Linda

The Greenwood Dining Room at the Stone Hearth Cafe is Farmington’s newest eatery. Even though the Dining Room has only been open for two months, things are running smoothly and the food is creative and inviting. Chef Doug Winslow has been in Maine’s restaurant business for decades, and his expertise certainly shines through in his food.

As you peruse the menu you can see that they offer variety. There’s something for everyone. They take advantage of fresh produce, are sure to include vegetarian and gluten-free offerings and also have a nice selection of meat and seafood entrees. You can even order their wood-fired pizza from the Stone Hearth in the same building, and it will come with a small salad. The Greenwood and the Stone Hearth share the same kitchen.

A basket of bread was brought to the table, but we were so busy trying to narrow our choices of appetizers and entrees that we didn’t even notice it. Trust me when I say that there were so many tempting choices that it was a very difficult decision! Once we’d finally made our decisions, I opened the cloth covering in the iron basket to discover fresh focaccia.

Doug told us that he makes the bread at Marble Farm, owned by his daughter Sarah and her husband Andrew. Nestled in with the bread were two toppings: herbed olive oil and a housemade tapenade. I couldn’t decide which I preferred and I couldn’t stop eating that focaccia. When our server asked at one point if we were done with the basket I had to reply, “Unfortunately no, I’m still working on it.”

A visit with Doug later in the evening revealed that he’d worked in some of our favorite restaurants over the years. He said he’d moved to the area because his two daughters live in surrounding towns. It turns out that I know his daughter Abby Schenk, who teaches in our school district.

My appetizer of Sauteed Mushrooms Marsala over Crispy Polenta ($5) was light and packed with flavor. Wild mushrooms had a great texture, the polenta was superb, and I’m afraid I refused to share much of this with George. Our server exclaimed that this was her favorite appetizer because it is so different. I concur.

We did not read the fine print and were surprised to find out that all entrees come with an organic greens salad. With entree prices running from $12 to $18, this is quite a bargain!

I went with the Chicken Rimini ($15) which was a boneless chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. It was topped with artichoke hearts and parmesan cream sauce that was unbelievably great. It made a beautiful presentation of sliced chicken rounds topped with sauce, colorful vegetables and rice pilaf. The mix of peppers, carrots and broccoli were well-seasoned and not overcooked, and the rice pilaf was equally delicious.

I certainly didn’t think I needed dessert, but Doug insisted we try the gingerbread that he’d made at the farm that day. Warm gingerbread came with freshly whipped cream on the side. Doug looks nothing like my mom, but it sure did taste like Mom made it!

This was a very fine meal, and I’m afraid I’m in danger of repeating the same choices the next time I come if they are still on the menu! But I should branch out because clearly the food here is great.

George

Normally, we give a new restaurant a year to settle into a groove of good dining. But I’d enjoyed two outstanding lunches at the Stone Hearth Cafe, and our friend, Sen. Tom Saviello, had already been to the cafe’s new Greenwood Dining Room for dinner and raved about the food, so we scheduled a visit on Nov. 6, figuring a Thursday night wouldn’t be too busy and we’d have time to visit with the chef.

It was surprisingly busy, with nearly half of the tables occupied when we arrived at 6 p.m. The Greenwood is in the old Chester Greenwood factory, where Chester made his famous earmuffs. Several other retail businesses were in this space over the years, but the new owners — John and Jenn Moore — have done a superb job of turning the brick-sided building and dining room into a beautiful place. The Moore’s also own the Farmington movie theater.

Let’s talk lunch first. On my first visit, I had a fantastic BST Panini — smoked crispy bacon, baby spinach, sliced tomato and finished with a light gorgonzola mayonnaise, for just $6.45. The Stone Hearth features lots of panini’s and sandwiches, plus salads and soups. A bowl of soup and half a sandwich can be had for just $6.95 — a real bargain.

My second visit was in the evening and I tried one of their very popular pizzas, cooked in a beautiful wood-fired oven. The Margherita pizza, for $8, included freshly sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil with an olive oil and garlic sauce. The Margherita pizza is a personal favorite, and this one was very good.

The Cafe’s pizzas are made on certified organic whole-wheat dough, with a gluten-free option, and you can choose from three different sauces, nine veggies and six meats. And you can also buy a ticket to the movies across the street for just $3, with the purchase of any pizza.

When the Granary Restaurant was open in Farmington, we often purchased those $3 movie tickets with our dinners, then enjoyed a movie at the Moore’s theater. Glad to see you can still do that!

It was dark when we arrived for dinner, and the front of the building was beautifully lighted. Hostess Karen gave us a very friendly greeting and had a booth all set for us. Tables along the side of the room with windows seat two, middle tables seat up to 10 and the booths along the far wall seat four.

Our server, Kaylene, arrived promptly and we ordered glasses of wine. They offer wine on tap, something we’d not encountered before, and we learned that bottles will be added to the menu sometime soon. They also have a nice selection of Maine beers.

Kaylene, fortunately, is a very patient person, because it took us a long time to select our appetizers and entrees. While we were discussing our options, we learned that she also has an earring business, works in the cafe and over at the movie theater. Just another typical Mainer with four jobs!

Finally, I selected the Bruschetta ($4.50), served a bit differently than the usual, with pesto, fresh diced tomatoes and topped with melted Asiago cheese. It was delicious, served piping hot, with a nice tomato taste. We got four slices of Italian bread, and I ate three of them. I would have given Linda a second slice but she was very stingy with her appetizer. In fact, I said, “Way to share that, honey,” as she devoured the final mushrooms. I got only two bites, but on the basis of that, I can tell you that next time I’ll order my own. Really delicious.

I also tried a cup of the haddock and fennel soup, served in a gorgeous square bowl, with a clear and salty broth. It was unlike any soup I’ve ever had and I really liked it.

With just nine entree selections, you’d think it would not take long to make a decision, but I had a really tough time. The Flat Iron Steak was tempting. Our friends, the Archards, from Vienna were there when we arrived, and reported that they’d enjoyed the Baked Haddock ($14.50) and Mediterranean Pasta Bowl ($12).

The Grilled Vegetable Ravioli ($14.50) sounded interesting, and we were told that the Poached Wild Caught Salmon was popular. Finally, I selected the Baked Seafood Pasta and Cheese Sauce (the most expensive entree, at $18). “Of course,” said Linda. “Crabmeat, scallops, shrimp and lobster sauce. I need a direct line to Dr. West (my cardiologist) to discourage you!”

Even that didn’t discourage me, luckily, because the dish had tons of seafood, a tasty thick sauce (which I dipped bread in — ok, I even ate some with a spoon!) and was delicious and very filling. And I at it all.

Fortunately, they gave each of us half of the gingerbread dessert and, honestly, half would have been a plenty big enough dessert.

When Doug came out to visit, I recognized him as an avid sportsman, so we talked hunting and fishing for a bit. We were surprised to find he’d worked at the Lucerne Inn, a favorite of ours, and for three years was in charge of wine dinners at the Winterport Winery, where we enjoyed a wine/beer dinner in September. Doug actually came out of retirement to tackle this project and has lots of interesting plans for the restaurant. He’s making gelato in a room upstairs, and I am looking forward to trying that sometime soon.

It’s a real treat to have a great inexpensive restaurant just 14 miles from home that serves really good lunches and dinners. And we can assure you, even if you don’t live that close, this place is worth the drive. Or you can plan to eat here on your way to or from Sugarloaf!

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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