November 21, 2013

TRAVELIN’ MAINE(RS): The Pickup Cafe in Skowhegan

This story starts with the Somerset Grist Mill, housed in Skowhegan’s old jailhouse.

George And Linda Smith

Linda

Chocolate veggie torte

Inside seating at The Pickup Cafe

Additional Photos Below

Maine Grains | All natural, certified organic products

Head to the old jail for local grains

Maine Grains processes all-natural and certified organic grains from Maine at its Austrian stone mill in Skowhegan’s old jail. Amber Lambke and Michael Scholz are bringing local grains back, a very exciting project.

You can find their grains in a lot of markets these days, distributed by Crown of Maine, Farm Fresh Connection, Downeast Foods and Grandy Oats. You can also pick them up at the mill or arrange for bulk shipment.

Check out their website at www.mainegrains.com or call Amber at 629-7182.

The Pickup Community Supported Agriculture is managed by Sarah Smith and offers a range of share baskets from $25 to $50 a week for produce and $20 to $40 a week for meat. Flower shares are also available for $10 per week. Shares are picked up every Wednesday during the season and they also deliver between Augusta and the Forks.

If you’ve never done this, it’s a great way to support local farms and to assure the freshest produce for your table and family throughout the summer and fall. Each week you get a basket of produce — whatever’s ripe for the picking that week.

 

This story starts with the Somerset Grist Mill, housed in Skowhegan’s old jailhouse. It is now the home of Maine Grains, a company that mills organic grains. Much of the grain comes from Maine farmers. And this farming community has spread their belief in local food to include a vibrant farmers market outside the mill.

The market has become a community event. We visited it one Saturday morning last year to find gorgeous local produce and cheese, flowers and fresh breads, probably made with flour milled right here. Some of the 60 shareholders in The Pickup CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) were getting their boxes of weekly fresh produce.

On that visit I noticed people having breakfast at tables on the sidewalk. What I didn’t know was that the food was from the Pickup Cafe, now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekends.

Adam and his wife Rosa (who is the chef) have come up with a unique concept for a restaurant. Holding true to their commitment to local organic food, Rosa develops her menu from organic produce (much of it obtained from the CSA) and locally produced meats. This is the farm-to-table concept at its finest.

Three walls of this restaurant are brick. Large blackboards provide information about the CSA, the farmers market and the cafe itself. Many tables that night were filled with families. I overheard the server recommending the Baba Ghanoush appetizer to a nearby table. “Yeah, I had that last week. It was great,” replied the diner. Adam told us that many loyal customers dine here weekly. Once I tasted Rosa’s food, I certainly understood why.

One of Rosa’s specialties is the Ground Turkey Empanadas. The spices in the empanadas were amazing — not spicy hot, just deep flavors. The flaky crust was equally amazing. They are served with a black bean corn salad and zesty sour cream. The story behind this dish was that Adam and Rosa had a version of these empanadas while on their honeymoon in Puerto Rico. Rosa has a good palate and was able to come up with a winner on this dish.

The baguettes served here are really delicious. Adam tells us that they come from Good Bread, one of the vendors at the farmers market. The baguettes arrive at your table with an herbed olive oil for dipping. Yum!

I ordered the Grilled Smoked Pork Chop which was topped with pear, fennel and cranberry chutney. The pork came from Kniffin’s, just down the road. The smoked pork was incredible. I’ve always avoided smoked pork, thinking it would taste salty like ham. Theirs was unbelievably tender, not at all salty and full of flavor.

By the way, the mashed potatoes served with my dinner were the best I’ve ever eaten. After we returned home, I emailed Rosa and asked for her recipe, which she generously shared.

The portions are good sized here and are a bargain with most entrees in the $12-$17 range. This is amazing home-style cooking with the freshest of ingredients. The Pickup Cafe is open for dinner Friday and Saturday nights from 4-9 p.m. Definitely give this one a try!

George

When we ran into Amber Lambke — who owns the grist mill with Michael Scholz — at a trade show in Rockland in October, she told us about The Pickup Cafe. I couldn’t believe we’d not heard of it. In place for a year and a half, this restaurant is a real treasure — not to be missed, often to be visited.

The commitment to all things local here is astonishing, from the pasta to the pig. The pasta comes from Pasta Fresca and Blue Ribbon Farm — they go to Italy every year to get new recipes. We’re envious!

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Adam shows off a dessert offering

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Many choices featuring healthy food are available.

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Empanadas have an authentic taste

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Fresh pasta and local ham are a great combination

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Grilled smoked pork chop

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Local farmers provide fresh ingredients



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