Home-Town Favorites for Valentine’s Day

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Salem, Sweets and Treats, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Looking to score extra points on Valentine’s Day? Skip that box of prewrapped chocolates from the drugstore and head to one of these North Shore favorites. You’ll get better quality, more interesting choices, and personalized service—all while supporting your local chocolatier.

Harbor Sweets
If your sweetie likes all things nautical, you cannot go wrong with Sweet Sloops, an addicting confection of toffee, pecans, and white and dark chocolate. There are many other sea-themed chocolates available from the tiny Harbor Sweets factory in Salem, and they can be purchased in almost every North Shore town, including Shubie’s in Marblehead, Henry’s in Beverly, The Partridge Tree Gift Shop in Danvers, Connolly’s Pharmacy in Hamilton, Bruni’s in Ipswich, LuLa’s Pantry in Rockport, and Valentine’s in Newburyport.

85 Leavitt St, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

Pride’s Crossing Confections
This converted train station on Route 127 is the place to go if you need gifts for a variety of tastes. The shop is jam-packed with everything from bags of chocolate covered potato chips and pretzels to cases of fudge, truffles, soft-centers, and white chocolate-covered confections. Don’t miss the famous turtles (seven varieties) and buttercrunches, all hand-made on premises.

590 Hale St, Prides Crossing
(978) 927-2185
www.pridescrossingconfections.com

Stowaway Sweets
It doesn’t get much more charming than this tucked-away shop in a former mansion, where the chocolates are extremely high quality and you can select each piece that goes in the box. Do not, under any circumstances, skip the meltaways.

154 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0303
www.stowawaysweets.com

The Cocoa Belt
This elegant shop is a new favorite, both for its selection of delicious truffles in sophisticated flavors like black forest, cappuccino, and champagne and its ability to improve on perennial favorites like peanut butter cups and scotch kisses.

58 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com

Turtle Alley
Known for its luscious turtles, this local maker also stocks an impressive supply of fruit slices, caramels, and fudge. We are especially fond of the kicked-up versions, including spicy peanut butter cups and almond chipotle turtles.

91a Washington St, Gloucester
(978) 281-4000
Museum Place Mall, Salem
(781) 740-0660
www.turtlealley.com

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Victoria Station Hosts Haiti Fundraiser

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This Wednesday, January 27 from 4-10 p.m., the good folks from Vic’s Boathouse at Victoria Station are teaming up with Partners in Development to host a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The event is open to the public, and tickets are $20 per person, which covers live music and a lavish buffet featuring authentic Caribbean food. All ticket proceeds will be donated to the cause.

This one is definitely a win-win situation; not only an easy way to donate funds to those desperately in need, but also a perfect excuse for a party in the middle of this wet, mid-winter mess. We don’t know about you, but we could definitely use a dose of Caribbean dance party right about now.

If you can’t make it on Wednesday, Victoria Station will be accepting donations over the next few weeks as well. For more information you can find their flier here, and more information about Partners in Development is here.

Vic’s Boathouse / Victoria Station
86 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 745-3400
victoriastationsalem.com

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Bringing the North End to the North Shore

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today is the grand opening of Il Mercato, a unique Italian market in Marblehead. The brainchild of Donna Oliviero, who owns Caffe Italia, the market is located in what was the restaurant’s secondary dining area.

Oliviero has been planning the opening for almost a year, and she’s created a destination market by combining foods imported from Italy with take-home entrées and breads made fresh on premises.

The imported foods include olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, packaged almond and ladyfinger cookies (for making tiramisu), panettone, bags of dried oregano still on the stem, and soda in flavors like pear and apricot. There’s also a selection of imported dried pasta in large shapes not usually seen in the states.

A deli case contains prosciutto, mushrooms, anchovies, fresh mozzarella, and a large bowl of colorful olives. On top are arancini (rice balls), hot stuffed cherry peppers, and cannoli shells in two sizes ready to be filled.

Nearby is a selection of fresh-frozen pastas like fusilli, gnocchi, agnololotti, ravioli, manicotti from Original Gourmet Creation in Somerville. Oliviero’s tomato, bolognese, and pesto sauces are available to go with them, as are fresh-frozen porcini mushrooms.

In addition to selling the restaurant’s famous rolls and foccacia, the store carries Italian baguettes, multigrain ciabatta, and olive loaves. Two panini sandwiches are available each day: mozzarella/tomato/olive oil and the daily special. A selection of prepared dinners like lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and meatballs are available to take home.

Oliviero is offering a huge variety of catering options, from antipasto trays and Italian cookies to entrees like chicken marsala and rolatini eggplant in sizes to designed to feed anywhere from 10 to 25 people. There is also a chef’s table that can be booked for between six and 14 people every night but Monday. The menu is designed with Oliviero to suit your party, starting with appetizer, entrée, salad, and two jugs of wine for $30 per person.

The market’s grand opening is today from 11:00 to 6:00, with a ribbon cutting at 4:00. Permanent hours are 11:00 to 6:00 Monday through Saturday.

Il Mercato / Caffe Italia
10 School St, Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
www.caffeitaliarestaurant.com/home_marblehead.html

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A Taste of Bliss

Posted: January 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Beverly, Bliss Gourmet Takeout, Cafe, Deli, Marketplace | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Earlier this week, we happened to be driving though Beverly Farms around lunchtime and decided to stop in to check out Bliss Gourmet Takeout on a whim.

The small storefront was warm, welcoming, and filled with enchanting aromas. There were gorgeous looking baked goods, a deli case with a variety of all-natural prepared foods made that day, a blackboard with sandwich specials, and a refrigerated case with specialty items, many locally produced. Coffees, soups, and salads round out the store’s repertoire.

The sandwiches, which run about $7 are made with Iggy’s bread and sounded enticing, with choices like caprese with prociutto or pork tenderloin with rosemary aoli on ficelle. Knowing we were going to splurge on treats, we went with a piece of the savory bread pudding. It was wonderfully moist and eggy, with browned crispy bits, mushrooms, and a hint of sage.

The baked goods we tried were even tastier. The chocolate cupcake ($1.75) was lush, with rich ganache frosting that wasn’t overly sweet, and the coffee macaroon (the almond meringue variety) half dipped in chocolate was excellent, with the mocha flavor adding depth and the dark chocolate luxurious.

While the prices are not certainly not low, the quality and freshness of the foods and the obvious care with which they are prepared make us wish Bliss was our neighborhood take-out place.

Bliss
36 West Street, Beverly Farms
(978) 922-6612
blisstakeout.com

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But Wait, There’s More!

Posted: January 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Lynn, Marblehead, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Wow, this winter is turning out to be full of awesome food fun. After we posted the upcoming events article earlier this week, several more items came across our desk that we wanted to let you know about.

First of all, we can’t believe we hadn’t heard about the Cookie Creations event happening on January 21 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. A fundraiser for the Girl Scouts, this one sounds like a take on the Iron Chef TV show: a competition among local chefs to create the most fabulous dessert with the secret ingredient being, you guessed it, Girl Scout Cookies. For $30 (two for $50) you can taste the treats, mingle with local celebs, and vote on the crowd favorite. How can we refuse an event like this when we can’t even say no to a Thin Mint?

On January 24, Matt O’Neill is at it again, helming another cooking demo and dinner at The Blue Ox. This one focuses on braising, with braised short ribs as the second course. Sounds perfect for a warming mid-winter menu. And if you can’t make it this time, the folks at the Ox tell us that for 2010 they plan to hold cooking demos the fourth Tuesday of every month, so mark your calendar now.

Coming up on January 30, Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead is again hosting their popular Taste of the North Shore. This year’s all-you-can-eat buffet includes fabulous foods from A&J King Artisan Bakers, The Blue Ox, Grapevine Restaurant, Passage to India, Pellino’s, Sixty2onWharf, and Sticky Rice to name a few. The ubiquitous Billy Costa will be on hand to emcee the event, which also includes live music, dancing, an auction, and a raffle in which the first prize is great seats to the 2010 Opening Day Red Sox game against the Yankees. The event starts at 6:30p.m., and tickets are $50 per person. For more information, call (781) 631-9300 or e-mail taste@emanu-el.org.

Lastly, we want to give a big shout out to the Lynn Restaurant Association for standing up to organize a relief  effort for the survivors of the Haiti earthquake. Please check out the list of participating restaurants at Lynnhappens.com to see what and where they are collecting.

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Upcoming Events: A Winter of Wine and Chocolate

Posted: January 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Lynn, Newburyport, North Andover, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

With the arctic temps and frosty winds that have settled in, many of our friends are suffering from the post-holiday blues and have hunkered down for the winter. Happily, the next few weeks on the North Shore offer some great opportunities to lift your spirits and get out of the house.

First up, on January 14 at 6:30 pm, 10 Center Street in Newburyport will have wine expert Joyce Hulm, the regional manager of WJ Deutsch & Sons importer, and Craig Hanna, cellar master at Topper’s of Nantucket, on hand for the first of four wine dinners, this one focusing on wines of Sonoma. It’s a four-course meal, each course paired with a different wine, for $45 per person.

Sadly, January 15th sees the seasonal closing of Salem’s Lobster Shanty. Stop by to hoist a pint and give Diane and Lee your best. Sport your Shanty logo-wear any time this week and receive a 10% discount on your meal, and if you haven’t got any, shirts and hoodies will be discounted 20% until closing night. Never fear, the Shanty will reopen for business on April 1 (no foolin’).

On January 27, Finz in Salem will partner with Mercury Brewing Company for an Ipswich Beer Dinner. Four courses are paired with different beers for $35 per person. We’re thinking the Winter Ale float with fig ice cream and chocolate covered ginger snap sounds intriguing.

On January 30, though it’s a bit far afield for some, it’s likely worth the drive to Wine ConneXtion in North Andover for their first-ever saké tasting (kikishu) from 1:00-4:00. It will be hosted by local blogger Rich Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie, so we know it’ll be both fun and informative.

If you haven’t heard of Wine ConneXtion, it’s because they’re new on the scene, but we hear their selection is great and their prices extremely competitive. If saké is not your thing, you might want to check out The Grand Tasting on February 6 from 12:00 to 5:00. More than 50 wines to be poured, and food will be served.

Coming up February 4, Caffe Graziani in Salem is hosting an International Wine Dinner at 6:00 pm. A five-course dinner, it will feature their signature Italian cooking paired with five different wines from around the world for $75 per person.

Chocolate enthusiasts will be happy to hear about the next two events on the roster. On Thursday February 4 from 5:00 to 7:00, Whole Foods in Swampscott will be hosting a Chocolate Fest. There will be chocolate demonstrations and many samples available from 16 chocolate experts representing a variety of artisan chocolatiers, including locals like Dan’s and Taza Chocolate. The tasting will feature live jazz music and a chocolate fountain as well.

Salem pulls out all the stops February 5 to 14 with its yearly Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, which features a fabulous Chocolate and Wine Tasting in Hamilton Hall on February 5 at 6:30 pm. Details on the festival are still unfolding, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

One last note: Sunday dining seems to be a hot topic these days. Corey over at Downtown Lynn tells us that The Blue Ox has announced they will now be open for dinner on Sundays, and there is a lot of buzz about Sixty2 onWharf’s new Jazz Supper Club on Sundays from 6:00 to 9:00.

So cheer up, stay warm, and eat well. Spring is only….well, never mind.

(A follow-up to this post with even more events is here.)

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True Comfort at Caffe Paolina

Posted: January 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Paolina, Italian, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

We know it’s time to lighten up a bit after all that holiday indulgence. Still, last weekend in the midst of the whirling frozen stuff, we felt in need of some January cheer.

We headed for lunch at Caffe Paolina, which is in a near-deserted strip mall in Swampscott and looks like it might be a coffee shop. Instead, we were greeted by Paolina herself and served fantastic Southern Italian-style food that warmed us considerably better than our supposedly waterproof boots.

We decided on two starters: an antipasti ($12) and the antipasto alla Paolina and the involtino di melanzana (rolled eggplant cutlet, $5). Before they arrived, we were treated to complimentary bruschetta: firm Italian bread topped with chopped onion, tomato, and olive oil.

The antipasti was an interesting combination that seemed odd but tasted wonderful: lettuce accompanied by roasted peppers, cooked broccoli and green beans, shrimp, and melted cheese. The eggplant was even better: breaded and fried, filled with ricotta and spinach, and topped with warm tomato sauce.

The three pasta entrees we tried were fantastic. The lasagna ($12) was an authentic version with thin sheets of pasta and a creamy béchamel rather than the heavier ricotta/thick noodles we often see. It was surrounded by a light tomato sauce a bit on the sweet side (in a good way).

The fettuccini alfredo ($11) and chicken, broccoli, ziti ($12) had the same luscious cream sauce with a distinct flavor (cheese? nutmeg?), the kind you’d return for. The broccoli was cooked through but firm, and the chicken was tender.

The panini we tried, with polpette ($8), was not as good. The meatballs were bland, so the dish just fell flat.

As lunch spots go, Paolina’s is not inexpensive. But the quality of the ingredients and techniques is spot on, and the pasta entrees are generous—enough to take half home if you’ve indulged in some of the Italian bread or an appetizer. And we noted that the prices on the dinner menu are quite similar: around $10 for starters, $12 to $15 for pasta, and $15 to $17 for entrees, making it a good value (it’s also BYOB). The interior décor is more café than restaurant, but with great food at reasonable prices, we don’t think anyone will mind.

646 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 593-6455
www.caffepaolina.com
(Note: Web site is under construction, but the hours and menus are there)

Caffe Paolina on Urbanspoon

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