Salem Restaurant Week 2009 Starts Sunday

Posted: March 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , | No Comments »

With 17 restaurants participating in this spring’s Salem Restaurant week, there is something for everyone–from high end Italian to pub grub and ethnic food. The restaurants below are all offering a
prix-fixe three-course dinners for $24.09 (beverage, tax, and gratuity not included) from April 5 to 9. Enjoy!

Capt’s Waterfront Grill & Club, 94 Wharf Street, (978) 741-0555

Cilantro, 282 Derby St, (978) 745-9436

Finz, 76 Wharf St, (978) 744-0000

The Grapevine Restaurant, 26 Congress St, (978) 745-9335

The Lobster Shanty, 25 Front St, (978) 745-5449

Lyceum Bar & Grill, 43 Church St, (978) 745-7665

Nathaniel’s at the Hawthorne Hotel, (978) 825-4311

Passage to India, 157 Washington St, (978) 832-2200

Regatta Pub at Salem Waterfront Hotel, 225 Derby St, (978) 740-8788

Rockafellas, 231 Essex St, (978) 745-2411

Sixty2 on Wharf, 62 Wharf St, (978) 744-0062

Strega Restaurant & Lounge, 94 Lafayette St, (978) 741-0004

The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel, (978) 825-4311

Thai Place, Museum Place Mall, (978) 741-8008

Victoria Station, 86 Wharf St, (978) 745-3400


Whole Lotta Fun

Posted: March 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace, Swampscott | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

We had a blast last evening at local food night at the Swampscott Whole Foods. There were about 15 vendors scattered through the store, everything from salsa and cheese to jewelry and body lotion. Everyone we met was friendly and generous with their samples; one woman was even baking cookies in a tabletop oven.

Our pick for best find was LaMarissa’s Salsa, the freshest tasting, most delicious we’ve tasted in a long time—maybe ever. It’s a fairly smooth salsa with just the right amount of cilantro and heat. Marissa Salomon is a Nahant resident and began the company making the salsa in her home kitchen.

Today, it’s made in small batches in Springfield and sold in seven Whole Foods stores (in the produce section on ice, but it lasts 30 days in the fridge). Marissa was handing out samples last night, along with a recipe for Baja fish tacos we plan to try this weekend. The recipe is also on her site.

Another favorite of the evening was a new aged goat cheese from Vermont Butter & Cheese, a French-style crottin called Bijou. It’s packed in a poplar disk and covered with perforated plastic, forming a mini cheese cave. That’s right—we said a cheese cave in your fridge. The Bijou changes in taste and texture as it ages: those who like stinkier cheese should pick a package that is nearing its sell-by date and store for a few weeks. If you prefer less tang, buy the cheese farthest away from the sell-by.

Other products we sampled included heavenly milk from High Lawn Farm in Lee, (the fat-free tastes like 2%, and the cream is pasteurized rather than ultra pasteurized), fabulous honey from Crystal’s All-Natural in Billerica, zesty salsa from Marblehead’s Pam’s Black Bean Salsa, salmon and smoked trout from Ducktrap River of Maine, and triple chocolate chunk cookies from Immaculate Baking Co. in Wakefield (refrigerated dough to bake at home).

Last but not least, we loved the sugar cookies from Lynn-based Starlight Creatives. They proved the exception to the rule that the prettier the cookie, the worse it tastes. These are rich and buttery along with being gorgeous. What more can you ask for?


Old Salts, Fresh Drinks, and Good Deals

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Jack Tar, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Jack-Tar may have a historic name (it’s another term for old salt), but this restaurant is up to date, serving a variety of American dishes with a creative flair and catering to today’s cash-strapped patrons with worthwhile deals.

We visited on the Old-Town Marblehead restaurant Sunday night and were warmly greeted. We ordered drinks at the large mahogany bar and were pleasantly surprised by the Not Your Mother’s Gin & Tonic, featuring freshly muddled cilantro and Tanqueray 10. It was a bit on the sweet side, but the good-sized drink went down easy and was a nice change from the ordinary.

We sat down a few minutes later and were served warm bread with herb butter and told the specials (including the prices, which we love). Both of the appetizers we sampled were tasty: a saucy, good-sized barbeque duck quesadilla ($9) and five bacon-wrapped scallops over a salad with an apple slaw ($9). Also on offer are smaller apps portions for $2 to $4, a nice option for sampling.

We took advantage of an every-night special: a choice of four pizzas are $5 between 5:00 and 7:00. The pancetta and blue cheese ’za also featured fresh basil, plum tomato slices, and aged balsamic. The medium-thick crust had good flavor, and the toppings were plentiful and delicious.

We also ordered the Memphis ribs ($18), featuring tender ribs, crunchy sweet potato fries, corn bread, coleslaw, and baked beans. The grilled salmon ($19) with a maple balsamic glaze and horseradish mashed potatoes was perfectly cooked, moist and savory.

The junior member of our group was enthusiastic about her chicken quesadilla from the kids menu, and the price was right: kids eat free on Sunday night.

The service was friendly and attentive, and our only complaint was a wait of about 15 minutes for our appetizers. There were quite a few families with toddlers when we arrived, so plan to dine after 6:30 or so for a quieter meal. We congratulate new owners Scott and Emily Brankman, both of whom have considerable restaurant experience, on their menu and hope they keep up the good work—we’re looking forward to drinks and snacks on their outdoor patio this summer.

Jack-Tar American Tavern
126 Washington Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-2323

Jack-Tar American Tavern on Urbanspoon


Food + Wine + Art

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Marblehead | No Comments »

On Saturday April 4, Marblehead Festival of Arts is holding its annual auction and wine tasting at Abbot Hall. This event is one of our favorites, and it looks to be a good year, with catering from Every Little Breeze and desserts from Starlight Creatives and Christine Creager.

Starting at 5:00, you can peruse the silent auction items while sipping wine, sampling hors d’oeuvres, and listening to music from Brian Rolland. The live auction, which is always entertaining, begins at 7:30. The silent auction items include pottery, jewelery, floral arrangements, and gift certificates from local businesses. The live auction is mainly art from local artists, but there are always a few unusual items like lumber/carpentry for a deck or Civil War memorabilia.

Tickets are $15 in advance at Arnould Gallery & Framery (111 Washington St), Manhattan Sandwich Shop (1 Bessom St), and Irresistibles (50 Atlantic Ave) or $20 at the door. A preview of a few of the art items is here.


Time to Eat the Doughnuts

Posted: March 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Salem, Ziggy & Sons Donuts | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

We had some business to attend to in Salem this morning, so decided on a whim to pop into Ziggy’s Donuts on the corner of Essex and Webb Streets for a mid-morning treat.

Ziggy’s, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1964, is a tiny storefront that’s almost lost on the residential street, giving you the feeling you are walking into someone’s home. A cramped space with regulars chatting at the counter, along with bunches of photos and articles stuck to the fridge, compound that feeling—but don’t let it scare you off.

We visited later in the morning, (they open at 6:30) so selection wasn’t huge, but inviting nonetheless. One of our choices was an all-time favorite, the traditional jelly stick. Wow. This is what a doughnut should be: that almost-crisp crunch on the outside and light moist cake on the inside. It was incredibly fresh tasting and delightful. Not at all like those leaden things served up by chain bakeries that you can feel sitting in your stomach all day.

We also tried the coconut, which was excellent, and the coffee roll, which was surprisingly light and not overwhelmed by the glaze. Everything we tasted had a great balance of flavor—none of that fryer-oil aftertaste and just the right amount of sweetness.

So next time you’re up early looking for sinkers to accompany your joe and morning paper, stop in to Ziggy’s and try their hand-made wonders. We’ll be right behind you in line.

Ziggy’s Donuts
2 Essex Street, Salem
(978) 744-9605

Ziggy & SonsDonuts on Urbanspoon


Rowley’s Secret Revealed

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Rowley, Seafood, Steakhouse | Tags: | No Comments »

Editor’s Note 5/1/09

We are sad to report that Sidney and Hampton didn’t make it through the recent economic upheaval and has closed it’s doors. Any outstanding gift certificates will be honored by the Sylvan Street Grill, either at the Peabody or Salibury locations.


When friends who live in Ipswich suggested we go to dinner in Rowley Saturday night, our first thought was Rowley, huh? What’s there? The answer came back: Sidney and Hampton. We duly Googled the place, and came up with scant mention, aside from their own Web site. Curiouser and curiouser; now we felt compelled to check it out, if simply to clear up all the mystery.

While the name might sound like a law firm, it turns out that Sidney and Hampton is the newest incarnation of the old Eagle House on route 133. Acquired three years ago by Ernie Tremblay, owner of the Sylvan Street Grill restaurants, it has obviously gained a loyal following; both the bar and dining room were packed when we arrived.

Our table wasn’t great (I hate sitting near the door), but we had only made our reservation that morning. Still, the rooms were much more warm and inviting than the slightly antiseptic photos on the Web site led us to expect. The exposed beams, crackling fire, and well-chosen light fixtures created a level of comfort to accompany the food, which leans toward reasonably priced upscale country dining with a few twists.

The mixed drinks looked terrific, nicely sized with a lengthy martini menu, most priced around $10. However, having cocktailed earlier, we ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir from the wine list, which was quite respectable.

The appetizers were all generous portions and arrived in good order. The oysters on the half shell ($13 for ½ doz.) hailed from Virginia this time of year and earned high marks from those who tried them for freshness and taste. The fried calamari ($10) was excellent; light, crispy, and tender. Chef Jameson Donlan, whom we met later in the evening, told us he uses graham cracker crumbs in the coating mixture. The lump crabcakes ($12) were moist and tasty with a tangy chive remoulade.

Last but not least, we tried a house favorite, the popover salad. ($8) Being a fan of any excuse to incorporate baked goods into the meal, the idea of mixed greens, fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, sliced apples, and balsamic vinaigrette served in a fresh baked popover sounded intriguing to say the least. Both the salad and the popover tasted pleasant, but somehow the combination wasn’t spectacular. Perhaps it’s our preconceived notion that popovers should be served piping hot and slathered with butter, which we couldn’t quite shake.

With all of the appetizers, you’d think we’d have been sated by the time the entrees arrived, but we soldiered on. Our waitress, when asked about the baked seafood risotto ($28) said, “What’s nice is that it’s not an archeological dig to find the seafood,” and upon its arrival, we noted that she was spot on. The risotto was creamy with great texture, and the chunks of flavorful shrimp, scallops, and Maine lobster meat were large and abundant.

The salmon picatta ($24), fresh Atlantic salmon with capers, artichoke hearts, and a lemon white wine butter sauce, was a bit ho-hum, probably the least interesting entrée of the evening.

Both the New York sirloin and the frenched New Zealand rack of lamb were trimmed in-house and grilled to order, served with house potato and vegetable. Each cut of meat was tender and juicy, ensuring no need for a doggie bag. The sautéed green beans were of note, tasty and bright with a bit of crunch, and the garlic mashed was lovely as well.

By this point, we had been sussed out as food bloggers, (must learn to be more discrete!) and our waitress very kindly brought out Head Chef Jameson Donlan to say hello. An attractive young man with an obvious enthusiasm for his job, Donlan is relatively new to the position and refreshingly without attitude or ego. He had an honest interest in what we thought of his food, and after shaking hands and chatting a bit, he retreated to the kitchen.

After that, we couldn’t leave without at least tasting a few desserts we had seen displayed at other tables, along with espresso. The ubiquitous crème brulee and chocolate flan were fine; the standout was a special that evening, a Guinness cake with Bailey’s icing. The cake, created by Chef Donlan, was rich, dense, and tasty and well complemented by the icing, which had just the right amount of sweetness.

It’s obvious that the solid country steakhouse menu and reasonable prices will have locals returning on a regular basis, but it will be interesting to see, as Chef Donlan evolves, if his youthful creativity can blossom and turn Sydney and Hampton into a destination restaurant.

Sidney and Hampton has a pre-fixe menu, a first seating menu, and two function rooms available in the fully-restored New England barn, built in 1880.

Sidney and Hampton
87 Haverill St. (Rt.133), Rowley
(978) 948-6666


A Taste of St. Patrick’s Day

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Event, Marblehead, Marketplace, Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Looking for a place to hoist a pint or satisfy your craving for corned beef and cabbage this St. Patrick’s Day? The North Shore has no shortage of pubs, some of them doubtlessly serving green beer, so there will be plenty of places to get your Irish on this Tuesday, but we thought we’d give you the heads up on a few events that might tickle your taste buds.

From 3:00 p.m. till 6:00 p.m. Shubie’s Marketplace in Marblehead will feature a tasting of Guinness along with a couple of Irish cheddars from Cahill’s Dairy, including their fantastic porter-infused cheddar, and offering special discounts on everything being sampled. Chef Lynne’s kitchen will also be serving up Irish-inspired goodies.

Shubie’s Market Place
16 Atlantic Ave. Marblehead

If you’re looking for heartier fare, Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel is offering several dinner specials; Guinness Beef Stew ($6), Corned Beef and Cabbage with Mustard Sauce and Red Bliss Potatoes ($13), Roasted Salmon with Dill Hollandaise, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans ($15), Irish Cheddar Cheeseburger with Bacon ($10), and a Bailey’s Torte with Mint Ice Cream ($6)

Hawthorne Hotel
18 Washington Square West, Salem

Or if live Irish music is more your scene, both Sweeney’s Retreat in Marblehead and Rockafellas in Salem will be serving it up with savory corned beef and cabbage all day.

Sweeney’s will be dishing out the traditional eats from 11:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. and will feature live Irish music from 6:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Rockafellas will be serving from 1:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. with live Irish bands starting at 4:00 pm.

Sweeney’s Retreat
18 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead
781 631-6469

231 Salem St., Salem


Seeking Comfort

Posted: March 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Garden City Pub | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Garden City Pub is not exactly a secret, but it’s something of a hidden gem, located behind a liquor store in North Beverly. It’s our number one choice for comfort food, and lest we be accused of keeping things from you, we’ve got to share. Just don’t all rush there next Saturday night or we’ll never get a table, ’k?

We had another great meal there last weekend, and the price was the perfect antidote to the week’s stockmarket plunge: $50 for a large, satisfying dinner for two with drinks.

Lunch Guy splurged on a Ketel One martini ($8.50), followed by french onion soup and eggplant parmesan. The soup ($4) had its priorities in order—lots of crunchy bread topped with melted cheese. Oh, and the soup was tasty, too. The entrée was a huge portion of very thin eggplant slices breaded perfectly ($13). Between the eggplant and the bowl of pasta it came with, Lunch Guy took half of it home—and believe me, that doesn’t happen often.

My entrée has got to be one of the best deals around. A large bowl of delicious lobster ravioli topped with creamy pasta sauce for $14. It came with a good-sized portion of fresh caesar salad for an additional $2.50. The ravioli are not house made as far as we could ascertain, but they were large, cooked perfectly, and filled with chunks of lobster. My cocktail was cranberry juice and house vodka, a 16-ounce glass for $5. It goes without saying we were too full to think about dessert.

Garden City is not the place for a quiet, romantic meal. It’s noisy and crowded most nights for dinner, and the large bar dominates the room. But the service is efficient and friendly, the steak fries (sampled on previous visits) are heavenly, and the drinks are generous. Let’s just say if this place were a little easier to see from Route 1A, getting a table would be nearly impossible.

Garden City Pub
21 Enon St, Beverly
(978) 922-9018


Got Lobster?

Posted: March 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marblehead, Paul Crowell Lobsters, Seafood | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

Marblehead lobsterman Paul Crowell is probably not familiar with the word locavore or the buzz surrounding the concept—but he is certain to delight those in search of local seafood at a bargain price.

Born in Marblehead, Crowell started working his traps 49 years ago, and not too long after began selling his catch at Fort Beach. An affable, easygoing guy with striking blue eyes and a ready smile, he has become a well-known local fixture.

Recently, he moved his storefront, which consists of his pickup truck, a cooler, and a scale, to the parking lot of the Marblehead Boat Yard at 89 Front St., just behind the Landing Restaurant. Crowell said the move affords an increase in foot traffic and better visibility for cars driving by.

Crowell’s business is cash only, but it’s well worth the stop at an ATM before heading down to Front Street. Prices change with the market, but he sells his lobsters for a dollar or two per pound over what he would net selling them to wholesale distributors.

This weekend, he was selling chicken lobsters (a pound or under) for $5.99/lb and selects for $6.50/lb. A few miles away, Super Stop and Shop in Vinnin Square was selling chickens for $10.99 a pound and selects for $12.99/lb! You can’t ignore savings like that, and the freshness is guaranteed.

In the winter, Crowell takes his boat out two to three times a week, weather permitting, and in the summer he’s on the water every day. When we visited him, the lobsters he was selling had been caught that morning, and having sampled his wares, we can attest to the incredible difference that makes in the taste.

Crowell is only open for business Saturdays and Sundays from 2:00-4:00 pm. Sure, finding parking on Front Street during a weekend afternoon may be difficult, but having to walk a few blocks gives you an excuse to enjoy Marblehead’s historic waterfront or pop into the shops on Washington Street. Whether you’re a dedicated locavore or simply a lobster lover, for off-the-boat freshness at a bargain price, Paul Crowell’s operation can’t be beat.

Paul Crowell
89 Front St, Marblehead
Sat & Sun 2:00-4:00


Salem Restaurant Week Starts April 5

Posted: March 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Salem | Tags: , | No Comments »

Restaurants in Salem will be offering a three-course meal for $24.09 from April 5-9. This event was widely attended last year and included 17 restaurants. The Salem Chamber of Commerce says it expects at least that many this year, and hopefully a few more. We’ll have the initial list of restaurants for you sometime next week. Stay tuned!

Ed 3/30/09: We now have the list of participating restaurants posted here: Salem Restaurant Week 2009 Starts Sunday