Adriatic: A Cozy Spot For Fine Mediterranean Dining

Posted: December 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Adriatic Restaurant & Bar, Italian, Mediterranean, Salem | No Comments »

A friendly atmosphere, cozy setting, and an interesting menu are all indicators of a good dining-out experience. Of course, you never know until the food comes, but at Adriatic last weekend, those signs were spot on.

For those familiar with Salem dining, Adriatic went into the downtown space formerly occupied by Edgewater Café. The new owners gutted it completely, turning it into a very welcoming fine-dining establishment. There’s a medium-sized triangular bar on the right-hand side, tables on the left, and several bar tables in the main windows, which is where we sat. There’s a back dining room as well, equally cozy, and the night we were there, it was occupied by a private party.

One thing we particularly liked about Adriatic was the menu; it’s not huge but somehow has just the right amount of options, including pasta, risotto, meat, and seafood. We selected a caesar salad and the special soup to begin. The salad was fresh and tasty ($8.50), but the four-onion soup upstaged it mightily ($7.50). The onions were deeply caramelized, so the broth was on the sweet side, and the large grilled-bread crouton was the perfect foil.

For entrées, we tried the cod in parchment ($19) and another special, the pumpkin ravioli ($24). Both were perfectly cooked and had great flavor. The ravioli were large squares of (we’re assuming) hand-made pasta with a barely-sweet filling and a light sauce. The cod was a generous portion of fish accompanied by tender potato slices, tomatoes, and delicious black olives.

We decided to splurge on tiramisu for dessert ($6.50), accompanied by an espresso ($2.50) and a cappuccino ($3.50). The drinks were hot and authentic, and the tiramisu was rich but not too heavy.

The service, by one of the bartenders, was a definite highlight—very polite, friendly, and attentive. Our meal was perfectly paced and we never felt rushed, even though all of the tables and most of the bar seats were full. We’re looking forward to returning to sample more of the menu, which leans toward Italy but with a definite influence of other Southern European countries.

Adriatic
155 Washington St, Salem
(978) 594-1832
www.adriaticrestaurantandbar.com

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Gingerbread Wonderland in Wenham

Posted: December 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Wenham | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Last week we were invited to see the Wenham Museum‘s 4th Annual Gingerbread Contest and Gingerbread Express Display. The beautiful creations were set up as a model train village, to go along with the model railroad exhibit currently at the museum.

All of the entries were terrific, and we had a great time identifying the various building materials and methods used.

Some of our favorites included the whimsical castle in the foreground of the photo above, which had been put together by a group of Girl Scout Daisies. We loved the non-traditional colors and the funky shapes. The trio of multicolored ballet dancers twirling through the scene were showstoppers.

Other favorites included this terrific Victorian, submitted by a local cake decorator and patterned after her own home. Our sentiments echoed those of another blogger, Bridget Wickes of Yogurt and Berries, who noted, “I want to live there!”

This pair of fantastic birdhouses, put together by a couple of children who enter the contest each year with their grandmother, were eye-catching and fun. We loved the “legs” which made them seem almost like friendly robots.

Other entrants included a miniature Green Meadows Farm and a trio of mini-houses that had been put together by teenaged museum volunteers. We loved the little abominable snowman they included.

The houses remain on display until the 18th, so stop by the Museum to check them out. If you’ve got the kids in tow, they’ll love the train displays (which run through February 27th), and if you’ve got shopping to do, the Museum shop has some fun and unusual offerings.

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Victoria Station to host 17th Annual Salem Children’s Fundraiser

Posted: December 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem, Victoria Station | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

During the holiday season, we are constantly reminded of those who are less fortunate than ourselves, but it isn’t always easy to find time to reach out when we’re juggling family, jobs, and our own issues.

Here’s a small suggestion. Tomorrow evening, take time off from shopping and cooking and spend some time with your family or friends. Go out to dinner at Victoria Station, and you and your family will not only be spending fun time together, you’ll be helping other families in need at the same time.

Executive Chef John Andrews and his crew at Victoria Station go all out to make the Salem Children’s Charity Fundraiser a success. Not only do they volunteer the restaurant space and all of the fabulous food, but the entire staff donates their time. Joining them will be a group of seven volunteer teens, most of whom will be representing the Culinary Arts program at Salem High School.

In addition to a terrific appetizer and dinner buffet, the evening will feature the familiar faces of Salem’s influential figures, local sports celebrities will available for autographs and pictures, and there will be live and silent auctions.

The event is tomorrow night, December 14th, starting at 5:00. Admission is $15 per person, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the Salem Children’s Charity. So take a night off and enjoy connecting with loved ones while helping provide Salem’s needy children with food, clothing, and toys this holiday season. And don’t forget to thank John and his crew for their hard work!

For more information on the event, check out this letter in the Salem News and the Salem Children’s Charity web site.

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Weekend Picks, December 9-12

Posted: December 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Coven, Event, Green Land Cafe, Ipswich, Marblehead, Milk & Honey, Salem, Shubie's Market Place, Wenham | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

It’s been a while since we talked about weekend picks, but this weekend there’s so much going on we can barely scratch the surface.

Tonight is a great night to get some shopping done in Salem. Many of the stores are open late and are offering deals and treats to shoppers. Salem Wine Imports will have a free tasting and special discounts; Milk and Honey Green Grocer will offer cheese and crackers, food samples, and 15% off your purchases; and Pamplemousse holds their annual open house from 6:00 to 9:00 with wine, hors d’oeuvres, and free gift wrapping.

Also open late tonight are the shops in Hamilton and Wenham. Stop into the Wenham Museum from 4:00 to 8:00 to check out their terrific gift shop as well as the Gingerbread Express model train layout and the Gingerbread Contest Judging.

From 6:00 to 9:00 tonight, the Mansion at Turner Hill hosts the 13th Annual Taste of Ipswich Wine & Food Gala. You can taste local fare prepared by Ipswich’s finest restaurants, sip wine, and sample Ipswich and Stone Cat brews, as well as Mercury Soda Pop. This year, the proceeds will benefit the Ipswich Family YMCA. For more information, call the Ipswich YMCA at (978) 356-9622.

The Salem fun continues on Saturday, when Santa will make a visit to Coven. Your small person can check out the big guy while you warm up with a coffee and tasty treat. Also on Saturday, Green Land Café will be holding a Toys for Tots drive. Children eat free when they bring a toy to donate.

Marblehead continues its annual Christmas Walk this weekend with music, street entertainment, and shopping deals on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, you’ll find two wine tastings. From noon to 5:00, Haley’s will be sampling Y & B organic wines with Neil Deininger. (Even though it looks like a juice box, we like the Sauvignon Blanc) From noon to 4:00, the fun loving BZ Zohn will be back at Shubies with for a tasting of French, Italian, and California wines. Joining BZ will be Demaris Cahoon, owner of Landmark Winery in California, and Helen Gallo of Winebow Imports.

If you’re looking for a tree this weekend, stop by Marini Farm in Ipswich. Not only do they offer the kids cookies and crafts with Santa and tractor rides around the farm, but they’re also ladling out free bowls of hot chowder from the Clam Box to help fend off the falling temps.

Now here are some picks from our pals in the North Shore Bloggers Consortium:

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The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction.

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Heather Atwood from the Gloucester Times has her picks at Food For Thought

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Media giant Seth gives up the best of Lynn at Lynn Happens.

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Joey at GMG has the scoop on all that’s going on in Cape Ann at Good Morning Gloucester.

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Great pick for North Shore Families from North Shore Kid.

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Give Local Tastes this Holiday Season

Posted: December 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

It is, as we all know, the time of year when gift-giving is on most people’s minds. Last year I did a bit of soap-box preaching about shopping locally, and that’s still my mantra.

What we need to realize is that here on the North Shore, “local” doesn’t just mean your backyard, but the surrounding towns as well. The whole North Shore is our neighborhood, so let’s forget sports rivalries and townie stereotypes and support each other.

If you were going to drive to Boston or the Burlington or North Shore malls to buy gifts, why not use that mileage to hit Rockport, Gloucester, Newburyport, Salem, or Marblehead? All have terrific downtown areas with great shops and markets. And there are many ways to support the local food community this holiday season.

The most obvious is to give friends and family gift certificates to favorite restaurants, and several places this year are offering incentives for you to do so. One of Salem’s newest eateries, Adriatic Restaurant and Bar, is offering a free $20 gift certificate with the purchase of a $100 gift certificate. Cape Ann Brewing Company has a two-way offer: from now until Christmas, every gift certificate you buy will be worth 20% more than you pay for it. On top of that, every gift certificate purchased for more than $40 and used from now until they move in to their new location will have additional $5 value.

If you’re not sure what to give someone, keep in mind that most towns sell Chamber of Commerce gift certificates that are honored at many restaurants and shops. You support town businesses, and the recipient chooses where to spend it.

If gift certificates aren’t your ideal, how about locally made food and beverages? Get out to your local bakery for tasty treats, or try cookies from Lark Fine Foods and Plum Island Cookie or Whoopies from Chococoa found at many local markets. The North Shore has an embarrassment of riches where chocolate is concerned. Stowaway Sweets, Harbor Sweets, Prides Crossing Confections, Turtle Alley, and Ye Olde Pepper Companie all offer gorgeous sweets at both their own locations and through area markets. And how about craft beer created right here on the North Shore? Pick up some Ipswich Ale, Cape Ann, Cody, and Clown Shoes for the brew fan on your list.

Someone you know an oenophile? How about a gift card to your favorite wine shop? Or pique their interest with a bottle of honey wine from Isaak’s of Salem, which just hit the shelves this month. Or perhaps a gift that keeps giving: a membership to Wine ConneXtion’s Wine Society, which includes one bottle of wine a month for a year with an information card, as well as special discounts and event invites.

Many restaurants schedule wine dinners in January and February, keep an eye out for upcoming events at your favorite and treat your sweetie to a memorable meal as a gift. If there’s a burgeoning cook in your midst, Matt O’Neill has a great class coming up at the Blue Ox on January 18, and Salem’s Mamma Licia has two sessions of Authentic Italian Cooking coming up.

Beans and mugs from Jaho or Atomic Café, those awesome hoodies from The Lobster Shanty, house-made jam from the Wenham Tea House, breakfast from Sugar Mag’s delivered to someone’s door…the list is endless. What are some of the great local food-related gifts you like to give? Feel free to chime in with comments.

Shop local, eat well, and, above all, have a terrific holiday season!

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Swedish Treats and Holiday Cheer at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen

Posted: December 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Deli, German, Karl's Sausage Kitchen, Swedish | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My grandfather left Sweden and traveled to America on his own when he was a teenager, and over the course of a few years, he and four of his siblings settled here on the North Shore. This means that there are quite a few of us still lurking about that were brought up to embrace our Swedish heritage, and we enjoy serving traditional foods when we gather over the holidays.

Each year before the family fracas, I make a pilgrimage to Worcester to procure Swedish goodies, but this year, I was running short on time. I had heard Karl’s Sausage Kitchen in Saugus had some Nordic specialties, so I decided to investigate.

If you are not familiar with Karl’s, it is a wonderland of meaty treats that has been around since 1958, consistently wins accolades, and was even mentioned by Robert B. Parker in one of his Spenser books.

A few years ago, the shop was taken over by Robert and Anita Gokey, whose dedication to quality is obvious upon tasting their products. They hand make most of the sausage on site and operate their own smoke house. They chop the meat and spices in lieu of grinding and never use fillers or MSG. In addition to the deli cases chock full of gorgeous meats and cheeses, their shelves are overflowing with European specialty foods of every description.

I am happy to report that I found what I was looking for. Karl’s offers medvurst, a Swedish soft salami that they had make in-house, and it is excellent—perfectly spiced and not greasy ($11.49/lb) They have house-made kok korv and potato sausage, which I’ll have to return for. They also have house-made Limpa (Swedish rye bread) with a light caramel-y crust and a hint of caraway that is delicious. Swedish cheeses include Herrgords Orst ($11.29/lb) and Bond-Ost ($9.59/lb) among others.

I also picked up pickled herring, crisp bread, and Swedish gingersnaps. While I didn’t need lingonberries, I was impressed at their selection, which is right next to the cloud berries, pickled beets, Julmust, and Glogg (non-alchoholic, we make our own high-octane version at home).

Karl’s is currently decked out for the holidays with all sorts of festive confections;  German, Swiss, and Belgian chocolates; a huge variety of Stollen and cookies; adorable marzipans; and a cavalcade of Kinder novelties. And for those getting into the Christmas spirit, think about stopping by this Sunday (12/5) for Karl’s Annual Christkindlmarkt.  You can shop for gifts, sample traditional foods, and experience the atmosphere of a German Christmas Market.

I’m thinking I may have to become a regular at Karl’s. Not just for the Swedish specialties, but because I want to try all of that fabulous hand-made sausage. There’s so much there, from bratwursts to andouille and chorizo, not to mention the smoked meats and cold cuts—it’s a project that could take years.

Karl’s Sausage Kitchen
142 Broadway, Saugus
(781) 233-3099
www.karlssausage.com

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Beyond the View: Red Rock Bistro’s New Menu

Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

While most of us love a gorgeous ocean view, a seaside restaurant doesn’t always mean a great meal. There’s always that nagging question: was the food as good as the view? Joe Guarino, the new head chef at Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott, is taking on that challenge with gusto. Together with owner Paul Petersiel, Guarino has revamped the menu, re-thought the wine list, and lowered prices overall.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, along with a Sunday jazz brunch from 10:30 to 3:00. The new menu has a Mediterranean influence but covers a broad range of tastes. The wine list features 40 wines by the glass, with most around $8. We enjoyed the two cocktails we tried: a refreshing Cool as Cuke with Hendricks, St Germain, cucumber, mint, and lime ($11) and a grown-up version of a lime ricky ($9.50).

While we usually visit restaurants anonymously, in this case we were invited to meet Petersiel and Guarino and sample some items on the new menu. Although Guarino took over as head chef in August, the restaurant hasn’t promoted that fact until now to let him get his sea legs, so to speak.

We applaud that approach, which seems to have paid off, as we enjoyed many of the dishes we tried, including the duck confit egg rolls (crispy with a great flavor, $9), the short rib bomb (spicy chipotle mayo, chorizo, and pepperjack, $8), and the bucatini with clams (wonderfully garlicky and spice, with perfectly cooked pasta for $16). We liked the flatbread pizza with shrimp, which was richly flavored and crispy, and a great value at $13. We also recommend the highly addictive peanut butter and banana ice cream cake ($8).

While we ate, we learned that Guarino grew up in East Boston and previously worked in the kitchens of Boston’s Church, The Butcher Shop, and Bonfire and was a sous chef a few years ago at Red Rock. We also heard Petersiel’s tale of buying the restaurant (then called Dale’s) in 1999 on a whim after The Barnacle in Marblehead refused to serve him a lobster roll late one afternoon.

Since the large bar is well lit and welcoming at night, and the restaurant’s views are extraordinary any time, we hope Guarino continues to give the North Shore crowd consistent, quality food at reasonable prices. We look forward to trying brunch, which features standards like omelettes, french toast, and bagels with lox along with more unusual choices like lobster eggs benedict and short rib hash with poached eggs and rosemary aioli.

We may also stop in for bar snacks and live music (Thursday through Saturday nights) or for a Tuesday tasting (December Dec 21 is Piper Heidsieck champagne with oysters and caviar for $35; February 8 is USA craft beers for $25).

Red Rock Bistro
141 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 595-1414
www.redrockbistro.com

Red Rock Bistro on Urbanspoon

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