasons will stay open until Dec. 15 this year for dining and to host holiday gatherings, and will reopen in April when the spring flowers begin to bloom and the grass starts to turn green.

Donna and George Chiasson purchased the golf course and its facilities, including Fore Seasons Restaurant, in 2004. With a main dining room that can accommodate 100 people comfortably and another less formal room that is appropriate for smaller gatherings of 40 to 50, the Chiassons, along with their business partner Dave Ianotti, have brought both fine and casual dining to rural Turner, while also offering an elegant venue for weddings, showers, golf tournaments and other functions.

Executive Chef Gard Briggs is in his fourth year at Fore Seasons and Turner Highlands. After graduating from the culinary arts program at Southern Maine Vocational Institute, Briggs spent many years cooking along the East Coast before returning home to Maine.

The menu at Fore Seasons changes several times a year, says Briggs, because “I work around what’s fresh.” Briggs’ specialties include slow-roasted prime rib, maple-dilled salmon and pan-blackened swordfish. During the summer, lobster and crab rolls are very popular.

Briggs offers a different menu nearly every night. On Thursday and Saturday evenings, he offers a “Two for Twenty Two” special that includes the above specialties, as well as steakhouse sirloin black Angus beef tips with a bourbon sauce, Guinness Stout boneless short ribs, Cornish game hen with a cranberry glaze and others. For dessert, try the pumpkin cheesecake.

Although some of the patrons are there to enjoy a meal after a round of golf, many come from Augusta, Jay, Livermore and Lewiston-Auburn just to dine. Many, Briggs adds, are tourists who, like a lot of people, have learned about Fore Seasons by word of mouth.

On Tuesdays, after men’s league golf play, he offers tavern food, and on Wednesdays, in conjunction with the women’s league, his menu is tailored to satisfy the taste buds of the ladies. “I really enjoy cooking for them,” says Briggs of the women. “The ladies make a night of it” and really enjoy their time together.

Although Briggs enjoys playing golf, he doesn’t get out there as much as he would like. Of working at the golf course, he says, “It’s like torture!” Rather, he dedicates his energy to “keeping people happy.”

Briggs enjoys the family atmosphere at Turner Highlands that the Chiassons and Ianotti have cultivated, and with many local youths and children of members employed at Fore Seasons and Turner Highlands, he said he especially enjoys “working with a younger generation.”

In midsummer, Fore Seasons sets up mini-buffets. “I try to be creative” and stay “sharp with the fresh foods” says Briggs. “It keeps me on my toes.” And on Friday nights, live acoustic guitar music adds to the comfortable atmosphere in the lounge.

This fall, Fore Seasons will roll out some traditional New England favorites, such as apple crisp made with local apples, and other recipes that will take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Briggs recommends his harvest pumpkin soup, made with cream, fragrant autumn spices and fresh pumpkin.

Regardless of the season, Fore Seasons is worth putting on your calendar.

Harvest pumpkin soup

3 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

30 ounces pure pumpkin or sweet potatoes, pureed

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

salt and white pepper

Over medium heat in a 3- or 4-quart sauce pan, add cream and stock. Whisk in sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes over low heat. Add pumpkin and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Note: Harvest pumpkin soup can also be made with sweet potato instead of pumpkin, for a slightly different taste. This is “a sweet soup,” says Chef Gard Briggs. To cut back on sweetness he recommends decreasing the amount of brown sugar. Also, for a less rich and caloric version, he suggests using milk instead of heavy cream. (To prepare the pumpkin puree, cut two medium cooking pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for half an hour. When the pumpkin is soft, remove the skin and puree.

Apple crisp

8 cups sliced apples

1 cup flour

1 cup Quaker oats

8 ounces brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup soft butter

A pinch salt and 2 teaspoons each of sugar and cinnamon for apples

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix with a pastry blender or fingertips flour, oats, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and butter. Lightly work the mixture together so that it does not become oily.

Toss sliced apples with the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Put in a 9-by-9-inch baking dish. Spread crumbly oats-butter mixture over the apples. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with homemade ice cream.


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