Linda

We have known that Shari Hamilton is a talented baker for quite some time. With 35 years of experience, she has owned and helped manage restaurants in Norridgewock and Mount Vernon. The really exciting news is that she has opened Hello, Good Pie Bakery and Gourmet Kitchen in Belgrade Lakes.

The bakery is open for breakfast and lunch. If you check out Hello, Good Pie’s facebook page, you’ll find tempting pictures and menu items that will convince you that you need to visit — soon.

Shari has been serving dinners once a week this winter in the building next to the bakery. This charming house has been transformed into a beautiful dining space. The night we visited, we found a fire blazing and perfectly set tables with fresh flowers, candles, white tablecloths and stemware. The atmosphere could not possibly be more welcoming.

Two dining rooms provide seating for up to 26 guests. This is a restaurant where diners come not only for great food but also to visit with friends. Throughout the evening there was a buzz of conversation, but it was not loud. We had a great visit with Barbara and Michael Barrett who shared our table. They are huge fans of this place. They thought this was their fifth dinner here, so they have barely missed a week. Michael started out by telling us “everything they make here is great. It’s home cooking, but elevated.”

Carrie Bor, our server, made us feel fight at home. She is a good friend of Shari’s and loves working here. She will tend to your needs, perhaps pamper you a bit, and will certainly try to make your evening special.

The dinner is a four-course meal. The same appetizer and salad or soup course is served to all diners. Then you choose from three entrees and three desserts. And that’s where it gets hard — all the items are very tempting.

The French bread that arrives to start your dining adventure should not be missed. They sell loaves of their bread in the bakery. (I will keep that in mind.) Our bruschetta appetizer was that bread topped with Brie and “drunken berries.” Blackberries and raspberries had been marinated in Pinot Noir wine. It was slightly sweet, yet salty. It was so good that we welcomed another plate of them that arrived.

As we enjoyed our meal, Barbara and Michael told us about all the yummy things they enjoy from the bakery. He loves the haddock chowder and she loves the Guiness steak pie. The bakery offers savory and sweet pies, pastries and a selection of soups and meals to dine in or take home.

I chose the vegetarian option of Eggplant Parmesan Napoleon. Breaded eggplant slices were layered with mushrooms, a slice of tomato and ricotta cheese. It was a thing of beauty served on a squash puree. Barbara says she enjoys Shari’s cooking because “it is a mixture of flavors, and you taste every flavor.” True enough, and I noted the variety of textures she includes that make each dish interesting.

I am out of space to tell you everything I want to. But know that George’s Braciole and his cinnamon swirl bread pudding had me swooning. My cheesecake was superb, with its toffee-pecan topping. I also had a taste of Barbara’s espresso chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. Holy Moly.

George

You won’t want to say goodbye after dining at Hello, Good Pie. Shari’s been a professional baker for a long time, and is busy these days with her popular catering business. So I was astonished when she opened Hello, Good Pie, serving breakfasts and lunches and offering lots of bakery products. Yes, she’s a worker!

On their facebook page recently, I checked out the lunch menu: African coconut curry soup (vegan), chicken salad with apples and cranberries, chicken burritos and baked ziti. No, this is not your typical luncheon place. Several of my friends have raved about her breakfasts, too.

Half the guests at dinner were repeat customers and I think we will be, too. You can bring your own wine or beer, and the price of $75 per couple is extremely reasonable for the quality of the food and experience. The dinner menu changes every week, although some of the most popular items make repeat appearances from time to time. And diners lingered long after dinner, enjoying visits with their friends and family.

Everything I ate was special, even the baked parmesan cheese cracker that came with the salad. The delicious salad of Brussels sprouts, kale and cranberries, topped with a honey Dijon vinaigrette was enhanced by crispy baked garbanzo beans (you can buy this salad at the bakery). And everything is plated beautifully, with lots of color.

My Braciole Abruzzese — pork roulade stuffed with spinach and provolone with a red wine reduction — was perfectly cooked and really tasty. I was lamenting that I’d been unable to order the meatball and linguini with basil marinara, when Carrie delivered a meatball for us to try. It was huge, and except for the single taste Michael took, I gobbled it all. It was 50% beef and 50% pork.

My cinnamon swirl bread pudding with bourbon sauce and fresh whipped cream was the best bread pudding I’ve ever had, and the portion was large. Thank you, Shari!

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.