Posted: August 16th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Drinks, Wild Horse Cafe | Tags: Matt Blanchard, Sam Hunt, Wild Horse Café | 2 Comments »
We’ve been eager to check out the new Wild Horse Café, since we were great fans of new owners Matt Blanchard and Sam Hunt when they were at 15 Walnut in Hamilton. (Blanchard and Hunt took over the restaurant from Brendan Crocker several months ago.) The renovated space and updated menu were overall a hit, with a couple of minor quibbles.
The interior is lighter and brighter, but still quite cozy. The sound levels are very good, with the upholstered furniture doing its job, and the décor is quirky without being over the top. The bar in the dining room is gone (the separate bar area remains), but the cocktails are in full force. We loved the generous-sized raspberry lime rickey, an adult version of the ones we used to splurge on at Brigham’s ($11) and the hot & dirty martini, which had just the right spice level ($10).
We started with a meze plate, choosing grilled asparagus, cheese of the day, and olives from a list of potential meze ingredients ($12). The cheese was outstanding, and the asparagus was wonderfully smoky. We asked about the preparation and were told it’s from a wood-fueled grill. We couldn’t resist the Thai poutine, which featured decadent fries coated in Thai spices and laced with peanut sauce ($8). Sounds weird, tasted great.
The menu is well thought out, with salads, small plates, and sandwiches along with standard apps and entrees. The specials include a daily cheese, salad, taco, flatbread, and pasta, keeping things interesting and fresh.
The meat dishes we tried were terrific, including steak frites ($24), meltingly tender short ribs with mashed potatoes and the smoky asparagus ($26), and the good-sized lamb chop small plate, also deliciously smoky ($14). We didn’t love the pesto accompanying the lamb, which was bitter, and the swordfish in the taco plate ($17) was on the rubbery side. But the tortillas were grilled, and the salsa and coleslaw were flavorful and made for a wonderful combination with the fish. Given the ingredients, it will surprise no one that the pork dinner was the group favorite, featuring slow-cooked pork shoulder with Moxie barbeque sauce, confit belly, and kale braised with bacon ($19).
We suspect Blanchard and Hunt are still refining the menu, looking to make a mark in the area while giving customers what they want. We’d hope to see service levels bumped up a bit—our waitress was more harried than friendly on a moderately busy night.
We certainly did not need dessert, but we splurged anyway. We enjoyed the bananas foster (although the bananas could have been caramelized a bit more, $7), and the chocolate therapy cake ($8) was served too cold but was wonderfully decadent once it warmed up.
Wild Horse Café
393 Cabot St, Beverly
Posted: July 12th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Opus, Salem | Tags: jeff Cala, Mark McDonough, Serenitee Restaurant Group | No Comments »
Photos courtesy of our friend John Andrews at socialpalatesphotography.com
It’s been a long time coming, but Opus is finally open in downtown Salem. I’ve got to say, I think it was worth the wait. It’s the latest brainchild of Serenitee Restaurant Group, the partnership of Mark McDonough and Jeff Cala that’s responsible for Latitude 43, Maggie’s Farm, 15 Walnut, and several other North Shore venues.
We were invited to a pre-opening party last night where we sampled cocktails, sushi, and mini versions of several menu offerings. The bar is spectacular—enormous, open, and topped with attractive yellow glass lit from beneath. Tables and booths line the front and sides of the room, and downstairs there’s a cozy lounge area with a small bar and a band area called Opus Underground.
Our previous experiences at Lat 43 and the Nut led us to expect top-notch sushi, and we were not disappointed. The rainbow roll with tuna, salmon, avocado, tempura flakes, and mango was outstanding. We also sampled a slider version of the Opus burger, a farmer’s cheese empanada, and a curried potato samosa that were all worth the calories.
The menu is fairly expansive, with a good number of salads, seafood entrees from pan roasted fluke to lobster salad, and some interesting sounding meat offerings like pork belly mini tacos, slow smoked ribs (these were incredible), and bacon-wrapped rabbit loin. With six sushi rolls and nine side dishes, diners can put together any type of meal they want, from bar snacks to multi-course meals.
The opening will take place sometime next week, and we’ll return this summer to do a more detailed review. See you at the bar!
87 Washington St, Salem
Posted: June 23rd, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Beverly, Event | Tags: Benny's Crepe Cafe, Beverly Arts Fest, Grillicious, North Shore Food Trucks, The Happy Taco | No Comments »
A chance to browse arts and crafts and sample offerings from food trucks lured us to Beverly last weekend for Arts Fest. It was a gorgeous day, and the event was well attended, which was great to see. The trucks gathered in a parking lot just off Cabot Street, and there were lines at every stand.
We weren’t in the mood for lobster, but Rowand Seafood Market’s lobster roll with chips, slaw, and a drink seemed like a good deal for $12. Across the lot, Anmol was offering a selection of Indian food that looked tasty.
We opted for the BBQ pulled pork sandwich ($8 with chips) from Beverly’s Grillicious, but we weren’t impressed. It had pineapple salsa that, combined with the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and the cream cheese at the bottom of the (not grilled) bun, just didn’t work. It’s possible they just weren’t prepared for the crowds—the servers seem harried, and the grilled sandwiches on their Facebook page look much more appealing than what we saw.
We had the opposite experience at The Happy Taco truck (based in Gloucester). We tried the chicken and the baja fish tacos, and both were outstanding ($6 each). The chicken was tender and flavorful, the salsa was fresh, the veggies crunchy, and the corn tortilla was nicely grilled. The fish was fried to perfection and accompanied by a creamy sauce with a real kick to it.
Although the savory crepes at Benny’s Crepe Café sounded appealing (smoked salmon, ham and cheese, and mediterranean are on offer), we were in the mood for dessert after our tacos and ordered the Elvis (peanut butter, banana, and bacon, $3.75). It was a great mix of flavors on a freshly made crepe and went down quite easily with a refreshing watermelon basil lemonade ($2.50).
We’re hoping to see more North Shore events include food trucks so we can check out new treats and order more of those tacos.
Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Appleton Farms, Event, Farm, Ipswich | Tags: Appleton Cooks, Cafe, Carolyn Grieco, Cooking Classes, CSA, farm store | 3 Comments »
There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen—and it was perfect. We recently attended a terrific class given by Carolyn Grieco of Farm Cooking With Carolyn at the new Appleton Farms demonstration kitchen.
Before we describe the class, we want to let you know about the exciting food-related activities going at the farm. First, there’s a dairy & farm store selling milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, beef, eggs from the farm and an assortment of other locally sourced products. (The store is open Mon-Fri from 11:00 to 6:00 and Sat/Sun from 10:00 to 4:00.)
Second, there’s a new café offering salads, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages from 11:00 to 2:00 Wednesdays through Saturday. Third, on select Friday nights in July and August, there will be family farm dinners with pizza from the group’s just-built earth oven.
Finally, the Appleton Cooks series of classes and workshops has 30 events scheduled in June, July, and August with classes on cheesemaking, pasta making, gluten-free living, seasonal tapas, and much more. Prices range from $25 to $85 for non-Trustee members.
We thoroughly enjoyed the class we attended, coming away with food profile insights, great recipes, and new friends. We gathered in the kitchen, which was set up with workstations and ingredients, most from the farm. Carolyn went over the menu and then we split into groups of three or four to prepare the dishes.
The meal consisted of grilled zucchini hummus with homemade pita chips, spicy peanut noodles with snap peas, green goddess chicken salad with cucumber and avocado, a veggie-stuffed picnic loaf, and skillet strawberry shortcake. As we collaborated to prepare the meal, Carolyn demonstrated everything from knife skills to “temping” the poached chicken, arranging the composed salad, and tray rotation to get the pita chips properly crisped. She was full of energy and great tips for both seasoned cooks and new ones. She was happy to accommodate dietary concerns (a non-spice lover got her own chips without cayenne, and we prepared a salad without chicken for the vegetarian in the group).
While meal components were cooking/cooling, we took a short walk to the kitchen garden to pick herbs that we combined with farm butter. We spread it on baguette slices and ate it with freshly-picked radishes while Carolyn showed us the picnic loaf technique. These have to sit overnight, so she brought some already prepared for our meal.
And what a meal. Everything was incredibly fresh and flavorful. The green goddess dressing was amazing with the chicken, the blanched snap peas were the perfect contrast to the spicy noodles, the picnic loaf was full of balsamic-marinated vegetables and goat cheese, and the dessert was warm and luscious.
We are thrilled to see this 375-year old farm embracing the North Shore’s thirst for local food, farm-to-table, and new food experiences. See you on the farm!
Rt 1A, Ispwich
Posted: May 14th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Bakery, Buttermilk Baking Company, Newburyport | Tags: cakes, lemon curd cake, pies, Tarts | No Comments »
One of our readers wrote to us about Buttermilk Baking Company, saying we had to get ourselves to Newburyport to try their pastries (thanks, Laura!). We went a little crazy in the shop and ended up with two tarts, two hand pies, and a mini-cake. We are extremely picky about baked goods and find most look better than they taste. That’s definitely not the case here.
The lemon-curd cake was not only adorable, it was also moist and flavorful ($9.25). The buttercream icing was unbelievably light, tempting us to eat more cake than we really should have. We’re told that the raspberry preserves between each layer are made in the shop to be less sweet than commercial brands.
Both of the hand pies featured toothsome, flaky pastry ($4.65). Although the blueberry was delicious, the sour cherry filling was outstanding and a clear favorite with our tasters. The high-quality ingredients being used make these relatively simple pastries really shine.
Everyone in the group enjoyed the key lime tart, which had a creamy filling and a generous amount of buttery graham crust. But the chocolate caramel tart was the hit of the dessert round-up. Salty caramel and the best chocolate ganache we’ve ever tried are offset by a sugar-cookie crust for an incredible combination ($5.65 for individual sized tarts).
We’ll be back to try the muffins and cookies as soon as we work off some of the last indulgence. In the meantime, if you’re in the area, stop by Buttermilk and let us know what delectables you’ve discovered.
Buttermilk Baking Company
3 Liberty St, Newburyport
Posted: April 28th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Flying Saucer Pizza Co., Gulu-Gulu Cafe, Pizza | Tags: Face of Boe, Morpheus, Picard, Pizza, Quark | 1 Comment »
Okay, here’s the thing. We’re going to tell you about a wonderful pizza place, but you have to promise not to go too often, or we’ll never be able to get a table. Do we have a deal?
We love pizza, and we’re perfectly happy with a pie that features good dough, tasty sauce, and melty cheese. But Salem’s Flying Saucer Pizza Company reminded us that this humble dish rises to an entirely new level with the right technique and ingredients.
Everything at Flying Saucer is high-quality, fresh, and delicious. There are a large number of creative combinations to choose from, or you can create your own from a long list of ingredients. These New York-style pies with delicious cheese and generous toppings really knocked our socks off.
We were lucky to snag a seat the night we visited, and the restaurant was so busy that we were told right off the bat it would be 40 minutes to get our pizza to the table. Ensuring honest expectations is commendable and we didn’t mind the wait, though we might suggest a few appetizer options aside from the breadsticks to tide over hungry patrons.
We sipped wine and draft beer while munching the very tasty bread sticks. Then we tried the Morpheus (BBQ sauce, cheese, asparagus, roasted red peppers, black olives, green olives, scallions, BBQ chicken), Picard (cheese, potatoes, Canadian bacon, rosemary, chopped garlic, parmesan, olive oil), Quark (red sauce, cheese, hamburger, bacon, red onion, scallions), and Face of Boe (pesto, artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, feta cheese, spinach). The latter is from the vegetarian section; there are two vegan pies as well. Prices for each pie ranged from $12 to $14 and easily fed three. The toppings were all fresh and plentiful, especially pleasing on pies like the Picard. We’d be hard pressed to name a favorite, but the no-sauce pizzas were a definite highlight for several in the group.
Given the ownership (the same folks who own the next-door Gulu Gulu Café), it was no surprise to see a huge selection of craft beers and meads. We were pleased to also see a nice wine selection, some good-looking salads, and some dessert offerings we’re looking forward to trying. Nutella, banana, and crushed coconut, anyone? Not to mention the highly amusing sci-fi décor, including the Dr. Who portrait wall and Star Trek’s Captain Picard in full Borg regalia.
We understand you’ll want to check the place out, and soon, but just be sure to leave a table open for us, okay?
Flying Saucer Pizza Company
118 Washington St, Salem
Posted: March 22nd, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Beverly, Italian | Tags: Brian Knowles, Italy Eats, Shelly Green, Tuscany | 3 Comments »
A fabulous meal, fellow food-lovers, and a knowledgeable teacher—that’s what awaited us earlier this week at Shelly Green’s house in Beverly Farms. Oh, and did I mention a roof-top wood-fired oven?
We were invited to attend a pizza-making class at Italy Eats, and it was an incredible experience. There was a lavish spread of cheeses, crackers, salami, olives, fig jam, prosciutto, and more. We nibbled and took pictures while Shelly gave us a tour of her kitchen, which is laid out for teaching and includes both an incredible ocean view and the aforementioned pizza oven. (Full disclosure: our class was complimentary as part of Shelly’s effort to reach out to local bloggers.)
Shelly had already made and proofed the pizza dough. As we sampled the antipasto, Shelly’s husband, Ralph, a native Italian, cooked some fresh bread sticks in the oven to be filled with broccoli rabe and sautéed peppers. Between the wine, the spedini, and the food-related conversations, we were hard pressed to turn our attention to the pizza making.
Still, we managed to turn out some fantastic creations using the array of ingredients provided, including fresh mozzarella, smoked gouda, farmer’s cheese, parmesan, spicy sausage, fontina, leeks, broccoli rabe, and chili flakes. Fellow blogger Brian Knowles came up with my favorite combination: a white pizza with farmer’s cheese, broccoli rabe, and sausage. Definitely one to try at home, it was perfect with Shelly’s lightly-dressed salad of arugula, watercress, and gala apples.
Shelly can accommodate up to eight people for classes, and if you come as a group, she will customize the menu based on food preferences and what the participants want to learn. The class includes a sit-down dinner. If you’re lucky, you’ll be serenaded in Italian after dinner by one of Ralph and Shelly’s guitar-playing friends, as we were. Shelly’s knowledge of Italian food is formidable, and she both encourages you to ask questions and offers recipes.
Shelly also leads small-group trips to Tuscany. There are still a few spaces left on her May trip based in an 11th century castle, which includes five days of cooking, photography, or both, and a “Big Night” medieval banquet.
We’d like to thank Shelly and Ralph for a magical evening—we’re still dreaming of that crispy, chewy, smoky pizza and scheming to somehow build our own wood-fired oven so we can replicate it.
104 West Street Beverly Farms
Posted: March 13th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Amesbury | Tags: 19 Steps Bake Shop, Alex's Whey, Kitchen Local, Lisa Sutton, Local Foods Initiative, The Enterprise Center at Salem State | No Comments »
Owner Lisa Sutton explains the inspiration behind Kitchen Local.
We recently had the pleasure of touring an exciting new business in Amesbury: a shared-use commercial kitchen called Kitchen Local. Owner Lisa Sutton proudly gave tours of her just-completed space to attendees of the quarterly meeting of The Enterprise Center’s Local Foods Initiative. Sutton said that after seeing the burgeoning local food industry and realizing the shortage of commercial kitchen workspace, she decided to open her own.
The 1,200-foot work space is located in 14 Cedar Street Studios, a historic building a few blocks from downtown. Originally home to a carriage and automotive manufacturer, the building now hosts creative entrepreneurs such as artists, architects, designers, builders, and musicians.
Kitchen Local is available to chefs, small-scale food producers, farmers, and nutrition instructors for food production, catering, baking, cooking classes, menu planning, training, recipe testing, photography, and product development. You can rent the entire space for $40 per hour, which includes both the catering kitchen with a six-burner range as well as a baking kitchen with a 30-quart mixer, double electric convection oven, and proofing oven. You can rent one side or the other for $20 per hour.
The web site has a complete list of included equipment, plus information about becoming a client (including information on required food safety certification).
This is the first certified shared-use kitchen on the North Shore, and the meeting attendees were visibly excited about the possibilities. They also appreciated the protein cookies from Alex’s Whey and cinnamon-sugar popovers from 19 Steps Bake Shop, two of the businesses using the shared space.
The Enterprise Center is looking to support the local food community, specifically with regard to manufacturing, shared commercial kitchen space, distribution, and marketing. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the group’s progress.
14 Cedar Street Studio 106, Amesbury
Posted: March 6th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Event, News | Tags: Alchemy, Best Chef 2013, Beverly Bootstraps, Chianti Tuscan Restaurant, Christopher DeStefano, Christopher's Table, Danversport Yacht Club, Fibber McGees | No Comments »
Lobster tarts from Timothy S. Hopkins Catering, colorful bites from Tastebuds Gourmet Foods and an array of treats from The Topsfield Bakeshop.
It was a great night for a great cause—we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Monday night’s Best Chef 2013 event to benefit Beverly Bootstraps.
We started by perusing the gorgeous silent auction items, then made our way around to each of the food offerings from various North Shore purveyors, caterers, and restaurants. One of favorite tables, Timothy S. Hopkins Catering, ended up winning the people’s choice award. We loved their tiny lobster pastries and delicious toffee-chocolate mousse cups.
The variety on offer was terrific, including smoked mahi ceviche shooters from Red Lulu, healthy grain dishes from Life Alive, and seared tuna on crispy tortillas from Not Your Average Joe’s. There was plenty of food, too, allowing us to go back for seconds and thirds of our favorites.
The teams hard at work. Clockwise from top left: Alchemy Cafe and Bistro, Fibber McGee’s, Christopher’s Table and Chianti Tuscan Restaurant & Jazz Lounge.
As the four chefs competing for Best Chef title prepared their entrées, the live auction got going, with much fanfare. The entire event was extremely well thought out and ran smoothly from start to finish. The Best Chef contestants were Christopher’s Table (Ipswich), Fibber McGees (Beverly), Alchemy Cafe and Bistro (Gloucester) and Chianti Tuscan Restaurant (Beverly).
Top: The judges taste and compare notes. Bottom: The winning dish from Christopher’s Table.
The contestants used ingredients from the Beverly Bootstraps pantry as 75% of their ingredients, with 25% coming from their own kitchens. They were judged on taste, appearance, and the originality of the use of pantry items by Eliana Hussain of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, Sam Hunt of Wild Horse Café, and Paul Guanci of Super Sub Shop of Beverly.
The chef’s creations were wildly imaginative, including goldfish-encrusted spam cooked sous vide from Alchemy and a chicken pot pie with crust made from pumpkin bread mix and Bisquick. But the beautifully plated pho from Christopher’s Table was the judge’s winner. It featured ramen noodles in a broth flavored with peanuts, cilantro, and lime, plus a spring roll accompanied by a hoisin sauce made with grape jelly.
A good time was had by all. (L) Lindsey Sakonchick, Development/Marketing Coordinator for Beverly Bootstraps had everything under control. (Center) Matt Blanchard, new owner/manager of the Wild Horse Café and Mark McDonough, owner of Serenitee Restaurant Group are old friends. (R) Blanchard’s Wild Horse partner and 2012 Best Chef winner, chef Sam Hunt chats with Christopher DeStephano, this year’s winner, as he preps his meal.
It was such a pleasure to see the North Shore turn out for this sold-out, fun-filled event!
Posted: February 18th, 2013 | Author: JR | Filed under: Event | Tags: Best Chef 2013, Beverly Bootstraps, Danversport Yacht Club | No Comments »
If you’re a fan of Food Network-style cooking competitions, consider checking out a live version on March 4 at the Danversport Yacht Club. Four chefs will compete for the Best Chef title—plus there will be sampling stations from more than 20 local restaurants, a cash bar, and silent and live auctions. Proceeds will benefit Beverly Bootstraps an organization devoted to providing critical resources to Beverly families and individuals so they can achieve self-sufficiency. The evening will benefit the organization’s food assistance, client support, adult education, and youth and family programs.
The event, which beings at 6:00 pm, features Karen Nascembeni, director of communications for North Shore Music Theatre, as the host. Judges include Paul Guanci, owner of Super Sub and City Council President; Sam Hunt, 2012 Best Chef winner and Wild Horse Café’s new chef; and Eliana Hussain, personal chef and instructor at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
The competitors this year are Christopher DeStefano of Christopher’s Table, Stephen Crato of Fibber McGee’s, Scott Jenson of Alchemy Café and Bistro, and Chianti’s of Beverly. All four will duke it out in the kitchen using mainly food pantry ingredients (only 25% of the dish’s ingredients can come from the chefs’ kitchens).
Tickets are $50 and can be reserved at BeverlyBootstraps.org or by calling (978) 927-1561. Sponsorships are also available.