The Olde Post Office Cafe is many things to many people. For some, it’s a hub of community life — a place to meet friends and neighbors and catch up over a good cup of locally roasted coffee and a piece of our house-baked pastry. For others, it’s their haven for good food, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or a takeout meal on the run. And for still others, the cafe, perched on the edge of Lake Minnehonk in Mount Vernon Village, has become a destination. Word spreads about our commitment to use the freshest ingredients — locally sourced whenever possible — for our menu of creative, contemporary cooking. – Bob Wallack

Linda

If you have ever eaten at The Olde Post Office Cafe in Mount Vernon, you will know why we are excited that, in addition to breakfast and lunch, they are now serving dinners Thursday through Saturday nights plus a new afternoon appetizers menu from 3-5 p.m. The U.S. Postal Service may be cutting back on their hours, but thankfully our Olde Post Office Cafe is extending theirs!

Brother-in-law Gordon Smith, his wife Janet and friend Katharine Ayer joined us for our first summer dinner there. On that warm summer night we were pleased to sit out on the screened-in porch with its pleasant breeze and perfect view of the lake.

The menu offers up interestingly different appetizers, such as a cheese board for two, duck drumettes and smoked salmon crostini. I opted for something I have never seen on a menu before: medjool dates. The dates were wrapped in proscuitto and enhanced with walnuts and manchego cheese and topped with an orange drizzle. This was finger food extraordinaire! The rich, sweet taste of the date was offset with the saltiness of the cheese, but it was the orange drizzle that made these so special for me. They were, simply put, amazing.

Vocal and guitar music that evening was provided by Dale Perkins and John Pino, both of Mount Vernon. The music was very enjoyable and not so loud that you couldn’t carry on a conversation. People were lingering after their meal, and the atmosphere here is so relaxing we were in no hurry to rush through dinner.

The salads were tempting, but not as tempting as the Pork Sliders — pulled pork in a barbeque sauce comes with pineapple, making it pop. Served on cute little rolls, there are three to a plate. I got through two of them, sharing most of my third with George and Gordon. Salty pita chips and pickles rounded out the plate and made for a perfect summer meal.

Chef/manager Sarah Chiasson has created a nice dinner menu offering a variety of dishes you don’t usually find in a small Maine cafe. Entrees of eggplant rollatini, seared tuna, Greek lamb burger and artichoke and asparagus quesadilla are a few examples of her creativity — all things we will have to try another time. And yes, you can get a classic style lobster roll here as well. After all, it’s summer!

Our dining partners were all trying to be good and not have dessert. But after a leisurely evening, we had room to try at least a couple of things. Our server, Bekah, had me once she described the Flourless Chocolate Torte. I had already duly noted the other table enjoying a slice of this. One mouthful is pure bliss. It was a creamy chocolate layer topped with a chocolate mint ganache. This made its way around the table a few times with lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” emitted. All agreed that this was a dessert to save room for.

As the evening wore down and we were preparing to leave, we saw fireworks high in the distance. Rained out on the Fourth of July, a nearby camp shot them up the following night. We pulled our chairs around and sat back down to enjoy the view. My love for Mount Vernon has never wavered, and it was nice to see our dinner guests appreciating our little town as much as we do.

George

Bob Wallack would be proud. After selling his newspapers and retiring, he bought the Post Office Cafe, learned to cook and hired Sarah — all great moves. We miss Bob a lot. He died in January, the very month that my Dad’s paintings and carvings were featured there, something Dad and Bob discussed for six months.

Every month, a local artist’s work is featured here. This month it was Pam Heatherly’s stunning photographs. Bob’s widow, Vickie, continues to handle the business side of things, and she and Sarah have worked hard to maintain and expand on Bob’s vision for this community gathering place.

And that’s just what the cafe is. I eat breakfast or lunch here one or two times a week, visiting with friends and angling to get a sandwich named after me (it would have to be the pulled pork). There’s quite a bunch of us “regulars” there. So when Sarah told me about her plan to open for dinner this summer, I was ecstatic.

And oh, what a dinner she has created! Sarah’s unique menu suits her and pleases her customers. For a starter, I had Sicilian Stuffed Mushroom Caps with sausage, parsley and pine nuts ($7). The presentation was gorgeous, and the caps were delicious with the spice of the sausage cut by the sweetness of the sauce.

My only regret was that I had to pass up the duck drummettes and smoked salmon croustini, two appetizers that I will be trying soon. Actually, I’ll probably have tried them by the time you read this column.

I was especially pleased when my beer arrived with a refrigerated jar. For a small cafe, they offer a very nice beer selection (think Baxter, Allagash, Geary’s and Shipyard) as well as wine.

Five salads sounded tempting, but I was determined to eat all my entree and have dessert, so I did not have a salad.

I was pleased when Linda ordered the pork sliders, because — even though it’s close to the George sandwich I am campaigning for — I knew I should try something else, and I could get a taste or two of her sliders. And I did.

Our friends, the Naliboffs (six of them), were at the next table on the porch and slightly ahead of us in the ordering, so we got to check out and photograph a lot of the entrees as they were served to them. Jane Naliboff pointed out that the cafe “is the first place I’ve been able to eat because they’re gluten-free.” I noted they even offer a gluten-free beer. When I spotted the fish tacos at their table, my entree decision was made. And they were soooo good.

When I told Lin they were spicy, she directed my attention back to the menu which noted the tacos include spicy slaw. Later, Bekah, whose boyfriend Piner Markovchick is helping Sarah cook this summer, told me the dish included jalapeno peppers. And I have to say, with no favoritism whatsoever, that the guacamole was the best I’ve ever had.

Future entrees for me will include the eggplant rollatini (two members of the Naliboff family raved about this) and the seared tuna. Gordon loved the lamb burger.

When Sarah visited our table, she said a big group had been there the day before for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then hired her to cater a wedding reception. Now that’s what customer satisfaction is all about!

I argued futilely for the Mocha Dark Chocolate Sunday for dessert, but have to admit the Flourless Chocolate Torte was really good.

In one of his blog columns, written for the cafe’s website, Bob Wallack wrote, “For me, the Cafe is a labor of love. I love good food and I love preparing and sharing it. That the tastes we create resonate with our patrons is my reward.”

Bob is still being rewarded. The cafe lives on.

Celebrating our anniversary

at Calzolaio

Calzolaio Pasta Company in Wilton was our favorite out-of-town restaurant before we began writing travel columns three and a half years ago. It still is.

Tom and Rocell Marcellino offer the very best of our Italian favorites, very reasonable prices, great specials and friendly service in a beautiful setting. We really feel welcomed there, part of the family.

Five years ago we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary there with a memorable meal, great bottle of wine and new diamond for Linda’s finger. This has now become a tradition — well, without the new diamond.

On June 16, we returned to Calzolaio for our anniversary dinner, welcomed back by Rocell and served by Courtney (our regular server, Rachel, was off that night). We began with glasses of the house Chianti for Linda and Montepulciano for me. Salads here are huge so we shared a Caesar.

Admittedly, we almost always have Roc’s Eggplant Parmigiana, described as “a favorite of both families, the recipe spans three generations with some compromises for keeping the peace.” The battered and fried fresh eggplant, layered with sauce and five cheeses and then baked, for just $15.95, is to die for. It’s our anniversary dish.

The portion is huge and we debated sharing one serving. We kidded about creating the “Senior Special.” You know you’re old when you split a salad and entree, but each of you has two glasses of wine. We each ordered a serving — and I finished mine.

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.


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