Linda

On a sunny (practically balmy) day in February, we strolled the main street of Belfast, popping into a variety of businesses. The previous night’s snow was melting into slushy goop on the corners of the intersections. I found myself taking special pleasure in tromping right through the messiness, which brought back satisfying memories of those same spring delights when I was a kid.

You could see it on people’s faces — we are going to make it through this interminably long winter. In the same vein, visiting two of my favorite places in Belfast made me even happier.

I fell in love with the Belfast Co-op on my first visit last winter. This charming co-op is the largest — and one of the oldest — in Maine, with a strong commitment to Maine products. They sold $1,670,660 worth of Maine products last year.

One can find an amazing array of organic, ethnic and hard-to-find ingredients here. I spent most of my time in the bulk food aisle. I measured and weighed my way through oat flour, pearl couscous, sesame sticks, yellow split peas, soba noodles and sesame seeds. I looked longingly at the great selection of house-made sausages and choices from the dairy cooler. But we were staying another day, so it wasn’t practical to purchase things that needed immediate refrigeration.

The co-op has 3,500 members and I would certainly be one if I lived closer, but the prices here are very reasonable regardless of membership. I was surprised to bump into Laura Church of Vienna with her daughter. They told me they make the trip to Belfast often because they love it so much.

George had heard great things about Marshall Wharf Brewing Company and Three Tides Restaurant down on the water. We discovered that they aren’t open for lunch — just dinner — and though George was a bit disappointed, I smiled knowing that I would get a chance to go back to Chase’s Daily. The aroma of freshly baked breads and pastries hits you when you enter. Chase’s is my idea of the perfect lunch spot.

We decided to split a bowl of Potato Leek soup, which was the soup of the day. Theirs was an elegant version served with char-grilled bread. All other versions of this dish I’ve tried have been cream-based, but this one featured a vegetarian broth packed with flavor. Whoa!

One whiff and a quick glimpse of the pizza arriving at the next table had us quickly abandoning our plan of vegetarian versions of Reuben and Bahn Mi sandwiches! We went with the Margarita Pizza, a simple fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella version. The crust was thin, foldable and extra crunchy on the bottom. Absolutely awesome. We split the 10-inch version, which was a perfect amount with our soup starter. At the shop located inside the restaurant, I longingly drooled over the variety of reasonably priced, freshly baked breads.

We dined at the Fireside Inn’s Ocean’s Edge Restaurant the first night we arrived in Belfast. We were guests at the inn and lucked out by having our dinner reservation there that night. We were in the middle of quite a snowstorm and I heard several diners say they gave up trying to get to their destination. They were happy to stay here and watch the snow coming down through windows on the well-lit patio.

I began my meal with the Chef’s Seasonal Bliss Salad. This was a nice combination of apples, walnuts, figs and gorgonzola. Mmmmmm!

There is a wide variety of options on this menu. Choose from hand-tossed pizzas, lots of seafood or one of their amazing home-style dinners. But it was on the Specials menu that I found a deliciously different dish — Chicken Breast stuffed with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto. To start with, it had three of my favorite ingredients.

The seasoning for the coating added flavor and kept the chicken very moist. It was served with a balsamic reduction with a hint of sweetness, which paired well with the goat cheese and prosciutto. French fries here are freshly cut and fried perfectly. The new chef had created this special entree, so I hope he insists that it be added to the regular menu. It is a winner.

George

I guess you can tell that Linda loves the Belfast Co-op! But she didn’t mention the awesome beer selection or the tasty pastries and sandwiches in the co-op’s cafe. I started writing down their Maine products and had to stop after four pages.

And I agree that Chase’s Daily is a great restaurant. The pizza was really special. I was thinking, “I could have eaten an entire pizza,” when Linda said, “I’m glad we didn’t each get our own pizza!” Ah, well.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Ocean’s Edge Restaurant, part of the Fireside Inn on Route One, the place that has become our home-away-from-home in Belfast. Our room had a beautiful ocean view, a fireplace and a massage chair. The massage was certainly very nice after a long day of walking up and down the steep streets of Belfast.

The Ocean’s Edge Restaurant is elegant, with lots of wood, a large fireplace with a crackling fire and huge windows with an ocean view. We took a table near the fireplace and settled in for the evening. Our server, Samantha, was knowledgeable and did not hurry us through the meal. Carol, the food manager who was also taking care of things at the inn that weekend, is a superb host and said they’d been very busy this winter. Lots of Mainers stay here, from contestants at Belfast’s curling tournaments to traveling business people and folks looking for a nice winter escape.

I started out with an appetizer they had just added to the menu: Chorizo Fondue ($6.99), a rich cheddar cheese fondue with spicy chorizo sausage, served with thick slices of French bread. Much to Lin’s dismay, I ate all of it. At one point she said, “Don’t feel you have to eat all that cheese. It’s your weekly allotment.” When I tossed my last piece of bread into the bowl and fished it out with a final spoonful of fondue, she had just one word for me, “Wrong.”

General Manager Barry Asalone, on vacation during our visit, had emailed me a recommendation that we try the fondue. I owe him big time for that!

After watching huge snowflakes dropping out of the sky and feeling pretty good about our spot near the fire, I turned my attention to an extensive list of entrees. The Baked Stuffed Haddock ($18.99) called my name: Atlantic haddock with house-made crabmeat stuffing, topped with a white wine cream sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, baked initially and finished under the broiler. And yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds. The portion was huge and the first bite heavenly.

I couldn’t eat it all — probably that darned cheese filled me up. But Lin was worse. When she stopped eating her entree, it didn’t look like she’d even started. Thank goodness we had a small fridge in our room for leftovers.

But the best was yet to come. We took an awesome chocolate dessert to our room, started the fire and enjoyed the dessert while watching the Olympics. My idea of an evening out!

The inn provides a very nice hot breakfast (and you can enjoy it in your slippers), but we didn’t stick around long because a major storm was blowing in. The ride home was long and treacherous. Wish we’d stayed another day!

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.