Great Coffee, Good Vibes at Atomic Café

Posted: July 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Atomic Cafe, Beverly, Cafe | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Some places just have a good vibe, and Atomic Café is one of them. We stopped into their Beverly location for lunch recently and found the food very good, the coffee terrific, and the counter service eager to please. The place is small but manageable, and there’s something on the menu to please many palates, including a great selection of vegetarian options.

The goat cheese and pesto panini was the best of the three sandwiches we tried ($5). Crunchy grilled bread, well-flavored pesto, ripe tomato, and a generous serving of goat cheese made it a stand-out. We also liked the curried chicken salad ($6.25), with a hefty amount of chicken chunks in spiced-just-right mayo. The hummus special was fine, with a good amount of tomato and a fresh wheat wrap ($5). The thick-cut muenster cheese overpowered the hummus, but that’s a quibble more than a criticism. All sandwiches are served with a dill pickle and ruffle-cut chips, available on a selection of breads, and, if you’re eating in, served on ceramic rather than paper.

As you’d expect from a place that roasts their own coffee (available in store and online for $10 a pound and up), the iced coffee with milk was delicious ($1.90). We also tried the lemon Italian soda ($2.85) but found it too sugary.

Tempted by the bakery case, we tried a blondie and a frosted cupcake ($2-$3) and deemed both worth the calories. The cake was fairly moist, and the frosting was neither cloying nor overly sweet. The blondie was terrific—good sized, pleasingly dense, and filled with chunks of dark chocolate.

Atomic Café has a sister location in Marblehead with the same great coffee, friendly service, and pleasant vibe. The lunch menu is somewhat more limited, however.

Atomic Cafe
265 Cabot Street, Beverly
(978) 922-0042

14 School St, Marblehead
(781) 631-6464
www.atomicafe.com

Atomic Cafe on Urbanspoon

Share

Lowdown on the Throwdown: 5 Corners Kitchen Wins Lobster Challenge

Posted: July 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, Ataraxis Tavern, Event, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s not every day you get to attend a live event that rivals popular reality TV. Today we had a chance to check out the Seafood Throwdown at the Marblehead Farmers’ Market and enjoyed every minute of it.

For those unfamiliar with this type of contest, two chefs are given limited time and a secret ingredient to battle it out for the winning title. The event is sponsored by the farmers’ market in partnership with Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and Cape Ann Fresh Catch in an effort to support local fishermen and educate about sustainable fishing practices. The throwdown is a relatively new idea, and although there have been several at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, this was the first in Marblehead.

The chefs competing in the event were Paul Riccardi from Ataraxis Tavern and Barry Edelman of 5 Corners Kitchen. Sean Sullivan and Niaz Dorry from NAMA were there to oversee the proceedings, and guest judges were Rosalie Harrington, chef and former owner of the legendary Marblehead restaurant Rosalie’s; Leigh Vincola, director of marketing at Edible Boston Magazine; and Rosalie’s husband, Todd Feinberg, morning talk show host on WRKO, who also emceed.

The morning got off to an exciting start when Sullivan announced that the mystery seafood would be lobster, courtesy of Marblehead’s own Paul Crowell. The chefs were then given $25 each and 15 minutes to shop the market for ingredients. When time was up, the horn sounded, and the chefs were allotted one hour to create a meal using the lobsters, their purchases, provided staple ingredients, and up to three unannounced items they were allowed to bring with them.

As the cooking proceeded, Feinberg gave a play-by-play, cracking jokes and asking the chefs questions, even breaking into his best Gordon Ramsey impression at one point. The crowd grew, and everyone, including the kids watching, felt the excitement. It was a treat to see.

Interestingly, both Riccardi and Edelman had chosen some of the same produce from the market, including small potatoes and corn. Riccardi boiled his lobsters while Edelman cut them up, boiling the claws and sautéing the bodies.

The end results were gorgeous. Edelman plated a vegetable mélange first, which included the sautéed corn and potatoes as well as grilled zucchini and fresh carrot, then added the claw meat in roe butter, the lobster half, and beautiful greens that included fresh squash blossoms.

Riccardi plated his “deconstructed” lobster with sautéed potatoes and corn and grilled spicy sausage on a bed of greens that had been sautéed with toasted garlic oil, which he playfully garnished with the lobster body.

The scoring was based on five categories that included originality and use of whole animal. The judges had a difficult job because, as Sullivan opined, “both dishes are unbelievably good.” Harrington noted that Edelman’s combination of flavors were so fresh that all together they “tasted like summer.” Feinberg was surprised by Riccardi’s sweet and sour sauce. “Mango sauce is great with lobster,” he said, “I never would have guessed.”

After tallying up the votes, 5 Corners Kitchen was announced the winner, and both participants were soundly applauded. There is no prize for winning except bragging rights, and, truly, both contenders should be proud of what they accomplished. Can you imagine creating a meal off the cuff in a hot tent in front of a crowd of milling strangers, on a deadline?

Our hearty congratulations to Chef Edelman, and we hope he and Chef Riccardi continue to be involved in this sort of event. Not only does it spotlight local seafood and produce, it is also a great way to get the public more involved in their town’s food scene. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.

Share

Enthusiasm is Brewing on Cape Ann

Posted: July 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cape Ann Brewing Company, Drinks, Gloucester | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Finding ourselves in Gloucester on a recent sultry summer day, we needed to quench our thirst, and where better to find a frosty quaff than Cape Ann Brewing Company? A small craft brewing company, CABC has gained not just a loyal following but a popularity that reaches far beyond local.

In 2002, owner Jeremy Goldberg and a handful of friends decided to travel the country, experiencing 38 craft breweries in 40 days. The result was a documentary film entitled “American Beer, a Bockumentary.” Goldberg then moved to Gloucester to start his own operation, and in 2004, Cape Ann Brewing Company was born.

The sheer enthusiasm of everyone who works there is a joy, and they all seem to be home-brew fanatics. T.J. Peckham and Tom Ryan, who cover sales and distribution, have gone so far as to produce a series of videos featuring home-brewing how-to tips, called “The Deadliest Batch,” which can be found archived here at the Gloucester Times website.

Brewer Dylan L’abbe-Lindquist was originally hired to help manage the pub due to his restaurant experience, but his vast knowledge of home-brewing has made him valuable in all aspects of the operation.

It was Dylan who gave us a terrific tour of the facility, discussing ingredients and methods and what makes an ale different from a lager. One member of our party is considering home brewing, and the time and detail Dylan used answering our questions was much appreciated. Tours are available to anyone who stops in, as long as they have the staff to spare. If you’re unsure of your timing or have a large party, you may want to call ahead.

The pub part of the operation opened almost a year and a half ago and has been going like gangbusters. The open wood-paneled room with a boat-shaped bar and long tables is friendly and welcoming. Parents with young children take note: there are rocking chairs and shelves of books and games to accommodate those who enjoy meeting friends for a pint but don’t want to call a babysitter.

The pub offers a small but interesting menu of munchies and local pizza, but the focus is the beer. And, oh, what beer. We tried the entire spectrum of what was on tap, from the lighter IPA and Bavarian Wheat to the Fisherman’s Navigator, a German-style doppel-bock, and the Fisherman’s Eclipse, a schwarzbier (also known as “black” beer). One of our party enjoyed the Bavarian Wheat, but it was too fruity (bananas!) for me.

My favorite was the Fisherman’s Tea Party which, it turns out, isn’t really a beer at all. It’s a barley wine that includes three types of tea that were among those dumped during the Boston Tea Party. It had a wonderfully complex and rich taste, dark yet smooth, that I would definitely return for. You can see a video of Jeremy talking about the teas here on Good Morning Gloucester.

If you are into beer, Cape Ann Brewing Company is a must-visit, and even if you’re not a fanatic, the beautiful brews are certainly worth checking out. These guys are passionate about what they do, and you can taste it. If you can’t get to Gloucester, take a look at their website for the closest retail distributor of Cape Ann’s bottled offerings. CABC just got approval to fit up a new space and likely won’t be moving until next year, but be sure to check hours and directions if you’re coming from out of town. The pub also has weekly special events and food offerings so sign up for their email updates to get the latest from Jeremy.

Cape Ann Brewing Company
27 Commercial St, Gloucester
(978) 281-4782
www.capeannbrewing.com

Cape Ann Brewing Company & Brewpub on Urbanspoon

Share

Marini and Christopher’s Table Team Up to Host Dinner on the Farm

Posted: July 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

One of our favorite things about this time of year are the local farm-to-table dinners that start popping up on the calendar. This year for the first time, Marini Farm is getting into the act, hosting a dinner on the farm event next Saturday evening, July 24.

The dinner will start with a complimentary signature cocktail on the front porch of the farmhouse, then diners will be transported by hayride to the dinner location, at the top of a hill overlooking the farm. There will be a five-course dinner and a cash bar featuring local Ipswich Ale from Mercury Brewing Co. and wine from Jewell Towne Vinyards of South Hampton, NH. Elm Street Blues, a group of local students from Governor’s Academy in Byfield will provide live entertainment.

Chef, caterer, and owner of prepared-foods shop Christopher’s Table in Ipswich, Christopher DeStefano is the culinary half of the collaboration. Serving the freshest produce is the name of the game, so much of the menu won’t be refined until he sees what looks good next week, but De Stefano gave us an idea of what to expect.

The first course will be a cold soup, most likely a farmhouse gazpacho, followed by a salad course, a vegetable tart, an entrée featuring local beef from Tendercrop Farm, and a dessert. “I’d be crazy not to take advantage of Marini’s great corn,” said DeStefano. “And peaches will be at the height of the season.” He also mentioned heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, beets, and herbs as possible ingredients.

Tickets for this evening of local bounty served at the source are $100 per person, and seating is limited. If you are interested in attending, contact Christopher’s Table for reservations.

Christopher’s Table
5 Depot Sq., Ipswich
(978) 356-6166
www.christopherstable.com

Marini Farm
259 Linebrook Rd, Ipswich
(978) 356-0430
www.marinifarm.com

Share

A First Look at Hooked, Marblehead’s Newest Seafood Eatery

Posted: July 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Hooked, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

When I visited Ben Rhodes and Rafe Hershfield back in May to find out about their new venture, Hooked Seafood and Grill, they explained their theory for the new eatery.

Similar to the fast-casual concept that’s all the rage, Hooked is a combination of restaurant and take-out, where the quality is better than fast food and less expensive than a sit-down restaurant. Like a standard clam shack, diners order at a counter and bus their own tables, but the meals are served on china by waitstaff, and beer and wine is available.

This Sunday it was too hot to cook, so we headed over to test the theory and the food. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. The restaurant, which opened last weekend, was packed. All the tables were filled, and people were waiting in line for takeout. Luckily, we were able to snag a spot after a minute or two.

The space has been totally renovated and looks terrific, especially if you remember the erstwhile Super Sub. Hooked’s menu offers quite bit to choose from, including both grilled and fried seafood entrees. We placed our order at the counter, paid, and were given a number, and when our food was up, a waitress brought it to the table.

The daily special, a Long Island striped bass roasted with lemon and herbs, was terrific—moist and delicious ($11). The fried haddock plate offered quite a generous portion of both fish and onion rings that tasted fresh and weren’t greasy ($11). The grilled swordfish kabob was tasty, if a bit overcooked ($10); the breading on the fried shrimp was just a tad heavier than I generally like, but shrimp were large and flavorful ($15). The junior member of our party ordered a cheeseburger from the 1st Mate menu ($4.50 with a drink and fries), which received a double thumbs up.

Of the sides we ordered, the onion rings were the best; savory, thin and crunchy. The cole slaw tasted freshly made and although a bit heavy on the mayo had a nice zing from caraway seeds. The fries seemed to be lightly coated, but were tasty and crisp and disappeared from the table in a flash.

It’s clear Hooked is still refining it’s work flow, but it’s early days, and the staff were all friendly and helpful, so no doubt they’ll find their groove. The take-out business seemed to be booming, and in the small space customers waiting for their orders blocked the door and counter area. We found ourselves wondering if they could install a take-out window on the driveway side to alleviate the congestion.

We plan to return once the crowds abate a bit and look forward to trying their rendition of two of the most hotly debated summer foods on the North Shore: lobster rolls and fried clams.

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

Hooked Seafood & Grill on Urbanspoon

Share

Mixing It Up Mayan Style at the PEM

Posted: July 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

There was a serious party in our mouths last night as we sampled spicy Mexican hors d’oeuvres, Taza chocolate, and a variety of specialty beers. Another part of our bodies was stimulated, too—our brains.

We had a great time at the Peabody Essex Museum where about 150 people gathered to learn about chocolate’s importance to the Mayan culture and why it was considered the food of the gods. The event, Beer + Chocolate = Food of the Gods, was held in conjunction with the museum’s Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea exhibit, which runs through July 18.

We sampled a variety of treats like flatbreads with cinnamon chile butter, mini beef burritos, vegetable empanadas, and chicken morditas with chipotle crème fraiche. While we sipped the various beers and enjoyed the food, we learned a great deal about Mayan chocolate culture from PEM assistant curator George Schwartz. For example, chocolate’s rarity and association with the maize god and the sea made it so valuable it was sometimes treated as currency.

The other speaker was Taza Chocolate founder Alex Whitmore, who told us an enormous amount about the chocolate-making process, from fermentation to grinding and finishing. We had never tasted Taza’s products and were completely blown away—the cacao nibs are processed in a stone grinder, producing an amazing texture. The chocolate feels grainy for a moment, then melts in the most wonderful way, allowing you to taste all the flavors of the bean. (For those interested in seeing the action, chocolate tours at the company’s new Somerville facility begin in August.)

Seven chocolate-influenced beer samples were delivered during the presentation, with Schwartz describing each one’s origins. There were four chocolate stouts, an American stout, a craft brew from Dogfish Head designed to re-create one of the earliest chocolate beverages in the New World, and a saison that was a favorite with all—a rare beer crafted by Brasserie Fantome in Belgium.

After the presentation, we had the chance to create our own chocolate beverages. Each table was given two plates of chocolate to combine with hot water in a large pitcher. We aerated the mixture using a molinillo (wooden whisk) and added our choice of ingredients like allspice, chili powder, vanilla, and honey. The resulting mixture was incredibly rich and full flavored—about as far from Swiss Miss packets as you can get. The chocolate froth created with a molinillo or by pouring from one ceramic pot to another evokes its original connection to the sea, in the form of foam.

If you’re a chocolate lover, we highly recommend trying Taza chocolate, which is available at Whole Foods and gourmet markets like Shubie’s. We tasted plain, vanilla, cinnamon, chile, yerba mate, and salted almond (my favorite). We also tasted two unusual treats from North Shore chocolatier Turtle Alley: chile bark and a luscious chocolate stout truffle.

We also recommend the PEM’s food-related events. Although not inexpensive, this unique event in the museum’s gorgeous atrium featured a satisfying abundance of beer, chocolate, Mexican treats, camaraderie, and intellectual stimulation.

Share

J-Mart in Danvers: Convenient, But Not Abundant

Posted: July 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Danvers, J-Mart, Marketplace | Tags: , , | No Comments »

As much as we love discovering the wonderful Asian-food treasures at H-Mart, we were hoping J-Mart in Danvers could save us a trip to Burlington if we only needed a few items. But it was not to be—this is more of a convenience store with some Asian items than an Asian food market.

There is no fresh produce in the store, and the freezer shelves were not laden with goodies. We did see frozen round wonton wrappers for making dumplings and some packages of steam buns. On the non-perishable shelves, we were pleased to see rice stick, nori, unsweetened coconut, wasabi paste, and shrimp paste. The rest of the small store consists mainly of cookware, Asian candy, and coolers with ice cream treats.

There were some issues when the store first opened with it being closed during business hours that have now hopefully been resolved. When I visited last week, the gentleman at the register assured me the store is open from 10:00 to 8:30 Monday through Saturday and closed all day Sunday. The store does not have a Web site; it has a Facebook page, but it’s not exactly filled with information.

J-Mart
120-A Water St (Rt 35), Danvers
(978) 767-9229
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Danvers-MA/J-Mart-Asian-Food-Store/131127030234506

Share

Hometown Food Fun for the Holiday Weekend

Posted: July 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Amesbury, Danvers, Event, Manchester, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The Fourth of July weekend isn’t about fancy foods and upscale restaurants; it’s about family and friends, picnics and barbecues, and celebrating our small historic towns.

So if you’re looking for sustenance in between the friends and the fireworks, here’s a handful of hometown-style food events that may be of interest.

As part of its Amesbury Days celebration, the town will be hosting Amesbury Brewfest 2010 tonight, July 2, at 5:00, an invitational craft brewer festival. It’s geared toward smaller, lesser known brewers who put quality above quantity and features locally-produced faves from the likes of Cape Ann Brewing and Haverill Brewery.

Marblehead holds its annual Festival of the Arts this weekend, and one of its yearly traditions is the St. Michael’s Church Lobster Roll Luncheon and Snack Bar. A better bargain can’t be found—you can get an excellent lobster roll, drink, chips, and dessert for $14, or substitute a hot dog for the lobster roll, and it’s only $5. All proceeds go to local charities, as well as St. Michael’s sister parish in Arcahaie, Haiti. The luncheon is available from 11:00 to 3:00 on July 3, 4, and 5.

In Manchester By The Sea, the Rotary club will host its annual Red, White & Blue Pancake Breakfast at Tuck’s Point on Saturday July 3rd. Strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream not only make the pancakes patriotic, but extremely tasty. Tickets are $7 in advance or $8 at the door. Tickets can be purchased from the Parks & Recreation Department Office. They will also be available today from 12:00 to 3:00 in Manchester front of Crosby’s Market.

On Sunday the 4th, the traditional Highland Bean Supper returns to Danvers from 2:00 to 6:00 on the Village Training Field. On offer will be hot dogs, rolls, beans, coleslaw, bottles of water, and possibly candy and coffee sold separately. Price for adults is $5 and $3 for kids, with the proceeds going to Troop 155 Boy Scouts. This Danvers tradition was retired last year, but dedicated locals brought it back.

And if you are looking for local activities and fireworks, check out this handy list of celebrations by town. Wherever you end up, have a terrific holiday weekend!

Share

Nine Elm Gift Certificate Winner!

Posted: July 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Danvers, Nine Elm American Bistro | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

Wow! Not only did we receive over 100 entries, but you guys came up with a terrific list of north shore eateries. Several places were mentioned twice, and the ones noted three or more times were an interesting mix; Nine Elm and Sawasdee in Danvers, Tryst and Cielito Lindo in Beverly, 62 on Wharf in Salem and Riverview in Ipswich.

But you really want to know who won, right? We used the random number generator at Random.org and the winning entry is #95! Congratulations to Michael, who encouraged us to get carnivorous at Fire Bull in Peabody.  He will receive a gift certificate worth $100 to Nine Elm American Bistro. (Michael, please email us your mailing address and we’ll get the gift certificate right out to you. And don’t forget to check back in and let us know how your meal was.)

Thank you so much to everyone for entering the giveaway. Never fear, there will be plenty of future opportunities to win tasty prizes, so keep an eye on the Dish!

Share