Linda

We fell in love with the Pick Up Cafe in Skowhegan a few years ago. We watched as they expanded their seating by adding a beautiful pergola and patio on the front of the restaurant. The cafe closed a while back, and Adam and Rosa are now running Rosa’s catering business and also working at the Blessed Maine Herb Farm — her mom’s business.

And here’s the really good news. The restaurant space has recently opened up as The Miller’s Table. What a perfect name, as it is housed in a part of the grain mill. They have made a lot of changes both in the look of the place and in the menu. An enormous copper wood-fired oven is featured in the cafe area. And to offer more seating, they have created a courtyard full of interesting spaces.

I loved the wooden beam supports with decorative shade cloths and the brick and granite walls surrounding the courtyard. There is a couch with a low table in the center, kale and flowers thriving in attractive wooden planters and fresh flowers in hanging baskets and on the tables. This is a lovely place to relax, and I kept commenting on it throughout the meal.

The menu features small plates, entree specials and pizzas, and it relies on fresh local produce and Maine Grains products. The meal starts off with incredible sourdough focaccia, the same dough used in their wood-fired oven pizzas.

It is no surprise that it is so good, after all this is a gristmill where they grind fresh grains. The Bankery (a bakery nearby) supplies the dough (and their desserts), but they get their flour from Maine Grains. I could have made a meal of that focaccia.

I began with a cup of potato bacon chowder ($4), a version that is pure comfort food. It was thick and creamy with chunks of potato and a nice bacon flavor.

One of their specialties is off the bone short ribs ($26). Slow roasted beef ribs were enhanced with BBQ sauce then topped with tomatoes, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese and a little crumbled bacon. My eyes widened when I saw the large portion. Alongside were healthy servings of roasted red potatoes, roasted cauliflower and carrots.

There was no way possible for me to do this plate justice even though it was delectable. But I decided not to feel bad about that when I noticed the table near us split this dish as their single entree.

I will say that the leftovers were amazing and that George and I shared them as a complete lunch the next day. A wood-fired oven is not an easy thing to conquer, but I would say they already have the hang of it. Now I just need to get back there soon to try that pizza.

George

Ordinarily we give a new restaurant some time to settle in, but everything Amber Lambke gets involved in is fabulous. So we scheduled dinner at The Miller’s Table soon after it opened. Judging from the crowd there the night we visited, they’re already a popular place and for good reason: from the gorgeous wood-fired oven to the outdoor patio and center courtyard, to the creative and delicious food.

Katie, our server, was very knowledgeable about everything from the beer and wine to the food. I enjoyed a wonderful brown ale brewed at Skowhegan’s Bigelow Brewing Company, which Katie recommended.

I also loved the bread dipped in oil, enjoyed while I admired the brick walls with slabs of granite in the courtyard. Katie brought me a cup of the wood-fired baked beans to sample, and they were some of the best beans I’ve ever enjoyed, made with Maine-grown dry beans and maple syrup.

For an app, I went with the wood-fired chicken wings, brined and smoked in the wood-fired oven and finished with their house buffalo sauce. And yes, they tasted as good as that sounds — finger licking good. And the portion is large enough to serve as an entree.

But of course, I still ordered an entree, scallops fra diavolo, even though Linda says “diavolo” means “Devil monk” in Italian. Beautiful herb flowers were inside the bowl, perhaps to assure I was not going to go devlish on them. Linda said I could eat the flowers, but I chose to simply enjoy looking at them.

The bowl was full of scallops, veggies (including tomatoes and carrots and peppers) and pasta. The sauce was nicely spiced, and I dipped in enthusiastically until Linda noted, “You’re gasping.” And I was.

On the way out, we complimented the woman working the wood-fired oven. She’s already mastered it. And Linda’s right about needing to return soon for a wood-fired pizza. I’m eagerly anticipating the “meat lovers” pizza.

Art Show

We recently enjoyed the stunning art of Marsden Hartley, now showing at the Colby College Art Museum. Hartley painted the world but is best known for his paintings of his native state of Maine — from Mt Katahdin to the ocean, log drives and winter blizzards. We’re very fortunate to have this exhibit here until Nov. 12. And here’s more good news: There is no entrance fee to the art museum. So please, don’t miss this!

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