A Taste of Bliss

Posted: January 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Beverly, Bliss Gourmet Takeout, Cafe, Deli, Marketplace | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Earlier this week, we happened to be driving though Beverly Farms around lunchtime and decided to stop in to check out Bliss Gourmet Takeout on a whim.

The small storefront was warm, welcoming, and filled with enchanting aromas. There were gorgeous looking baked goods, a deli case with a variety of all-natural prepared foods made that day, a blackboard with sandwich specials, and a refrigerated case with specialty items, many locally produced. Coffees, soups, and salads round out the store’s repertoire.

The sandwiches, which run about $7 are made with Iggy’s bread and sounded enticing, with choices like caprese with prociutto or pork tenderloin with rosemary aoli on ficelle. Knowing we were going to splurge on treats, we went with a piece of the savory bread pudding. It was wonderfully moist and eggy, with browned crispy bits, mushrooms, and a hint of sage.

The baked goods we tried were even tastier. The chocolate cupcake ($1.75) was lush, with rich ganache frosting that wasn’t overly sweet, and the coffee macaroon (the almond meringue variety) half dipped in chocolate was excellent, with the mocha flavor adding depth and the dark chocolate luxurious.

While the prices are not certainly not low, the quality and freshness of the foods and the obvious care with which they are prepared make us wish Bliss was our neighborhood take-out place.

Bliss
36 West Street, Beverly Farms
(978) 922-6612
blisstakeout.com

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North Shore Food Finds

Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Asian, Bakery, Beverly, Bistro, Deli, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Everyone has their favorite restaurants, from the one you look forward to visiting on special occasions to the one you turn to when you can’t even think about cooking. But what about those favorite dishes and treats you’ve discovered in your neighborhood or on your travels? We’ve put together a list of ours in the hopes that readers will be inspired to respond in kind. If you’ve got a North Shore food find to add to the list, let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Bouchon, A&J King
Talk about addictive. This little cake looks simple, but it’s not. It’s rich and not too sweet with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderful hint of almond. One of the best chocolate experiences on the North Shore. Oh, and they have great bread, too. ($2.25)

House Dumplings, Sugar Cane
We love dumplings of all sizes and shapes, but these are our favorite. The dough is thin and wonderfully crispy, the inside is flavorful, and the accompanying ginger soy sauce puts these little gems over the top. ($6)

Tiger’s Tears, Floating Rock
This dish has it all: spice, citrus, and crunch. Thin slices of marinated beef are served cold and paired with sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground roasted rice. If you like spicy food, you will love this—but don’t be scared off, we found the balance of heat and citrus just right.

Chicken Salad, Henry’s Market
We’re picky when it comes to chicken salad—no large chunks or odd ingredients, thanks. Henry’s makes it just the way we like it: finely ground, super fresh, and perfectly seasoned. We like it made into mini-sandwiches on the top-knot rolls baked fresh in the store daily.

Guacamole, Cielito Lindo
Made fresh and served in a molcajete (a stone bowl for grinding), this guac is the perfect antidote to a long day and just one of the things we love about this often-overlooked Mexican restaurant in Beverly. Grab a tortilla chip and dive in—you’ll be amazed at how quickly the generous serving will disappear. ($8)

Fresh-Baked Cookies, Shubie’s
These are the kind of cookies you could easily pass off as homemade (not that we would ever do that, of course). They’re baked fresh in the store every day, and while the peanut butter and oatmeal raisin ($8/pound) are terrific, the larger kitchen-sink cookies are the stuff of dreams, packed with dark and white chocolate and cranberries ($1.75 each).

While you’re in the store, be sure to check out the cheese counter, which has one of the largest selections of New England cheeses we’ve seen. Selections include several from Vermont Butter & Cheese, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Jasper Hill blue, Blue Ledge Farm crottini, Ploughgate Creamery willoughby, Spring Brook Farm tarentaise, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, Shy Brothers Farm Hannabells, and cheddars from Shelburne and Grafton Farms.

Strudel, Helmut’s Strudel
What is it about apples and pastry that makes us swoon? We don’t know, but this place is the gold standard for the combination. Sweet, gooey apple filling and a crunchy, flaky not-too-sweet shell come together for the perfect mouthful. Folks, there’s a reason this tiny Bearskin Neck shop stays in business selling nothing but strudel and croissants. ($4 per slice)

Hot Cookie Dough Topping, Terry’s Ice Cream
If you like your cookies just barely cooked and hot from the oven, you get the idea here. Even better than hot fudge on top of ice cream, this is decadence in a cup. Go ahead, indulge; we’ll never tell.

Toasted Iggy’s Bagel, Foodie’s Feast
If you’re a fan of Montreal-style bagels (thinner and more flavorful than New York style), you’ve got to try Iggy’s, which are very similar. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to let the nice counter folks at Foodie’s toast one up and serve it alongside a steaming mug of joe. They’re also available at Whole Foods in Swampscott.

Truffle Paté, Crosby’s
This mousse-like spread is the perfect addition to your holiday cheese platter. We like to serve it on lightly toasted baguette slices or water crackers. It’s so good, you may want to buy two for your next cocktail party and forget to put the second one out.

Ribs, Smokin’ Jims
If you’ve never heard of Smokin’ Jim, you might be tempted to drive right by his parking-lot location on East Main in Gloucester. But these ribs are the real deal: smoked on oil-drum cooker until they just about fall off the bone. Side dishes like cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are available, too. There are picnic tables nearby, or you may want to drive over to Stage Fort Park. Hours vary seasonally, so check the Web site before visiting.

Marissa’s Salsa, Whole Foods
You’ll never want to go back to that stuff in the jar once you try this fresh version, packed in ice in the produce section and featuring a heavenly balance of heat and cilantro. Even better, it’s made in small batches by Nahant resident Marissa Salomon.

Potato Chips, Mandrake
We like the well-built drinks, reasonably priced food, and friendly bartenders at this downtown Beverly spot. Add the freshly made potato chips served as bar snacks, and you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

We had a lot of fun putting this post together, and we look forward to hearing from readers who try one of our “finds” and those with a special treat to contribute…

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First Look: Sweet Heart Bake Shop in Danvers

Posted: July 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Danvers, Sweet Heart Bake Shop | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Right off the bat, we need to say we’re very picky when it comes to baked goods. After all, if you’re going to consume the umpteen calories in a cake slice or pastry, it should be fantastically delicious, rather than just sweet and “pretty good.”

We sampled several treats from the new Sweet Heart Bake Shop in Danvers Square yesterday, and although some were quite good, others did not meet our (admittedly) high standards.

Sweet Heart is a tiny space offering everything from egg sandwiches and fruit cups in the morning to subs, sicilian pizza squares, and quiche for lunch and dinner. Breakfast pastries include muffins, coffee cake, and mini breads (banana, pumpkin, zucchini). We sampled a poppyseed muffin with lemon glaze ($1.50) with a dense crumb that was good but not great.

In addition to cheesecake, carrot cake, and bundt cake, the shop offers cookies, cupcakes, and biscotti. We sampled the lemon square, brownie ($1.25), whoopie pie ($1), and a mini éclair ($2.25). The lemon square was terrific—just enough sweet to balance the tart, and great texture to the crust and filling. The brownie, topped with chocolate chips, was very good. It was large and fudgy without being overly dense.

We were less impressed by the whoopie pie (the cake was crumbly and the filling was bland) and the éclair (flavorless filling and underbaked shell).

If you’re in Danvers Square and looking for breakfast or lunch, Sweet Heart is worth stopping by to check out. Owners Jeremy and Joan Smith obviously care about providing their customers with fresh, quality food. The shop is still quite new, and as Joan (the baker) gets her feet under her, SweetHeart may become more of a destination than a drop-in.

Sweet Heart Bake Shop
2 High St, Danvers
(978) 774-7467

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Time to Eat the Doughnuts

Posted: March 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Salem, Ziggy & Sons Donuts | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

We had some business to attend to in Salem this morning, so decided on a whim to pop into Ziggy’s Donuts on the corner of Essex and Webb Streets for a mid-morning treat.

Ziggy’s, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1964, is a tiny storefront that’s almost lost on the residential street, giving you the feeling you are walking into someone’s home. A cramped space with regulars chatting at the counter, along with bunches of photos and articles stuck to the fridge, compound that feeling—but don’t let it scare you off.

We visited later in the morning, (they open at 6:30) so selection wasn’t huge, but inviting nonetheless. One of our choices was an all-time favorite, the traditional jelly stick. Wow. This is what a doughnut should be: that almost-crisp crunch on the outside and light moist cake on the inside. It was incredibly fresh tasting and delightful. Not at all like those leaden things served up by chain bakeries that you can feel sitting in your stomach all day.

We also tried the coconut, which was excellent, and the coffee roll, which was surprisingly light and not overwhelmed by the glaze. Everything we tasted had a great balance of flavor—none of that fryer-oil aftertaste and just the right amount of sweetness.

So next time you’re up early looking for sinkers to accompany your joe and morning paper, stop in to Ziggy’s and try their hand-made wonders. We’ll be right behind you in line.

Ziggy’s Donuts
2 Essex Street, Salem
(978) 744-9605

Ziggy & SonsDonuts on Urbanspoon

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Immovable Feast

Posted: November 25th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Cafe, Foodie's Feast, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Tucked into a relatively small space in old town, Foodie’s Feast has a terrific storefront in a gorgeous antique building, with a casual café atmosphere inside featuring inviting cases of bakery items and a changing exhibit of local artists displayed on the walls.

This summer, a friend was staying in Marblehead and we met her there for breakfast. (Our only prior experience with Foodie’s had been a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie on a cold day, and both had really hit the spot.) There are scant few places in this neighborhood to stop in for breakfast or a light lunch, and while the Muffin Shop down the street is something of a local institution, Foodie’s offers quite a bit more.  Prepared foods, baked goods, (mostly their own, but they are also a welcome supplier of Iggy’s bagels) breakfast offerings, soups and sandwiches fill the menu. We ended up ordering coffee and the breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin. ($4.00) Freshly made and appetizing, it rates well above the standard Egg McMuffin.

Back in old town Marblehead this weekend for a bit of early holiday shopping, stopping in at Foodie’s to refuel was a no-brainer. We sat near the window in the sun, which was very pleasant, and had a great view of the comings and goings on Washington Street. Our food arrived in short order and the hot apple cider was just the thing to ward off the chill of the day. The sandwiches are on the pricey side ($6.85) and come with a pickle and choice of deli side. The one we sampled, grilled panini with mozzarella, tomato, and pesto, was a bit disappointing. The soup of the day, Veggie Chowder ($4.25), was excellent; really quite delicious and would make a great non-traditional first course to your Thanksgiving meal. The baked goods we ended our meal with were tasty but unspectacular, leaving us wondering whether we should have chosen the scones for which they are renowned.  We’ll have to try them next time– skip the sandwiches and go straight for the goodies. That’s what we all want to do anyway, right?

Foodie’s Feast
114 Washington Street, Marblehead
781-639-1104
http://www.foodiesfeast.com/

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New King on the Block

Posted: November 21st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: A & J King Artisan Bakers, Bakery, Salem | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Up early on a recent Sunday, we decided to forgo the usual healthy breakfast and indulge ourselves. The place to do it? A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem turned out to be an excellent choice. This bakery and cafe is warm and inviting with large bright windows, hammered copper tables, and of course, mountains of crusty loaves and glass cases full of tasty treats. There is a chalk board announcing the seasonal specials (Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Cakes! Potato Gruyere Flatbread!) and which locally produced ingredients they are currently using. We decided to have coffee and pastry there and then take a few things home to try later.

While the coffee was quite respectable, rich and dark but not bitter, the prices aren’t much of a savings over Starbucks ($2.70 for a Tall Latte, $3.26 for a Grande). My companion chose the pain au chocolate; I could not resist the siren song of the sticky buns. The chocolate croissant ($1.95) was lovely; well made with high quality chocolate, though it paled in comparison with the incredible sticky bun, a much more substantial pastry ($2.10). I am not exaggerating when I say that sticky bun was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t sodden and sugary as so many tend to be, but the perfect combination of flakey buttery layers, pulled away to reveal the wonderful caramelized cinnamon sugar that complemented the pastry but didn’t overwhelm it. While I prefer the female of the species (no nuts), A&J offers both varieties and even if you have to drive out of your way, the sticky buns are worth the trip.

Later in the day, we sampled the baguette ($2.65) we had taken home, and it was terrific; crusty on the outside and yeasty, slightly chewy on the inside. I’d say Iggy’s (my regional favorite) has a real competitor on it’s hands. Needless to say, the loaf was demolished in short order. The final A&J treat sampled was the chocolate bouchon ($2.25), a mini dark chocolate tower-shaped cake. A perfect balance of flavors and texture; dark chocolate with a hint of almond, rich and satisfying without being heavy or cloying.

Using the term artisan to describe Andy and Jackie King’s bakery isn’t just hip marketing. They have truly mastered an art; balancing sweet and savory with taste and texture to create incomparable baked goods.

A&J King Artisan Bakers
48 Central Street, Salem
(978) 744-4881
http://www.ajkingbakery.com/

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