Weekend Picks, April 29-May 1

Posted: April 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , | 5 Comments »

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for good weather this weekend and looking forward to some fun events. Start things off right by attending Ipswich Museum Pub Night, co-sponsored by Ipswich Ale Brewery, from 6:00 to 10:00 on Friday night. There will be beer, pub fare, raffle prizes, and live music by Orville Giddings.

On Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00, Busa Wine and Spirits in Salem is holding its 10th Annual Spring Welcoming Party. Taste wine, beer, and/or spirits while listening to swing music, and enter a raffle to win a Heineken BeerTender.

On Sunday, the Newburyport Farmer’s Market opens, and they have Frequent Farmer cards available this year. When you purchase $5 worth of farm product at one of the participating booths, you will receive a card. For every $5 worth of produce, fruit, meat, fish, or plant products you purchase from that farmer, you receive a stamp. When you accrue 10 stamps, you’ll receive $5 worth of product from that booth.

Also on Sunday is the Pajama Brunch at Cafe Polonia. They’re serving lunch and brunch menus from 10:00 to 4:00, and you get 10% off your check if you wear your jammies.

Starting at 3:00 on Sunday, the folks at Chive Catering will be serving up local pork, local beers, and local music at the Cox Reservation in Essex. Sip beer while exploring the salt marsh farm and listening to Boston band Qwill, then enjoy a five-course supper celebrating a recently dressed and cured Maine pig. Tickets are $100 each or two for $175, and all proceeds go to the Essex County Greenbelt Association.

Last but not least, there’s still time to reserve a spot in the From Scratch Pasta Class, at 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar in Salem. Sunday night at 6:00, Chef Bettencourt will walk student-diners through the pasta-making process, including the techniques behind making wonderful shapes and regional varieties. Guests will finish the evening with a three-course dinner featuring a choice of starter, a full pasta tasting, and dessert. The class is $55, and reservations are required. Call (978) 744-0062.

And as usual, here are some terrific weekend picks of things to do all over the north shore from our pals in the North Shore Bloggers Consortium:

The unstoppable Joey C from Good Morning Gloucester gives us his scoop here.

The wonderful Jane Ward, who has just published her second novel (hurrah!) has some great ideas over at Food and Fiction.

The lovely lady of Lighter and Local, Kimmy Bingham, gives us tasty recipes and her picks  here

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

Choices from all over New England at The Two Palaverers.


We’ve Been Challenged!

Posted: April 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

The bad boys of Gloucester have issued a challenge that we find impossible to refuse. Yes, that’s right, they have challenged us to a “good old-fashioned” blog off. (You didn’t even know such a thing existed, did you?)

Talking trash and calling us the “second best blog around,” Good Morning Gloucester published a post this morning outlining the challenge, which involves both teams reviewing an as-yet-unnamed restaurant. The piece that receives the most comments will be the winner.

Although these guys garner more page views with their goofy captions on seagull photos and bizarre lobster stories, we think we’ve got more loyal readers across the North Shore. Food or follies? Serious or silly? You decide.

While Northshore Magazine doesn’t include a blog category in their Best of the North Shore awards, we’re game to find out if Joey and Patrick can live up to their boasts. May the best blog win.

Stay tuned for more details!


Café Polonia Serves Up Savory Comfort

Posted: April 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe Polonia, German, Polish, Salem | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

We were looking for a bit of comfort last week, our spirits sagging from the cold and rain, and decided to stop into Café Polonia for lunch one day. It was definitely the right decision. The bright, welcoming atmosphere and hearty warming food were just what we needed.

Cafe Polonia is the second location of the Dorchester restaurant known for its traditional Polish fare. The Salem location, which opened in October, not only features Polish foods, but German, Hungarian and Eastern European specialties as well.

We settled in with a Tyskie (a Polish lager, $5 for 500ml bottle) and ordered the potato pancake sampler for two ($8) to start. This plate could easily have been our entire meal, with four huge potato pancakes served with sides of sour cream, a chunky apple sauce, and a bowl of Hungarian goulash. The pancakes were fresh and crispy, and the goulash was delicious: rich and hearty with hunks of tender brisket and vegetables in a savory gravy. We ended up ladling the goulash over the pancakes and eating them together—comfort food heaven.

We didn’t really need another bite, but we soldiered on as we had already ordered the Polish plate and the Pyzy dumplings. The Polish plate ($14) was a sampler of traditional tastes, and once again, enough food for several people. The pierogies were lovely, delicate and crisp on the outside and stuffed with savory filling. We tried the meat, potato, and cheese and the cabbage and mushroom, all very satisfying. The kielbasa was excellent, and the hunter’s stew, made from various sausage, pork, cabbage, and sauerkraut was interesting, almost Alsatian in taste. The stuffed cabbage was quite respectable as well.

The Pyzy dumplings ($14) are meat-filled potato dumplings served with caramelized onions. The dumplings steamed rather than fried, so the thick jacket of potatoes can feel a bit gummy, but the filling of ground pork and spices made a tasty counterpoint.

There was so much food that we ended up with a meal’s worth to bring home, and there was no way we had room for dessert. We’ll have to try the apple crisp or the chocolate babka next time around.

Café Polonia
118 Washington Street, Salem
(978) 745-0045

Cafe Polonia on Urbanspoon


A Tasty Collaboration

Posted: April 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cape Ann Brewing Company, Drinks, Event, Gloucester, Ryan & Wood Distilleries | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Two of our favorite purveyors of tasty tipple on the north shore have come together in a creative collaboration. This Friday, April 22nd, Cape Ann Brewing Company along with Ryan & Wood Distillery will be tapping their new project; Whiskey Barrel Aged Fisherman’s Rock-Porter. Oak barrels used by Ryan & Wood to age their rye whiskey for 2 years were re-used by Cape Ann Brewing to age our Fisherman’s Rock-Porter for another 2 months.

This event marks the first of many future collaborations between the two companies. Head down to The Pub at Cape Ann Brewing on Friday at 6:00 pm for a chance to taste the new brew and to chat up brewer extraordinaire Dylan Lindquist and the terrific Bob Ryan of Ryan & Wood. We’ve had the opportunity to talk with each of them at length and you’d be hard put to find a couple of guys more passionate about what they do.

And be sure to congratulate Bob on his first bottling of rye whiskey!


Weekend Picks, April 15-17

Posted: April 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

This weekend is all about imbibing, with three tastings, a party, and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. First up is a tasting of high-end pinot noirs at Wine ConneXtion in North Andover from 12:00 to 5:00 on Saturday. There will be one-day pricing on the wines being poured, including names like Caymus, Platz & Hall, and Adelshiem.

If rum is more to your liking, head over to Busa Wine & Spirits in Salem for a free tasting of Admiral Nelson Rum. The tasting is 2:00 to 5:00 on Saturday; the rum is imported from the Caribbean and blends vanilla with savory spices for a great cocktail base.

Also on Saturday is the annual holiday tasting at Henry’s Wine Cellar in Beverly. Kurt Reming will be hosting the event from 2:00 to 5:00 with more than 20 wines from the Pasternak portfolio. There will be a mix of reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines, all selected to go with spring fare, especially Easter and Passover dinners.

On Sunday from 11:00 to 2:00, DJ Forrest Frazier will be at The Lobster Shanty playing a mix of rat pack, blues, and rockabilly. The Rhythm and Booze event also features do-it-yourself Bloody Marys—start with vodka and tomato juice and add all sorts of condiments to make your drink unique.

Last but not least, Ipswich Ale Brewery is throwing a party to support the relief effort in Japan on Sunday from 4:00 to 9:00 at the Ipswich Town Hall. Mercury soda will be served, music will be played, and all proceeds from the event (tickets are $10) go to Global Giving.

Here are more weekend picks from the usual suspects:

The lovely Jane Ward has the round-up for Amesbury and Newburyport here.

The 2 Palaverers have beer, tea, and more here.

And you can read about a plethora of Lynn happenings here.


Food At Salem Jail Improved, But Not By Much

Posted: April 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Great Escape, Italian, Salem, Seafood | Tags: | 7 Comments »

Salem has so many new restaurants that we are having trouble keeping up. Last Sunday night, we stopped into Great Escape for dinner, curious to check out this unusual space—the site of a jail built in 1813.

The décor is indeed wonderful, with a high ceiling, a gorgeous stone floor, and whimsical jail-related art. Unfortunately, other than the dessert, the food was a disappointment. The menu is well written and has a good selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, and more. But the kitchen is having some obvious issues with ingredient quality and technique.

We started with a caprese salad ($10) and the eggplant tower ($10). The salad was an unappetizing plate of watery tomatoes sandwiching flavorless mozzarella. There was a good-tasting balsamic glaze, but it wasn’t enough to save the dish. I realize it’s not tomato season, but I’ve been buying hothouse tomatoes at Stop & Shop that were far better than these. The eggplant tower had flavor, but the eggplant was too thick, the prosciutto should have been cut instead of put in as a slab, and it was literally drowned in sauce.

Our entrées weren’t much better. We tried the papardelle dish with seafood and mushrooms ($19). The pasta and the mushroom reduction were fine, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly, but the scallops were rubbery, and the sauce had some grit (presumably from the seafood). The steak tips ($16) came with flavorful broccoli rabe, but the meat was not good quality, with some pieces quite chewy.

Surprisingly, our last course was great. The coffee was very good, and the tiramisu was plenty for two and very well done, with delicious sweet cream and great mocha flavor. The service was also commendable, although I was served the wrong wine. I wondered why my pinot gris lacked flavor until the bill came and I saw I’d been served pinot grigio.

There were few patrons dining the night we were there, so we’re guessing word has gotten around that the food is lacking, and we’re sorry to have to confirm it. We hope a revamp is in the works because a great spot like this deserves cuisine that matches it.

Great Escape
50 St Peter St, Salem
(978) 745-5022

Great Escape on Urbanspoon


Weekend Picks, April 1-3

Posted: April 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Marblehead, News, Salem | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

After a few quiet weeks, there are a slew of interesting food events this weekend.

First up is Salem’s Spring Fling on Saturday from 6:00 to 9:00 in Salem Old Town Hall. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and include craft beer from Magic Hat, Ipswich, Stone Cat, Cape Ann Brewing, Clown Shoes, and more. There will also be wine from Pamplemousse and Market Wine & Spirits and food and desserts from several Salem favorites, including 62 Restaurant, Lobster Shanty, Victoria Station, Café Polonia, Gulu-Gulu Café, and Greenland Café. This is an over-21 event featuring music from Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket. Tickets are available at several Salem locations and online here.

Also that night is the Art Auction to benefit the Marblehead Festival of Arts. The silent auction begins at 5:00 at Abbot Hall, followed by a live auction at 7:30. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door; they include hors d’oeuvres and wine tasting during the first part of the evening, and dessert and coffee later on. More information is here.

This weekend is the beginning of an epic Salem Restaurant Week, which runs Sunday through Thursday and has been extended to run the following Sunday through Thursday as well (April 10 to 14). Meals are $15 for two courses and $25 for three courses. A complete list of restaurants is here.

Last but not least, this weekend marks the end of prohibition in Salem. Well, the winter kind, anyway. All the restaurants with partial and seasonal liquor licenses can begin serving again on April 1, and they are celebrating. The Lobster Shanty is throwing an opening day open mic shindig and rolling out a new menu, and 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar is unveiling their spring cocktail list. 62 will be serving complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 5:00 to 7:00 in the lounge. After 7:00, they’ll serve a complimentary signature spuntino with each drink purchased from the new cocktail menu in the lounge.

From 8:30 to 11:00 over at Howling Wolf, there will be free Mexican wings and buffalo wings. Lee Hawkins will be singing the blues, and there’s a raffle for Red Sox and Revolution tickets. And starting at 8:00, there’ll be live music by Clay Ventre and the Bond Girls and complimentary passed hors d’oeuvres at Café Polonia.

So ignore any white stuff that happens to be falling from the sky today and get out there and enjoy!

We’ve also got some great things to do from our pals in the  North Shore Bloggers Consortium:

Seth is all over Lynn at Lynn Happens.

Jane Ward has some great ideas for  this weekend.

Kimmy has her weekend picks in addition to another great recipe over at Lighter and Local.