George

Good managers make good inns. We’ve found that the managers often define the service at hotels and inns, and Barry Asalone at Ocean’s Edge is the perfect example. He’s always available for a conversation with guests, is meticulous in the day-to-day details of running a large hotel and no job is beneath him. On Saturday night, he was bussing tables in the busy restaurant.

Here’s what I liked about our gorgeous third-floor, two-room suite: the comfortable couch and chairs, the kitchen with lots of cooking pans (including a lobster pot), fridge, microwave, four-burner stove, the kitchen table where I wrote this column, the many drawers, cupboards and large closet, the huge bathroom with a superb shower jet, the lighting and, of course, the huge hot tub with a view of the ocean! The hotel does have a range of rooms from basic to luxurious. We went for luxurious!

We spent a whole Saturday enjoying Belfast’s amazing array of art galleries, shops and restaurants, and even spent a couple of hours at a curling tournament. We’ll be telling you all about that in a later column. But I will say that Belfast has now become a destination!

On Sunday morning, Lin was up first and went to the living room window. I heard her say, “Wow! What a view!” I joined her at the window (as soon as the coffee was ready) and quickly grabbed my camera. We were, indeed, at the ocean’s edge.

Ocean’s Edge Restaurant — George

Just as Barry defines the hotel, Chef Jessica Hightower has created her own space with a menu that draws both locals and out-of-towners to her beautiful restaurant. Several things struck us right away: the prices are very low, the regular menu is very diverse and Jessica’s specials are creative and unique.

When we saw one of our favorite Malbecs on the wine list, Dona Paula Los Cordes, we quickly ordered a bottle — one of the advantages of being able to walk to our room from the restaurant.

I had a hard time with my food decisions. Jessica offered an outstanding three-course $25 dinner with five appetizer choices, four entrée choices and three dessert choices. Aside from that, there were five evening specials — two appetizers and three entrées.

I chose an entrée from the three-course dinner menu and an appetizer from the regular menu. Barry visited with us at our table when we arrived and recommended the bacon-wrapped scallops. “Jessica adds a drop of maple syrup,” he said.

A lover of all things scallops, I was intrigued. The Maine maple glaze drizzled on the bacon-wrapped and nicely seared scallops really did add new flavor to the dish without dominating it. Delicious. Noting my delight, Lin asked to try one and ended up eating three of them. Fortunately, the plate contained a lot of scallops.

As we usually do, we gazed around at what other diners were eating, and the couple at the next table noticed. We struck up a conversation, learning that they live on Mount Desert Island and wanted to get away for a weekend, so they came to Ocean’s Edge. We got a kick out of that.

They also highly recommended the Mediterranean Haddock, and I took their recommendation. Beautifully plated, topped with tomato, lemon, capers, kalamata olives and herbs, the haddock was delicious. Along with a sweet potato and roasted vegetables, this was a wonderful dish.

By this time, we’d been luxuriating in the restaurant for quite a while at a table next to the blazing fireplace, and Jessica finally got enough of a break to come out and say hello. We were surprised by her youth. She grew up in the area, cooked in a couple of restaurants, graduated from UMaine’s culinary school and settled here.

At the end of a busy and long night, we were particularly impressed that she was still smiling. Jessica told us about the desserts, most made here, and both she and Barry said their favorite is her homemade cheesecake. That’s all we needed to hear.

We shared ours, a good move because it was a very large slice. Wow, that was good.

We were the last to leave the restaurant, finishing our evening with an interesting conversation with Barry. It was really nice not having to go outside into the cold to drive home.

Linda

Ocean’s Edge sits on a hill, affording a spectacular view of the ocean. The first night, we arrived after dark so we had no idea about the view out our window. The next morning when we got up it was still snowing a bit making it hard to see any distance. The ocean looked like a little gray spot under the low clouds.

But the last morning we were there, we were rewarded with a view that took our breath away: an enormous span of the ocean with gentle hills in the distance on the left, and the sun popping up over a stretch of land far off to the right. Blue sky and puffy clouds had certainly changed the view.

Many rooms here have a private balcony. I loved the spaciousness of the living area. The dining table with chairs and a small kitchenette were subtly separated from the sitting area. The colorful furniture was comfortable as well as beautiful — a hard combination to find.

It feels like home when you find yourself relaxing and reading instead of watching TV. Suites come equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, toaster and plenty of dishes.

Great artwork from local artists is displayed on the walls. If you see something you love, you can purchase it here, with all profits going to the artist.

The on-site restaurant should not be missed. Chef Jessica recently won a Best Chef of Waldo County award, a rather impressive distinction with all the great food being served in Belfast alone.

The menu is varied — offering tapas, delicious-sounding appetizers, pizza, sandwiches, pastas and lots of seafood. There are several meat entrées, too, but the evening specials are where Chef Jessica gets to be creative.

I started with the small tapas of creamy crab turnovers. These were reminiscent of crab Rangoon, but enhanced with a flaky crust. Wow, I didn’t end up sharing too much.

Grilled chicken stuffed with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, one of the evening specials, was calling my name. It was every bit as good as it sounded. The sides of garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables (parsnips, carrots and squash) were both so good I could have made my meal on just those.

We loved the cozy, friendly atmosphere. Food manager Carol Upton made us feel very welcome — impressive because she was very busy juggling her regular duties, plus tending bar that evening because the bartender had called in sick.

You know you have met someone who loves her job when you listen to her excitedly talk about all this restaurant offers. The room we dined in was closed off to seat 40, but opens to seat 80 for summertime and special events. Customers can also dine on the deck in the summer. Hearing Carol describe the bay filled with sailboats and the beauty of it all, I’m sure we’ll return this summer.

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.