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.

 

The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant in Rangeley is exactly the kind of place we hoped to find for you when we started writing this column: small, unique, with exceptional food, superb service, comfortable atmosphere and wonderful hosts. And it’s only a short drive away. We often travel 60 to 90 minutes to dine in Brunswick, Portland, Rockland or Bangor, but seldom think about Rangeley, just an hour away
from our home in Mount Vernon.

Well, we’re thinking of it now, and the dinner we enjoyed in the Farmhouse’s cozy downstairs tavern is the reason. Wow!

Linda
On a frigid December evening, with wind chills headed well below zero, we stepped into the cozy Farmhouse Tavern to experience a great dinner. What I was unprepared for was the glimpse into the welcoming Rangeley Lakes atmosphere. Sometimes a town has a certain feel to it, and this one certainly does.

The Farmhouse’s owners, Mike and Tinamarie, made us feel more than welcome to their historic and charming inn and restaurant. Mike and head chef Mike Abbott man the kitchen, and Tinamarie covers the tables and bar in the tavern. Another waitress was covering the upstairs dining room — normally closed in the winter — that had been opened for this extremely busy evening.

Tinamarie must be superwoman. There’s no other explanation for how she was able to wait on the crowd that had come for an office party, cover the bar for the whole restaurant, and serve all the other diners in the tavern and not even break a sweat! She made us feel very well-cared for and kept her cheery disposition despite the fact that the restaurant was so busy.

Tinamarie tells us they like to experiment in the kitchen to create new tastes, and the dishes and sauces offered certainly reflect this. Cactus pears in Maine — awesome!

I’ve never eaten prickly pear cactus, but will certainly be looking for it again. They season and fry the pickled prickly pear strips to perfection and serve them with a mild chili dipping sauce. The menu says it will wake up your taste buds, and that it does.

This was a most unusual appetizer, and large enough to share. Combined with their signature sangria margarita, this was memorable.

If you like heat, do try the handmade jalapeño empanitas. Their habanero-berry dipping sauce starts with a fruity flavor followed by heat, and is not for the faint of heart. The crispy wonton, combined with the creamy filling and delicious fruit sauce, reminded me of a crab rangoon. Maybe this is its Mexican cousin.

The chicken enchiladas were delicious. These were chock full of chicken in a Colorado chili sauce, and served with rice and pinto beans. The menu includes other southwestern dishes such as fajitas, burritos or chimichangas. They’ve included fresh tuna, filet mignon and pulled pork to round out their menu.

George
When Sen. Tom Saviello started raving about the southwestern cuisine served up at Rangeley’s Farmhouse Restaurant, my mouth began watering. We immediately reserved a table at the Farmhouse for 6 p.m. last Thursday night, arriving the traditional way — by motor vehicle — although you can snowmobile right up to the front door.

The place was packed, with an office party celebration in the tavern, others on hand there to enjoy the good food and live music, and a couple dozen skiers from Saddleback upstairs in the summer dining room (open in the winter only for large groups.)

Sen. Saviello and Judy Morton, the vivacious director of the Rangeley Chamber of Commerce, joined us for a leisurely three-hour dining adventure.

And adventure it was. I’m betting you’ve never eaten cactus before. The crispy cactus strips should not be missed. Linda and I agreed it was our favorite appetizer, although the competition was stiff.

The entrées stole the show, however. Tom and I favored the seafood paella, served with a lot of mussels (which I love), shrimp and scallops, over delicious saffron rice. It’s traditionally served as a meal for two. Yummy.

But then the next entrée arrived — blueberry chipotle BBQ ribs. Again, their homemade sauce made this very special, absolutely delicious. We fought for the last rib (Linda won). The Brussels sprouts were astonishing and accompanied by tasty mashed potatoes with a jicama-corn salsa.

The chef also sent out, with the ribs, a cut of their Ranch prime rib — what passes as leftovers here. After their popular Friday-night prime rib feast, the leftover prime rib is seasoned and grilled as a different entrée — imaginative, tender and delicious.

I could only groan when Tinamarie brought out a plate of chicken enchiladas, with a Colorado chile sauce that was very good.

Somehow we ate all of those, and still had room for the molton lava chocolate cake. Usually, they also offer habanero ice cream. Thank goodness they were out of it on our visit!

Lest you not like southwestern cuisine, they also offer “gringo”  food, and even a kid’s menu.

After a tour of the charming upstairs dining room and a short visit with Mike and Chef Abbott in the kitchen, we were astonished to find the peripatetic Tinamarie waiting for us at the exit, to give us all big hugs!

Conclusion
We can only hope that we’ve done the Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant justice here, because we desperately want you to try it. It’s a small place offering big flavors, hosted by two wonderful young people — from away — who offer genuine and warm hospitality, love our home state, and deserve to be successful.

We’ll be doing our part soon, with a repeat visit. And maybe we’ll book a stay in one of their three gorgeous rooms with stunning views of Rangeley Lake and its surrounding mountains. Then we can walk to dinner!
     

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


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