Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Enzo, Italian, Newburyport, Seafood | Tags: Dave Reilly, Kellie Brook Farm, Local, Mary Reilly, Norther Italian, Ryan & Wood Distilleries, The Tannery Marketplace | No Comments »
Chef and owner Mary Reilly
New restaurants are always exciting, and our visit to Enzo Restaurant in Newburyport last week was especially so. We met the owners, Dave and Mary Reilly, shortly after we started North Shore Dish. At the time, Mary was a personal chef and taught specialty cooking classes. She and Dave had dreamed of owning a restaurant for years, and last week it came to fruition.
We were invited to the restaurant’s soft opening for friends and family. The restaurant opens to the public tonight. Obviously, we’re not presenting our normal review here as we did not dine anonymously. But the food at Enzo is spectacular, and although we’re not unbiased, we stand behind the recommendations here.
Light and tender fritto misto
The idea behind Enzo is an interesting one: Northern Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients and a nod to New England traditions. It’s a twist we hadn’t experienced before, and it makes for some great combinations.
We started with an order of house-made potato chips with caramelized onion dip ($5). The chips are large and crisp, perfect for dipping in the savory onion and white bean mixture. We had dip left over, and our waitress offered to bring some bread so we could continue happily dipping. We also sampled the fritto misto, in this case made with Rhode Island squid and tiny Maine shrimp, served with garlic mayo and fried lemon slices ($10). It was exceptionally light for a fried dish, and the squid was more tender than usual.
The Caldwell Smash
To round out our fried-food extravaganza, we nibbled on breaded olives stuffed with herbed cheese ($5) and declared them the perfect bar snack. We also tried two of the house cocktails, both made with spirits from Gloucester’s Ryan and Wood Distillery. The Caldwell Smash combines Folly Cove rum, allspice, dram, apricot brandy, lemon, honey syrup, and mint in a refreshing balance of sweet and tart ($10). The Cane Nebbioso features Beauport vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and Ramazzotti liqueur ($9).
The emphasis that Mary puts on using top-quality ingredients and making as much as possible in-house came through even more clearly in our entrées. The bread for the pork sausage sandwich was a house-made stecca roll, and the sausage is from New Hampshire’s Kellie Brook Farm. It was accompanied by garlicky greens and house-made chips ($14).
Indian pudding with zabaglione ice cream, bacon brittle & bourbon syrup
Fresh bread showed up again in the chicken under a brick ($21), this time in the form of big cubes of foccacia in an unconventional stuffing. The chicken was moist inside with very crispy skin, and the half-bird serving allowed us to enjoy it for lunch the next day.
We tried two traditional Italian dishes, and both were outstanding. The risotto was cooked in red wine for an unbelievable flavor, and the poached egg on top added a further touch of richness ($16). The filled pasta called pansotti was so good we kept eating long after we should have stopped—the cheese filling was flavorful, the walnut pesto was creamy, and the pasta was almost paper thin ($18).
The New England side of the restaurant’s equation gets a bit more play after dinner. All desserts are made in-house, and they are worth the indulgence. Mary has taken the childhood favorite of many, Indian pudding, to a new level with zabaglione ice cream, bacon brittle, and bourbon syrup ($7).
Chocolate addicts can get their fix with the chocolate tart featuring thick caramel and dark chocolate ganache. But the surprise favorite was the lemon posset, an impossibly silky, very tart pudding served with softly whipped cream ($6) that we hope never goes off the menu.
Enzo Restaurant & Bar
50 Water Street, Tannery Marketplace, Newburyport
Posted: March 4th, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Hungry Betty's, Marblehead | 2 Comments »
Owner Patty Johnson and Chef Billy Glidden
Could it be that the economy is on its way back to health at the same time winter releases us from its clutches? Actually, we’re not sure, but we were encouraged when we heard about a large new restaurant opening in Marblehead and stopped in to check it out.
Hungry Betty’s is a casual dining restaurant located on the second level of the Village Plaza on Pleasant Street. Owner Patty Johnson, who took a few minutes out of her busy opening weekend to talk with us, has worked in restaurants for more than 20 years. The past 10 of those years she’s provided food and beverage to the members of Marblehead’s Dolphin Yacht Club. The menu she developed for the new restaurant with Chef Billy Glidden is highly accessible, with casual comfort food at reasonable prices.
One of Johnson’s main goals is to provide a place for families to come on a regular basis—whenever parents don’t feel like cooking. In addition to entrees like burgers, haddock, meatloaf, stir fries, and chicken with fig/onion sauce ($9 to $17), there is a $5.25 kids menu that includes grilled chicken, pizza, chicken fingers, and a cheese quesadilla. All of the food is made from scratch on site.
There’s an 18-table dining room, a bar that seats 16, and a lounge area with another 15 tables. The décor is fresh and soothing, with neutral tones, black furniture, and plenty of light. Johnson noted that she wanted to stay away from the typical nautical theme.
Although many of the restaurant’s crew are people Johnson knows from the Dolphin and other previous jobs, she held back a bit on the opening menu. There are plenty of choices, but Johnson said she has more offerings planned once the kitchen and front-of-house staff gets its sea legs, so to speak. For example, the salmon salad entree comes in a large chilled bowl and is a popular choice; Johnson plans to add several variations.
Johnson, who has lived in Marblehead since 1989 and whose nickname was the inspiration for the restaurant name, believes the time is right for this type of establishment and for the Village Plaza to be revived as a destination for Marbleheaders. We applaud her seemingly boundless energy and once she and her crew have settle in, we’ll return to try the food—we’ve got our eye on the steak bomb egg rolls.
161 Pleasant St, Marblehead
Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, G Bar and Kitchen, Mediterranean, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: Chef Brackman, Dayboat Seafood | 2 Comments »
Imagine a friend asks you to his house for dinner, and that friend happens to be a chef who whips up some amazing dishes with perfect flavor balance. With its intimate dining room, open kitchen, and terrific food, that was pretty close to our experience at G Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott last week.
We were warmly greeted when we walked in and seated at a cushy banquet. The room holds only about 15 tables, with bar seats for about 10 more, and the décor was clearly chosen for sound baffling and comfort as much as style. We ordered Stella Artois ($5.50) and a glass of pinot gris ($10) and happily snacked on fresh focaccia and delicious green olive spread.
For starters, we shared an order of spring rolls ($8) and a caesar salad (which the waitress split for us without being asked). The rolls were crispy without a hint of grease, and the flavor was great: a combination of cool mint, spicy ginger and chili, and baby bok choy. The salad was a huge hit, crisp romaine and arugula with lots of focaccia croutons and a dressing that managed to be light, creamy, and pungent all at once ($7).
We went for one of the entrée specials that night ($28). The dayboat seafood was swordfish, and it did taste amazingly fresh. It had a slight crust on the outside and a tender inside and was seasoned perfectly. It was accompanied by tender asparagus and two eggplant rollatini filled with goat cheese that would make a great entrée themselves.
The beef short ribs were equally good in their uber-comfort-food way, especially accompanied by savory parmesan-romano risotto ($25).
We were a bit too full for dessert, but we read they are made onsite, so that gives us a perfect excuse to return to try more of Chef Brackman’s thoughtful cuisine and warm hospitality.
G Bar and Kitchen
256 Humphrey St, Swampscott
Posted: February 18th, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Bistro, Gloucester, Passports | Tags: popovers, short ribs, tapas | 3 Comments »
It’s another frigid night on the North Shore, and you’re in the depths of the winter doldrums. You’re contemplating grabbing your suitcase and wait listing yourself on the first flight south.
Not a bad idea, but we’ve got an easier solution for you: head for Passports where warm popovers, a convivial atmosphere, and a creative menu will cheer you up in no time.
We had a great meal last weekend at this popular Gloucester spot. There were tons of hot and cold tapas to choose from, followed by entrees that were far from run of the mill, and everything was extremely reasonable.
After sipping some wine (no hard liquor is served) and enjoying the aforementioned popovers, we chose three tapas. The thai duck ($9) was a large breast cooked to our requested medium rare, tender, and flavorful. The grilled curried vegetables ($5) also had great flavor, but the spanish omelet ($4) could have used more seasoning.
Unusual combinations were the theme of the entrees, a welcome sight in the midst of this gray season. They were all successful, too, from the yellowfin tuna stir fry ($17) with bright vegetables to the mandarin scallops with sweet potato casserole ($17). The flame-broiled lamb ($20) has three sauces to choose from, and we were glad we went with the earthy wild mushroom. Short ribs are not usually associated with asian cooking, but the sweet/sour/salty combination offset the rich meat perfectly ($15).
We were plenty full from dinner, but to gird ourselves for the cold trek home, we indulged in a brownie sundae and an apple crisp, both $6. The crisp had good flavor but was more cake-like than crisp. The brownie was the better pick: fudgy and not too sweet with hot fudge and whipped cream.
110 Main St, Gloucester
Posted: January 25th, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Bistro, Green Land Cafe, Salem | Tags: Bar, Cocktails, Dinner, Pineland Farms | 5 Comments »
There are a lot of things that appeal to us about Green Land Café in Salem, including the warm décor with exposed brick and old hardwood floors, the creative menu, and the emphasis on local ingredients. We had had lunch there during the summer and really enjoyed the meal, so expectations were high during our visit last weekend. Unfortunately only some of the food lived up to those expectations.
Our meal started off well. We were pleased to see an Oregon Pinot Gris on the wine list ($8), and it was delicious. The cocktail list is extensive and includes a slew of classics like The Sazerac and the Singapore Sling along with signature drinks like the Fig-a-Rita and the Harvest Moon (featuring pear vodka, fig syrup, and fresh orange).
We sampled the Ode to New York ($10), a twist on the Manhattan made with cynar bitters, and a Dirty Sexy Dirty with maytag-stuffed olives ($12). Both were well made and good sized. Alongside was outstanding artisan bread paired with delicious honey butter. Our starter was also very good: crispy flatbread topped with mushrooms, Vermont goat cheese, and truffle honey ($12). We didn’t get much of a sweet note, but the crust was great and the mushrooms were tasty.
All of the entrees are priced reasonably, and there’s a good selection, including a chef’s cut of beef from Maine’s Pineland Farms and several vegetarian options. But some of the portions were small, and several of the dishes lacked flavor. The New England scallops were fresh and tender, but the accompanying butternut squash risotto was completely bland ($21). The roasted organic chicken came with mashed potatoes, asparagus, and basil cream ($19). The skin was tasty and crispy, but the meat was a bit dry.
We likewise were disappointed by the Pineland New York sirloin ($23), which was not tender and had an unpleasant amount of gristle. The roasted fennel and parsnip fettuccini was the best of the evening, with an earthy wild-mushroom sauce perfectly balanced by tangy pecorino romano ($16).
The desserts, although good sized, were once again flat. We tried the flourless chocolate cake and the chocolate bread pudding, both $6.
Since the bar was hopping as we left, and we’ve heard good things about the tapas menu, we hope the Green Land kitchen can bring its dinner offerings up to the level of the drinks and starters.
Green Land Café
87 Washington Street, Salem
Posted: January 18th, 2011 | Author: KN | Filed under: Agawam Diner, American, Diner, Rowley | Tags: Pie, pie and more pie | 4 Comments »
As regular readers know, we often interact with friends of the Dish on Facebook and Twitter. Just before the holidays, one of our Twitter pals, Liz Polay-Wettengel (@LizPW) and her husband Dave (@Kromedome), tweeted us in search of the best pie on the North Shore.
Terrific bakeries abound in the area, but most are known for cakes or pastries. Pie is more esoteric, and we are the types that bake our own, so we were stymied. We put the question to the public, and while several suggestions came back via both Facebook and Twitter, the destination most mentioned was the Agawam Diner.
Curiosity piqued, we decided this required an investigatory road trip, and asked Liz and Dave if they’d like to join us. Finally able to synchronize our schedules last week, we made the trip up Route 1.
The Agawam has been a family business since they opened in 1940 and has been in its current building since 1954. It’s a terrific vintage dining car with lots of chrome and vinyl, right up our alley.
The staff was pleasant and welcoming and had no problem with us staking out a couple of booths till the other half of our party arrived. We sipped coffee and perused the menu and were soon joined by Liz and Dave and their adorable and amazingly polite four-year- old son.
We started off with lunch, which was hearty and respectable, but relatively standard diner fare. The coffee was decent, strong enough to stand up to the creamer and good accompaniment for the pie.
Ah, the pie. Where to start? The selection was staggering. At each end of the diner counter was a large glass case full of pies, and we were invited by our waitress to peruse them after she rattled off a seemingly endless list of varieties. What to choose: banana cream, chocolate cream, lemon meringue, cocoanut cream, custard, apple, blueberry, squash, or something else?
The most intriguing was the angel pie, which turned out to be vanilla custard in a dark chocolate cake baked into a pie shell and topped with whipped cream. Yes, you heard it right; pudding in cake in pie. Brilliant concept, and one of our favorites.
We ended up ordering various slices ($3.95 each) and sharing all around, so we got to check out an array of tastes. The cream pies were beautiful but so overloaded with whipped cream that we were full after just a few bites. The banana cream was quite good, edging out the coconut, and the chocolate was surprisingly rich.
The custard pie was eggy and tasty, and the lemon meringue was served warm from the oven. So warm, in fact, that the waitress was upset it had fallen apart on the plate. She shouldn’t have worried because the warm gooey topping was reminiscent of toasted marshmallow and a perfect foil for the lemon. The blueberry pie didn’t let us down either, sweet and tart with a flaky crust.
What you have at the Agawam is a near-perfect diner experience. No, these are not gourmet pies. Some of the crusts are better than others, and I’m sure not every ingredient is made from scratch. But they are tasty and hand-made on site, rotated out to the case piping hot and generously served up on heavy china with a mug of coffee by friendly staff.
And isn’t that what you’re looking for when you pull off the road at a gleaming chrome diner and sit down at that long formica counter?
Thanks to Liz and Dave for inspiring this outing and a reminder to all pie lovers out there; this sunday January 23rd is National Pie Day.
Route 1 & 133 Rowley
Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Bistro, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: Joe Guarino, Paul Petersiel, Sunday jazz brunch, Tasting Tuesdays | 1 Comment »
While most of us love a gorgeous ocean view, a seaside restaurant doesn’t always mean a great meal. There’s always that nagging question: was the food as good as the view? Joe Guarino, the new head chef at Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott, is taking on that challenge with gusto. Together with owner Paul Petersiel, Guarino has revamped the menu, re-thought the wine list, and lowered prices overall.
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, along with a Sunday jazz brunch from 10:30 to 3:00. The new menu has a Mediterranean influence but covers a broad range of tastes. The wine list features 40 wines by the glass, with most around $8. We enjoyed the two cocktails we tried: a refreshing Cool as Cuke with Hendricks, St Germain, cucumber, mint, and lime ($11) and a grown-up version of a lime ricky ($9.50).
While we usually visit restaurants anonymously, in this case we were invited to meet Petersiel and Guarino and sample some items on the new menu. Although Guarino took over as head chef in August, the restaurant hasn’t promoted that fact until now to let him get his sea legs, so to speak.
We applaud that approach, which seems to have paid off, as we enjoyed many of the dishes we tried, including the duck confit egg rolls (crispy with a great flavor, $9), the short rib bomb (spicy chipotle mayo, chorizo, and pepperjack, $8), and the bucatini with clams (wonderfully garlicky and spice, with perfectly cooked pasta for $16). We liked the flatbread pizza with shrimp, which was richly flavored and crispy, and a great value at $13. We also recommend the highly addictive peanut butter and banana ice cream cake ($8).
While we ate, we learned that Guarino grew up in East Boston and previously worked in the kitchens of Boston’s Church, The Butcher Shop, and Bonfire and was a sous chef a few years ago at Red Rock. We also heard Petersiel’s tale of buying the restaurant (then called Dale’s) in 1999 on a whim after The Barnacle in Marblehead refused to serve him a lobster roll late one afternoon.
Since the large bar is well lit and welcoming at night, and the restaurant’s views are extraordinary any time, we hope Guarino continues to give the North Shore crowd consistent, quality food at reasonable prices. We look forward to trying brunch, which features standards like omelettes, french toast, and bagels with lox along with more unusual choices like lobster eggs benedict and short rib hash with poached eggs and rosemary aioli.
We may also stop in for bar snacks and live music (Thursday through Saturday nights) or for a Tuesday tasting (December Dec 21 is Piper Heidsieck champagne with oysters and caviar for $35; February 8 is USA craft beers for $25).
Red Rock Bistro
141 Humphrey St, Swampscott
Posted: November 21st, 2010 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Hale Street Tavern, Seafood | Tags: Hot Girl Roll, Pomegranate Martini, Scallop Chowder | 1 Comment »
Let’s face it, if your significant other is a guy who favors burgers and steak tips when he dines out, you find yourself staring at a lot of salads or poorly cooked fish if you’re trying to eat healthy. Often, those are the only wholesome options at pub-style restaurants, which was why I was elated by my meal last weekend at Hale Street Tavern.
Of course, the delicious pomegranate martini ($10) might have had something to do with it. Okay, it’s possible there were two. Pomegranate juice, pomegranate liqueur, and vodka, that delicate ice float on top—so good.
My dining companion enjoyed his beverage, too (Stella Artois on tap, $5), along with a large bowl of scallop chowder ($7). I went with the hot girl sushi roll, featuring spicy tuna, salmon, escolar (white tuna), and jalapeño salsa ($12). I’ve eaten lots of sushi, and this was the best spicy tuna I’ve had. There was tons of it in each piece, and it had just the right amount of heat, no extra wasabi needed.
I was equally happy with my entrée, sesame crested salmon with sake ginger glaze, sticky rice, and green/yellow squash cooked just right ($20). I ordered the salmon rare, and it was outstanding. Meltingly tender with an absolutely delicious, very delicate crust. The sticky rice was also great, and something you don’t see often on restaurant menus.
Not surprisingly, my dining companion enjoyed his half-pound burger with cheese ($10, and there’s a full-pound version for $15) and hand-cut fries. Since I was being so virtuous with my meal, I felt justified stealing a few fries. I’ve gotta say, they were worth the calories.
We sat at the bar, and the service was friendly and attentive. For a Sunday night there was a pretty good crowd, but the vibe was low-key and friendly. Other nights have advantages at Hale Street as well, including a sushi prix fixe for $19 on Mondays, burger mania on Tuesdays, 35-cent wings on Wednesdays, and prime rib for $17 on Thursdays. By the way, there are several cooked-fish sushi options for the those that don’t do raw, as well as an oyster selection that changes weekly according to what’s freshest.
Hale Street Tavern
717 Hale St, Beverly Farms
Posted: November 10th, 2010 | Author: JR | Filed under: American | Tags: Appleton Farms, Barbara Lynch, Blue Ledge Farm, Celebrity Chef Series, Champlain Valley Apiaries, Chef Robert Grant, Dogfish Head, The Butcher Shop, The Inn at Castle Hill | 4 Comments »
They say it takes a village to raise a family. From our experience last week at The Inn at Castle Hill, something similar goes into creating an outstanding meal. We were invited to a special chef’s dinner at this charming spot in Ipswich. Just down the hill from the Crane Estate, both are run by the Trustees of Reservations, and profits from the meal ($125 per person) went to the Trustees.
Cocktails in front of a welcome fire in the tavern.
The chef in this case was Robert Grant, chef de cuisine at The Butcher Shop, one of Barbara Lynch’s many Boston eateries. So it was perhaps no surprise that one of the passed hors d’oeuvres, served in the inn’s cozy tavern, was pied de cochon. What was interesting was how fantastic this cube of pork goodness was, and we later learned from the chef that it was topped with mustard imported from Menton, France, the inspiration for Lynch’s newest restaurant. The other pork offering, salt pork bacon on a sourdough toast also had an interesting topper: a sprinkling of madeira-glazed chestnuts.
The non-meat offerings were just as delicious, including a spoonful of butternut squash risotto and a square of puff pastry topped with honey and caramelized onions. Grant decided to make the risotto after seeing the gorgeous squash that afternoon at Appleton Farms, a Trustees operation a few miles from the inn.
After the cocktail hour, which included an open bar, we moved from the tavern to the inn’s well-appointed dining room. Along with the first wine of the meal, a pinot noir from Rodney Strong, we were served brioche and sourdough bread, crispy kale, and a potage of Long Island Cheese pumpkin. The soup was hot, creamy, and swirled with luscious pumpkin-seed oil from Austria. Instead of butter, we spread the bread with outstanding honey from Champlain Valley Apiaries.
Chef Robert Grant discusses the meal.
The main course of rib eye steak from Appleton Farms was served with a wonderful parsnip puree, delectable baby vegetables from Appleton, and a dolcetto d’alba from Acheri. The rib of the steak had been braised on the bone and was heart-stoppingly tender and flavorful. The t-bone was cooked to a lovely pink but was very dense, a texture we attribute to its grass-fed nature.
Continuing to play on his strengths, Chef Grant ended with a cheese course rather than a sweet one. He brought along Stephanie Santos, cheese buyer for Menton, who described the four cheeses we sampled. There was a fruity Brebis Pardou from France, a mild Toma Tre Latte from Italy, a Lake’s Edge goat’s milk with ash center from Blue Ledge Farm in Vermont, and a Stichelton from England. The latter was a rare treat: the flavor of stilton but more creamy and with less bite. As a final surprise, the cheese course was paired not with wine but with a glass of crisp Midas Touch ale from Dogfish Head.
We thoroughly enjoyed the evening, which combined good company (foodies of all ages), great food, abundant wine, and locally sourced products with a wealth of information from Grant and Santos, who fielded questions about ingredients and cooking methods with knowledge and patience. More information about the next dinner of the series (now in its third year), featuring Sam Hunt from 15 Walnut in Hamilton on December 2, is here.
Posted: November 5th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: American, Drinks, Gloucester, News | Tags: Good Morning Gloucester, Latitude 43, Minglewood Taver, Phat Maxx, Walker Creek Furniture | 3 Comments »
We were a bit confused when we started hearing mention of Minglewood Tavern. We knew the bar at Latitude 43 in Gloucester was undergoing renovation, but this sounded like a whole new entity. We decided to investigate and gave Brian Eastman, the bar manager, a call.
It turns out that Minglewood Tavern, which takes it’s name from the Grateful Dead song New Minglewood Blues, is still attached to Lat 43 but has been given a separate identity and a complete makeover. This isn’t surprising given the fact that both establishments are owned by Mark McDonough’s Serenitee Restaurant Group (previously North Shore Restaurant Group). McDonough is well known for his creativity and fearlessness in retooling eateries to better serve local neighborhoods.
Eastman told us the team essentially gutted the entire tavern and outfitted it with features that make it even more funky and comfortable. The centerpiece is a large bar custom built by Walker Creek Furniture of Essex and finished with salvaged 205-year-old barn boards. Another new feature is a beautiful stone hearth built with local granite that serves as inspiration for the new menu, which Eastman describes as creative pub fare. Flatbread pizzas and other oven-baked items like enchiladas and lasagna will be on offer. Other menu items, like the sushi that Lat 43 is known for, will still be available.
There is a full roster of weekly specials and events planned, and Eastman is especially excited about Thursdays, when various brewers will be on hand to meet and talk beer. And speaking of beer, Minglewood is serious about it; they’ll offer twenty brews on tap.
Minglewood opens tomorrow night, and they’ll have a grand opening celebration starting at 6:00 pm with tastes from the new menu and live music from the local band Phat Maxx. We heard a rumour that Good Morning Gloucester’s infamous Joey C will be on hand mixing up his signature drink, the Hop Skip and Go Naked, which is served in a mason jar. How can you pass that up?
25 Rogers Street, Gloucester