Tastings: Upcoming Events

Posted: April 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »


Wine, cheese, chocolate, and pasta: those are the four food groups, right? Actually, they are the focus of a handful of upcoming food events on the North Shore that we’re excited about, so read on and mark your calendars for a tasty spring!

First off, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., on May 9th, Shubie’s in Marblehead is hosting what they are calling Corks and Forks; their first annual food and wine festival. The event will feature a variety of more than 50 wines, with samples being poured from France, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Chile, Italy and California. Also on hand will be an array of cheeses and charcuterie from local and national artisans, as well as Tapas tastes from Chef Lynne Aronson. Admission is free, and on Saturday only many of the wines featured will be heavily discounted.

Shubie’s Market Place
16 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead

If relaxing with cold wine and cool jazz is more up your alley, head on over to Salem Wine Imports at 32 Church St. in Salem. Also on the 9th, from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., North Shore local Ed Barker will be there to present vintages from the New Zealand winery Barkers Marque, which he co-owns with his brother Simon.

As an added draw, they will have a representative from Verve Records on hand, who will be spinning Diana Krall’s new release, “Quiet Nights” and a hosting a drawing to give away copies of the CD.

Salem Wine Imports
32 Church St., Salem

If you are like us, always looking for a good excuse to indulge in chocolate, have we got an event for you! On Saturday May 16th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Newburyport will once again be hosting the Chocolate Tour of Newburyport.

This event is win-win; visitors stroll around checking out the shops in Newburyport while sampling a chocolate taste treat at each location, and all the proceeds go to benefit the Red Cross Foundation of the North Shore.

More than 20 stores will be participating, including Ballotin Chocolate Boutique and Café, Greta’s Great Grains, Life is Good, Ruby Slipper, Talbots and Valentines. A wide range of goodies will be served, including chocolates from Lake Champlain, New England Chocolate Company and Willy’s Candy Shop in Salisbury as well as treats like Barefoot Contessa brownies, chocolate martinis, and gourmet hot chocolate with a splash of your choice of liqueur.

Visitors can pre-purchase tickets ($15, cash or check only) at Valentine’s at 27 Water Street, The Ruby Slipper at 50 Water Street, Ballotin Chocolates at 16 Unicorn Street, or First National Bank of Ipswich at 155 State Street. On the day of the event, the tickets can be picked up at the Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street, where there will be a booth in the Market Square Plaza.

Shopping, chocolate, helping the Red Cross; what’s not to love?

The Chocolate Tour of Newburyport

Everyone is abuzz over the new restaurant on the scene, The Blue Ox in Lynn. Not only are we excited to check it out, we’re also thrilled that they are hosting cool events. On June 8 at 7:00, Chef Matt O’Neil will be doing a demonstration on everyone’s favorite Italian treat: gnocchi. The demonstration, followed by a dinner-sized tasting of the pasta, is $29. Call the restaurant at (781) 780-5722 to reserve a spot. Who knows—we may see you there…

The Blue Ox Restaurant and Bar
191 Oxford St., Lynn
(781) 780-5722


Here’s To You, Mom

Posted: April 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments »

Looking to step out with your mom, the mother of your children, or even (gasp) your mother-in-law next weekend? Here’s a list of North Shore restaurants offering specials on May 10.

The Blue Ox in Lynn is planning a $19 three-course prix fixe menu, and Mom receives a beautiful flower.

Mission Oak Grill in Newburyport will be serving delicious sounding brunch items like cinnamon brioche french toast with applewood-smoked bacon and housemade apple butter ($13) until 2:30. There’s also a lunch menu featuring prime rib and sesame-crusted ahi tuna.

Finz in Salem is running a decadent brunch buffet (including a raw bar) from 11:00 to 2:30 for $35 per adult and $16 for the under-12 set.

Emerson Inn in Rockport is going all out with New York sirloin, salmon with crème fraîche sauce, and Belgian waffles, not to mention shrimp cocktail, eggs benedict with lobster hollandaise, and mini pastries.

The Peabody Essex Museum is serving brunch in the Garden Cafe from 11:00 to 3:00 for $35 (10% off for members).

At the Hawthorne Hotel, brunch runs from 11:00 to 7:00 for $40 for adults and $15 for under-12s. The menu includes a carving station with roast beef, ham, and pork loin, entrees like ham and cheddar strata with sauteed onions, and a huge selection of desserts such as carrot cake and key lime pie.


Down on The Farm: New Essex Eatery Shows Promise

Posted: April 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Essex, Farm Bar & Grille | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

ribs2When we drove into the parking lot of The Farm Bar and Grille, the new Essex eatery, at 6:30 last night, we were lucky to find a space. We wondered whether the jammed lot was because it was new, good, or simply the only neighborhood bar.  Inside, we realized there was something else we hadn’t considered: thirty-five-cent wing night. Yep, that’s right, Thursday nights at The Farm feature wings for just thirty-five cents apiece, and the sizable bar was packed with both young and old taking advantage of this deal while sampling the many beers available on tap.

We were seated in the dining room, which was about half full when we arrived and at capacity by the time we left. The room has a nice open feel to it with big windows, warm tones, vintage farm tools adorning the walls and a vast chalkboard filling the rear wall. This isn’t a quiet romantic dinner place; it’s a big boisterous family and friends place.

While the much of the beer selection was listed on the blackboard, when asked about wine our waitress said there was no wine list, but recited a handful of reds and whites. We opted to try a few of the brews and also ordered a Sidecar from the bar, which tasted oddly of Benedictine, so was likely made with B&B ifarm21nstead of brandy.

We felt compelled to start off with some of the wings, which required a minimum order of six and were available in buffalo, BBQ, or honey mustard. We opted for the buffalo, which were meaty, hot but not eye watering, and accompanied by homemade blue cheese sauce that was marvelous.

The menu was short and to the point, focusing on comfort food at very reasonable prices. There was no kids’ menu, but we were told that burgers and mac and cheese were available in less expensive smaller portions for children.

The burger ($9) was fresh and juicy, piled high with bacon but missing the cheese, which was quickly rectified. Also missing was a pear salad that never arrived, but truthfully we didn’t notice once the other entrees were served. The rack of smoked babyback ribs, ($22) were very impressive—a huge portion falling off the plate. They were tender and meaty, wet-style with a tangy sauce and excellent flavor. We also tried the grilled salmon topped with cilantro olive oil infused oranges. ($16) The oranges were unremarkable, without much cilantro taste, but the salmon itself was delicious. It was moist and rich, enhanced by the subtle smoky grilled flavor. The grilled seasonal vegetables were also quite good, especially the zucchini spears. All of the entrees were served with hand-cut french fries, generous and tasty.

Alas, we were disappointed when told that the restaurant had already run out of all of the desserts except apple crisp. However, when the junior member of the party ordered an ice cream, it arrived as a mini sundae, complete with whipped cream and a cherry.farm-sign

The Farm has only been open a week and the owners are still obviously working out the kinks, but they’ve got a lot going for them. With a great outdoor patio, weekend live music (no cover charge), plans for a volleyball court, horseshoe pits and a Richardson’s ice cream stand, they are positioning to be the destination for fun this summer. All we can say is that if they succeed, they’re gonna need more parking spots.

The Farm
233 Western Ave., Essex
(978) 768-0000


The Grill Most Likely to Succeed

Posted: April 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Butcher, Marketplace, New England Meat Market, Peabody | Tags: , , | No Comments »

It’s that time of year again, when the smell of searing burgers begins to waft through your weekend and Home Depot starts advertising their line of gleaming Webers. With our seemingly endless winters, the beginning of the grilling season is as much a beloved sign of spring to many New Englanders as Red Sox opening day.

For those carnivorous grill masters among us who obsess over creating the perfect burger or the serving the tastiest ribs, the first stop this spring should be The New England Meat Market on Walnut St. in Peabody. This third generation family-owned business, which also has a location on Broadway in Cambridge, is the place to go for fresh beautiful steaks, chops, ribs, and roasts as well as a huge range of house-made marinated steak tips, chicken and lamb kabobs. We recently brought home some of the marinated steak tips ($6.99/lb.), which were phenomenal.

The meat counter is reminiscent of an old-fashioned butcher shop, where the cuts are chosen with care, trimmed to order and wrapped in white butcher paper while you wait. Special orders are encouraged and may be called in ahead of pick up. There are also refrigerator and freezer cases with specialty cuts and imported items. New England Meat Market specializes in American lamb, and their lamb prices are generally a few dollars less than supermarket prices.

In fact, despite the great quality and service, most of their prices remain competitive with supermarket prices and their weekly specials are worth keeping an eye on. This week’s featured lean hamburg at $1.99/ lb. and boneless pork roast at $2.89/ lb.The specials flyer is conveniently available on their website, as are their super saver deals; if you’re planning to feed a crowd or just want to stock your freezer, these packaged deals can save you up to 20%.

The market also carries a fascinating array of foods; they have a wide range of Greek and Mediterranean specialty items, a decent produce section, breads and baked goods from several local bakeries, beer, wine, and standard convenience items as well. In addition there is an extensive deli, which offers sandwiches, sliced meats, and quite a few salads. The prepared foods section is another wonderland: entrees, soups, meatballs, desserts. A new discovery there became an instant favorite—house-made Greek Lemon Chicken Soup; the creamy broth was unexpected, both tangy and savory, with rice and chunks of chicken.

They open at 8 a.m. seven days a week, so if you are planning a backyard cookout or just looking for an excuse to fire up the grill this weekend, a visit to New England Meat Market should definitely be on your to-do list.

New England Meat Market
60 Walnut St., Peabody
(978) 531-0846


Sixty2 on Wharf Hits the High Notes

Posted: April 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bistro, Mediterranean, Salem, Sixty2 on Wharf | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

If you’re ready to shake off those winter doldrums and step out, we’ve got the perfect destination for you. We had a superb meal last night at Sixty2 on Wharf, the latest addition to Salem’s Pickering Wharf.

We found the décor, the food, and the service spot on at this chef-owned restaurant featuring Boston-quality Mediterranean cuisine. We were warmly welcomed by the host and seated in the cozy dining room featuring an unusual cork floor, stylish black tables, and inviting red walls.

The menu starts off right with a large selection of antipasti, all of which are $5. (We’re already plotting a return for a night at the bar sipping cocktails and sampling the small plates.) We discussed our options over a glass of white cote de rhone and a dirty dirty martini. The wine ($10) was a generous pour served in a carafe, and the martini featured Grey Goose and gorgonzola-stuffed olives.

Our appetizers set the tone for the meal—visual appeal, layers of flavor, and perfect texture. Fresh milk mozzarella was served in coin-sized medallions with crisp baguette slices and pepper jelly on a beautiful piece of gray slate. Polpettes were small balls of porky goodness, easily enough for two to share.

For entrees, we went with the night’s pasta special, gnocchi with oxtail, and the sea scallops with romesco sauce and farro. Our waitress was a gem who seemed genuinely happy to be serving us and had an extensive knowledge of the menu and wine selections. We explained that we wanted a light red to go with the scallops and were happy with the pinot noir she recommended.

The scallops ($25) were large and succulent with a wonderful crunchy sear on the outside; they combined well with the earthy farro. The hand-made gnocchi were also a highlight—moist and feathery light. The only thing off key was the oxtail, which was quite chewy.

The mozzarella and gnocchi were part of the $22 Neighborhood Nights three-course prix fixe menu, a fantastic value currently available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. To end the meal, we indulged in the toffee pudding and the brown butter tart. Both were worth the calories, but the unusual flavors in the pudding and wonderful softly whipped cream really sang.

It’s easy to understand why the Boston Globe named Sixty2 best new restaurant on the North Shore, and we were pleased to see a good-sized crowd on a Tuesday night, since pricier restaurants sometimes struggle to fill seats in times like this. But it’s clear the locals have caught onto the symphony of flavors chef Tony Bettencourt and his crew are serving up.

Sixty2 on Wharf
62 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 744-0062


Breakfast With a Side of Cheer

Posted: April 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Diner, Little Depot Diner, Peabody | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Stepping into a vintage dining car often gives you the feeling of stepping back in time, but that isn’t quite what happens when you enter the Little Depot Diner. It’s more like you’ve stepped into some bright and happy idealized version of the past, and you’re glad you’ve stumbled upon it.

Built in 1929 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, this diner car was moved to its current location in 1950 where it has had a succession of owners, most recently Jim and Judy Miles who re-opened the diner just over a year ago.

A tiny place with no booths and just fourteen stools, waiting for a seat on the weekend looks highly probable. The interior is a warm yellow with the ceiling painted sky blue and accented with clouds. Just below the ceiling is a model train track that runs the length of the car. The black and white tiled floor, reproduction tin signs advertising Moxie, and a small shelf with courtesy books for those wishing to linger over their coffee complete the atmosphere. The background music, hit tunes from the 1930s and ’40s was perfect. (I wasn’t the only one humming along to Judy Garland singing “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart;” the cop on the stool next to me was, too.)

The owner and her sister Terry, wearing vintage-styled waitress dresses, greeted me with smiles and an immediate offer of coffee. When I mentioned this was my first visit, Terry gave me a “train ride” by blowing the whistle and making the little train run the length of its track. This honor is generally reserved for those ordering the All Aboard breakfast, which consists of two eggs, two bacon, two sausage, two pancakes, and homefries or baked beans. ($9)

The menu is small and straightforward, with all the usual diner fare, though I was sad to see they don’t offer waffles, one of my personal favorites. The counter was almost full with locals and regulars chatting, and every meal I saw go by looked generous and tasty. I decided on the little stack of pancakes (2 for $3.75) with a side of homefries ($1.50) and bacon ($2.50) The homefries were a bit bland, but the the bacon was terrific, crisp and plentiful, and the pancakes were large and dense. I opted to try the Special Butter, which turned out to be a brilliant decision. The maple caramel cinnamon butter, whipped together on site, was absolutely delicious on the pancakes.

The coffee is quite respectable, rich and fresh ground, and for those on the run, diner features The Honest Cup of Coffee, a self-serve station for take-out coffee at the bargain price of $1. (They are a cash only business, but there’s an ATM just around the corner.) If you want your breakfast to go as well, take out is available.

On weekdays, the diner serves both breakfast and lunch, open 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. On the weekend, they serve breakfast only and close at 12 p.m.  The lunch specials sounded great, and there’s no doubt you’re in Massachusetts because one of the sandwiches offered is the infamous Fluffernutter.

The Little Depot Diner is a place that just plain makes you feel good. Even without the siren call of that luscious Special Butter luring me back, I’d still return and bring my friends. Welcoming and comfortable with tasty food at good prices, this car is on the right track.

The Little Depot Diner
1 Railroad Avenue, Peabody Square

Little Depot Diner on Urbanspoon


First Look: Regis’ Deli

Posted: April 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Deli, Marblehead | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but this local deli by another name may just be even sweeter. The former Grossman’s Deli at 252 Humphrey St. in Marblehead reopened on March 26 under the name Regis’ Deli, though the name on the familiar green awning has yet to be changed.

I stopped in yesterday morning to procure a toasted onion bagel with cream cheese and check it out. On first glance, everything looks the same; the deli counters in the corner, the familiar smiling faces serving up corned beef, brisket, and bagels, the freezer case full of matzo balls and other specialty items.

While waiting for my bagel to toast, I had a chance to talk with new co-owner Regis Gravlin, a Danvers resident with twenty years of experience in the food service business, who bought the place with Ehab Sadeek, a wholesale baker and owner of Bageland in Winchester.

Gravlin was welcoming and open, with obvious enthusiasm for this new venture. He described the changes planned with pride, and said he’s interested in serving the needs of the community.

The New York Jewish-style  deli offerings, including fresh, homemade pastrami, corned beef, and brisket will remain the same, but Gravlin wants to offer customers more variety in the form of additional deli salads, more sandwich choices and daily specials. Other food additions may include full-service breakfast, a baked goods display at the coffee station, and possibly a salad bar.

Gravlin also plans to take better advantage of the available space inside the storefront. Previously, the shelves against the walls and the freestanding displays always seemed a bit bare and awkward. These will be reconfigured and stocked with specialty and market items, even a few home essentials like paper goods. Neighbors will rejoice if these plans come to fruition, as there is no other market or convenience store in the area.

Another change that will be music to the ears of both neighbors looking for a quick dinner and beachgoers picking up picnic fare is that the deli is now open seven days a week, with longer hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

In a time when so many small businesses are closing and storefronts are being left empty, we are happy to see this one given vigorous new life and look forward to seeing the results of its metamorphosis.

Regis’ Deli
252 Humphrey St, Marblehead
(781) 639-4448


Afternoon Delight

Posted: April 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Beverly, Siam Delight | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Updated 8/26/10: We visited Siam Delight last week and had a very different experience. Gummy pad thai and a much smaller portion for the same price. A friend of ours had a similar experience, so we’re guessing the restaurant has changed hands. We recommend you try Sawasdee in Danvers instead.

With signs of spring still few and far between, we decided to perk ourselves up with an indulgent lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant, Beverly’s Siam Delight. It did not disappoint, and we left with pleasantly full bellies and a lighter step.

The pretty green walls, warm wood, and whimsical lighting in this restaurant are somewhat unexpected given its location next to a dry cleaner on Cabot Street. Locals are certainly not fooled, as evidenced by the full dining room and long take-out line at lunch.

The food at Siam is consistently terrific—fresh and flavorful, and they never use MSG. We tried several new dishes on this visit and enjoyed all but one. First though, from previous meals we highly recommend the pad thai (well balanced sauce, good noodle texture, plentiful chicken and shrimp), and the duck green curry (just the right amount of heat and lots of sauce to coat the rice).

We started our lunch with shrimp in a blanket ($6) but weren’t crazy about the texture of the minced shrimp and fish inside the crispy shell. We had no complaints about our entrees, starting with the homestyle duck ($8) featuring boneless slices of tender meat, crisp-cooked vegetables, and a tasty sauce. The large plate of food came with a good-sized mound of white rice—an excellent value.

Longing for summer, we couldn’t resist ordering a dish named noodles on the beach and were glad we did. The wide noodles were succulent, and the sauce clinging to them and the vegetables featured a wonderful spicy basil flavor ($7.50). Our third dish was also a hit: beef magic fried rice. We don’t know about the magic, but the marinated beef, green peppers, basil, and plump rice grains made an addictive combination.

Siam Delight just celebrated its tenth year in business, and it’s easy to understand their staying power. With great food at reasonable prices, it’s our bet they’ll be delighting diners for many years to come.

Siam Delight
128 Cabot Street, Beverly
(978) 922-8514

Siam Delight on Urbanspoon


Dish Hearsay: Soma Reopens

Posted: April 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Information is still unverified as to any changes in management and executive chef, but after being closed for a month, Soma on Beverly’s Cabot Street reopened about two weeks ago with a new menu. A friend of North Shore Dish visited and sampled the just-added pizza offerings, declaring them top notch.

A check of the updated menu reveals a large selection of sandwiches for $10, including a steak souvlaki wrap, el cubano press, and muffalatta panini that look interesting. Entrees range from vegetable pasta and lobster ravioli to braised short ribs and steak frites montréal ($15 to $24). Pizzas are priced from $9 to $18 depending on size and ingredients. The grilled steak and gorgonzola, which includes red onions, arugula, and a balsamic reduction, comes highly recommended.

256 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 524-0033


Sweet and Hot Hits the Spot

Posted: April 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Gloucester, Salem, Sweets and Treats, Turtle Alley | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A longtime listener of WFNX, my ears perked up a few weeks ago when DJ Julie Kramer and The Sandbox were on air waxing rhapsodic over chocolates from Turtle Alley, a chocolatier with locations in Gloucester and Salem. I looked up the company online, and one glance at their press, which includes kudos from the omnipresent Rachel Ray, made me realize that we at the Dish were apparently the last people on earth to find out about the infamous turtles.

Eager to rectify the situation, we headed over to the Salem store, located in the unfortunate Museum Place Mall, to try the tasty terrapins. The store’s owner, Hallie Baker, handcrafts the chocolates in small batches with the freshest ingredients available and offers an impressive variety of turtles, barks, peanut butter cups, and other confections. We appreciated the fact that the turtles are available made with almonds, cashews, pecans and even macadamia nuts. The chocolate was rich and even, and the caramel was soft and buttery.

Like many chocolate makers today, Baker isn’t afraid to experiment with interesting taste combinations, the results of which piqued our taste buds as well as our interest. While the basic turtles were enjoyable, the real stand-outs were the spicy peanut butter cups and the almond chipotle turtles.

The peanut butter cups start out subtly, and then the mix of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, chipotle, and a secret blend of spices create a warm, almost autumnal infusion of taste. The heat in the turtles is more straightforward, provided by a layer of chipotles and adobo tucked in between the chocolate and the caramel. When you bite into that, you’ll know it. Nowhere is the spice overwhelming, though—we found the savory combination of sweet and hot balanced and quite pleasing.

If spicy chocolate isn’t your thing, Turtle Alley’s other offerings range from solidly respectable to wonderfully delectable, the fleur de sel caramel and the chocolate-covered coconut being the most memorable. The company’s line of candy fruit slices blow away the supermarket variety—we tasted the new pomegranate flavor, which was juicy and flavorful.  Turtle Alley’s motto is “Life is short. Sin a little” but after tasting some of these confections, a little might not be enough.

Turtle Alley
91a Washington St., Gloucester
(978) 281-4000
Museum Place Mall, Suite 110, Salem
(978) 740-0660