Wild Horse a Satisfying Ride for Beverly Restaurant Goers

Posted: August 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Drinks, Wild Horse Cafe | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

We’ve been eager to check out the new Wild Horse Café, since we were great fans of new owners Matt Blanchard and Sam Hunt when they were at 15 Walnut in Hamilton. (Blanchard and Hunt took over the restaurant from Brendan Crocker several months ago.) The renovated space and updated menu were overall a hit, with a couple of minor quibbles.

The interior is lighter and brighter, but still quite cozy. The sound levels are very good, with the upholstered furniture doing its job, and the décor is quirky without being over the top. The bar in the dining room is gone (the separate bar area remains), but the cocktails are in full force. We loved the generous-sized raspberry lime rickey, an adult version of the ones we used to splurge on at Brigham’s ($11) and the hot & dirty martini, which had just the right spice level ($10).

We started with a meze plate, choosing grilled asparagus, cheese of the day, and olives from a list of potential meze ingredients ($12). The cheese was outstanding, and the asparagus was wonderfully smoky. We asked about the preparation and were told it’s from a wood-fueled grill. We couldn’t resist the Thai poutine, which featured decadent fries coated in Thai spices and laced with peanut sauce ($8). Sounds weird, tasted great.

The menu is well thought out, with salads, small plates, and sandwiches along with standard apps and entrees. The specials include a daily cheese, salad, taco, flatbread, and pasta, keeping things interesting and fresh.

The meat dishes we tried were terrific, including steak frites ($24), meltingly tender short ribs with mashed potatoes and the smoky asparagus ($26), and the good-sized lamb chop small plate, also deliciously smoky ($14). We didn’t love the pesto accompanying the lamb, which was bitter, and the swordfish in the taco plate ($17) was on the rubbery side. But the tortillas were grilled, and the salsa and coleslaw were flavorful and made for a wonderful combination with the fish. Given the ingredients, it will surprise no one that the pork dinner was the group favorite, featuring slow-cooked pork shoulder with Moxie barbeque sauce, confit belly, and kale braised with bacon ($19).

We suspect Blanchard and Hunt are still refining the menu, looking to make a mark in the area while giving customers what they want. We’d hope to see service levels bumped up a bit—our waitress was more harried than friendly on a moderately busy night.

We certainly did not need dessert, but we splurged anyway. We enjoyed the bananas foster (although the bananas could have been caramelized a bit more, $7), and the chocolate therapy cake ($8) was served too cold but was wonderfully decadent once it warmed up.

Wild Horse Café
393 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-6868
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wild-Horse-Cafe/121842167848800

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Mr. McDonough’s Opus

Posted: July 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Opus, Salem | Tags: , , | No Comments »
Photos courtesy of our friend John Andrews at socialpalatesphotography.com

It’s been a long time coming, but Opus is finally open in downtown Salem. I’ve got to say, I think it was worth the wait. It’s the latest brainchild of Serenitee Restaurant Group, the partnership of Mark McDonough and Jeff Cala that’s responsible for Latitude 43, Maggie’s Farm, 15 Walnut, and several other North Shore venues.

We were invited to a pre-opening party last night where we sampled cocktails, sushi, and mini versions of several menu offerings. The bar is spectacular—enormous, open, and topped with attractive yellow glass lit from beneath. Tables and booths line the front and sides of the room, and downstairs there’s a cozy lounge area with a small bar and a band area called Opus Underground.

Our previous experiences at Lat 43 and the Nut led us to expect top-notch sushi, and we were not disappointed. The rainbow roll with tuna, salmon, avocado, tempura flakes, and mango was outstanding. We also sampled a slider version of the Opus burger, a farmer’s cheese empanada, and a curried potato samosa that were all worth the calories.

The menu is fairly expansive, with a good number of salads, seafood entrees from pan roasted fluke to lobster salad, and some interesting sounding meat offerings like pork belly mini tacos, slow smoked ribs (these were incredible), and bacon-wrapped rabbit loin. With six sushi rolls and nine side dishes, diners can put together any type of meal they want, from bar snacks to multi-course meals.

The opening will take place sometime next week, and we’ll return this summer to do a more detailed review. See you at the bar!

Opus
87 Washington St, Salem
(978) 744-1100
www.salemopus.com

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Terrific Tacos at the Beverly Arts Fest Food Truck Court

Posted: June 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Event | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A chance to browse arts and crafts and sample offerings from food trucks lured us to Beverly last weekend for Arts Fest. It was a gorgeous day, and the event was well attended, which was great to see. The trucks gathered in a parking lot just off Cabot Street, and there were lines at every stand.

We weren’t in the mood for lobster, but Rowand Seafood Market’s lobster roll with chips, slaw, and a drink seemed like a good deal for $12. Across the lot, Anmol was offering a selection of Indian food that looked tasty.

We opted for the BBQ pulled pork sandwich ($8 with chips) from Beverly’s Grillicious, but we weren’t impressed. It had pineapple salsa that, combined with the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and the cream cheese at the bottom of the (not grilled) bun, just didn’t work. It’s possible they just weren’t prepared for the crowds—the servers seem harried, and the grilled sandwiches on their Facebook page look much more appealing than what we saw.

We had the opposite experience at The Happy Taco truck (based in Gloucester). We tried the chicken and the baja fish tacos, and both were outstanding ($6 each). The chicken was tender and flavorful, the salsa was fresh, the veggies crunchy, and the corn tortilla was nicely grilled. The fish was fried to perfection and accompanied by a creamy sauce with a real kick to it.

Although the savory crepes at Benny’s Crepe Café sounded appealing (smoked salmon, ham and cheese, and mediterranean are on offer), we were in the mood for dessert after our tacos and ordered the Elvis (peanut butter, banana, and bacon, $3.75). It was a great mix of flavors on a freshly made crepe and went down quite easily with a refreshing watermelon basil lemonade ($2.50).

We’re hoping to see more North Shore events include food trucks so we can check out new treats and order more of those tacos.

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Summer on a Plate: Cooking Classes and More at Appleton Farms

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Appleton Farms, Event, Farm, Ipswich | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen—and it was perfect. We recently attended a terrific class given by Carolyn Grieco of Farm Cooking With Carolyn at the new Appleton Farms demonstration kitchen.

Before we describe the class, we want to let you know about the exciting food-related activities going at the farm. First, there’s a dairy & farm store selling milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, beef, eggs from the farm and an assortment of other locally sourced products. (The store is open Mon-Fri from 11:00 to 6:00 and Sat/Sun from 10:00 to 4:00.)

Second, there’s a new café offering salads, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages from 11:00 to 2:00 Wednesdays through Saturday. Third, on select Friday nights in July and August, there will be family farm dinners with pizza from the group’s just-built earth oven.

Finally, the Appleton Cooks series of classes and workshops has 30 events scheduled in June, July, and August with classes on cheesemaking, pasta making, gluten-free living, seasonal tapas, and much more. Prices range from $25 to $85 for non-Trustee members.

We thoroughly enjoyed the class we attended, coming away with food profile insights, great recipes, and new friends. We gathered in the kitchen, which was set up with workstations and ingredients, most from the farm. Carolyn went over the menu and then we split into groups of three or four to prepare the dishes.

The meal consisted of grilled zucchini hummus with homemade pita chips, spicy peanut noodles with snap peas, green goddess chicken salad with cucumber and avocado, a veggie-stuffed picnic loaf, and skillet strawberry shortcake. As we collaborated to prepare the meal, Carolyn demonstrated everything from knife skills to “temping” the poached chicken, arranging the composed salad, and tray rotation to get the pita chips properly crisped. She was full of energy and great tips for both seasoned cooks and new ones. She was happy to accommodate dietary concerns (a non-spice lover got her own chips without cayenne, and we prepared a salad without chicken for the vegetarian in the group).

While meal components were cooking/cooling, we took a short walk to the kitchen garden to pick herbs that we combined with farm butter. We spread it on baguette slices and ate it with freshly-picked radishes while Carolyn showed us the picnic loaf technique. These have to sit overnight, so she brought some already prepared for our meal.

And what a meal. Everything was incredibly fresh and flavorful. The green goddess dressing was amazing with the chicken, the blanched snap peas were the perfect contrast to the spicy noodles, the picnic loaf was full of balsamic-marinated vegetables and goat cheese, and the dessert was warm and luscious.

We are thrilled to see this 375-year old farm embracing the North Shore’s thirst for local food, farm-to-table, and new food experiences. See you on the farm!

Appleton Farms
Rt 1A, Ispwich
www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/northeast-ma/appleton-farms.html

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Getting Fresh at the Beach: New Owners Bring Enthusiasm to Lime Rickey’s

Posted: May 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Lime Rickey's, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Despite the chilly weather, beach season officially starts this week. It came as a surprise to many at Marblehead’s Devereux Beach to see a banner adorning the seasonal food stand proclaiming new ownership.

The stand, which had been run most recently by Paul Petersiel of Swampscott’s Red Rock Bistro (which also houses another Lime Rickey’s location) was sold last month to Anthony Marino and Victoria Farnsworth, owners of Beverly’s popular Marino’s Café.

We were never particularly impressed with the old Lime Rickey’s, so were interested to hear of the change. We stopped by during their soft opening this afternoon to get the scoop on what beachgoers can expect this summer.

Much will stay the same, including the name, which Farnsworth told us they bought the rights to. (The one in Swampscott will change its name; we hear the restaurant is undergoing a change of ownership as well.)

The menu will stay true to classic New England beach shack cuisine, offering fried seafood, burgers and dogs, sandwiches, and Richardson’s ice cream. Keeping things hand made and local, says Farnsworth, will ensure fresh flavor and reasonable cost. The stand will steam lobsters fresh on-site, provided by lobsterman Jeff Bartlett out of Beverly, and the aim is to keep lobster and lobster roll prices as close to market value as possible. Other seafood will be provided by local company Patriot Seafood, who pick up at the dock in Marblehead.

One welcome change that we noticed was the size of the burger. Several ounces have been added, but cost hasn’t. The perky Farnsworth shakes her head. “Four ounces just wasn’t big enough.” Topped with healthy slices of tomato, lettuce, and onion and accompanied by a side of tasty homemade potato chips, it’s a definite improvement.

The portion size on the fish and chips wasn’t skimpy either. The light, crispy batter and hand-cut fries convinced us we’ll have to return to try the clams and shrimp.

We felt bad firing questions at this enthusiastic young couple while they were working out the kinks on their first day, but they took it in stride. Our visit has us looking forward to simpler fare prepared more thoughtfully, better value, and the possibility of fun things like live music and weeknight lobster dinners.

Lime Rickey’s
105 Ocean Ave, Marblehead
https://www.facebook.com/LimeRickeys

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Hits and Misses at Pride’s Osteria

Posted: May 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Italian, Pride's Osteria | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Last weekend we finally made our way to Beverly’s Pride’s Osteria, a place that has been generating some serious buzz.

Perhaps our expectations were high, but it ended up being an odd experience. The dining room was a bit stark and became very loud by evening’s end, making it difficult to converse. (Surprisingly, the bar area was much quieter.) The waitstaff, however, was perky and helpful.

Although the Montenegro Manhattan (made with Amaro Montenegro) was excellent, we were not impressed with skimpy wine pours, and we noted that many of the drinks were $1 more than the online menu prices.

We enjoyed the light, crispy focaccia, served with fruity olive oil for dipping, as well as the lightly smoked local bluefish with Maine fiddleheads and house-made cherry vinegar ($12). The dressing was tangy, and the fiddleheads were fresh and crunchy.

The Tagliere del contadino (farm board) featured artisan meats, cheeses, and bread and was tasty, but the half portion was tiny for $14. Also meager was the caprese con mozzerella di bufala. While the heirloom tomato slices and imported mozzarella were fresh and flavorful, the dish was not worth $14.

For entrees, we all opted for pasta, hand made by chef Paolo Laboa. The piedmontese style angnolotti filled with red wine, braised pork, beef, and sausage was the favorite; the little pillows served warm between the folds of a cloth napkin were tender and meaty ($22).

The other two dishes featured pasta with great texture, but the sauces underwhelmed us. The much-touted, award-winning pesto ($20) was silky but otherwise quite ordinary. The piccaggette pasta with lobster ($22) suffered in the translation. The Italian “alla Maggiorana,” I realized after Googling, is a marjoram preparation, but the menu described it as a “light, fresh organic tomato sauce.” The sparse, slightly bitter sauce that accompanied the dish didn’t meet that expectation.

Fortunately, we enjoyed a sweet ending to the meal. The house-made latte dolce were fabulous deep-fried, cream-filled dough bites that were amazing and addictive. The restaurant offers diners a shot of home-made liqueur at the end of the meal, and the limoncello was superb.

In all, we found the visit a disappointment. There were some memorable tastes, but some real duds as well, and all the portions were very small for the price.

Pride’s Osteria
240 Rantoul Street, Beverly
978.969.0083
www.pridesosteria.com

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Let Us Eat Cake

Posted: May 14th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Buttermilk Baking Company, Newburyport | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

One of our readers wrote to us about Buttermilk Baking Company, saying we had to get ourselves to Newburyport to try their pastries (thanks, Laura!). We went a little crazy in the shop and ended up with two tarts, two hand pies, and a mini-cake. We are extremely picky about baked goods and find most look better than they taste. That’s definitely not the case here.

The lemon-curd cake was not only adorable, it was also moist and flavorful ($9.25). The buttercream icing was unbelievably light, tempting us to eat more cake than we really should have. We’re told that the raspberry preserves between each layer are made in the shop to be less sweet than commercial brands.

Both of the hand pies featured toothsome, flaky pastry ($4.65). Although the blueberry was delicious, the sour cherry filling was outstanding and a clear favorite with our tasters. The high-quality ingredients being used make these relatively simple pastries really shine.

Everyone in the group enjoyed the key lime tart, which had a creamy filling and a generous amount of buttery graham crust. But the chocolate caramel tart was the hit of the dessert round-up. Salty caramel and the best chocolate ganache we’ve ever tried are offset by a sugar-cookie crust for an incredible combination ($5.65 for individual sized tarts).

We’ll be back to try the muffins and cookies as soon as we work off some of the last indulgence. In the meantime, if you’re in the area, stop by Buttermilk and let us know what delectables you’ve discovered.

Buttermilk Baking Company
3 Liberty St, Newburyport
(978) 499-8278
www.buttermilkbaking.com

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From Lunch to Brunch to Gourmet Dinners, We’ve Got Plenty of Ways to Celebrate Mom

Posted: May 7th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Blue Ox, brunch, Event, Finz, Nathaniel's at the Hawthorne Hotel, Victoria Station | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Forgot Mother’s Day is this Sunday and scrambling to make plans? We’ve got a quick round-up of brunch ideas as well as some less traditional options.

If delighting in a little taste of everything is mom’s style, there are several buffet options. Salem’s Victoria Station is featuring breakfast favorites as well as a carving station and plenty of seafood. And cocktails, of course. Perhaps a “Mom’osa” is in order? ($30 per person, $15 for kids,children under five eat free.)

Is mom a fan of oysters? Next door at Finz, the offerings include a raw bar along with a full buffet and the tasty-sounding waffles with blueberry whipped cream or banana encrusted salmon over coconut jasmine rice. ($39.99 per person, $15.99 for children 12 and under.)

A few blocks away, the Hawthorne Hotel will make mom feel like royalty. Their spread is available all day, with a change in focus at 3:00 from breakfast items to dinner. The veggie options look plentiful, including non-traditional salads like red-white-and-green salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, edamame, and fresh basil and a sweet-and-spicy cucumber salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, and red onion. The make-your-own strawberry shortcake will appeal to the kids in the group. ($42.95 adults; $2 per year of age for children.)

Newburyport’s 10 Center wants to ensure mom enjoys herself, too. In addition to an extensive buffet with dishes like stuffed french toast and lobster mac and cheese, they are offering a complimentary mimosa to each mother. ($40 per person, 10:00 to 3:00.)

A reliable favorite of many moms is the Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport for their always-beautiful grand buffet. Live piano music and ocean views accompany offerings like a smoked salmon, trout and mackerel display; chilled salad of shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari; and roasted garlic and gorgonzola encrusted black angus sirloin. ($49 per adult; $24.50 for children ages 3-10; 10:00 to 2:30.)

For those who would rather forgo brunch and treat mom to a luscious lunch or dinner, several terrific restaurants have special menu items on offer.

62 Restaurant and Wine Bar in Salem has a special menu just for mom from 11:00 to 9:00. In addition to regular menu items, Chef Tony Bettencourt will tempt you with crostini topped with whipped ricotta, roasted black mission figs, and aged balsamic vinegar and grilled lamb chops with zucchini, black olives, roasted tomato, crumbled feta, Sardinian couscous, and basil.

Lynn’s Blue Ox has put together a three-course meal for mom that has us salivating.
The pan-roasted cod with spring pea risotto, oven dried tomatoes, fava beans, pea tendril salad, and truffle vinaigrette and the strawberry rhubarb tart with strawberry and mint champagne sauce and whipped cream are calling our names. The special meal is $44 per person, available from 12:00 to 6:00.

Ceia in Newburyport will feature special selections such as a luxe steak and lobster benedict; spaghetti with black garlic, mint, and serrano chili; and shrimp with linguica, fingerling potatoes, kale, and a farm egg.

Last but not least, if the celebrated lady in your life loves eating out, our friends at Dinner Dealer have the perfect gift: a deck of restaurant-discount cards costs $25 and provides more than $300 in savings to North Shore restaurants ($1 from each sale is donated to a local food pantry). And if you contact them in the next few days, Dinner Dealer will throw in a free mini pampering kit with treats like chocolates and skincare products from local, women-owned companies.

Looks like there are plenty of options for treating your mom, grandmom, stepmom, godmom or anybody else to a great meal this weekend. Remember to call ahead for availability and that tax, tip and drinks aren’t generally included in the price, and enjoy!

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Salem’s Newest Pizza Venture Flies High

Posted: April 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Flying Saucer Pizza Co., Gulu-Gulu Cafe, Pizza | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Okay, here’s the thing. We’re going to tell you about a wonderful pizza place, but you have to promise not to go too often, or we’ll never be able to get a table. Do we have a deal?

We love pizza, and we’re perfectly happy with a pie that features good dough, tasty sauce, and melty cheese. But Salem’s Flying Saucer Pizza Company reminded us that this humble dish rises to an entirely new level with the right technique and ingredients.

Everything at Flying Saucer is high-quality, fresh, and delicious. There are a large number of creative combinations to choose from, or you can create your own from a long list of ingredients. These New York-style pies with delicious cheese and generous toppings really knocked our socks off.

We were lucky to snag a seat the night we visited, and the restaurant was so busy that we were told right off the bat it would be 40 minutes to get our pizza to the table. Ensuring honest expectations is commendable and we didn’t mind the wait, though we might suggest a few appetizer options aside from the breadsticks  to tide over hungry patrons.

We sipped wine and draft beer while munching the very tasty bread sticks. Then we tried the Morpheus (BBQ sauce, cheese, asparagus, roasted red peppers, black olives, green olives, scallions, BBQ chicken), Picard (cheese, potatoes, Canadian bacon, rosemary, chopped garlic, parmesan, olive oil), Quark (red sauce, cheese, hamburger, bacon, red onion, scallions), and Face of Boe (pesto, artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, feta cheese, spinach). The latter is from the vegetarian section; there are two vegan pies as well. Prices for each pie ranged from $12 to $14 and easily fed three. The toppings were all fresh and plentiful, especially pleasing on pies like the Picard. We’d be hard pressed to name a favorite, but the no-sauce pizzas were a definite highlight for several in the group.

Given the ownership (the same folks who own the next-door Gulu Gulu Café), it was no surprise to see a huge selection of craft beers and meads. We were pleased to also see a nice wine selection, some good-looking salads, and some dessert offerings we’re looking forward to trying. Nutella, banana, and crushed coconut, anyone? Not to mention the highly amusing sci-fi décor, including the Dr. Who portrait wall and Star Trek’s Captain Picard in full Borg regalia.

We understand you’ll want to check the place out, and soon, but just be sure to leave a table open for us, okay?

Flying Saucer Pizza Company
118 Washington St, Salem
(978) 594-8189
www.flyingsaucerpizzacompany.com

Flying Saucer Pizza Company on Urbanspoon

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Charm for Breakfast: A Diner Tour of the North Shore

Posted: April 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Agawam Diner, American, Breakfast, Diner, Little Depot Diner | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

In our latest piece for the Boston Globe North section, we had a fun time focusing on classic diners north of Boston. The article came out yesterday, and you can read it here: Here’s The Dish on Diners

During our diner-ing, we ended up with many more photos than will ever be published, and we wanted to share some of them with you. We haven’t made it to every diner in every town (yet), but here is a pictorial tour of a handful of fun places to try for your next road trip or weekend breakfast.

 

The Capitol Diner in Lynn has been serving up specialties since the late 1920s, but we’re betting the Mickey-shaped pancakes are a newer addition.

New owners Ross and Alicia Scanlon have made the Little Depot Diner a hit by bringing in new energy and maintaining old favorites.

Lowell’s Four Sisters Owl Diner sports a newly renovated entrance and a cheery vintage interior. The Eggs Benedict is amazing.

The summer beach crowd is familiar with Pat’s Diner in Salisbury, but it was quiet on a winter afternoon. We enjoyed the unusual pork pie.

Pie is the thing at the Agawam Diner, and they always have an array of beautiful desserts on offer. Crowds convene at all hours for hearty meals and a cup o’ joe along with their favorite slice.

And lastly, a special photo of the Salem Diner, which was taken in 2008. This is our favorite shot as it shows the old neon as it was, before the diner suffered damage in a fire. The diner has been renovated, and George and Zoe Elefteriadis serve up great breakfasts, but we do miss the neon.

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