Everyone in the Pool

Posted: August 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Rockport, Seafood, The Lobster Pool | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Please don’t ask us why we didn’t visit the The Lobster Pool in Rockport before now—we have absolutely no excuse. Having lived on the North Shore for so many years, we’re kicking ourselves for having neglected this gem. We had a magical evening there last weekend, and we plan to return soon.

There was a real party atmosphere when we arrived, with people eagerly queuing up to order and many guests already enjoying their food and the sunset over the water at the picnic tables just outside. The menu is large, with favorites like fried clams and scallops next to lobster rolls and swordfish specials. We found everything reasonably priced, fresh, well made, and delicious.

The fisherman’s platter is enormous—enough to feed three people. We went with the mini version ($19), which was more than enough for one. The seafood had a light, slightly sweet batter and tasted fresh. The haddock got the same treatment and was flaky and delicious ($15). The lobster roll was full of meat, not too heavily dressed, and the roll was properly grilled ($17 with fries). The fish cake dinner was a great deal at $8: two large cakes very crisp outside and tender inside, a generous serving of beans that weren’t overly sweet, and freshly made cole slaw. The thin, crisp onion rings (you must get these, $7) and the blueberry pie ($4) disappeared quickly as well.

As though the food and the incredible view weren’t enough, The Lobster Pool is BYOB with no corkage fee, so you can drink just what you want at liquor-store prices. There’s an interesting outside raw bar that’s worth visiting, complete with lobster tails ($8 each and cooked to perfection). To further gild the lily, on weekends, there is a campfire and free s’mores. You cook your own marshmallow over an ingenious pipe sticking out of the fire (no engulfing your treat in flames, no worries about burns) and place it right onto a waiting chocolate/graham cracker sandwich.

One thing to keep in mind, especially on a weekend night, is that the restaurant’s kitchen is fairly small, everything is cooked to order, and demand is high. With waits up to 45 minutes for food, it’s best not to arrive starving. You could also call ahead for a take-out order to transport to the outside tables. Also keep in mind that the restaurant is not in downtown Rockport; you’ll need a car to reach its Folly Cove location, about halfway between Rockport and Lanesville.

The Lobster Pool
329 Granite St, Rockport
(978) 546-7808

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A Savory Evening at Maggie’s Farm in Middleton

Posted: August 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Drinks, Maggie's Farm, Middleton, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

We recently headed out Rt. 114 to Middleton to check out the newest member of Mark McDonough and Jeff Cala’s Serenitee Restaurant Group. Maggie’s Farm (named after the Dylan song) took over the space next to Sol Bean Café most recently occupied by Rock’s Tavern and opened in May.

Things were hopping on a Saturday night, and we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations after 7:00, so unless you head over early, you may find yourself in the same boat, though spending time at the large, pleasant bar isn’t a problem.

The celebrity-populated mural on the rear wall is fun, making it seem as though Jerry Garcia and Pee Wee Herman are jockeying with you for a seat at the bar. Other than that, the obviously music- and farm-inspired décor is a bit more sparse than some of Serenitee’s other establishments and features more TV screens than we like while dining.

The brews on tap include several local offerings, including Cody Sunshine Daydream, a Belgian gold ale brewed specially for Serenitee. Perusing the cocktail menu, we decided to try the Blood Orange Margarita, made with Sauza Gold Tequila, Cointreau, fresh sour mix, and a blood orange puree ($10). It was nicely tart and refreshing, with a decent pour of tequila.

The menu, as expected, features a mix of seafood, grilled entrees, and Serenitee’s trademark sushi. It also includes vegan and gluten-free offerings, which are clearly marked. Speaking of gluten free, once seated at our table, we decided to try the tater tots ($9) for a starter. Not the pre-fab frozen nuggets you’ve come to expect, these were a decadent surprise. Creamy, cheesy, slightly chunky mashed potatoes that had been deep fried and were served with a chive bacon sour cream sauce, they quickly disappeared.

The entrees we sampled were large and hearty. The meatloaf, made from both beef and pork, came as thick tender slabs served with cheddar mashed potatoes, garlic broccoli, and copious mushroom gravy ($19). The lamb shank really exceeded expectations. Savory, garlicky, and falling off the bone, it was served with a tasty summer veggie ratatouille on a bed of creamy polenta ($20).

One member of our party did go for the sushi, which was super fresh. The spicy roll ($10) is offered with a choice of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, or crab, and indecision led us to ask if the order could be made up of some of each. Our server checked with the sushi bar and happily reported it wasn’t a problem.

There was no way we had room for dessert, so that will have to await further investigation. The flow of the dining space space is slightly awkward and parking limited, but the attentive service and enjoyable meal definitely warrant a return trip.

Maggie’s Farm
119 South Main Street, Middleton
(978) 539-8583

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Dish Tid Bits: What’s New on the North Shore

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The restaurant scene on the North Shore is always changing, and the past six months have seen quite a few openings and closings. We’ve put together a list of the goings on, and we’re excited to have so many new places to explore.

Last year, it seemed Salem had a new restaurant opening every week. This year Marblehead wins the prize for the amount of changes and new businesses. Five Corners Kitchen has finally reopened after the devastating fire last year, having enlarged into the former Terry’s Ice Cream space to include a bigger dining room and extensive bar. Clearly, residents were ecstatic to have it back—the place has been filled every time we’ve driven by. Terry’s, which has moved down the street to Atlantic Ave., has yet to re-open.

Around the corner, in the former Pellino’s location on Washington Street, Italian eatery Yannalfo’s Ristorante, owned by Andover resident Brett Yannalfo, is slated to open soon. Joey D’s Italian Grill, serving pasta and seafood, has taken over the Hooked space on Pleasant St, across from the new Warwick Place development. The owners of Warwick Place are working with a developer to put a new high-end restaurant in place, but negotiations seem to have stalled after their request for outdoor seating was shot down by the town.

Hungry Betty’s has been sold to Jason Rakauskas, who has vowed to keep the name and atmosphere, making a few changes to the menu. Kitsen Table in Village Plaza has morphed into Soall Bistro, a Vietnamese café about which we’ve heard some good things.

Brothers Felix and Jose Bracamontes, previously of Mexico Lindo in Melrose, have just opened the doors of a new Mexican restaurant, Casa Carona, in the former Sablone’s space on Smith street. While expected soon, they have no liquor license yet.

Marbleheaders have also been able to indulge their sweet cravings with the opening of two bakeries and a candy shop. Captn’s Bakery on Washington St. offers breads, cookies, pastries, and cannolis, while Just Fabulous Custom Cakes and Sugarscapes offers custom-made, special-occasion confections. The Candy Pop Sweet Shoppe is similar to an old-fashioned penny-candy vendor but also sells snack mixes, popcorn, and fancy baked goods.

In Lynn, we were sad to hear that Turbine Wine Bar has closed. We really liked their atmosphere but hear the landlord was difficult to work with. Le Petite Café, serving breakfast and lunch, has moved into the former Fernandos space on Munroe Street. A Greek-themed family restaurant, Olympic Gardens, has opened on Buffum St., and New Style Asian, featuring an extensive menu of both traditional Asian and vegan fare, has opened on Boston Street.

Our favorite new concept in Salem is Flying Saucer Pizza, created by the Gulu Gulu folks when they took over the space next door, vacated by Uppercrust Pizza. While we have yet to sample the pies (high on our to-do list) we admittedly geek out over the sci-fi theme and fun movie and TV references.

Green Land Café has been sold to new owner Nolo Opus and is closed for renovation. The new incarnation, to be named Opus, will likely open in November.

43 Church has a new chef, a slightly more wallet-friendly menu, and is open for lunch. Not to be confused with Tavern on the Square or The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel, Village Tavern is poised to open soon in that odd space in Museum Place Mall previously occupied by Lakay Island and others. Speaking of Museum Place, that’s where 3 Potato 4, the baked fries place we wrote about a while back, has moved.

And the game of North Shore musical chairs continues. Last year, Brodie’s Pub in Peabody was sold to Michael Votto, who now plans to open a second Brodie’s location in Salem, where the Seaport Café was. Joe Deisely, who originally owned Brodie’s, has taken over 282 Cabot St. in Beverly and opened EJ Cabot’s, which looks to be more pub-like than its predecessor, Tryst. Former Tryst owner and chef Peter Capalbo is now the chef at the re-tooled Wenham Tea House. Got it?

In Peabody, the new Red’s Kitchen and Tavern is in full swing in their Rt. 1 location and Stonewood Tavern has opened on Lynnfield St.

In Hamilton, the Black Cow is still closed for renovations, but it will hopefully reopen in September. 15 Walnut has a new chef and just released a new late-summer menu.

Ally’s Eatery, a new sandwich take-out shop in Rockport has earned rave reviews. According to our friend Heather Atwood, Ally’s “has elevated a panini and salad eaten on a bench to fine dining.”

Our must-try short list also includes Enx Dadulas’ Ohana on Main Street in Gloucester. The upscale New American cuisine spot has been attracting diners in droves since it opened this spring. Also making waves in Gloucester is the nightlife at newly opened Mile Marker 1, which offers a waterside deck, live entertainment, and, if you arrive by boat, free dockage with your restaurant receipt.

Brown Sugar by the Sea, a relative of Boston’s Brown Sugar has replaced Andaman Thai Restaurant in the Tannery in Newburyport and has already garnered some great reviews. Newburyport will also soon be home to two craft microbreweries. Newburyport Brewing Co., a “keg and can” brewery is working to have three ales on offer, and Riverwalk Brewing of Amesbury is preparing to move into new digs in Newburyport in September.

We’d be remiss in our duty if we didn’t mention the invasion of various frozen yogurt chains all over the north shore this summer. We don’t usually cover chains, but they have aroused so much interest we may have to get out there devote a piece to comparison tasting. The things we do for our readers.

More changes are afoot, of course, but hopefully this post will be helpful to those of you looking to widen your taste horizons this fall. If you’ve got any hot tips on new restos, let us know, and we’ll spread the word.


In Which We Dress All in White

Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Would you like to have a gourmet picnic with 650 like-minded people in an undisclosed location? This was the offer extended to us a few months ago as the highly secretive Diner en Blanc prepared for its first Boston event. This was definitely worth leaving the north shore to experience.

Started in Paris in 1988, Diner en Blanc is a chic mass picnic in a public space. It’s by invitation only and involves some preparation on the part of the attendees, but the Boston event last night came together beautifully on the lawn in front of the Moakley Courthouse. After dressing all in white, putting together a gourmet picnic, and gathering a portable table and chairs, we met our leader at our designated location on Seaport Blvd. We were soon surrounded by elegantly dressed picnickers, and when our group was complete, we were instructed to walk toward the courthouse.

It was a large crowd, but the tables were set up quickly, and a bar and band awaited the group. Between the view of Boston Harbor and the skyline, the white-clothed tables and party-goers, and some strategic lighting, it was a magical sight. We thoroughly enjoyed talking and sharing bites with our tablemates, who included North Shore residents Deborah of Melu Tasty Treats, one of the amazing volunteers, and Cathyann of Cygnet Confections, who wowed everyone with her lucious cake.  We also enjoyed smoked salmon pate, a creamy quiche with an herbed crust, and a terrific peach blueberry tart with almond paste (recipe from Annie Copps via the lovely Heather Atwood).

If you’re intrigued by our report, keep your eye on the Diner en Blanc website, where information on future events will be posted. The idea is to grow the event each time it’s held, so there’s plenty of opportunity to snag an invite for next year, which organizers are already discussing given last night’s resounding success.


Lunch Comes Alive at Salem’s New Organic Café

Posted: August 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe, Life Alive, Vegitarian/Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

When Coven opened at 281 Essex Street in Salem, we really loved their concept and baked goods. While disappointed by their departure, we were happy to find the space was filled almost immediately by another restaurant.

The new tenant, Life Alive, is one of three organic cafes founded by Heidi Feinstein, a natural health consultant. We’ve eaten lunch there a couple of times now and have really enjoyed it. Despite being an organic café focusing on nutrition, health conscious meals, juices and smoothies, the hippy-crunchy vibe doesn’t overwhelm. The staff is welcoming and happy to explain any unfamiliar ingredients or options available. You order and pay at the counter, and they bring your meal to you when ready.

One rainy afternoon, the Udon Miso Masterful ($9.15) really fit the bill: warm, filling and energizing. Chock full of veggies, udon noodles, and dark barley miso broth, it was a soup with attitude and almost too large to finish.

On a return trip, we tried two of the signature meals-in-a-bowl, the Goddess ($8.55) and the Lover ($9). The beets, carrots, broccoli and dark leafy greens are only lightly cooked so they retain flavor and crunch, and the short grain brown rice adds body and texture. The Goddess featured tofu, while shitake mushrooms graced the Lover. Both were drizzled with Sesame Ginger Nama sauce that was addictively tasty.

The persnickety 13 year old along for the ride was horrified when she realized where we planned to eat. “You brought me to a vegetarian restaurant without telling me?” And the eyes rolled skyward. But she was very pleased to discover a wrap called The Feisty Child ($7). PB&J along with honey and banana on a warm wheat tortilla earned raves.

While dropping $10 on lunch might not fit your daily budget, the same items and prices are served at dinner and if you’re looking for a hearty, healthy fresh alternative, Life Alive is definitely worth investigating. Everything we tasted was super fresh, and the bowl portions were impressive.

Life Alive Cafe
281 Essex Street, Salem

Life Alive on Urbanspoon


Serving Up a Fresh Dish

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: News | Tags: , , | No Comments »

You may have noticed we’ve been a bit quiet this summer. Crazy work and vacation scheduling has taken a toll, but now we are refreshed and invigorated and looking forward to putting that energy into the Dish.

To that end, we are looking for your feedback. Since our very first post back in 2008, we haven’t changed very much around here, and we’d like to know your thoughts; what you like about the site, what you don’t, what you want to see more or less of. We started NSD to bring you local restaurant and food news and we want to make sure you enjoy what we’re serving up.

Please give us a hand and take a moment and fill out the following survey:

Survey: Serving Up a Fresh Dish

We look forward to your input!

Kristen and Jill