Appealing restaurants hum. You can feel it before you walk inside and hear it as soon as you’re seated – a buzz of activity and laughter that runs continuously in the background like a brook or a single bass note. The Farmhouse Inn, a new restaurant and bed-and-breakfast that opened earlier this year outside Blue Hill village, is definitely humming.

There’s a line of customers at the cherry bar inside the 1876 barn that was renovated painstakingly over the winter. Every one of the 18 tables is full (the restaurant can seat up to 95 customers) and waitresses are carrying plates to groups seated inside or on an adjacent patio.

You’ll also find the owners, Ann and Bill Rioux, in constant motion, distributing menus, sharing renovation stories (“The place was bank-owned and abandoned for four years – you should have seen it,” she says) and helping guests check into the nine rooms on the property.

This is a family business (the owners’ daughter, Megan, is the chef) with a strong local following, and the atmosphere is decidedly relaxed. So is the menu, which is divided into four parts (soups and salads, small plates, pub fare and entrees) and includes a combination of classic favorites, Asian-inspired dishes and a few daily seafood specials. “I’ve run a catering business for 20 years,” Ann Rioux explains, “and the restaurant grew out of that. Our menu features many of the foods I’ve always prepared.” (Full disclosure: I’ve known Ann Rioux since she owned and operated the Mill Stream restaurant in Blue Hill 15 years ago. Her husband, Bill, is a painting contractor who painted many houses in the area – including mine.)

Take the savory cheesecake ($8), a dense, rich appetizer filled with bacon, blue cheese and Vidalia onions and served with a toasted baguette. I slice off a wedge and spread it onto the bread, admiring the smooth texture and the sharp scent of the blue. The flavor is mild and pleasing, as delicate as a soufflé, but much more filling. Good by itself, it’s better topped with a spoonful of Nervous Nellie’s Hot Tomato Chutney, one of the only items on the menu not prepared in the kitchen. It’s made about 20 minutes away on Deer Isle.

A friend orders the spinach and artichoke dip ($7), another catering stalwart, topped with fresh tomatoes grown outside in the garden and a few salty Kalamata olives. Restaurant dips can run the gamut from gourmet to gluey, and I was dubious, but the version at the farmhouse was very good – a blend of the predictable (spinach and artichokes) and the flavorful (Parmesan, mozzarella and feta cheeses), as well as fresh herbs and aromatics. If your last experiment with dip involved Velveeta and a microwave – and failed miserably – give this one a try.

“Freshness matters,” Rioux says. “It’s the reason we use herbs we grow ourselves, like the parsley and dill in the dip. And it’s the reason we plan to grow all our own vegetables here in the next few years. Our goal is to construct a greenhouse and grow vegetables for at least three seasons of service, becoming a true farm-to-table restaurant. In the meantime, we’re buying as much as we can from local producers and cultivating good relationships with nearby farmers.”

The Farmhouse serves a different flatbread and a different curry every night, and the chicken curry ($16) was particularly good the night we visited. Fragrant with coconut milk and garlic, the dish was filled with carrots and peppers, scallions and pineapple, as well as shreds of chicken so tender they melted away before there was a chance to swallow. (Megan Rioux says she slow roasts chickens for hours with cumin, chili powder and onions.) Curry may not be standard comfort food in Maine kitchens, but this dish puts prosaic chicken and dumplings to shame.

Roasted haddock ($24) was another surprise. The fish was mild, but the Mediterranean-style topping was bold, a vibrant combination of salty olives, more of those fresh tomatoes, thin slices of garlic and the sweet tang of balsamic vinegar. It’s delightful when something as simple as roasted white fish and vegetables becomes much more than the sum of its parts.

While the menu is long and impressively varied, particularly the small plate menu, a few selections miss the mark. The peanut dipping sauce with the chicken meatballs ($7) was tasty, but the meatballs themselves lacked flavor. And though the setting is lovely and instantly inviting, the hum so audible from the front door can grow to a roar at dinner time. Ann Rioux says she is aware of the problem and already is looking into acoustical remedies. Meanwhile, you have three easy options: Go early, well before 7 p.m.; ask for a table on the patio in warmer weather; or reserve one of the quieter tables near the stairs.

As we walked across the lawn to the car, I turned to look back at The Farmhouse, listening to the laughter inside and appreciating the scent of the night’s special dessert – a fine strawberry apple crisp ($7) – being pulled from the oven. It brought back a favorite quote from E.B. White, who lived and wrote 20 minutes from here and understood the magic of Maine farms better than most. “The barn was very large,” he wrote. “It was very old … it often had a sort of peaceful smell – as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”

James H. Schwartz has covered food, travel and architecture for The Washington Post, Down East, Coastal Living and Southern Living magazines for more than 30 years. Long a commuter between Portland and Washington, D.C., he retired from his job as vice president at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2013 and relocated to Maine.

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