Red Lulu Rolls Out the Red Carpet

Posted: October 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Mexican, Red Lulu, Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

When a friend messaged me and asked if I wanted to attend the pre-opening party at Red Lulu Cocina and Tequila Bar in Salem, how could I refuse? The subject of much gossip, Red Lulu is the sibling of Boston hot-spot Lolita, both of which are spin-offs of restaurants of the same names in Connecticut. North Shore natives Chris Jamison, Josh Jamison, and Mark Malatesta are running the Boston versions.

Does Salem need a fourth Mexican restaurant? Will it alienate the local crowd by catering to the young hipster crowd? Is there enough parking in the neighborhood? All of these questions have been raised by Salemites as they watched the former Strega space change hands. Others got their backs up over job ads that specified “stylish hostesses and captivating bartenders” and required a “dress-to-impress” interview.

Last night Red Lulu opened its doors for an invitation-only preview party, and the place was quickly packed. We recognized local business owners and press but didn’t catch any politicians on hand.  It was nice to see they had invited other restaurateurs; Dee Wolfe from the Lobster Shanty, John Andrews from Victoria Station, and several managers from Finz were spotted. The beats were loud and throbbing, and the décor was what my companion accurately described as Edward Gorey Whorehouse. (I wonder if they told the interviewing female bar staff that their idea of stylish was super-tight, barely-there short shorts.)

Grabbing a seat at the bar, we decided to try some signature cocktails. Their nod to autumn was the Spiced Apple margarita, which, unlike so many too-sweet apple martinis popping up this fall, was tart and refreshing with green apple and lime. The cinnamon-sugar rim seemed superfluous. Next up was the Broken Heart featuring Gran Centenario Rosangel, (hibiscus infused tequila), St. Germain, Patron Citronge, white grapes, and fresh raspberries. It was fun, with raspberry ending up the main flavor, and it wasn’t cloying.  We also tried the Lolita, a more standard margarita that was very smooth and drinkable with Sauza 100 Anos Azul Reposado, Patron Citronge, fresh lime, cane syrup, and grapefruit.

Bite-sized tastes of menu items were being passed by the waitstaff, and they were varied and tasty. There was a corn bisque that was rich and savory, a cast-iron pan corn bread with roasted garlic sauce that was delicious but much too large for the “single serving” spoons, and the chips with guacamole were quite respectable. The  pork taco was my least favorite; the meat was well-spiced and tender but lacked interest. My favorite was the Ahi tostado: pepita-crusted ahi tuna on crisp corn tortilla with avocado, watercress, and chipotle aioli. Complex but balanced with nice heat.

Quality tequilas, interesting food, and funky décor are all great ingredients, but I’m not sold yet. The verdict is still out until we sample a few meals. The menu will be pricier than neighbors Howling Wolf and Comida, but it’s an entirely different experience and, likely, different audiences.

Red Lulu opens to the public tomorrow night. (10/28).

Red Lulu
94 Lafayette Street, Salem


Dish Tidbits: Two Restaurant Weeks, Three Halloween Parties, and a Slew of Tastings

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

There are so many food-related events going on in the next few weeks it’s enough to make our heads spin (sorry, couldn’t resist).

For starters, Sunday marks the start of Cape Ann Restaurant Week, and it only runs until Thursday, so start planning your night out now. Three-course dinners for $25.11 are available at numerous restaurants—the list is here.

There are several events of note next weekend, starting with Shubie’s Fall Food and Wine Festival on Saturday. This free event runs from 1:00 to 5:00 and includes tastings of more than 50 wines and 15 cheeses, plus discounts on featured products. Jasper Hill Farms will be on hand with their cheese, along with many other cheese makers and vintners. A list of the wines being offered is here.

Also on Saturday, this time from 12:00 to 5:00, is a tasting of American blended wines known as meritage. It’s at Wine ConneXtion in North Andover, and more information is available here.

There are too many Halloween events for us to list them all, but we’ll mention a few that crossed our desks this week. The Bridget Bishop Costume Ball is taking place at Salem’s new 43 Church from 8:00 to midnight. There will be music by DJ Emilita, tasty treats, ghoulish cocktails, and prizes for most creative and outrageous costumes ($75 per person). Hawthorne Hotel’s annual costume ball is also Saturday night. Tickets are $90 per person, and information is here. Up in Gloucester at Lat43, a $5 cover will get you into the second annual Nightmare Circus with music by DJ Vito and prizes for best, sexiest, and scariest costume.

If you’re sufficiently recovered from Saturday night to venture out on Sunday, the fourth annual North Shore Bazaar is being held from 1:00 to 4:00 at the Community Covenant Church in Peabody. More than 25 vendors will be offering organic, fair trade, or locally sourced gifts and services, including Touchstone Honey, Mercury Brewing, Galbraith Gourmet Catering, Fellows Farm, and Vegan Girl Next Door. More information is here.

The beginning of November is also shaping up nicely in terms of events. Mark your calendars for a tasting of the industry’s highest rated wines (90 points and above) at Wine ConneXtion on November 12 from 12:00 to 5:00 and for Salem Restaurant Week, which runs from November 6 to 10 and November 13 to 15. The list of restaurants with click-throughs to their menus is here.


In Which We Learn to Pair Wine With Local Cheese

Posted: October 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Classes, Marblehead, Shubie's Market Place | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Wine and cheese are two of life’s essentials, as far as we are concerned. Together, they make us very happy—but is pairing them as simple as all that? Well, yes and no, we learned last week at a terrific class taught by Bill Shube of Marblehead’s gourmet grocer Shubie’s.

The one-hour class was $25 and included six cheeses and four wines, plus a wealth of information. It was held in the store’s upstairs demonstration kitchen/classroom, which is bright and comfortable.

We began by tasting each of the wines, a petit mouton muscadet (Louis Metaireau, France, $13), a lambrusco (Vecchia Modena, Italy, $18), a cotes du rhone (Domaine Gris des Bauries, France, $14.99) and a cabernet sauvignon (Route Stock, California, $24). Bill talked about the qualities of each wine, the region it was from, and how one might think about pairings.

For example, the muscadet is from France’s northern region where they make a lot of goat cheese. Its crisp acidity makes it a great partner for food. Similarly, the bubbles in the lambrusco help clean your palate, making it a good partner, especially for cheeses you are unsure about pairing.

We then tasted each of the cheeses, which are all from New England. The Bonne Bouche from Vermont Butter & Cheese (goat, Vermont) paired brilliantly with the muscadet, with the cheese somehow making the wine taste fuller.

Tiny Hannahbells from Shy Brothers Farms (cow, Mass.) are barely aged and very tangy. A bit difficult to pair, they require either a full bodied red wine or a sweet wine. The Landaff from Jasper Hill Cellars (cow, NH) is similar to a Welsh cheddar and paired well with both the muscadet and the cotes du rhone.

Blythedale Farms Vermont Brie (cow, Vermont) was delicious and incredible creamy. It was also a bit hard to pair but went well with the lambrusco. The Olga from Seal Cove Farms, (cow and goat, Maine) was very nutty and a bit crumbly (would be great on a salad). Its great flavor would be overpowered by a strong wine and went nicely with the cotes du rhone. The last cheese was the wonderfully earthy Black Ledge Blue from Cato Corner (cow, Conn.), which needed the strong flavors of the cabernet for a good match.

What we enjoyed most about the class was its accessibility. Rather than a know-all teacher telling his pupils what to drink and eat, Bill helped us understand why some pairings work well and how we might determine some happy matches on our own, which we’re definitely looking forward to doing.

16 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0149


Lunch in Lynn: A Visit to Rincon Macorisano

Posted: October 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Caribbean, Rincon Macorisano | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Continuing our occasional series on lunch in Lynn, we headed for Rincon Macorisano in the heart of downtown last week. The food is billed as Carribean, more specifically, the Dominican Republic. Thirsty, we perused the menu while sipping on a cold mango shake, a bit sweet but quite delicious.

Judging from the lack of seated patrons, it seems Rincon’s lunch business is mainly takeout. The décor is very casual, with a baseball theme, and it seems that family dinners are the restaurant’s main business.

We ordered a cubano sandwich ($5.50) and Dominican specialty, pork mofongo (6.50). Mofongo consists of fried green plaintains mashed with seasonings and olive oil and mixed with some type of meat. It was served with a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce. We had never encountered mofongo before and definitely enjoyed it. Great flavor, interesting texture and an enormous portion. We took about three-quarters of it home. The cubano was a disappointment, though. It was a lightly pressed sandwich of pork, ham, and cheese, but it completely lacked flavor and did not include the pickles we’re used to in a cuban sandwich.

With all the wonderful options available for Latin food in Lynn (for example, we really enjoyed our visit to Casa Antigua), we’re not sure we see a reason to return to Rincon.

350 Washington St, Lynn
(781) 592-5823