A North Shore New Year’s Eve

Posted: December 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Essex, Event, Gloucester, Lynn, Newburyport, Rockport, Salem | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

This year’s holiday season got a bit crazy and we haven’t had time to even think about what to do on New Year’s Eve till this very moment. Luckily, whether it’s a romantic dinner to woo your honey or a hopping party, the North Shore has a myriad of options to help you ring in the new year.

In Lynn, Matt O’Neil and the crew at the Blue Ox will extend their hours and are offering their regular menu as well as upscale specials, so there will be a tasty offerings for every budget, and all include a champagne toast at midnight.

Pickering Wharf in Salem will be abuzz with the party atmosphere;  Capt.’s and Finz will both feature live music and special menu items, Victoria Station will have a dj and dancing with free party favors and champagne toast, and 62 on Wharf is offering a special New Year’s Eve five course tasting menu ($55 per person, $75 with wine pairings) as well as their regular menu.

If you’re in the mood to dress up, we’ve got two masquerade balls worth considering. First, the Gulu Gulu Café in Salem will be hosting a masquerade ball with music by Big Blue Octopus, appetizers and champagne, ($8 in advance, $10 at the door) Farther north, Latitude 43 in Gloucester will be hosting a Black & White Masquerade Ball with live entertainment, champagne toast and balloon drop at midnight. ($10 in advance or $15 at the door)

If a more formal sit-down dinner is what you’re looking for,  Lat 43 will also be offering a gorgeous three course dinner with amuse-bouche, intermezzo, champagne toast and live entertainment. (check out the menu here) Reservations are required for a 5:00 seating ($65 a person) and a 7:30 seating at ($75 a person)

Other formal dining options include a lovely five course menu ($75 per person) with live entertainment at Nathaniel’s at the Hawthorn Hotel in Salem and a five course dinner with amuse-bouche, champagne toast and live music at Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport. And if you’re out that way, don’t forget to check out New Year’s Rockport Eve.

In Newburyport, 10 Center Street has three ways to celebrate: a 6pm seating three course pre-fixe menu with champagne toast ($45 per person), an 8pm seating of the same, but at $55 per person includes entry to late night cocktail party and the cocktail party itself, which starts at 10pm ($55 per person) Also in Newburyport, the Mission Oak Grill has your whole evening planned out for you. For $80 per person, not only do you get a hors d’oeuvres reception and dinner, but also an hour long comedy show, dancing and a champagne toast at midnight.

If you happen to be out and about for Beverly’s New Year, check out the shindig at Soma, a three course dinner ($55 per person, $75 paired with wine) with live music till 2am and a champagne toast at midnight.

And if you’re in the mood for casual, inexpensive fun, The Farm in Essex is offering this special; one appetizer, two entrees, and a bottle of wine for $40, and after dinner you can hang out to hear live music. Even more casual is the Lobster Shanty’s New Year’s Eve Pajama Party. Wear your most comfy p.j.’s to the party, and don’t forget to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to a local food pantry.

With so much going on, it’s going to be hard to choose where to go, but who says you have to limit yourself to one venue? Though if you’re going to party like it’s 2009, you might think about swapping out your car keys for cab fare, or check out the MBTA schedule, both the Newburyport and Rockport lines will be running extra trains.



The Lyceum: A New Twist in Old Salem

Posted: December 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Lyceum, Mediterranean, Salem, Seafood | Tags: , | No Comments »

A newly renovated Lyceum opened to much fanfare in November, and we were eager to investigate. The original restaurant, opened in 1989, featured mainly American fare and was a long-time favorite of ours for burgers at the bar and Sunday brunch.

There were a few missteps during our dinner, but overall, we’d call the changeover a success. The new interior is particularly well thought-out—rich woods and neutral tones make for a cozy, elegant feeling while the high ceilings and brick walls evoke Old Salem at its historic best. A fire crackling on one side of the dining room adds to the ambiance.

We chose the crab cake appetizer to start our meal. The cakes had a crispy exterior and very little filler, and the accompanying corn salad was tasty. Still, at $13 for two small cakes, the value is questionable. There’s an emphasis on seafood for appetizers, including raw bar items, shrimp cocktail, steamed cockles, and tuna tartare.

Under new chef de cuisine Dan Friley, the menu is Mediterranean influenced, and there are several interesting-sounding pasta dishes available in small or full portions, including pumpkin ravioli with sage brown butter and gnocchi with wild mushroom sauce. We tried the diver scallop entrée, also available in two sizes ($14 for half portion, $26 for full). There were four large scallops with a flavorful sear outside and tender middle along with a tasty mushroom risotto.

The duck l’orange entrée ($25) was good but not great, with lentils that were less done than we’re used to. The filet with potatoes au gratin ($31) was served medium rather than the requested medium rare, and the potatoes were a bit dry.

The most successful dish, and it’s a must-try, was the pork osso buco with gnocchi and sautéed apples ($23). The meat had a delicious savory sauce and fall-off-the-bones texture. The gnocchi were large and unusually creamy.

We sampled the chocolate mint bread pudding for dessert. It was comforting, with the mint adding a nice side-note to the chocolate and custard-soaked bread.

We were very pleased with the service, which was friendly and highly professional. We had an early reservation and appreciated the fact that we were never rushed. We anticipate that the kitchen will smooth out its rough spots, and we’re interested in checking out several items on the revamped brunch menu.

The Lyceum
43 Church Street, Salem

Lyceum Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon


On a Lark

Posted: December 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Gloucester, Lark Fine Foods, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

“All of life is a dispute over taste and tasting.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Gloucester resident Mary Ann McCormick and her daughter Nicole Nordensved enabled us to enjoy quite a dispute over taste recently. In 2007, McCormick started Lark Fine Foods, a purveyor of fabulous “grown up” cookies, and they have been growing in popularity ever since. These are sweet and savory wonders chock full of real butter and quality ingredients, made without preservatives or genetically modified ingredients.

On a recent stop at Shubie’s in Marblehead, I met Nicole, a Salem resident who works for her mom a couple days a week and was handing out samples. I was immediately fascinated with some of the taste combinations. Chocolate and chili? Shortbread with rosemary and sea salt? And what the heck were olive wafers? These are definitely not your kid’s cookies.

I brought a bunch of flavors back home and invited Jill to share them for a taste test. The next day, I received an e-mail from her outlining her response. Her favorites were the Polenta Pennies, bite-sized lemony cookies that feature golden raisins. She had also enjoyed the Coco Locos, toasted coconut butter cookies, but felt some of the others were too strong.

Her assessment made me laugh out loud, because it was the exact opposite of mine. While the sweeter cookies were good, I found the spicy ones much more memorable. The rich chocolate Cha-Chas with their hot spicy kick and the tangy Mighty Gingers were both terrific.

Lark also features two cookies with sweet and savory combinations; the Scourtins, a traditional French-style wafer made with olives is the most unusual in their repertoire, and the Salted Rosemary Shortbread, which was my absolute favorite of all the cookies. The organic rosemary and the sea salt make the buttery shortbread sing with subtle flavor.

Lark’s products, which are headquartered in Gloucester and baked in Essex, can be found in specialty food stores and markets throughout New England, helpfully listed on their Web site. You can order online as well. Whether you go for spicy or mild, if you try these unconventional treats yourself, let us know your favorites in the comments—and remember that disputes over taste can be seriously fun.

Lark Fine Foods
5 Way Rd., Gloucester
(978) 768-0012


Look Local for Great Holiday Gift Ideas

Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

During a recent Senatorial debate, one of the questions asked each candidate was what they had changed about their own home lives in the face of the difficult economy. Attorney General Martha Coakley answered “We eat out less often and cook at home more,” and restaurateurs across the area will confirm that she’s not the only one. Back in April, the Zagat 2009/10 Boston Restaurant Survey showed that 25% reported eating out less often, and since then, we’ve seen even higher numbers nationwide.

This has left many of our local favorites, be they clam shacks, markets, or trattorias, struggling to stay afloat, so this season we urge you to think about giving the gift of good food. It’s a win-win proposition; the people you care about get a chance dine out or savor treats they wouldn’t normally buy themselves, and you help boost the local economy.

350_project_150x133If you haven’t seen the 3/50 project, it’s worth a look. The movement is all about saving our small, local, independent businesses, and it’s how we here at the Dish feel about neighborhood fish markets, wine shops, delis, and bistros. If you would miss a shop or restaurant if it disappeared, why not do your holiday shopping there? Here are some great gift ideas to please the palates of everyone on your list:

Give gift certificates to your favorite eateries—not just “occasion” restaurants, but your favorite pub or bistro, too. It’s easy to tailor the gift for the recipient: that little Italian place for your parents, Thai for your sister, vegetarian for your co-worker.

Many diners and corner cafés don’t have gift cards, so make your gift a date and take someone out to breakfast! (This works better than trying to wrap bacon.)

Give gift cards to the places you wish someone would give you a card for, like a wine and specialty cheese shop, coffee house, or bakery. Instead of giving out Starbucks gift cards, why not Jaho, Java Sun, or Atomic Café?

If a gift card seems too impersonal, pick up your favorite food items. And don’t get all angsty about having to make a complicated gift basket. Many markets do make baskets or have pre-made ones available, but your gift recipient is going to love you for the gorgeous sticky buns from A&J King, lobsters from Paul Crowell, or fabulous cheese selections from Grand Trunk Imports whether or not they are prettily wrapped.

Gift giving doesn’t get much simpler than candy, but put down that supermarket chocolate and pick up a box from Turtle Alley, Stowaway Sweets, Ye Old Pepper Company, The Cocoa Belt or Harbor Sweets. Locally made will mean fresher sweets for your sweetie.

Get creative! If your recipient is a fan of adult beverages, a tour of Cape Ann Brewing Company or Ryan and Wood Distilleries would be great fun. If they like to cook, a class with local chefs like Mary Reilly of Newburyport’s Savory Kitchen or Salem’s Mamma Licia would be perfect.

For a list of local resources from farms to wineries and culinary tourism ideas, check out MDAR’s Mass Grown Web site; it’s full of great information.

At North Shore Dish, we’re all about discovering the terrific eats in our own backyard and hope we’ve inspired you to do the same. May your holiday season be full of fun, family, friends, and of course fabulous food.


Putting Ingredients Front and Center: Beverly’s Soma

Posted: December 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Soma | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

It’s one thing to have a feel for flavor combinations, it’s another to have a true passion for ingredients. That’s the feeling we got during our recent lunch at Beverly’s Soma—as though someone had lovingly hand selected each ingredient and combined them in the best way possible. Indeed, the Web site says quality ingredients (local when possible), creativity, and attention to detail are what the restaurant is all about.

We began with a wonderful appetizer of braised lamb and gnocchi ($9). The lamb was tender, the gnocchi were incredibly light, and they were both bathed in a rich sauce along with spinach and mushrooms.

Our entrees were equally satisfying. The fresh mozzarella and prosciutto panini ($8) was lightly crisped so as not to melt the thick slice of cheese and accompanied by wafer thin slices of prosciutto and very flavorful black olive tapenade. We picked cole slaw rather than fries, and it was great (freshly made with a dash of curry), but the fries we saw going by looked worth a try.

The garlic shrimp pizza ($9) had an abundance of toppings, including crisp/tender broccolini, on a marvelous crust—crispy and not too dense.

We shouldn’t have, but we had to try the Aphrodite chocolate cake, which came with vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Much lighter than the typical molten cake, it was rich, meltingly tender, and not too sweet. A bite of cake with the sauce and ice cream put us in dessert heaven.

If you’re looking for a relaxing lunch spot with top-notch food, Soma should be at the top of your list. The service was superb, and the menu is varied enough to please just about any craving, including a large wine selection and the option to build your own pizza from a list of 41 ingredients.

The dinner menu also looks great, and we’re sure the food will not disappoint, but be aware that bar, which specializes in creative martinis, gets quite lively on weekends. If that’s not your thing, try a weeknight or daytime visit to truly appreciate this kitchen’s
well-crafted meals.

256 Cabot Street, Beverly
(978) 524-0033
Soma Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Breakfast With the Stars: Mildred’s Corner Café

Posted: December 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Cafe, Lynn, Mildred's Corner Cafe | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

A reader e-mailed us a few weeks ago to recommend a couple of restaurants in Lynn, and this long weekend was the perfect time to check out one of them: Mildred’s Corner Café.

Boy, are we glad we did. Mildred’s is a charming spot with creative breakfast and lunch offerings, kitschy Hollywood décor, games to play while waiting for your food, and warm, attentive service. The tiny seven-year-old café, which is only open Friday to Sunday, is clearly a labor of love by Jan McLaughlin-Muirhead, who describes herself owner, cook, waitress, chief dishwasher on the menu.

We had been seated for approximately five seconds before being offered coffee, which came in large, colorful mugs. Tea is also available—19 types of loose tea, a fact that surprised and delighted us. After studying the menu and relaying our choices, we sat back to admire the movie-star posters and test our knowledge of silver-screen trivia.

Along with the usual breakfast offerings like omelets and French toast, Mildred’s large menu has seasonal specialties like pumpkin pancakes, gourmet items like a wild mushroom omelets, and light fare in the form of fat free yogurt with granola and fresh fruit.

We tried the crabcakes benedict ($11), which came with a generous portion of both hollandaise sauce and home fries. Everything was well seasoned and tasty, although the potatoes could have been more crisp. We also enjoyed the English breakfast ($6), featuring a small cup of baked beans, two delicious sausage patties, and grilled tomato slices along with fried eggs.

The huevos rancheros ($9) was a winner, combining flavorful refried beans with large chunks of sautéed tomatoes/peppers/onions, a generous scatter of ripe avocado, and two fried eggs. The junior member of our party declared her crispy bacon the best she’d ever had, enjoying it along with her scrambled eggs, pancake, and Go-gurt ($5).

It was a great way to start off a Sunday, and we look forward to returning to explore more breakfast items and interesting-sounding sandwiches like the avocado egg salad. We hear that there is often a wait for tables, so we were glad to see a small counter with stools as well as a separate waiting area with couches and a television playing (you guessed it) classic movies.

Mildred’s Corner Café
45 Lewis St, Lynn
(781) 595-4600
Open 7:30 to 2:00 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Mildred's Corner Cafe on Urbanspoon