Maria’s is the Place for a Hearty Breakfast

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Maria's Place, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

There is no shortage of great places to grab breakfast on the North Shore, and we’ve got another one to add to your list.

On Sunday morning, we stopped by Maria’s Place in Salem for carbs and caffeine to jumpstart our day. Set at the end of a strip of storefronts on Jefferson Ave., the dining room is large and open, giving it a sort-of cafeteria feel, with a counter and grill along one wall. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, with locals chatting up the kitchen staff and waitresses calling out “See you next week” to regulars. We were greeted and seated right away, our helpful server promptly filling our coffee cups.

The menu featured all the usual suspects, and we had a hard time choosing, so we decided to order several things to share. The first was the popular hungry man breakfast, which includes two eggs, sausage, bacon, homefries, toast, two pancakes, and a glass of juice for $9. The menu warns there are no substitutions, but for a $1 more we had the blueberry pancakes in lieu of plain. It turned out to be a huge amount of food, and while the homefries were ordinary, the blueberry pancakes were excellent: large, nicely browned, and full of flavor.

We also ordered the Belgian waffle ($6), along with sides of corned beef hash and grilled kielbasa, an unusual addition to the menu ($3.75 each), While it tasted fine, the corned beef hash was too finely ground; we prefer larger chunks of meat and potatoes. The waffle was quite respectable, and one taste of the kielbasa made us glad we had ordered it. Salty and savory, it was a welcome change from the usual side dishes.

Although Maria’s Place is bright and clean with terrific service, it somehow lacks the charm of local diners or places like Red’s and The Driftwood. Still, if charm’s not your thing and you’re looking for a no-nonsense friendly place for a solid breakfast, look no further. Maria’s is open 6:00-3:00 Monday through Saturday and 7:00-2:00 on Sunday. It also features an extensive lunch menu.

Maria’s Place
10 Jefferson Ave, Salem
(978) 744-1817

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Neighborhood Prices, Authentic Flavors at Lynn’s Antique Table

Posted: October 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Antique Table, Italian, Lynn | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

We love Italian cooking, but sometimes it can be too much—in our desire for comfort food, we end up with an overly heavy meal. Of course, when Italian is done right, you get all of the flavor with none of the heft. And that’s exactly what we found at a recent visit to Antique Table.

We liked everything about this neighborhood gem, from the quirky décor to the attentive service and reasonable prices, but it was the freshness of the ingredients and their preparation that really impressed us.

We began by dipping strips of foccacia into oil accented with pesto and red pepper flakes while sipping a citrusy pinot grigio, then moved into an antipasto with a nice mix of cured meats, olives, and fresh mozzarella ($11).

Our entrees were all outstanding, starting with a plate of tender gnocchi in a light, fresh, flavorful tomato and basil sauce ($14). The fettuccini puttanesca also featured a delicious sauce along with an abundance of olives and firm-to-the-bite pasta ($14).

Our third entrée was a special that night, pollo rotelo, a large portion of chicken accompanied by asparagus, sundried tomatoes, and portobello mushrooms ($15). It was served in a cream sauce that looked heavy but wasn’t, and we loved that the same sauce was used for the pasta that came on the side.

For dessert, we splurged on a chocolate soufflé and a slice of turtle cheesecake. The soufflé had a wonderful texture and complex chocolate flavor. The cheesecake was truly sinful, with a buttery crust, not-too-sweet creamy filling, and a layer of gooey chocolate.

Our waitress was friendly and efficient, and she managed not to rush us despite a wait for tables (there are only about 15). With food this good at these prices, it’s no surprise the place is packed. If you’re looking for a quieter meal, you might try a weeknight, and although the Web site specifies reservations for parties of four or more, we were not only allowed to make a reservation for three on Saturday night but greeted quite graciously.

Antique Table
2 Essex Street, Lynn
(781) 477-9778
www.antiquetableonline.com

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November: A Month of Mouthwatering Events

Posted: October 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Drinks, Essex, Event, Italian, Lynn, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Snow storms and seventy-degree temps in the same week? Welcome to October in New England. Even though we’ve had some beautiful days lately, the weather is getting colder, and all those wonderful outdoor fall food events are coming to an end. The good news is that as we head indoors, so do some upcoming chances to eat, drink, and be merry.

102209Starting things off, Matt O’Neil at Blue Ox is offering another cooking demo and dinner on Tuesday, October 27. Just in time to wow your Thanksgiving guests, the class is on making spicy pumpkin soup. A three-course tasting menu with the soup as the first course will follow the demo. If you haven’t been to one of Matt’s classes, they are worth checking out. You may recall we had a ball learning how to make gnocchi. The dinner is $29 per person, and reservations are required. Past demonstrations have sold out quickly, so if you’re interested, call soon.

On November 5, Italian vintner Matteo Ascheri will take you on a tour of the Alps with a Piedmontese wine dinner hosted by Sixty2 on Wharf. Chef Tony Bettencourt will inspire your senses with his food pairings designed to complement each pour. If you’re like us, one look at this menu and you’ll be drooling.  Tickets are $85 per person. To reserve your seat, contact Jonathan at (978) 744-0062 or e-mail him at jbrackman@62onwharf.com.

A few events we previously mentioned but are included here for the sake of completeness: Cooking with Sweet Sloops at Harbor Sweets on November 7 and the November 12 Grand Wine Tasting hosted by Salem Wine Imports.

If you’re a food history geek, The Essex Shipbuilding Museum has just the thing for you. On November 13, go back in time to experience Tavern Fare in 18th and 19th Century New England with Bean Supper, featuring noted food historian Joseph Carlin. The dinner will include baked beans, fish cakes, cole slaw, and desserts by Laurie Lufkin, and the discussion will center on what and how early Americans in the area ate. Admission is $12 in advance or $15 at the door.

102209cIf beer is your beverage of choice, you’ll be happy to hear that it, too, receives the gourmet dinner treatment in November. Check out this terrific Burgers and Brews dinner coming up on the 17th at Finz. Each course features a beer from a different country and is accompanied by an inventive “burger and fries” pairing, ranging from a hearty Black Angus American to an inventive French burger made with beef and duck confit, brie, melted mushrooms and leeks, and truffle fois gras aioli. Tickets are $40 per person for this little trip around the world.

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What’s Cooking at Harbor Sweets? You Are!

Posted: October 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

That’s right, on November 7th from 12 pm-2 pm, Harbor Sweets will be hosting their first-ever cooking event at their factory in Salem, and you’re invited. The focus will be on recipes that use crushed Sweet Sloops, their famed chocolate-covered butter crunch candy, including one for Pad Thai!

Chef Bill Collins, a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, who has cooked up goodies at places ranging from the old Ritz Carlton to Harbor Sweets, will lead the class. You can read more about him at chefbill.com, where he also blogs and shares recipes.

The event is free and is appropriate for age 12 and up, but there is limited seating available. Reservations are required, so if you’re interested, give Harbor Sweets a call or stop by to reserve a seat.

Harbor Sweets
85 Leavitt Street, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

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Grand Wine Tasting Coming to Salem in November

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Eric Olson of Salem Wine Imports has partnered with Historic Salem, Historic New England, and The Salem Athenaeum to orchestrate what looks to be the event of the season for North Shore wine lovers. He will be hosting a Grand Tasting November 12th from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Old Town Hall in Salem. We were amazed to hear that some 80 wines from around the world will be available for sampling! There will be appetizers to complement the wine and live music.

The event is limited to 200 people, so you may want to get your tickets early to secure admittance. Tickets are $35 per person and can only be purchased at Salem Wine Imports; we’re told they will take ticket orders over the phone. All profits after expenses will be donated to Historic Salem, Historic New England, and The Salem Athenaeum.

Not only is this a terrific bargain, but you get to sample some exceptional wines and support great local organizations at the same time!

Salem Wine Imports
32 Church Street, Salem
(978) 741-9463
salemwineimports.com

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Hot and Crunchy at Danvers’ Sawasdee

Posted: October 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Danvers, Sawasdee Danvers | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

Award-winning Thai food for lunch? Conveniently located in downtown Danvers? What’s not to like? Indeed, we found everything to our liking on our visit to Sawasdee, which recently won Northshore Magazine’s vote for best Thai food.

The interior is airy and comfortable, with brick walls and wood floors, funky light fixtures, and more tiny bamboo plants than we’ve ever seen in one place. A cozy bar occupies one corner, and the restaurant serves beer and wine.

The menu is just as well thought out, with a huge selection of appetizers, the option to create your own stir fry or curry (choice of meat and sauce/veggies), and plenty of lunch specials. We especially like the option to change the white rice in the specials for brown rice ($.75), sticky rice ($1), or rice noodles ($1).

We started with a DIY appetizer special call fun fun lettuce wraps: large leaves that hold a chicken mixture and crispy bean thread noodles, all dipped in a sweet chili sauce ($5). Fun, crunchy, and delicious.

Then we moved onto pad thai ($6.75), panang curry with beef ($7.75), and pla rad pik (crispy fish, $7.75). The pad thai noodles and large shrimp were succulent, and the sauce was a tad sweeter than we’re used to—absolutely addictive. The panang had just the right combination of coconut and curry, although the beef was a bit chewy.

The fish was quite fiery and had a terrific light breading. It’s available as a whole fish for dinner, and we recommend it for those who complain that Thai restaurants turn down the heat too much for Americans. The vegetables on both the fish and the curry dishes were crisp/tender, just the way we like them.

Done right, there’s nothing like Thai food to satisfy those cravings for comforting carbs, salty sauces, and heat—and Sawasdee definitely does it right.

Sawasdee Danvers
49A Maple St, Danvers
(978) 744-8424
www.sawasdeedanvers.com

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North Shore Food Finds

Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Asian, Bakery, Beverly, Bistro, Deli, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Everyone has their favorite restaurants, from the one you look forward to visiting on special occasions to the one you turn to when you can’t even think about cooking. But what about those favorite dishes and treats you’ve discovered in your neighborhood or on your travels? We’ve put together a list of ours in the hopes that readers will be inspired to respond in kind. If you’ve got a North Shore food find to add to the list, let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Bouchon, A&J King
Talk about addictive. This little cake looks simple, but it’s not. It’s rich and not too sweet with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderful hint of almond. One of the best chocolate experiences on the North Shore. Oh, and they have great bread, too. ($2.25)

House Dumplings, Sugar Cane
We love dumplings of all sizes and shapes, but these are our favorite. The dough is thin and wonderfully crispy, the inside is flavorful, and the accompanying ginger soy sauce puts these little gems over the top. ($6)

Tiger’s Tears, Floating Rock
This dish has it all: spice, citrus, and crunch. Thin slices of marinated beef are served cold and paired with sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground roasted rice. If you like spicy food, you will love this—but don’t be scared off, we found the balance of heat and citrus just right.

Chicken Salad, Henry’s Market
We’re picky when it comes to chicken salad—no large chunks or odd ingredients, thanks. Henry’s makes it just the way we like it: finely ground, super fresh, and perfectly seasoned. We like it made into mini-sandwiches on the top-knot rolls baked fresh in the store daily.

Guacamole, Cielito Lindo
Made fresh and served in a molcajete (a stone bowl for grinding), this guac is the perfect antidote to a long day and just one of the things we love about this often-overlooked Mexican restaurant in Beverly. Grab a tortilla chip and dive in—you’ll be amazed at how quickly the generous serving will disappear. ($8)

Fresh-Baked Cookies, Shubie’s
These are the kind of cookies you could easily pass off as homemade (not that we would ever do that, of course). They’re baked fresh in the store every day, and while the peanut butter and oatmeal raisin ($8/pound) are terrific, the larger kitchen-sink cookies are the stuff of dreams, packed with dark and white chocolate and cranberries ($1.75 each).

While you’re in the store, be sure to check out the cheese counter, which has one of the largest selections of New England cheeses we’ve seen. Selections include several from Vermont Butter & Cheese, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Jasper Hill blue, Blue Ledge Farm crottini, Ploughgate Creamery willoughby, Spring Brook Farm tarentaise, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, Shy Brothers Farm Hannabells, and cheddars from Shelburne and Grafton Farms.

Strudel, Helmut’s Strudel
What is it about apples and pastry that makes us swoon? We don’t know, but this place is the gold standard for the combination. Sweet, gooey apple filling and a crunchy, flaky not-too-sweet shell come together for the perfect mouthful. Folks, there’s a reason this tiny Bearskin Neck shop stays in business selling nothing but strudel and croissants. ($4 per slice)

Hot Cookie Dough Topping, Terry’s Ice Cream
If you like your cookies just barely cooked and hot from the oven, you get the idea here. Even better than hot fudge on top of ice cream, this is decadence in a cup. Go ahead, indulge; we’ll never tell.

Toasted Iggy’s Bagel, Foodie’s Feast
If you’re a fan of Montreal-style bagels (thinner and more flavorful than New York style), you’ve got to try Iggy’s, which are very similar. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to let the nice counter folks at Foodie’s toast one up and serve it alongside a steaming mug of joe. They’re also available at Whole Foods in Swampscott.

Truffle Paté, Crosby’s
This mousse-like spread is the perfect addition to your holiday cheese platter. We like to serve it on lightly toasted baguette slices or water crackers. It’s so good, you may want to buy two for your next cocktail party and forget to put the second one out.

Ribs, Smokin’ Jims
If you’ve never heard of Smokin’ Jim, you might be tempted to drive right by his parking-lot location on East Main in Gloucester. But these ribs are the real deal: smoked on oil-drum cooker until they just about fall off the bone. Side dishes like cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are available, too. There are picnic tables nearby, or you may want to drive over to Stage Fort Park. Hours vary seasonally, so check the Web site before visiting.

Marissa’s Salsa, Whole Foods
You’ll never want to go back to that stuff in the jar once you try this fresh version, packed in ice in the produce section and featuring a heavenly balance of heat and cilantro. Even better, it’s made in small batches by Nahant resident Marissa Salomon.

Potato Chips, Mandrake
We like the well-built drinks, reasonably priced food, and friendly bartenders at this downtown Beverly spot. Add the freshly made potato chips served as bar snacks, and you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

We had a lot of fun putting this post together, and we look forward to hearing from readers who try one of our “finds” and those with a special treat to contribute…

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