Five Corners Kitchen Offers Casual Elegance and Memorable Meals

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, American, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sunday night we finally got a chance to check out the recently opened 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead. They have been open for a couple of weeks now and look to be doing a booming business. Reservations are definitely recommended as tables fill up fast.

The room has a casual elegance, the decorative tin ceiling and fun light fixtures lending texture to the clean lines and no-nonsense table settings. Our table wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we visited the bar. Although a relatively small space, the bar area is friendly and warm and features a fun seating niche in the window. The bartender was terrific, smiling and helpful and pouring us samples when we inquired about various wines. He entreated us to stay and eat with him, but our table was ready to go.

The wine list covers a good range, from $6.50 to $13.50 a glass, and the bottles were reasonable as well. We started with several of the appetizers; the cauliflower, leek and potato vichyssoise with lobster and fine herbs vinaigrette ($9), the rustic country pork terrine with whole grain mustard and pickled vegetables ($7), and the roasted beet and watercress salad with shaved fennel, red onion, ricotta salata, and horseradish crème fraiche vinaigrette ($8). Both the soup and the salad were quite good, with a lovely complexity of flavor. The terrine came with a plate of grilled bread and was excellent, quite a bargain given the amount of food for the price. That and a salad could be a meal.

The star of the starters, though, was the simplest—we had heard good things about Chef Edelman’s fries and were not disappointed. These are some seriously delicious fries; fresh house-made beauties served with a lush basil garlic aioli ($5). If we hadn’t ordered so much other food, we might have come to blows over the final few.

For entrees, we were interested in the sautéed skate wing, but they had sold out by the time we ordered. Instead we went for the roasted half chicken with oyster mushrooms, wilted spring greens, and brown butter jus ($18), the potato gnocchi with grilled asparagus, fava beans, fiddleheads, braised lettuce, mushrooms, and house-made crème fraiche ($17), and a special that night, a house-made saucisson on creamy lentils ($16).

Roasted chicken when done well can be a revelation, and this one was: crispy, juicy, and savory. The sausages were also excellent, not too dense and full of flavor. The gnocchi was tender and the vegetables perfect, sautéed but still crunchy, but some might find the portion a bit small.

Currently, 5CK is only offering one dessert per evening, which was an orange panna cotta with raspberry rhubarb compote ($6) the night we were there. Light and refreshing, the delicate texture and flavor were a perfect end to our meal.

The only drawback of the night was the noise level. It’s a small space with a high ceiling, and sound really bounces around. Clever use of fabrics or acoustical panels would help immensely. The din seemed to drop around 8:30 when the crowd thinned, so a later seating time is in order for those in search of a quieter meal. The restaurant will soon be offering lunch, and that might prove a less noisy alternative as well.

When we interviewed Chef Edelman in March, he spoke about his passion for creating simple meals with local foods and having attentive staff. We found he has come through on both counts. Our waitress was phenomenal, and the food was excellent. Chicken, sausage, pasta—all simple, ordinary foods made extraordinary by the obvious freshness and thoughtful preparation.

5 Corners Kitchen
2 School Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-5550
www.5cornerskitchen.com

5 Corners Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Newburyport: Home of the Whoopie

Posted: May 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe, Chococoa Baking Company, Newburyport, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Alan Greenspan seems an unlikely person to provide impetus for a small bakery in Newburyport, but a couple of years ago, Alan Mons and Julie Ganong wanted to leave their jobs in financial services and took to heart Greenspan’s advice on improving an existing product.

Mons and Ganong thought long and hard and decided the whoopie pie could use an update. They had fond memories of baking these treats with their grandmothers (Ganong is originally from Maine) and wanted to give this New England favorite a makeover.

Today, the two are churning out between 2,000 and 3,000 mini-cakes a week from their Newburyport location. The cakes contain three types of chocolate, giving them a rich, unique flavor. In between is a layer of decadent buttercream in flavors like vanilla, espresso, and raspberry. The antithesis of junk food, these treats contain no preservatives, are made with natural and organic ingredients, and contain local products like free range eggs from Newbury.

We stopped into the Chococoa bakery over the weekend and found not only the delicious, sinfully decadent whoopie pies, but muffins, scones, cookies, brownies, savory croissants, and quiche, as well as Atomic Café coffee. Ganong told us everything other than the whoopies are supplied by local bakers who have been certified for safe food practices and work with Chococoa on a co-op basis.

At the bakery and in various locations in Boston, Southern New Hampshire, and the North Shore (including Cassis, Green Meadows Farm, and Cider Hill), the whoopies sell for $1.68 each or three for $4.98. In about a month, anyone in the US will be able to order from the company’s Web site (they ship frozen and arrive in two days).

Lately, the company has been seeing increased requests for a unique use for their whoopie pies: birthday and wedding cakes. Says Ganong of this and other twists her life path has taken recently: “It’s been a journey. It’s been fun.”

Chococoa Baking Company
38 Washington St, Newburyport
(978) 499-8889
www.chococoabaking.com

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The Line on Hooked

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Hooked, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When the eye-catching blue and yellow Coming Soon signs appeared in the windows of 114 Pleasant St. in Marblehead last week, locals were impressed. Although the new restaurant, Hooked, won’t open until June, it’s already got a website with a sample menu and a twitter feed to boot.

“Oh,” you might say, “A seafood restaurant in a shore town, how (yawn) exciting.” But the truth is, with its family-friendly combination of casual restaurant and take-out, Hooked’s unique approach may just be what some are looking for, especially as it will be open for lunch.

I stopped by today and chatted with partners Ben Rhodes and Rafe Hershfield about their new venture. Rhodes, a well-known Marblehead native, owns the building and for many years ran the Super Sub that Hooked is replacing. He was ready for something new, and long discussions with the enthusiastic Hirschfield gave birth to this concept.

The space will feature about 32 seats in a combination of counter, high-top tables, and regular tables. Diners will order at the counter, their meals will be brought to them, and they’ll bus their own tables as they depart. A step above the familiar red-and-white checked paper baskets, the food will be served on china with flatware, and a selection of beer and wine will be served.

Hershfield promises the fried offerings will be fresh, not frozen, with generous portions at highly competitive prices. Clam strip fans will be intrigued—the jumbo refers not to the portion but to the size of the clams.

Unlike the standard clam shack, Hooked’s menu will include plenty of fresh fish (locally sourced when possible) as grilled and baked options, with items like swordfish kabobs over salad for healthy or gluten-free choices. Less-common sandwiches like crab cake sliders and fish tacos will also make an appearance, and the guys hinted at a few more menu surprises they have up their sleeves.

Everything will be available for take-out, which is sure to please summer beachgoers and boaters. The interior is getting a complete overhaul, including a brand-new kitchen, and they plan to open in mid to late June. Rhodes says farther down the line, they are looking at turning the adjacent driveway into a patio with outdoor seating, something of which Marblehead has surprisingly little.

The restaurant’s website quips “Once you try it you’ll be ‘Hooked’!” and after my visit today, I’m looking forward to returning to see if it’s true.

Edit 7.20.10: You can read about our first visit to Hooked here: A First Look at Hooked, Marblehead’s Newest Seafood Eatery

Hooked Seafood & Grill
114 Pleasant St., Marblehead
781-631-8200
www.hookedmarblehead.com

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Dish Tidbits: Spring 2010 Restaurant Openings

Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Essex, Marblehead, News, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Whether it’s a sign of economic upswing or simply the continued evolution of the North Shore’s vibrant restaurant scene, it’s difficult to keep track of all the exciting openings going on in the area this spring.

A few weeks ago, Bolivian coffee importer Cafe Valverde Coffee Roasters replaced Fuel coffee shop at 196 Essex Street in Salem. This was apparently the starting flag, signaling a host of new openings.

This week saw the openings of Greenland Café and Coven Dessert Bar and Artisanal Market in Salem and the much-anticipated 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead.

Marblehead will see another new storefront soon, when Hooked Seafood & Grill opens in the old Super Sub space on Pleasant St. in June. Sticky Rice, the on-again off-again Thai restaurant on Hawkes St., has been sold to a new owner and is slated to re-open under the name Sticky Rice Bistro.

Salem has become a hotbed of restaurant activity recently and is looking forward to several openings in addition to the two this week. Since publishing its menu online, there has been a ton of buzz about Howling Wolf Taqueria, which will open at 76 Lafayette St. in early summer. The plentiful burritos and veggie options look to be winners.

Also on Lafayette Street a new restaurant serving pub fare, The Lafayette Grill, is scheduled to open in the old Casa Blanca space, which neighbors are hoping will be a step toward cleaning up the troubled area.

In the former Edgewater Café space on Washington St., the Adriatic Restaurant and Bar, which will feature a mix of Italian and European food, is finishing up renovations and hiring waitstaff and will open doors shortly. (added 5/17/10:  a great video of Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll interviewing the owners of both Coven and Adriatic can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INGDTKQo4Ww )

Another seafood venue has taken over the empty Derby Fish & Lobster space at 215 Derby St. and will be opening under the name Seaport Grill. No word yet on how soon.

And if that’s not enough new food for Salem, the recently renovated jail space is reportedly in talks with a restaurant, but nothing official has been announced yet.

Vinnin Square is seeing its share of the action as well. On the Salem border, Rizzo’s Roast Beef and Pizza of Peabody will be opening a second location in the plaza next to Staples. And on the Swampscott side, it looks like City Bar and Grill, which acquired a liquor license during the winter, has finally started to fit up the former Friendly’s/Finagle spot. Any independent venture would be welcome in the square, which feels overrun with chain restaurants and fast food outlets.

Over in Beverly, North Shore Restaurant group has taken on the new eatery being developed at the revived North Shore Music Theater. Named BackStage Bistro, it promises “top notch American cuisine” with theatre props from favorite past performances as decor and a show-tune sound track.

We hear that Mark McDonough and Co. will also be making some big changes to Alchemy in Gloucester, giving it a more comfy, lounge-y feel and emphasizing small plates and platters to share.

Also in Gloucester, Giuseppe’s, a new restaurant and piano bar will be moving into the former Elliot’s space in the Blackburn building. Their website promises the place will be “very musical, very Italian and

On Cape Ann, rumor has it that the Market Restaurant in Annisquam will be re-opening May 29 under the management of two former Chez Panisse chefs, which certainly sounds worth investigating.

There have also been murmurs about a tapas and healthy-fare venue opening in Essex. In a town synonymous with fried seafood, we’re sure this will be a welcome addition.

Looks like we’re going to have an exciting summer trying out all the new tastes, and perhaps some we don’t know about yet. Give us a shout at email@northshoredish.com, or leave a comment if you know of any more our readers would be interested in.

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Soothed and Satisfied at Kame

Posted: May 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Beverly, Kame | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

We love Japanese food, but it can be pricey. That’s why we like to get our fix mid-day, taking advantage of the specials and de-stressing in the calm atmosphere at Beverly’s Kame.

We’ve visited Kame several times over the past few years and find the food consistently fresh and well prepared. The menu contains no surprises but has a great selection of traditional Japanese/American fare like dumplings, sushi, tempura, noodles, and teriyaki.

We like the fact that sushi is available with either white or brown rice, although the price for the latter is slightly higher. We sampled the spicy tuna, salmon/avocado, shrimp tempura, and eel/avocado maki ($5–$7.50), as well as salmon sushi ($4.75 for two pieces). The fish was tender, the avocado was ripe, and the rolls had the right amount of wasabi. We also tried the steamed shumai appetizer, which was perfectly cooked and came with spicy mustard sauce ($6.50).

The best deals on the menu are the lunch specials, which run from $7.50 to $8.95 (sushi plates are a few dollars more), and the bento boxes. We tried the tempura bento box and got more food that we could eat for $10.95. There was a large portion of tempura, salad, two egg rolls, three dumplings, and a bowl of rice, plus a miso soup starter. The salad had a bit too much dressing, but everything else was spot on, and the tempura was perfectly fried.

Several varieties of sakes are available, including one unfiltered, ranging in price from $5.50 to $7. We tried the Kaishu Honjyozo, which was $5.75 and came as a shot standing in wooden box containing more sake. Perhaps one of our sake-expert readers can tell us the origins of this presentation.

If you prefer to indulge after the meal, try the tempura dessert ($5.50), which we’ve enjoyed on previous visits: a large plate of delicious tempura-battered bananas topped with chocolate sauce.

Kame
250 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-9333
www.kamerestaurant.com

Kame Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Coven Promises Fine Foods and Funky Fun in Downtown Salem

Posted: May 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe, Coven, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

What would happen if your playful, sugary-cereal-and-Saturday-morning-cartoon-loving childhood self collided head on with your older, fine-food-loving self? You’d wake up at Coven.

I stopped in yesterday to chat with Jen Vourlos, who created this brainchild along with partner Rob Trezza and is busy training staff and setting up, with plans to have a soft opening tomorrow morning. Not all of the foods and services will be available immediately, said Vourlos, but everything should be in order by the grand opening at the end of the month.

What exactly is Coven–bakery, café, artisanal market? Take all of the above, add vintage toys, games, and a dash of retro rockabilly décor, and you’ve got the idea. This storefront on Essex Street in Salem is a little bit of everything and unlike anything else.

Whether you are looking for gourmet foods, local artisanal cheeses, and fresh produce; indulgent and whimsical baked goods; or a casual place to eat, drink and hang with friends, Coven has got you covered.

Recent transplants from NYC where they owned a small dessert shop, Jen and Rob moved to Salem to be closer to family and create their vision of making “a change to the everyday cafe experience by providing a place where people can unwind while enjoying unprocessed and freshly prepared foods and whimsical desserts.” The treats will range from cakes, bars, and tarts to things like Nutella cannoli and all-natural, homemade versions of Twinkies and Poptarts.

Your inner child will delight in the cereal bar, where you can pour yourself a bowl of anything from Special K to Count Chocula, and the top-your-own-cupcakes with retro favorites like pop rocks. Your date-night self will appreciate a quiet corner to have a glass of wine with a cheese plate and play a favorite board game. Vourlos said she even plans to offer wine and beer dessert pairings. (They have acquired a seasonal beer and wine license and hope to eventually have it year-round.) The gourmet in you will love having a place to buy Richardson’s dairy products, cage free eggs, Voges curry coconut ice cream, or locally made cheese.

Coven will be open from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm, serving baked goods, daily specials, sandwiches, salads, deli items, and prepared foods. Everything is available to take out or eat in, and you may find yourself staying just to check out the vintage Smurf collection. Me? I’m looking forward to trying out some to those homemade Twinkies.

Coven
281 Essex Street, Salem
(978) 741-0500
http://www.facebook.com/CovenSalem
(final website is under construction)

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Weekend Update: Dueling Tastings, Plus More for Mom

Posted: May 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Ipswich, Lynn, Marblehead, North Andover, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This Saturday looks to be a rainy one, but maybe that’s a good thing. You won’t feel so guilty about staying inside all afternoon tasting wine, especially when there’s going to be so much to try. There are two terrific events to choose from.

In Marblehead, Shubie’s is hosting another Corks & Forks Wine and Food Festival from 12:00 to 4:00, with more than 40 wines to sample as well as New England artisinal cheeses and other treats from their kitchen. These events are always fun, and you can find our review of one here.

In North Andover, the Wine ConneXtion will be hosting a Grand Tasting from 2:00 to 6:00. They’ll be pouring more than 50 wines with many new arrivals and some old favorites. Tom Grella from the Food Network’s “Next Food Network Star” will be on hand dishing up culinary treats.

Christopher’s Table in Ipswich also has some fun events going on this weekend. Friday night at 7:00, they’ll be hosting a chocolate tasting. Never mind brunch—mom might enjoy this decadent evening even better! They promise a cocktail party-style event with a cash bar, featuring their signature chocolate desserts along with goodies from Prides Crossing Confections in Beverly.

On Saturday, Christopher’s Table will be putting on a Mother’s Day workshop for children ages 6 to 10 to decorate cupcakes as flowers to make mom a Cupcake Flower Pot. Tickets to both events are $20, call (978) 356-6166 for information and reservations.

Also on Saturday, Pamplemousse in Salem is hosting a Think Mom! wine tasting from 2:00 to 4:00. They’ll be pouring Mommy’s Time Out and helping you choose a great gift for mom, whether it’s a Relaxation Basket they’ve put together or any of the myriad fun items they have on hand.

The Blue Ox missed out on our round-up post, but they, too, are doing a Mother’s Day brunch. They’ll serve both brunch and lunch options all afternoon (12:00 to 6:00), and all moms receive a rose with their reservation. Three courses for $29.

Also, if your mom likes to cook (or eat), The Blue Ox’s next cooking class would make a great gift. It’s taking place Tuesday May 25 at 7:00, $35 per person for three courses. Chef Matt O’Neil will be demonstrating healthy and season fish tacos. Dinner includes the tacos, cold corn soup with avocado cream, and honey chocolate bread. Call (781) 780-5722 to reserve a spot.

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A New Look for Spring

Posted: May 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

If you’ve been to North Shore Dish in the past few days, you may have noticed a few changes here and there. First, we’ve added a handy navigational area toward the top of the sidebar to help you get around the site. There you’ll find some terrific new resources for you to investigate:

Upcoming Events: An ongoing calendar of events. We’re still tweaking this a bit, but you get the idea. Please feel free to let us know of any events we might be missing that would interest our readers.

Resources and Reads: An evolving list of local links, blogs, and websites that we love and find useful and hope that you will, too.

Restaurant and Market Article Index: All of our location-specific posts listed in alphabetical order by name.

Below this, you can’t help but notice that we’re now displaying a handful of advertisements from local sponsors. North Shore Dish has been a labor of love for the past year and a half, and all expenses to keep it running have been out of pocket. We are thrilled to have the support of some great folks who value the North Shore food scene and our efforts to bring you the latest news and reviews. Please take a moment to check them out.

Last, you’ll see a few changes in the Follow area. Larger, clearer buttons, the RSS/e-mail subscribe works better, and yes, we now have a Facebook fan page for those of you who like to get your updates there. Go ahead and “like” our page and tell your Facebook friends about us…

We are always working to make North Shore Dish the best we can for our readers and hope you enjoy these small improvements.

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