Linda

The view from the Salt Water Farm Cafe looks quite different in the summer. The outside deck is bustling and boats are in the harbor — quite a different picture than when we visited back in January during a snowstorm for Sunday brunch.

But inside the restaurant it is still a cozy spot to enjoy amazing food. I love that they focus on serving local food that is very fresh. That point was well made this time when I quickly noticed three types of wild mushrooms featured on the menu. We also search for, and indulge in, chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms during the summer. My preparations of ours pale in comparison to theirs for sure. George has been asking me to replicate his incredible appetizer of black trumpet gravy over biscuits at home. Oh, that I could!

Their mushroom supplier must have just visited, for on the counter sat an enormous tray of the largest chanterelle mushrooms I’ve ever seen. It was a great marketing strategy because everyone wanted to try them, and orders of Spatzle with Maine Mushrooms were arriving at many tables.

The Salt Water Farm Cafe has a style of its own. They use real silverware but play down the formalness by using linen dish towels for napkins. The open kitchen and the seating options contribute to that informal atmosphere as well. Choose from the long community table, tables with both bench-seating and chairs or sit out on the deck if the weather permits. (When we walked by a few weeks later on one of Rockport’s walking trails, we noticed many people taking full advantage of that deck.)

The appetizer list had many unusual offerings mixed in with fish and seafood dishes you would see in other places. Some that surprised me were the soft-scrambled egg and chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms, brown bread and chips with fresh clam dip. I had to try the Peas and Carrots ($13) because the dish was so different. Of course they didn’t just boil up some peas and carrots. Rainbow carrot sticks and split halves of snap peas were marinated in lime juice, jalepeno and cardamom and roasted to retain their crunchiness. It was a delightfully light appetizer.

The entrees that evening included creative renditions of steamer clams, halibut, lobster and slow-roasted lamb ribs. I chose the chicken entree, knowing that the chefs here would present something amazing. Surely the Poached Breast and Roasted Chicken Leg ($24) would be something to remember.

I can’t begin to describe just how carefully prepared and beautifully presented each and every dish is that comes out of this kitchen. The roasted chicken leg was cut from the bone, and you probably wouldn’t have guessed it was indeed a leg portion. You could see the layers of crispy crust, white meat and dark meat. How one gets such texture and flavors out of a chicken leg I do not know.

The poached breast also packed a lot of flavor in a very different texture. Farro, zucchini, turnips and kale rounded out the plate. I ate every last drop and, yes indeed, it was something to remember!

We each ordered a dessert and our server brought us each a fork and a spoon. Apparently they know their customers well and knew we would be sharing. I learned something new — a semifreddo doesn’t have the air whipped out of it, so it is more like a custard. Their Chocolate Semifreddo ($8) was delightfully chocolatey and served with a frozen mint granita. And the Wildflower Honey Panna Cotta was perfection, with a fresh strawberry and very tasty lavender shortbread alongside. I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite between the two of them.

George

At the next table, four guests were enjoying their fourth visit here, driving up all the way from Round Pond. “We’ve never been disappointed,” one of them told us. We agree!

I especially love “our table,” in the corner, with a window view of Rockport’s beautiful harbor. My seat is a bench with a cushion and pillow. There’s lots of light here, and the wooden tables are gorgeous. We might have sat out on the deck that day — but every table was full. This is a popular place, for sure, with lots of seating choices including a long counter overlooking the cooking area.

Annemarie Ahearn, the Cafe’s owner (who teaches cooking at her parents’ farm in Lincolnville and was once a food writer for Maine Magazine) is young and engaging. We’d been hankering to get back here for dinner since we enjoyed an awesome Sunday brunch during a snowstorm last January, and we finally made it in mid-August. Believe me, it was worth the wait.

I could have driven home with a smile on my face after my appetizer, Biscuits and Black Trumpet Mushroom Gravy ($14). Holy Cow! The crispy biscuit, draped in Black Trumpets and covered with an amazing gravy, was out of this world. I wondered how they managed the biscuit, nicely grilled and crispy on the outside but soft inside. Linda explained the nice mix of tangy and sweet tastes. And yes, I’ve been trying to get her to duplicate this at home ever since! We did pick a nice crop of Black Trumpets at the end of August.

We thoroughly enjoyed a carafe of Maremma Toscano Rosso from Italy ($21), a blend of merlot, sangiovese and syrah.

For an entree I chose the Grilled Pork Loin and Belly ($23), with pickled rhubarb, plum mustard and mustard greens. The “rubub” was puckeringly good, and a nice match for the blackened pork belly that has a smoky flavor. The greens were crispy, just the way I like them, and the grilled loin was well-seasoned and moist.

Portions here may look small on the large plates, but they were actually just right for us. We’ve come to really appreciate restaurants that don’t serve gigantic portions, because we like to enjoy appetizers and entrees and still have room for dessert.

As darkness set in, Andrew, the manager, dimmed the lights and delivered candles to each table. A latte arrived at the next table with a topping in the shape of a leaf — very intriguing.

As our server, Frankie, a very enthusiastic young lady about to leave for her first year at the University of Maine, cleared my entree, I heard something wonderful. “I’m going to give you some great news,” said Linda. “I am having my own dessert!”

My Chocolate Semifreddo ($8) was a chocolate crumble and mint granita. OK, I had to ask Lin what a granita is. I really liked the mint and chocolate combination with the pudding texture.

We were surprised the cafe was so packed on a Wednesday night. But even though they were very busy, we enjoyed a leisurely two-hour dinner, unhurried, never feeling rushed. All around us, guests were obviously having a great time thanks to the creative food, reasonable prices, great service and beautiful setting.

The slogan at the top of the Cafe and Farm’s website notes, “Life is celebrated around the table with plates of nourishing food and good friends.” And I can’t think of a better way to describe the Salt Water Farm Cafe. Grab some friends and get there soon!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.