First Look: Sweet Heart Bake Shop in Danvers

Posted: July 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Danvers, Sweet Heart Bake Shop | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Right off the bat, we need to say we’re very picky when it comes to baked goods. After all, if you’re going to consume the umpteen calories in a cake slice or pastry, it should be fantastically delicious, rather than just sweet and “pretty good.”

We sampled several treats from the new Sweet Heart Bake Shop in Danvers Square yesterday, and although some were quite good, others did not meet our (admittedly) high standards.

Sweet Heart is a tiny space offering everything from egg sandwiches and fruit cups in the morning to subs, sicilian pizza squares, and quiche for lunch and dinner. Breakfast pastries include muffins, coffee cake, and mini breads (banana, pumpkin, zucchini). We sampled a poppyseed muffin with lemon glaze ($1.50) with a dense crumb that was good but not great.

In addition to cheesecake, carrot cake, and bundt cake, the shop offers cookies, cupcakes, and biscotti. We sampled the lemon square, brownie ($1.25), whoopie pie ($1), and a mini éclair ($2.25). The lemon square was terrific—just enough sweet to balance the tart, and great texture to the crust and filling. The brownie, topped with chocolate chips, was very good. It was large and fudgy without being overly dense.

We were less impressed by the whoopie pie (the cake was crumbly and the filling was bland) and the éclair (flavorless filling and underbaked shell).

If you’re in Danvers Square and looking for breakfast or lunch, Sweet Heart is worth stopping by to check out. Owners Jeremy and Joan Smith obviously care about providing their customers with fresh, quality food. The shop is still quite new, and as Joan (the baker) gets her feet under her, SweetHeart may become more of a destination than a drop-in.

Sweet Heart Bake Shop
2 High St, Danvers
(978) 774-7467

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Mandrake Does Bar Food Right

Posted: July 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Mandrake | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

We’d been by Mandrake in Beverly many times but had never ventured in. To be honest, we were a bit put off by Mandrake’s curtained windows and dark exterior. Don’t make the mistake we did—Mandrake’s interior is warmly lit and welcoming, the service is outstanding, and the bar food is reasonable and delicious.

Sitting down at the bar last weekend, we were immediately served glasses of water (we love when that happens) and a large paper cone of house-made spicy potato chips and asked if we wanted to see menus. After a long day of yard work, we did.

Between the appetizers and sandwiches, Mandrake has a great selection for those in the mood to snack rather than dine. (There are plenty of entrees we may return for, along with several specials that looked good, all in the $20 to $25 range.)

We almost went for the nachos grande ($11) and later wished we had, as it looked great. We tried the olive/hummus plate ($7) along with a couple of sandwiches. The large portion of hummus had good texture, the olives were plentiful, and the pita was warm and crispy.

The surf and turf sliders—one crabcake, one petit filet—are a good dinner value at $14, served with a mound of crispy sweet potato fries. Both sliders were excellent; the crabcake was tender inside and crispy outside, and the perfectly cooked beef was topped with béarnaise aioli. The generous, crispy Gloucester fish sandwich, also with sweet potato fries, was only $10.

We were well attended by the bar staff all evening, starting with an immediate offer of a taste when we asked about one of the white wines (followed by a full pour of our selection). The sidecar we ordered came with an assurance it would be remade if unacceptable, since it’s not a popular request. Although it wasn’t right (on the rocks rather than straight up), we somehow managed. We were pleased at the price of the 40 cl Stella Artois ordered later: only $3.50.

A couple of final notes. Mandrake offers select menu items for half price every day except Saturday from 5:00 to 7:00. Also, the Web site seems to be under construction, and the menus aren’t available at the moment.

Mandrake Bar Bistro
252 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-0663
www.mandrakebeverly.com

Mandrake Bar Bistro on Urbanspoon

P.S. If you’re walking along Cabot Street after dinner and are tempted by the authentic-looking gelato at Trevi Coffee & Tea, don’t be fooled. For $2.75, we received a small cup of what tasted like ice milk.

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Upcoming in August: Summer Food Fun

Posted: July 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Hamilton, Lynn, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

As we head into the dog days of summer, (though they’ve been more like the duck days of summer with the recent weather) we’ve found a handful of food events in August worth checking out.

Salem starts August off right with a pair of fun food affairs. On Monday, August 3rd, from 5 – 7 pm, make a date with the Mayor. Residents are welcome to hob nob and nibble with Mayor Driscoll for Mayor’s Night Out, a sampling tour of three local restaurants; Gulu-Gulu Café, Tavern in the Square, and Grapevine Restaurant. The event is a benefit for Salem Main Streets, and details on registering can be found at their website, Salem Main Streets.

On Tuesday, August 4th from 6 – 7:30 pm, young and old alike can indulge in this year’s annual Ice Scream Bowl (same old Scooper Bowl, brand new name) The event takes place rain or shine on Salem Common, and the tickets ($5 for adults and $3 for kids) enable you to sample cold creamy delights from a great variety of local dairies and shops. For more details check out the Ice Scream Bowl.

August 7th brings the first of three local farm-to-table dinners, co hosted by Good Tastes Kitchen and three different farms. This one takes place at Green Meadow Farm and tickets ($80) include a 4 course meal, cocktails & entertainment. Wine and beer will be offered by Jewel Towne Vineyards, Turtle Creek Vineyards and Mercury Brewing Co. If you are interested in attending, we suggest you look into it soon, there are only 100 seats available and tickets must be purchased by July 30th.

On Sunday, August 30th, The Blue Ox will host LobsterFest ’09 from 4 – 7 pm, which promises to be “a day of sampling traditional New England food with a Blue Ox twist”. Tickets are $39 per person and include a complimentary cocktail and live entertainment. Sounds like a great way to celebrate the end the summer to us!

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Lime Rickey’s: Mom Would Never Approve

Posted: July 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Lime Rickey's, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

When I was a kid, my mother would herd my siblings and all our friends to the beach on many a summer’s day, but plead as we might, she would never let us buy lunch there. Instead, we would grudgingly eat our limp tuna sandwiches, into which grains of sand invariably found their way, adding grit to every bite. The reason for this torture? Mom would repeat it like a mantra, “Buying food at the beach is too expensive. What do you think I am, made of money?”

Not surprisingly, all these years later, beach food is still expensive. Most beach shacks have a captive audience—unless you bring your own food, they’re the only game around, so their prices don’t have to be competitive.

We accept this; we only wish that Lime Rickey’s at Devereux Beach made us feel better about it. Unfortunately, the quality of the food that we have tasted is less than stellar, and the service, by what appears to be bored college kids, is lackluster at best.

The fried foods are priced similarly to those at the clam shacks in Essex and Ipswich, (clam plate is $18, shrimp plate is $16), but the quality doesn’t come close. The breading is heavy and over-fried, and the only selection that it doesn’t overpower is the scrod, making the fish and chips ($12) a reasonable choice.

The lobster roll is decent, if a bit frou-frou. (Call us purists, but tarragon doesn’t belong in lobster salad.) And at $16 each, these guys clearly haven’t heard that the boat prices have plummeted lately.

The burger is a smallish, previously frozen, overcooked patty, ($5) but the fries (small $3.25, large $4.75) are the coated-to-be-crispy kind and are tasty. For the same money, you could have stopped at Five Guys in Vinnin Square on your way to the beach and gotten a larger, much better tasting burger and much larger fries.

The ice cream, however, is excellent. It’s Richardson’s and is priced similarly to the other places you’ll find it in town, from $1.90 for a single scoop up to $3.90 for a triple.

Aside from the location, which can’t be beat, Lime Rickey’s does have two things going for it. The first is variety; they offer salads, wraps, hummus plates, and a few specialty sandwiches ($5 to $8) in addition to the more traditional beach fare. The second is free live music Friday and Saturday nights in August, and live music at the beach anywhere on the North Shore is pretty hard to come by.

Yes, we’re a bit nostalgic for the days when a hot dog and a Hoodsie could be had for a dollar and a quarter, but the truth is, there are so many excellent North Shore eateries to patronize, the next time we hit Devereux, we’re packing lunch.

Lime Rickey’s
Devereux Beach
105 Ocean Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-6700
www.limerickeys.com

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Check It Out: Northshore Magazine’s Best of the North Shore

Posted: July 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , | No Comments »

Northshore Magazine’s Best of the Northshore issue is out in print and online. Of course, we immediately scanned the food section to see who had made the list and look for new places to try.

We were pleased to see so many intersections between Dish favorites and the BONS winners (great minds think alike?). A&J King for best bakery, The Little Depot Diner for best breakfast, and Shubie’s for best gourmet market. Also Ithaki for Greek, Agavé for Mexican, Azorean for Portuguese, and Sixty2onWharf for best new restaurant.

Since we’re huge fans of Asian cuisine, we’re looking forward to trying Sawasee in Danvers (best Thai) and Fuji Sushi in Peabody (best sushi). If anyone has been, please recommend dishes for us to try.

Oh yes—there are winners to check out in the entertainment, kids, salons, and shopping sections, too.

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Henry’s of Beverly: A Food Lovers’ Paradise, Now With Wine

Posted: July 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Henry's Fine Foods, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

henryfront1

A few months after Kristen moved back to our home town, she called me. Instead of “hello,” she demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me about Henry’s?” She was right—I had neglected to tell her about one of the richest food resources on the North Shore. My bad.

For those who’ve been, you know about this market’s amazing array of products and fantastic service (did you know you can phone in your order and have it delivered by a retired policeman?). Now there’s even more to enjoy because last month, Henry’s owner, John Keohane, took over the adjacent space previously occupied by a bank and turned it into a lovely wine store. And if you’ve never been to Henry’s, you’re in for a real treat.

With its combination of groceries, produce, butcher shop, prepared food, and top-notch bakery, Henry’s is unique to the North Shore, offering great ingredients for when you’re in the mood to cook and hand-made prepared foods for when you’re not. Add a little New England-style hospitality (and young men to help you to the car with your groceries), and you begin to get the idea.

Henry’s is our go-to resource for hard-to-find items like pink peppercorns from Morton and Bassett spices, oatcakes from Effie’s, sauces and jams from Stonewall Kitchen (a huge selection), and gluten-free items including mixes from The Really Great Food Company. They even have lingonberries for your Swedish-themed dinner and LU’s Petit Ecoliers in white chocolate.

Then there are the made-to-order sandwiches, soups, quiches, lasagna, pot pies, and chicken salad. Sure, there’s also ham salad, egg salad, and seafood salad, but it’s the paté-like chicken salad people crave for their summer picnics. (900 pounds of chicken are cooked every day at the market to be made into chicken salad and chicken pot pies.)

Other stand-outs include dairy products like Better Than Bakery infused butters, uncured applewood smoked bacon, and Boars Head diced pancetta; store-made bottled sauces including buffalo wing, citrus grilling, and merlot wine steak sauce; a fresh fruit bar; and cheese that runs the gamut from camembert to chevre, halloumi, and cotswold.

The produce section not only carries seven types of apples and three types of pears in summer (along with rainier cherries and lush apricots), it has dried fruits like goji berries and cherries, fresh Indian simmer sauces, tubs of Henry’s fresh salad dressings, and house-made salads alongside microwavable hot entrees and sides. Right around the corner is our favorite guilty pleasure: individual pies from The Pie Guy. Yes, there are whole pies, too.

Those pies are only the beginning of when it comes to sweets at Henry’s, where the bakers come in at 1:00 every morning to make bread, rolls (dinner, hot dog, and hamburger), cakes, tarts, pies, old fashioned pastries like crullers and fruit squares, cookies, and brownies. Our personal favorite is the pastry case, where you can get individual servings of plain or turtle cheesecake, carrot cake, key lime tart, fruit tarts, and molten lava cake.

In the meat department, you can choose from three types of beef: traditional, Meyer angus, and Brant (aged for flavor and tenderness). Or go with a gourmet burger or slider, fresh-made kabobs or sausages, or one of the small roasts perfect for a special occasion. In a nearby case are Bell & Evans chicken, beef, and pork carefully trimmed and marinated using best-quality ingredients.

We love that Henry’s carries an abundance of local products, including Maria’s Gourmet Pasta (Malden) Sauces ’N Love pasta sauces (Lynn), Harbor Sweets (Salem), Ye Olde Pepper Company candies (Salem) Giovanna gelato (Boston), Shains of Maine ice cream, and Good Wives hors d’oeuvres (Wilmington).

We also love that the new wine store offers selections from very-affordable to let’s-splurge; a range of specialty beers from Belgium; and carries cheeses, dips, and frozen take-and-bake appetizers. To top it off, the store holds wine tastings Thursdays from 4:00 to 7:00 and Saturdays from 2:00 to 5:00. Sign up for the e-mail newsletter to learn what wines are being featured (sign-up is in the store).

Keohane started as kitchen manager 25 years ago and bought the business from its founder, Henry Swanson, five years ago. Today, he’s in the store virtually every day making sure the quality and service Henry’s is famous for never wavers. Of course, many of Henry’s 190 employees have worked in the store their entire adult lives. So don’t hesitate to ask questions of employees you see in the aisles or behind the counter—you’re sure to get a warm reception and good food advice.

Henry’s
588 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-3885
www.henrysofbeverly.com

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Greens Galore at Salem Farmer’s Market

Posted: July 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace, Salem, Salem Farmer's Market | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

There are a lot of things to like at the Salem Farmer’s Market. The gorgeous produce, of course, but also bonuses like organic European-style bread and pastries, lobsters from A&J Lobster, goodies from Nana’s Kitchen, ready-to-eat seafood from Rowand’s Fisheries, and live music.

First, the produce. Our pick of farm stands is Green Meadows, which had a gorgeous display of all-organic vegetables including spherical zucchini and multi-colored chard. We also noted raw wildflower honey from Tomten Beeworks in Ipswich and adorable beeswax candles. The beets at Green Meadows were larger and better looking than the ones selling at another stand for the same price.

Along with the abundant greens at stands like Long Hill Orchard and Clark Farm, we spotted new potatoes and bright-pink radishes.

At the top of the courtyard, we were happy to find the much-smaller First Light Farm stand, which featured zucchini blossoms, organic eggs, and a selection of Valley View Farm goat cheeses.

One last note on produce: we were there at 5:30 and saw several signs for raspberries, but no actual berries. If you want fruit, get to the market nearer to its 4:00 opening.

We had never heard of The Swiss Baker, but we were drawn to Armand Bryl’s bright yellow truck and astounded by the breads and pastries for sale. Bryl, originally from Zurich,  bakes once a week from his truck, just before market day.

His products are pure European delight, and they are only available at the Salem market (and occasionally Lowell). The breads are 100% organic—we sampled the chewy, complex, and highly addictive multigrain—and the pastries are nearly so. (Organic butter would make them too expensive, Bryl said.)

There was a great selection of fresh fish at the Rowand’s booth, including pieces of maple BBQ salmon for $8 and fish kebobs with a mix of salmon, tuna, swordfish, and halibut, also $8. Patrons looking for something to munch on immediately were buying lobster rolls ($10) and Maryland ($2) or natural ($3) crab cakes.

The baked goods at the Nana’s Kitchen stand were almost sold out, and we could see why. The large brownies ($3) and double chocolate cookies ($1) looked terrific. These treats are sold mainly through retail outlets like Shubie’s in Marblehead.

One last thing to like about the Salem Market: it’s right up the street from Artist Row where you can shop for lovely crafts, use the public restrooms, and have a refreshing cocktail at one of The Lobster Shanty’s outdoor tables.

www.salemfarmersmarket.org
Thursdays 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Derby Square, Front St

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French Toast and Friendly Faces at Beverly’s Depot Diner

Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Breakfast, Depot Diner, Diner | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

With all of the incessant rain lately, we were feeling in serious need of some comfort food. And because bacon is one of our favorite comfort foods, we decided to head over to The Depot Diner in Beverly. Not to be confused with the Little Depot Diner in Peabody; it isn’t a vintage style diner, but rather a storefront restaurant in a small strip mall next to the North Beverly commuter rail station.

It was bustling on our arrival, but we managed to snag a free table, though we’re told arriving after 9:00 on a weekend morning will mean fighting the crowds for a seat. The dining room is large and open, and in lieu of a diner motif, the décor is made up of warm mustard and terracotta colors, accented by bright abstract paintings and dark wood tables.

Our waitress was cheerful and efficient, providing coffee (dark and rich) and juice in short order as we surveyed the large menu of breakfast and lunch items. The omelets being consumed at the next table looked impressive, but we decided on the eggs (any style) over corned beef hash with homefries and toast ($7.75) and the Portuguese sweet bread french toast ($6.50) with a side of bacon ($3).

The corned beef hash was quite tasty, with nice crispy bits and savory flavor that complemented the eggs. We were impressed by the variety of breads available for toast and pleased rye was among the offerings. The homefries, however, were lackluster—bland and mushy. The french toast was heavenly: two large, thick slices of Portuguese sweet bread transformed into fluffy, eggy perfection. The bacon was nicely crisp and not too greasy.

Whether you are looking for a bright spot on a dismal day or simply a tasty hearty breakfast, we found that a stop at the Depot Diner is just the ticket.

Depot Diner
23 Enon St., Beverly
(978) 922-6200
www.depot-diner.com


Depot Diner on Urbanspoon

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Marblehead Festival of Arts Kicks Off In Style

Posted: July 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Marblehead | Tags: , | No Comments »

A chance to support the arts while drinking champagne and nibbling on goodies? Sign us up. The sky was gray over Sunday night’s Marblehead Festival of Arts Champagne Reception at Fort Sewall, but that deterred precisely no one from turning out in their summer finery, complete with lavishly decorated hats.

Fourteen local restaurants and bakeries donated food to the event, and attendees sipped and sampled while listening to lively Reggae and Caribbean tunes from Señor Perfecto & The One Drops.

It was a great chance to get a taste of a variety of dishes, and we found lots to like (and a few that weren’t worth the calories). The Landing provided hot, creamy clam chowder and a wonderfully spicy crab cake. Also in the fried-nuggets-of-goodness category were crunchy arancini from Caffe Italia.

Best sandwich goes to Jack-Tar’s pulled pork sliders (a bit hard to eat but truly delicious), followed closely by Manhattan Sandwich, which had many deli selections and adorable cups of cole slaw. (By the way, we’ve tried several varieties of sandwiches from Manhattan on recent picnics and recommend them. They offer a variety of extremely fresh bread including pumpernickel and bulkie rolls, the meats and cheeses are high quality and generous, and the condiments and pickles are deli-worthy.)

We give Foodie’s Feast (above) best overall table with a great looking display of bite-sized meat pies, brownies, and mini-chip pound cake that never seemed to dwindle. Other desserts included cookies from Starlight Creatives and a dense Mediterranean almond cake called nammoura we’re hoping we can order at Le Bistro.

We were disappointed that Sticky Rice ran out of Thai food before the event was half over, and although the cakes from Ladycakes looked good, they were freezing cold and thus had no flavor. Fortunately, the Cook’s champagne (surprisingly dry) held out, as did the band, so these issues were easily overlooked.

This is a fun event for a great cause—if you plan to attend next year, we suggest going early for the best food experience and buying one of the logo wineglasses to make sure you don’t spill a drop of champagne.

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