George

My brother Gordon loves Manchester’s Lighthouse Wine & Seafood, and urged us to write about it. Now, I owe him bigtime. This is a special place.

Nick and Dalena Nel came to this country from South Africa, lived for a time in Texas, and ended up in Maine. Their story is a good one and we are lucky to have them here. They bought the Lighthouse last March.

As we visited with them, I was taken with their excitement about this place and their strong commitment to it and their customers. Dalena is a pharmacist at a local drug store, so the Lighthouse is mostly Nick’s project, although Dalena works here on her day off. Outside the restaurant, Nick is actually a lawyer.

I knew this was a place to buy wine and beer and seafood lunches, but I didn’t realize what a fantastic market they have — offering everything from soups to frozen crabcakes to Meadowbourne’s seasonings (a Monmouth company).

Both Nick and Dalena love to cook, and you will be amazed at the many things they offer, both freshly made and frozen. Soon, they’ll be adding take-home dinners and designer dog food. Dalena cooks for her dogs, and now she’ll cook for your dogs!

Their extensive selection of wine and beer is good, too. But what most impressed me was their commitment to fresh and healthy food. They get frequent deliveries of lobster, crabmeat, fish and other products.

They are fortunate to have Emily Allen as their baker and chef. She is both creative and friendly. We were delighted to discover chocolates made by Jon Jennings of Forgotten Chocolate. Jon was a year behind me at Winthrop High School, and making chocolates is his hobby. He also owns Forgotten Stoneworks.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are their fresh seafood days, but you can order fresh seafood any day of the week and Nick will have it for you the next day. Trust me, Nick knows a lot about fish and just where to obtain the best.

I had seen a photo online of their bacon-wrapped scallop sub ($9.99), and knew I had to have it. Fresh Maine scallops wrapped in bacon and grilled, with romaine lettuce, a tasty maple mayo, served on a grilled brioche bun. It was the best scallop dish I’ve ever had. No exaggeration.

As we were leaving with our lunches, which we ate at home, Nick and Dalena said, “This is home. We’re not going anywhere.”

Good news for all of us.

Linda

I could not place Nick and Dalena’s accent when I first met them, but when I found out they had come from South Africa to the United States, I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of their story. Dalena explained that they ended up in Maine because she has an adventurous family.

After four years in Austin, Texas, they pitched the idea of moving to Maine to their children — and they were all for it. Now they have been here for 14 years, and happily call this home.

They were faithful customers at the Lighthouse and purchased it this year. They cook as a hobby, and have tweaked recipes and added a few new things to the menu to make it their own.

As we toured the shop, I was awed by all they stock here. The wine selection is impressive, surely something for everyone’s tastes. You will find a tasting selection of Vinolio oils, imported pasta and a wonderful choice of cheese, dips and crackers.

The kitchen menu is creative — salmon burgers, fish reubens and several other subs and wraps, and a couple choices of quiche as well. Emily Allen creates meals to go, fully cooked, then frozen. Small portions will serve two, and the larger portions are family size. This is, indeed, gourmet food to go.

Flatbread Friday’s are popular, with a couple of choices each week. Dalena told us they are expanding frozen offerings such as gluten-free pies, and healthy entrees such as salmon on quinoa and chicken with brown rice. In the summer they offer many salads, and with winter coming, soups and chowders to go are now a focus.

They hold monthly wine and beer tastings, and this is the place to go for fresh lobsters. They can steam them right there, so the lobster takeout option is a popular one.

I ordered a slice of Emily’s cheddar, mushroom and bacon quiche and I am so glad I did. The crust was flaky and delicious and the filling was creamy. Yum!

I loved the unique flavor of the 4P blueberry lemonade. There are only four ingredients in the product, and it is not overly sweet — in fact, it is sweetened with maple syrup. Dalena and Nick look for unique products like this which is why browsing the store is so much fun.

Help needed

We’re building a list of restaurants to visit and write about this winter, and we could use your help. If you have a favorite restaurant, please let us know Call us at 293-2661 or send email to [email protected] Thanks!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.