The Travelin Maine(rs), George and Linda Smith of Mount Vernon, have spent their lifetimes enjoying all that Maine has to offer. Now they’ll tell you all about it — their favorite inns, restaurants, trips, activities, experiences, and travel books and websites — in their own personal style. They’ll be offering anecdotes, tips and all the details you need. So join them in exploring, experiencing and enjoying the great state of Maine.

We’re the fast-food nation, grabbing what we can at the drive-through and eating in the car. Even many sit-down restaurants count on getting us in and out in a mere 60 minutes. A leisurely dinner in a comfortable relaxing setting with good company is worth savoring. And that’s just what we did at Rockland’s aptly named Main Street restaurant, In Good Company, where chef/owner Melody Wolfhertz delivers a unique and flavorful dining experience to her hometown friends, fans and visitors.

George
I don’t think I appreciated the experience of eating at a leisurely pace until we started visiting Italy, where dinner often consumes 3 hours or more. You can get in and out of In Good Company in a short period of time, enjoying a small plate and glass of wine. But why hurry?

From what we’d read and heard, we expected a wine bar with tapas (small plates). What we got was so much more.

Let’s start with Melody’s mission statement: “We believe in a life of balance spent in the open air versus the smog of the city. One must eat and drink only good things that are genuine and simple, in moderate amounts and in good company. Good company is fundamental . . . with friends everything tastes better, is more enjoyable and better absorbed. It enriches your blood and spirit.”

Amen to that. Since leaving Rockland at age 18 to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and working throughout the country in some mighty fine restaurants, Melody has figured out what’s important in life and returned to her hometown to achieve it.

I knew we were in the right place when I heard Celine Dionne and Botticelli singing our favorite Italian song as we entered — the one we often played in our rented Tuscany apartment.

We noted in our research that the restaurant attracts many single women. It’s not just a “guy’s place,” Linda reminded me after we were seated. No flat-screen TV. “You’re expected to talk,” she said.
The pace of our meal was perfect — because it was left to us. We ordered one course, enjoyed it, then ordered another.

Labeled “Nibbles,” I enjoyed an appetizer of crusty bread with Maine Moo butter and Parmesan cheese. I appreciated the commitment to local foods, especially since a good friend of mine is an investor in Moo milk, the product of a bunch of Maine dairy farmers who organized their own company after being tossed aside by Hood a few years ago.

I like spicy, so when our very knowledgeable server, Stephanie — another Rockland native —  recommended Sweet N’ Spicy Pepperdews with Seal Cove Goat, it was an easy sell. Wow! That creamy goat filling was spectacular, and the spices — well, have your water handy!

Continuing my slavish search for Maine’s best crab cakes, I ordered Melody’s that come with a lemon aioli sauce and coleslaw. Without offense to the other restaurants that have served us great crab cakes, these climbed right to the top of my list, most especially because the lemon aioli was the best sauce I’ve had. The crab’s panko crust was crispy, while the crabmeat inside was nicely rare with only a slight bit of egg and mayo added. It was so fresh they must have had crabs walking around in the kitchen.

Linda
You will recognize that this is no ordinary restaurant as you step inside. Choose to sit at one of the several small tables, the welcoming bar or the small couch flanked by chairs and a coffee table. A couple of large trees in the corners are decorated with white lights and sconces, lamps and candles provide other lighting. The restaurant feels calm, mellow and very intimate.   

How anyone could have envisioned this gorgeous space from an old bank is beyond me. Be sure to look up. The decorated plaster relief ceiling is so intricate. There’s a separate dining area out back with two big tables. The old bank vault now holds the wine.

The menu offers a diner many options — 15 small, lighter dishes or a full meal. Come here to enjoy a wide variety of “Nibbles.” Many of these serve one, but order two and share — an artisan cheese board and the charcuterie and cheese plate, perhaps. I highly recommend the salad of Roasted Kadota Turnips with crispy Apples, Pecans and yummy Blue Cheese. These tiny, roasted turnips were just great.

Hands down, this was the best aioli I’ve ever had. The lemon added just the right tartness to compliment a perfect crab cake.

They offer a Blue Cheese Butter Roasted Beef Tenderloin that will melt in your mouth. And the red wine demi sauce served with mashers makes this a wonderful dish. George loved it, too.

I noticed right off that there wasn’t a TV in sight, even with a prominent bar area. In Good Company was Melody’s vision to draw community together, to create a space where people can meet and enjoy great food, and she’s succeeded.

This place was bustling on a Friday night. But though some people came and went, there were also many who came to linger. It was a great way to spend a chilly winter evening. This is a wonderful place to sit, relax and enjoy exceptional food in “good company.”

Visit George’s website: www.george
smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.

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