Tasty Thai at Wakefield’s New Red Sugar Café

Posted: February 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Red Sugar Cafe, Wakefield | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Although Wakefield is a bit outside our usual stomping ground, last week I had an appointment there and decided to do lunch beforehand. Not sure where to eat, I shook the Twitter Magic Eight Ball to see what would come up. Several people suggested Red Sugar Café, a Thai place that has only been open a few months, and I took the hint.

A friend who works in Lynnfield met me at the small storefront, and we were seated at one of the eight tables and given a steaming mug of tea to warm us as we perused the menu.

All of Red Sugar’s prices are very reasonable, but their lunches are particularly so, accompanied by seaweed soup, an appetizer, and steamed rice.

I chose the chicken mango curry with gyoza as the starter ($8). The small, tender dumplings were savory and excellent, and the ginger dipping sauce was divine. The curry was beautiful, with lots of crisp-tender veggies, including red pepper and broccoli, in addition to the chunks of chicken and tangy mango. The sauce was hot and lush but not overwhelming. It was one of those meals I couldn’t stop eating, even though half of it would have been sufficient; it was just too delicious.

My companion opted for the drunken noodle dish and the Thai crab rangoon appetizer ($9). The rangoons were tasty, and the sweet apple dipping sauce was unusual. The hefty portion of pan-fried wide noodles mixed with chicken veggies and basil leaves was another winner—spicy and satisfying.

It is clear that the lunch menu just scratches the surface of what Red Sugar offers, and a return for dinner is in order to experience the full range of dishes. Given the great prices, exceptional service, and delicious food, Red Sugar should be on everyone’s must-try list.

Red Sugar Café
24 Vernon Street, Wakefield
(781) 587-0348
www.redsugarcafe.com

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Passports Takes Armchair Travel to New Heights

Posted: February 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Gloucester, Passports | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

It’s another frigid night on the North Shore, and you’re in the depths of the winter doldrums. You’re contemplating grabbing your suitcase and wait listing yourself on the first flight south.

Not a bad idea, but we’ve got an easier solution for you: head for Passports where warm popovers, a convivial atmosphere, and a creative menu will cheer you up in no time.

We had a great meal last weekend at this popular Gloucester spot. There were tons of hot and cold tapas to choose from, followed by entrees that were far from run of the mill, and everything was extremely reasonable.

After sipping some wine (no hard liquor is served) and enjoying the aforementioned popovers, we chose three tapas. The thai duck ($9) was a large breast cooked to our requested medium rare, tender, and flavorful. The grilled curried vegetables ($5) also had great flavor, but the spanish omelet ($4) could have used more seasoning.

Unusual combinations were the theme of the entrees, a welcome sight in the midst of this gray season. They were all successful, too, from the yellowfin tuna stir fry ($17) with bright vegetables to the mandarin scallops with sweet potato casserole ($17). The flame-broiled lamb ($20) has three sauces to choose from, and we were glad we went with the earthy wild mushroom. Short ribs are not usually associated with asian cooking, but the sweet/sour/salty combination offset the rich meat perfectly ($15).

We were plenty full from dinner, but to gird ourselves for the cold trek home, we indulged in a brownie sundae and an apple crisp, both $6. The crisp had good flavor but was more cake-like than crisp. The brownie was the better pick: fudgy and not too sweet with hot fudge and whipped cream.

Passports
110 Main St, Gloucester
(978) 281-3680
http://passportsrestaurant.wordpress.com

Passports on Urbanspoon

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Foodies Flock to Gloucester

Posted: February 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Alchemy Bistro, Gloucester | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

In January, we got a taste of a new type of tasting menu at Gloucester’s Alchemy. The fun and extremely tasty evening was a prototype in development.  As promised, these events are now open to the public. More specifically, the first 16 people to sign up for the March 7 dinner are in, and others will be wait-listed. The cost is $50 for three courses, and the menu is determined by the chef. Mini glasses of wines that pair well with the food will be set out during each course. Each glass is $3 and will be counted using poker chips you pick up when you take a glass.

You can read more about it in Alchemy’s newsletter. Call them to reserve a spot at (978) 281-3997. We suspect these events will fill up quickly with food bloggers and their friends, so don’t wait if this is something that interests you.

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Weekend Picks: Special Valentine Edition

Posted: February 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Blue Ox in Lynn is not revealing much about their menu on the big night, but there will be dinner specials, and women receive a rose upon arrival. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there last year. By the way, the next cooking demo at Blue Ox is March 22 at 7:00 and features carrot soup, hand-rolled gnocchi, and banana caramel cake ($39 per person).

Ceia Kitchen & Bar in Newburyport is offering a three-course Valentine’s dinner every night in February. The cost is $45 and includes items like smoked paprika pappardelle, warm fingerling and tomato salad with poached egg, and banana brulee. The menu changes weekly and is on Ceia’s website.

The Emerson Inn in Rockport is serving their Valentine’s menu Saturday the 12th and Monday the 14th. It’s a study in decadence, with items like duck and truffle paté with pomegranate gastrique, butter-poached lobster salad, grilled half-rack of lamb or pepper-crusted filet, and raspberry napoleon or molten lava cake. The cost is $49 per person.

Green Land’s prix fixe menu is $65 and includes an amuse bouche, choice of appetizer such as crispy duck wings, a salad or soup, an entrée, and a dessert (caramel turtle cheesecake sounds good). Larry Young will be playing violin tableside at the Salem restaurant from 7:00 to 9:00 on the 14th.

Nathaniel’s at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem is serving up a lovely traditional menu with baked brie for two; rack of lamb, chateaubriand, or cod with lobster and vegetable nage; and chocolate fondue for two. Entrée prices are $28 to $30.

Friday through Monday of Valentine’s weekend, Finz Salem is cooking up romantic plates such as oysters topped with bacon vodka, tuna carpaccio with asparagus, and lemon-thyme glazed chilean seabass. The crispy whole striped bass sounds good, too, marinated in sesame, ginger, and miso and accompanied by avocado ocean salad and truffle butter.

Heavy on seafood, The Lyceum’s romantic menu features oysters and shrimp to start, appetizers like crab cakes and calamari, and entrees from salmon and fried haddock to veal pot roast and angus sirloin. The Lyceum is in Salem, and entrée prices range from $18 to $34.

In addition to their regular menu, a $65 prix fixe menu will be served at Salem’s 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar, with a paired wine option for $20. Pork belly or frisee with wild mushrooms are the first course, cannelloni or garganelli are the second. Entrees include scallops with beluga lentils or slow roasted pork with milk-braised fennel, and dessert choices include 62’s famous warm toffee pudding and hot brioche donuts.

For $35, Valentine’s Day lovers have some delicious-sounding choices at Victoria Station in Salem. Appetizers like carmelized pancetta and shaved fennel salad, entrees like baby bok choy and teriyaki salmon en papillote, and desserts like cherries flambé are all on offer.

The Wine Connextion in Andover has put together some interesting gift packages that combine wine, pastry, and flowers. For $50, you can send your Valentine Segura Viudas Brut Reserva or Rose, an assortment of cake truffles, and a red rose in a bud vase. For $125, your sweetie will receive Mumm Napa Brut Prestige or Rose, a heart-shaped chocolate cake, and six red roses. A dozen roses, a chocolate/strawberry cake, and Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose go into the $300 package, and those going all out this year can send diamonds, Louis Roedere Cristal Brut, two chocolate heart-shaped cakes flaked with 24-carat gold, and 30 red roses ($10,000). The packages are on sale through Saturday the 12th, and delivery service is available.

One last thing: For those looking to buy chocolate or other sweets locally, our post from last year with many suggestions is here.

We’ve also got some North Shore Bloggers Consortium pick for you this weekend:

Seth is all over Lynn at Lynn Happens.

Jane Ward has some great ideas for entertainment this weekend.

Kimmy has her weekend picks in addition to tasty treat over at Lighter and Local.

And once again the Two Palaverers have a range of idea all over MA and NH.

North Shore Kid has some awesome suggestions for family activities.

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Wine and Chocolate Tasting Kicks Off Salem’s So Sweet Festival

Posted: February 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Coven, Drinks, Event, Milk & Honey, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We threw all caution and calorie counting to the wind upon entering historic Hamilton Hall on Friday night. The reason? The 9th Annual Chocolate and Wine Tasting, the kick-off event for Salem’s yearly Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, running through the 14th.

We had a terrific time at the tasting, getting to see old friends and make a few new ones while sipping and nibbling our way across the room. The participating restaurants went all out with beautiful displays and an insane amount of sweets.

We can’t even begin to mention everything we tasted. Coven had an impressive table stacked with huge, beautiful chocolate cupcakes. Coffee Time Bake Shop offered vast array of luscious baked goods, presided over by a fabulous Barbie cake that induced pangs of nostalgia. (My mother used to make them!) Those that stopped by Ye Olde Pepper Company‘s table were urged to choose chocolates from the largest heart-shaped box we’ve ever seen.

We got a kick out Chef John Andrews of Victoria Station playing with fire as he expertly flambeed cherries for a tasty dessert, and we chatted with Chef Steve from the Regatta Pub at Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites (one of the event sponsors) about his hand-made truffles. They were all rich and decadent, but our favorites were the ginger and cayenne,both set off nicely by the bubbly being poured at their table.

Speaking of cayenne, we really enjoyed the Caliente Cafe cocktail the ladies of Finz were serving. Made with pablano-infused espresso, vanilla vodka, and creme de cacao and then rimmed with white chocolate and cayenne, it had a spicy zing but wasn’t too sweet.

Some of the wines that stood out were a vegan Malbec being poured by the Gulu-Gulu Cafe and the fun Apothic Red on sample from both Victoria Station and Busa Wines. It was lush and spicy yet smooth, a perfect companion to the chocolate we were consuming. Ian from Isaak’s of Salem was on hand pouring his Popp Road Raspberry, which paired nicely with the chocolate cake being served by Green Land Cafe.

We also caught up with Sharon Driscoll, owner of Milk and Honey, who was scooping ice cream. She reminded us that as part of the festival, the green grocer is running a great special—20% off all products with chocolate listed in the ingredients.

In fact, that’s just one example of the tasty specials available throughout the festival. For a full listing of events and savings, pick up a brochure or check out the Salem Chamber of Commerce website. Even if you missed Friday night’s event, there are still plenty of opportunities to savor Salem. With fabulous ice sculptures and sweet deals, it’s the perfect date destination for Valentine’s Day.

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Lunch in Lynn: Mexican Mulitas at Lupita Restaurant

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Lupita Restaurant, Lynn, Mexican | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Ever since we started the Dish, we’ve had the idea to do a “Lunch in Lynn” series to explore the plethora of ethnic eateries there, so when Corey Jackson of Downtown Lynn wanted company for lunch, I was all for it.

Our destination was Lupita Restaurant, the new location opened by the owners of Tacos Lupita, also on Monroe Street. The interior is bright and open, and the décor leaves no question that you are in a Mexican restaurant.

After perusing the extensive menu, we ordered at the counter and then found a table. We had just started to chat and sip our Mexican sodas, (I tried the Boing! Mango, which was awesome) when the server brought our food.

Billed as appetizers on their menu, both the pupusa ($2) and the mulita ($4) are hearty enough to have been my entire lunch. The pupusa revueltas, the smaller of the two, was a thick corn tortilla stuffed with queso and a mix of ground pork and beans served with a tangy cabbage slaw and salsa. While tasty, I preferred the mulita al pastor (shown at left), a sandwich of two grilled corn tortillas filled with roast pork (al pastor means “shepherd style,” from a rotisserie) cheese, beans, and lettuce. It had a unique savory rich mix of tastes that I really enjoyed and will definitely return for.

We also tried a carne asada burrito ($6), which was packed full of meat, beans, and rice. The flavor of the grilled beef was quite good, but I was stuffed after the mulita, and most of the burrito came home with me for the next day’s lunch.

My dining companion went all out and ordered a specialty plate, which featured breaded and fried steak (similar to the mudiga steak found in Gloucester) served with rice and beans and a salad with nice chunks of fresh avocado. As artery threatening as it sounds, it was delicious, the meat tender and flavorful.

Lupita is a great place for lunch, especially if you’re on a budget. The food is tasty and served quickly, and the portions are a bargain at these prices. Corey tells me they are waiting on a liquor license that could make them a great cheap eats destination for dinner as well as lunch.

While Lynn perennially suffers from a bad reputation, much is changing in the downtown area, and interesting things are starting to happen both in the arts and the food scene. The  available variety of ethnic cuisine alone is worth venture over the border.

Lupita Restaurant
22 Monroe Street, Lynn
(781) 599-3004

Lupita Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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