Not So Soup-er

Posted: December 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, New England Soup Factory, Salem | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

So not impressed, despite having heard good buzz about this place. Soup sounded good on a recent blustery day, so I agreed to meet a friend at the New England Soup Factory in Salem for lunch. For $8.87, I received a medium-sized cup of chicken soup and half a wrap sandwich (no drink). Pricey and really not worth it. The soup had good chicken flavor and was hot, but there was almost no chicken in it, and the carrots were huge slices that didn’t fit in my mouth (I need a knife to eat my soup?). The chicken avocado wrap had only one small piece of avocado and was bland.

There are a number of other lunch places right on Washington Street, so we’ll make it point to check some of them out and make a recommendation. In the meantime, if you find yourself in that area, skip the Soup Factory in favor of Fresh Taste of Asia (one of our favorites), or take a stroll down the pedestrian walkway to The Old Spot or The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel, both reliable choices. (Note: The Old Spot is not open for lunch Monday or Tuesday.)

New England Soup Factory
140 Washington St, Salem
(978) 744-0444

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The Lunch Counter: Halibut Point

Posted: December 18th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Gloucester, Halibut Point, The Lunch Counter | Tags: , | No Comments »

Lunch Guy strayed out of his comfort zone recently: a trip to Gloucester landed him at Halibut Point, where he happily slurped up their famous Italian fish chowder. A bit more than he usually spends for lunch, but it was quick, delicious, and accompanied by fresh scala bread. We’re glad to hear this long-time Gloucester gem is as good as ever.

Halibut Point
289 Main Street, Gloucester
(978) 281-1900

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Gyros From Heaven

Posted: December 9th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Greek, Ipswich, Ithaki | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

We never know how to pronounce gyro, but that doesn’t stop us from ordering it at every opportunity. Warm bread, spiced lamb, and tzatziki are a remarkable combo, so we were delighted to find it taken to a new level on a recent visit to the much-touted Ithaki.

Yes, Ipswich seems an odd place for an upscale Greek restaurant, and like us, you may have wondered if it’s worth the trip. We’re happy to report it is.

At a recent weekend lunch, we started out with a half portion of Greek salad for three people ($6). A large stack of thick tomato slices was perched on a bed of micro greens. Supporting players included cucumber slices, yellow pepper, green and black olives, and a chunk of what we’ll call “real” feta (to distinguish from the kind in our local supermarket). We didn’t see a nearby greenhouse, but the chefs have got some trick up their sleeves, as the tomatoes tasted more like August than December. The dressing was gossamer light and delicious, just olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.

The gyro ($11) consisted of a large piece of fried flatbread slathered with tangy sauce and topped with tomato and perfectly cooked lamb chunks, with roasted potatoes alongside. It was impossible to eat like a sandwich, but we’re not complaining; it’s certainly one of the best lunch entrees on the North Shore.

Which is not to say the moussaka and the pastitsio don’t pass muster; they do. Both feature an ultra creamy bechamel and flavorful meat sauce. The moussaka ($11) adds tender slices of potatoes; the pastitsio ($9) has thin pasta tubes.

One block north of Ipswich’s main drag, Ithaki has parking in front, a large dining room, and a good sized bar and café area. We’ve heard the main dining room is packed and pretty noisy on weekends, so you may want to try a weeknight for a more relaxed meal. Dinner starters run about $12, and entrees range from $20 to $37 (for rib eye). There is also Sunday brunch with an interesting sounding asparagus and kasseri cheese omelette.

The service at our lunch was impeccable, and there were plenty of tables—but you may want to request one away from the windows on a cold day. Also, the Web site features some funky animation involving food—check it out!

Ithaki
25 Hammatt St, Ipswich
(978) 356-0099
www.ithakicuisine.com

Ithaki Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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’Tis the Season

Posted: December 3rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Marblehead, Stowaway Sweets, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

“As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate.”   -Sandra Boynton

With the holidays upon us, we have an excuse to talk about one of our favorite things—chocolate. And while they may not be an avant garde artisan shop, there is something about the experience of walking into Stowaway Sweets in Marblehead that remains incomparable.

A trip to Stowaway Sweets is literally like walking into the past; the store has been in operation since 1929, and little has changed since then. You push open the garden gate under the old wooden sign, walk down the winding path past the goldfish pond, and enter through the heavy wooden door into a feast for the senses.

The aroma of freshly made chocolate is intoxicating, pretty wrought-iron and glass cases hold a mouthwatering selection of treats, and vintage light fixtures and framed letters adorn the walls. The letters are proof of pedigree: these chocolates were favorites of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and even Queen Mary. (Being film fans, our favorite story is that Katharine Hepburn used to order them as gifts for friends every Christmas)

The candies themselves are still hand-dipped on premises using high quality rich, smooth chocolate and fresh nuts, and the variety is stunning. The crisp chocolate bark, the excellent caramels and the gorgeous truffles all vie for our attention, but the star of the show is the famous meltaway. Some argue over whether the milk or dark variety is favored, but biting into that firm chocolate with a light dusting of sugar into the creamy, melt-in-your mouth center makes trying both on a regular basis essential, if only to keep the debate alive. The chocolate dipped nuts are also exceptional, and the flowered mints make very pretty hostess gifts or special occasion favors.

For chocolates of this caliber, Stowaway’s treats are reasonably priced at $22 per pound. Best of all, you can hand select each chocolate going into the box (several sizes available). Imagine a box with just your favorites, whether it’s dark chocolate or creamy centers. Gift wrapping is available at no extra cost. (Be aware that pre-boxed candies are all that’s available between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, due to high volume.)

Shopping at Stowaway feeds not only your inner chocolate demon but also your craving for long-gone days of quality goods proudly sold by those who created them.

Stowaway Sweets
151 Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead
(800)432-0304
http://www.stowawaysweetsbandb.com

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