Dish Scoop: A First Look at Barrel House American Bar

Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Barrel House American Bar, Beverly, Bistro, Drinks | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Beverly restaurant scene is shifting rapidly, and we were thrilled to get a sneak peek at the new restaurant going into the space held by Mandrake. We were quite fond of Mandrake, but having seen the interior and the menu for Barrel House American Bar, we’re even more excited by the newcomer.

A barrel house is a room for aging whisky, and American Bar refers to the American bartenders who set up shop in Europe during prohibition. Thus, the new spot is an American bistro with a neighborhood feel and an emphasis on classic and craft cocktails. It’s owned by Nik Paras and Anesti Lazarides (of Soma and Wrapture) and Sean Maher (shown at left), formerly bar manager at Tryst and now managing partner. We loved Sean’s work and are excited to have him back on the local scene after a stint at Eastern Standard. The chef is Patrick Shea (of the Tom Shea family), also recently of Eastern Standard.

We saw the space under construction, but with the windows cleared of curtains, a new tin ceiling, and a beautiful 20-seat cast-pewter bar, it looks cozy yet hip. When you belly up to the bar, you’ll have local beers and interesting wines to choose from, along with the aforementioned cocktails made with craft spirits, fresh purees and juices and the appropriate ice (think crushed or unique cubes).

You may also want to partake of the raw bar, the house-cured charcuterie, a few chef-selected cheeses, or bar snacks like truffled parmesan popcorn and foie gras stuffed cherries marinated in sweet whisky.

At the nearby banquettes and the 22′ family table made from reclaimed boards (from the First Baptist church recently moved in Salem) you can sample small plates or go right for comforting entrees like mac & cheese, baked haddock, steak frites, or mustard seed encrusted Scottish salmon. Entrée prices run from $18 to $32.

With a strong restaurant pedigree and an intriguing menu that’s not special-occasion priced, we have high hopes for this Beverly entry, which will open in late November. Look for us in the bar…

Barrel House American Bar
252 Cabot Street, Beverly
978-998-4627 (active soon)
www.facebook.com/BarrelHouseAmericanBar

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More Than Just a Cheap Date, Rolly’s Tavern May Have the North Shore’s Best Dining Deal

Posted: October 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Lynn, Rolly's Tavern on the Square | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

When was the last time you had dinner for two, including prime rib and a bottle of wine, with the tab coming to just $30? Certainly not in this decade.

But let’s back up a bit. We lunch with Corey Jackson, charming champion of the Lynn arts scene and Managing Director of Arts After Hours, on a semi-regular basis, and a few weeks ago he suggested Rolly’s Tavern in Wyoma Square.

The restaurant, helmed by Chef Rolly Hayes and his wife, Wendy Meninno Hayes, opened in 2005 and recently underwent a major renovation. In fact, the project continues as they enlarge through the rear of the space. The place is casual and welcoming with a large bar graced with plenty of TVs for sports enthusiasts.

At lunch, Corey opted for the famous grilled ham and cheese sandwich, which Boston Globe Magazine listed as one of Boston’s 45 Best Sandwiches. This childhood fave, served on white or wheat with a side of fries, was savory and satisfying.

I chose the Rolly’s burger, a half-pound of Black Angus grilled to order, served with a side of fries ($9). Talk about a seriously good burger—juicy on the inside with a nice char outside and plenty of toppings.

I would have gone back for the burger alone, but what caught my attention were the weekly specials. Monday features a two-for-one special on the burgers, and Tuesday and Wednesday host the aforementioned dinner deal: two entrees and a bottle of wine for $30. The specials list includes a variety of entrées, some of which are higher end and add $4 or $5 to the overall price. Rolly’s posts the menus for that evening on their Facebook page.

We returned on Tuesday night, when the menu included a prime rib au jus, and we opted for the queen cut at $16 (the king cut is $19). Although the butternut squash ravioli in a whiskey cream sauce was tempting, we opted to try the chicken pot pie at $14.

Both entrees were hearty comfort food, perfect for a chilly evening. The prime rib was tender and flavorful, and the vegetable sides were a step above standard pub fare. The mashed red bliss potatoes had great texture, rich but not overly creamy, and the steamed green beans and carrots had a nice crunch to them.

The all-white-meat pot pie offered an appetizing roasted chicken flavor, was topped with a lovely flaky puff pastry, and was accompanied by a fresh garden salad.

The wine included in the deal is Salmon Creek, which is available in chardonnay, white zin, pinot grigio, merlot, or cabernet. Also available for a $3 add are the wines from Lynn’s own Urban Wine Project.

Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive date night or just want to relax after work while someone else does the cooking, we think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a better deal than Rolly’s midweek specials.

Rolly’s Tavern on the Square
338 Broadway, Lynn
781-599-2160
www.rollystavern.com

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Sundays at Reds: New Location, Same Tasty Breakfast

Posted: October 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, brunch, Peabody, Reds Kitchen + Tavern | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Having been to Red’s in Salem on many lazy Sunday mornings, we were excited to check out their latest incarnation in Peabody (on Rt. 1). It’s an enormous space but quite welcoming, with diner-style counters up front and family-style tables elsewhere, plus a nice-looking bar.

We arrived around 12:30 and were a bit disappointed to learn that lunch is not served on Sunday; the restaurant moves right from breakfast to dinner (starting at 2:00). Unlike their sister restaurant, this location serves alcohol and is open until 10pm Sunday through Wednesday and 11pm Thursday through Saturday.

Nonetheless, we ordered up some of our breakfast favorites and thoroughly enjoyed them. The pancakes have got to be one of the best deals around, with three platter-sized fluffy cakes for $6.25. We had the chocolate chip, but the blueberry and banana are also delicious. Served with a side of bacon or sausage ($2.50), it’s enough food to last until bedtime.

Two eggs with thick-cut Canadian bacon, home fries, and rye toast also hit the spot ($6.50). The home fries are crispy outside, soft inside, and well seasoned, without being too heavy on the salt or garlic.

Like just about everything on the menu, the omelets are a great value: a huge portion of eggs with generous fillings. We enjoyed the tried-and-true Western with cheese ($6.25) and the more unusual fresh spinach with feta ($6.25). You can create your own concoction from a variety of ingredients and cheeses.

Unfortunately, the breakfast specials that day sounded great and were sold out when we arrived. Guess we’ll have to get up earlier if we want to sample the lobster benedict or one of the other benedict-style offerings. We managed to make do with a respectable waffle ($5.50), bacon, and a tasty Absolute Bloody Mary ($9.00).

The Sunday dinners we saw on the tables as we left looked tempting, so we’ll definitely plan a return trip to try the chicken pot pie ($9.50) and the rib-eye steak ($24).

Reds Kitchen + Tavern
131 Newbury St, Peabody
(978) 531-7337
www.redskitchenandtavern.com

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Wine and Cheese—and More Wine

Posted: October 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Event, Marblehead, North Andover, Salem, Shubie's Market Place, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Wine lovers, it’s time to grab a jacket and get out to one or more of the fantastic wine festivals coming up in the next three weeks. And yes, there will be cheese.

First up is Shubie’s Annual Wine & Food Festival, this Saturday (Oct 20) from 1:00 to 5:00 in Marblehead. Always a great time, this year’s event features more than 20 artisan cheeses and 50 wines to taste (free). We’re happy to add that a portion of the proceeds will go to the Sue DeVries Cancer Foundation.

Take the week to recover, then head over to Wine ConneXtion in North Andover on Saturday the 27th from 12:00 to 5:00 for their Third Annual Fall Grand Tasting. Taste a wide selection of new wines, peruse more than 50 hand-selected bottles from all over the world, and enjoy culinary treats from Chama Grill (free).

Finally, you won’t want to miss Salem Wine Imports’ annual Grand Tasting Event at the Hawthorne Hotel on Friday November 2 from 6:00 to 9:00. Advance tickets are $25 for members of Historic New England, Historic Salem, Inc, and the Salem Athenaeum, $35 for nonmembers (all tickets are $35 on the day of the event). Enjoy wines from dozens of vendors, light refreshments, and live entertainment; all proceeds support Historic New England, Historic Salem, Inc, the Salem Athenaeum, and Hamilton Hall. Contact Salem Wine Imports at (978) 741-9463 for tickets.

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Salem Food Tours an Experience to Savor

Posted: October 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: 43 Church, Comida, Event, Life Alive, Milk & Honey, Salem, Scratch Kitchen | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

At this time of year, it may be hard to remember that there is more to Salem than the costumed crowds and traffic tangles. The city is, in fact, a terrific destination for food lovers of all sorts. From upscale dining to hole-in-the-wall take out, candy shops, bakeries, funky bars, and ethnic eateries, this historic seaport has it all.

And if you are looking for someone to help navigate you through Salem’s wonderful world of food, there’s no one better than Karen Scalia. Charming, fun, and incredibly knowledgeable, she is a delight. Combining her skills as a Salem tour guide with her background in event planning and passion for food, Scalia created Salem Food Tours, which launched in September.

We were lucky enough to tag along on a tour last week and right off the bat were impressed with the careful thought and organization that goes into creating each tour. With an initial email of helpful instructions, a warm welcome as though you are an old friend, and a well-planned sequence of tastings, Scalia has put together a memorable experience for tourists and locals alike.

With many shops and restaurants as partners, each tour varies, depending on what is going on that day. Thursday tours can include the Salem Farmer’s Market, and vegan tours are available. Scalia will even create a private tour for your special event.

Our tour started off with a bit of Salem history as we headed into Salem Spice/The Picklepot, where the enthusiastic David Bowie (no, not that one) gave us a crash course in Salem’s spice trade and the history of salt and pepper. We compared four peppers and seven salts, and while we enjoyed the pink peppercorns, the Pacific Smoked Sea Salt had us swooning.

The next stop was Scratch Kitchen where Chef Bill Fogarty took time out from the busy lunch crowd to talk to us about his house-smoked meats and locally sourced fare. He treated us to a classic old style New England Clam Chowder with a clean, fresh taste that immediately brought me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. We also sampled incredibly tasty hand-cut, bacon-dusted French fries with house-made ketchup. Yes, I said bacon-dusted. Scratch sells bacon popcorn, too.

We popped into Comida for a quick but appealing tasting of rice and beans with a choice of meat and homemade salsa and pickled red onions. Then it was on to one of our favorite shops, Milk and Honey, to talk cheese and chocolate with Sharon and Bill. Everyone’s favorite seemed to be the Shallot Hannabells from Shy Brothers Farm in Westport—creamy, tart, and savory. And of course Somerville’s Taza Chocolate is always a hit.

We stepped next door to Salem Wine Imports, where we chatted with owner and wine expert Eric Olsen. (Whether you are a wine neophyte or an experienced oenophile, do yourself a favor and sign up for his email newsletters. Thoughtful prose and lovely photos along with the current sales make them an inbox treat.) Eric handed us over to the very capable Chris, who poured three Italian wines and discussed the region and terroir and possible table wines for the upcoming holiday season.

We tore ourselves away with some difficulty but were glad we did when we ended up at Life Alive. A new favorite of the Dish, it was a treat to chat with manager Christina about the workings of the café and the vision behind the food. We sampled the Swami bowl with kale, tamari almonds, raisins, carrots, and broccoli, over brown rice with a curry miso sauce that was truly inspired. Top that off with a taste of locally made vegan truffles, and you’re in heaven.

You would think by this point we would be too full to either move or eat another bite, but the tour was well paced, and we happily moved on to the finale, at 43 Church. This was a lovely end to the tour. We relaxed at a table in the bar, were offered another wine taste and several fabulous small plates.

I have to say that when 43 Church emerged from the Lyceum last year, its upscale surf and turf type menu didn’t really excite us. Since then, Chef Doug Papows has taken over in the kitchen, and if what we tasted during the tour is any indication, his creative vision is worth revisiting this Church Street eatery.

The extremely tender lamb osso buco, tucked inside handkerchief pasta (all the pasta is house-made by sous chef Kirk Vanacore) accompanied by roasted grape tomatoes and spinach with a crumble of feta cheese was a savory, mouthwatering combination. But my favorite was a cassoulet, perfect for the autumn weather. The bean stew was rich and velvety, created with a barnyard’s worth of meat for flavor, including braised lamb and pork, boar and pheasant sausages, duck confit and a fried duck tenderloin.

Pastry chef Saskia Nugent was on duty that afternoon and mystified us with her dessert. How can a moist dense-looking slice of chocolate cake with satiny frosting and rich raspberry ganache be light as a feather? This decadent enigma was the perfect end to our afternoon of gastronomy.

Because every tour varies, your experience won’t match ours exactly, but we can guarantee that Karen Scalia is the gal you want to have show you her town. From her infectious smile and attention to detail to her vast expertise on Salem’s history and food, Karen has made Salem Food Tours an experience food fans from near and far will savor.

Salem Food Tours
Salem, MA
salemfoodtours.com
978-594-8811

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Farmers Market and Local Chefs Make a Winning Combination

Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Event, G Bar and Kitchen, Swampscott Farmer's market | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Beautiful and savory plates by Chef Brackmann of G Bar and Kitchen earned the Chef Throwdown trophy.

This Sunday will mark the end of the Swampscott Farmers’ Market first season. If you haven’t been this year, you should plan to check it out. In addition to beautiful produce from area farms, they host some terrific locally produced foods. We enjoyed Patty’s Guacamole out of Gloucester, tasty treats from Salem’s Sweet Adeline’s, and lush jams from Marblehead’s Fille de Ferme.

Chef Craig Hawley prepares a fresh lobster for the grill.

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being one of the judges at a Chef Throwdown at the market, but due to technical difficulties haven’t been able to post photos until now. It was an awesome event, with all three chefs stepping up to the plate in spectacular fashion, and the crowd hanging on every move.

Chef Brackmann whipping up butternut zucchini pancakes.

Chef Gregg Brackmann of G Bar and Kitchen may have walked away with the saucepan trophy, but I think the judges were the true winners for the chance to taste some unique and wonderful dishes.

Chef Guarino plates his ceviche.

Brackmann’s plating was gorgeous, and his accompaniments, like acorn squash and corn hash, red and purple pepper puree, and butternut zucchini pancakes were fresh and funky, highlighting seasonal produce. Chef Joe Guarino of Red Rock Bistro wowed the judges with a salmon ceviche that was a taste revelation.

Tangy and tender salmon ceviche by Red Rock Bistro’s Chef Guarino.

We loved Chef Craig Hawley’s Bar-B-Que Bistro (seriously, the coolest BBQ truck I’ve ever seen) which he graciously lent to the proceedings, but we loved his smoked purple pepper stuffed with rich seafood etouffé even more.

Craig hawley’s divine smoked purple peppers stuffed with seafood etouffe.

The Swampscott Farmers Market is a great addition to the local food scene, and we congratulate them on a successful first year and thank them for hosting such a well-organized and entertaining throwdown.

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Taking Advantage of October’s Harvest

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Along with cooler weather and strangely dressed children, there are a slew of food and drink events coming up in October, including two restaurant weeks and fests of every description.

October is always the biggest month of the year for activities in Salem, and this year is no exception. For a full schedule of Halloween related events, check out their Haunted Happenings site.

This Saturday, October 6th, Salem will see two tasty events to benefit great causes. At the 2nd Annual Salem Chowderfest you can sample some of the city’s best clam chowder while listening to live bands from 11:00 to 2:00.  The $5 tasting fee benefits the Avon Foundation, which raises breast cancer awareness and education. At 5:00  head on over to the Boys & Girls Club for Witchtoberfest. There’s a Beer Run beforehand, or you can just spend the evening sampling beer and food and listening to live music. A portion of the proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem.

Also on the 6th the Essex Shipbuilding Museum hosts Ales over ALS from noon to 5:00. Not only will it be an afternoon full of great local brews and food, but the event also features an amateur homebrewing competition, to be judged by special guests. The coolest part is that the winning beer will then be be produced by Haverhill Brewery and proceeds from the sales of the one-time release will go towards helping to develop a cure for ALS.

Then it’s the start of the very first Beverly Restaurant Week, on Sunday October 7. Purchase a two-course, prix-fixe dinner for $15 or a three-course dinner for $25. Participating restaurants include American BBQ, BellaMia Trattoria, Bertucci’s, Chianti, Cielito Lindo, Cygnet, Beverly Depot, EJ Cabots, Hale Street Tavern, Happy Clam Seafood Cafe, Kame, Kitty O’Sheas, Mikado, Not Your Average Joe’s, Organic Garden Cafe, and Prides Bar & Grille.

Next up is a Harvest Dinner at Gloucester’s Alchemy on Thursday October 11 starting at 7:00. Co-owner Jeff Cala and head chef Scott Jensen will execute a five-course menu based on the new crop of goodies from the fall harvest, and general manager Matt Rose will test the limits of his drink repertoire to provide pairings with each course. Tickets are $100 per person and seats are limited. Call (978) 281-3997 to reserve.

On Friday October 12 from 6:30 to 9:00, join fellow foodies for Tales and Ales at Newbury’s Swett-Ilsley House, which served the town as Swett’s Tavern in the late 17th century. The huge fireplace and massive beams make a great backdrop for enjoying traditional local brews from Ipswich Ale Brewery and a hearty tavern dinner while listening to true tales of sword fights, scandalous romances, and bloody brawls from Newbury’s storied past. Tickets are $35 for Historic New England Members and $55 for non-members. Call (978) 462-2634 for information or purchase tickets here.

There’s a Bootleg Bash Prohibition Party on Saturday October 13 from 7:00 to 10:00 at the Lynn Museum to celebrate its 115th anniversary. Enjoy an evening of Roaring ’20s entertainment with live music by the Salem Jazz Fest, cash bar and signature cocktail, raffle roulette and live auction, costume contest, photo booth, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and birthday cake, festival food to purchase, and speakeasy surprises.

The Rockport HarvestFest is also on the 13th, from 10:00 to 6:00. Along with live music and kids activities, there’s an 11:00 cooking demonstration and a 3:00 seafood throwdown hosted by the lovely Heather Atwood. You can sample fare from local restaurants and shops, including seafood, sweets, pastries, soups, and beer.

Alfalfa Farm Winery in Topsfield will be hosting their Harvest Fest on both Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14, which includes tours of the winery and vineyards, wine tastings and live music.

A Taste of Swampscott on Sunday October 14 from 1:00 to 3:30 is shaping up to be quite an event at Swampscott High School. Tickets are only $15 in advance ($20 at the door) and restaurants include The Blue Ox, Caffé Paolina, Cupcakes by NeeNee, Five Guys, Marblehead’s new Joey D’s, Red Rock Bistro, Sweet Life Confections, Terry’s Ice Cream, and many more.

The ever-popular Essex Clam Fest takes place on Saturday October 20 from 11:00 to 4:00 this year at Shepard Memorial Park. The free event includes entertainment, Ipswich Ale samples, an arts and crafts area, and kid’s games. For $5, you can eat more chowder than you ever wanted and vote for your favorite.

Also on the 20th is Salem Harvest Fest, from 4:30 to 8:00 at the Knights of Columbus. It features a grand tasting of wine, mead, and craft beer, including Magic Hat, Cape Ann Brewing, Cody Brewing, Harpoon, Mayflower, Narrangansett, Notch Session Beer, White Birch, Clown Shoes, Element Brewing, Ipswich/Mercury, Berkshire Brewing, Isaaks of Salem, and Sap House Meadery. Mitch Alden from Now Is Now will provide live entertainment. Tickets are $25 in advance at Pamplemousse or online, and $30 the day of the event.

Cape Ann Restaurant Week starts on October 21, with three-course meals for either $33.12 or $25.12. Participating restaurants include Lobsta Land, The Grand Café at Emerson Inn, Alchemy, Latitude 43, Cala’s, The Landing at 7 Central, and Mile Marker One.

Also that Sunday, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is throwing a Chef’s Octoberfest. the $75 ticket promises to bring you Chef Robert Grant from The Blue Room in Cambridge creating a lush, multi-course meal using fresh local produce, accompanied by plenty of ale and music. The feast is slated to be served alfresco, though will move to the barn in the event of rain.

Finally, on the Saturday the 27th, The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover will be hosting its Third Annual Fall Grand Tasting, where they will be pouring over 50 wines, which attendees can taste free of charge from 12:00 to 5:00 along with food bites from Chama Grill.

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