Linda

For years I have been stopping for terrific Chinese food at Ming Lee in Waterville. My hairdresser, Susan Martin, first mentioned how unique their food is. Of course I followed up and I do agree, the food here is very special. Because I often brought food home from Ming Lee, George thought it was a take-out place with little seating. He was shocked that it is a spacious, nice dining spot.

Their dishes have fresh vegetables that are crunchy and not overcooked. But the thing that makes Ming Lee stand out for me is the light sauces that deliver delicate flavors. They are known for their Szechwan and Hunan dishes. The menu is vast, but I have favorite dishes that draw me back every time. Perhaps it was Susan who mentioned the Crab Rangoon appetizers, and for that I am grateful. Crispy wonton wrappers enclose a creamy crab filling. Beware, they are addictive. We ordered a small portion which was perfect to split. I confessed to George that I never get out of the parking lot without eating one before the food ever arrived home.

I asked our wonderfully friendly server, Chelsea, who has worked here for eight years, what the difference is between the Szechwan and Hunan dishes. She said the Hunan was spicier, so we ordered the Roast Pork Szechwan style. Out came a covered serving dish of pork, with lots of fresh vegetables, peanuts and an aromatic sauce that was not very spicy. I also love the Lo Mein noodle dishes here. So our second choice was the Chicken Lo Mein ($7). Again, another large portion, so it was clear that there were going to be lots of leftovers. I did note that almost everyone was leaving with to-go bags.

We chatted with Mei, the owner, who is a delight. They have been open 11 years now. I wonder if she ever takes a day off because I have seen her every time I have been there. I asked her why the sauces here are so different than other places, and she said, “Oh, I have special recipes I always use.” Special indeed!

Holy Cannoli

Holy Cannoli! First of all I love the name of this eatery on Main Street in Waterville. I first sampled their cannoli at a party last year. I needed to know where they came from because they are reminiscent of ones we love in Italy, but in Italy the bakery we frequent only makes these specialties on weekends. Holy Cannoli has them daily.

I was very surprised when I entered because I was expecting a small bakery. But they serve savory items like stromboli, sandwiches and soups here as well, and have a nice dining area. There are also meals to go, such as a variety of lasagnas, eggplant and chicken parmesan and more.

But that afternoon we were there for cannoli. My eyes widened as I noticed an interesting array of flavors. Traditional and cheesecake are popular here according to Michelle, the very personable lady who waited on us. But she pointed out that they had a seasonal peppermint and a chocolate chip variety, too. We got one of each kind and brought them home for sampling. The rule was that we split each oneand did not consume them all in one day. I’d have a hard time choosing a favorite flavor, but I especially enjoyed the peppermint. The thing I most like about cannoli is that they aren’t too sweet.

It’s named Holy Cannoli but the bakery was full of lots of delicious looking things. Pastries, bars and tortes fill the cases along with cheesecake, cookies and tiramisu. They have some gluten-free options such as chocolate covered cheesecake bites that are as tasty as they are pretty. Some of those came home with us, too.

We talked briefly with Beth Lefferts, the very talented baker. And as a tray full of mocha chocolate cupcakes arrived, George begged for a photo before they went into the case. He must have looked wistful because they stuck a cupcake in our box. Come up to meet the great people who work here and get a sampling of pastries yourself. You’ll be hooked.

George

Well, I guess you can tell Linda loves these places. She wrote the entire column! Here’s what impressed me about Ming Lee: the number of families dining there (they have a great kids’ menu); the super-friendly staff starting with Chelsea (who is also the bartender) and ending with Mei, who remembered we’d written a brief piece about her restaurant several years ago; the seven cooks in the kitchen; the array of Polynesian and other drinks; the astonishingly long menu; the low prices and huge portions (when Linda was done eating her entree, it didn’t look like she’d even started); and of course, the tasty food. Wow! The food here is really good. You must begin with the crab rangoon ($6) and I can highly recommend the Szechuan Roasted Pork ($10.90) with diced vegetables and peanuts sauteed in hot and spicy Szechuan sauce. The menu alerts you to the spicy dishes. You can eat here every week in 2016 and not try everything. But what a great goal!

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.