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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Passports Takes Armchair Travel to New Heights

Posted: February 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Gloucester, Passports | Tags: , , | 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.

Passports
110 Main St, Gloucester
(978) 281-3680
http://passportsrestaurant.wordpress.com

Passports on Urbanspoon

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Hits and Misses at Salem’s Green Land Café

Posted: January 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Green Land Cafe, Salem | Tags: , , , | 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
(978) 744-7766
www.thegreenlandcafe.com

Green Land Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Alchemy Tasting Menu Takes North Shore Dining to New Heights

Posted: January 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Alchemy Bistro, Bistro, Event, Gloucester | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Wild boar chopstick rolls. Tatsoi with goat cheese emulsion. Black tea smoked Long Island duck with winter squash gratinette. Not the usual suspects, that’s for sure. These were just a few of the items on an over-the-top tasting menu last week at Alchemy Bistro in Gloucester.

We were invited to the event along with other North Shore food bloggers, and to say that Chef Jeff Cala (shown above, giving diners a tour of the board) and his team went all out would be an understatement. The appetizer, cheese, and entreé courses were served family style on huge boards custom made for the restaurant by Essex’s Walker Creek. It was a study in food still life, incredible taste combinations, and new experiences.

There were wine and beer pairings, too, including one from the restaurant’s exclusive cellar: Corte Rugalin Monte Danieli Amarone Classico from Italy with the pasta course. The chef’s outstanding black pepper pappardelle carbonara was brought to new levels by the wine.

The papardelle was voted the favorite of the evening, but the wild boar, black bass, and smoked duck were all outstanding, and the warm chocolate souffle paired with Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island Brewing Co. made a lush, satisfying ending to the meal.

But the best news is not how good the food was. It’s that the dinner we attended was a preview of a regular series being planned by Cala and Mark McDonough, who own numerous North Shore restaurants, including Alchemy, 15 Walnut, and Latitude 43.

McDonough is passionate about helping to strengthen bonds between food enthusiasts on the North Shore and spreading the word about what a unique food community we have.

It was an epic meal, and while the dinner series being offered to the public will be a slightly toned down version, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for. The dates and prices for these upcoming events are not set, but we’ll let you know as soon as they are, as they’ll initially be limited to 20 people. We’re told that the prix fixe dinners will likely be held once a month and will include both a standard and a cellar wine pairing option.

We were lucky to have a terrific group of people attending, so the conversation and company were the perfect compliment to the meal. You can read additional accounts on the following blogs:

Montmartre or Gloucester? by Heather Atwood of Food for Thought

North Shore Bloggers Dinner at Alchemy by Kimmy Bingham of Lighter and Local

You’re Going the Wrong Way! by Brian Knowles of The Gringo Chapin

Alchemy Bistro
3 Duncan Street, Gloucester
(978) 281-3997
www.alchemybistro.com

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Beyond the View: Red Rock Bistro’s New Menu

Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: , , , | 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
(781) 595-1414
www.redrockbistro.com

Red Rock Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Why the Bar at Tryst is Our New Favorite Place

Posted: October 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Bistro, Drinks, Tryst | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I can hear you now, saying ‘New? Tryst has been around for years.’ That’s true, and it has maintained a great reputation with dining cognoscenti the entire time.

Until a few years ago, Chef Peter Capalbo and his wife Amy Trabucco offered the only game around for diners seeking a certain level of cuisine. But in the past couple of years, the restaurant scene on the North Shore exploded. We’ve been busy trying to keep tabs on all the newcomers and hadn’t had a chance to check in on Tryst. Until this weekend, that is.

Saturday night, we were in the mood for a bar-side meal and had heard good things about Sean, the bartender at Tryst. A small, warm space with a bistro feel, the room was more welcoming than we had anticipated.

Snagging the last two stools, we were greeted not by Sean, but Ingrid, who was tending bar that night. She was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and didn’t bat an eye when I asked for a sidecar (this sounds like a simple request, but I can’t even count the local bartenders who don’t produce a proper one). The drink arrived perfectly made and extremely tasty.

We started with a roasted beet salad ($9) and the Hudson Valley foie gras ($14). The salad, with arugula and goat cheese in a red wine vinaigrette was good, but pretty standard. The fois gras, however, was excellent. Served with bits of grilled bread and slices of roasted apple, it was rich and savory.

We decided to forgo wine for another cocktail, although the wine list is nicely appointed, and we were interested to see that when our neighbors ordered a bottle of red, the bartender used an aerator and decanted the bottle it into a glass carafe.

The bar carries a good variety of spirits, some nicely obscure, and features Gloucester distillery Ryan & Wood’s Knockabout gin and Folly Cove rum. We chose a specialty cocktail on offer that evening made with the Knockabout, basil simple syrup, and mint. It was lovely, one of those drinks that tastes light and well blended but packs a punch.

The best tipple of the evening, though, was Sean’s manhattan. The house-made infused bourbon involves letting dried cherries steep in Knob Creek for six weeks. The results make the classic cocktail complex and layered without being too sweet.

Ordinarily, we never order roast chicken when dining out, because it’s one of those meals we make at home for a fraction of the cost. But after seeing several plates of the rosemary roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, and herbed pan sauce appear in front of other bar diners ($23), we gave into curiosity and decided to share the entrée. Brilliant decision on our part. Beautifully crisped on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside, and complimented by lush sauce, this is roast chicken you dream about. While pricey for a chicken dinner, we would absolutely splurge on it again.

Despite not being huge fans of aperitifs and digestives, we toyed with the idea, and Ingrid joined the conversation with a wealth of information and an offer of a comparison taste-test of Aperol, Fernet Branca, and Carpano Antica. Although we found the beverages interesting, we opted instead for a brownie tart ($8) to end the evening, which arrived fresh and warm with a dollop of whipped cream. Homemade tasting and not too dense, it was tasty but not as memorable as the rest of the meal.

Tryst may not be one of the hot newcomers to the North Shore, but it surely remains among the best of the local dining scene.

Tryst
282 Cabot Street, Beverly
(978) 921- 2266
trystbeverly.com

Tryst Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Earn a Free Entrée While Discovering New Flavors

Posted: October 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 15 Walnut, American, Beverly, Bistro, Cala's, Gloucester, Hamilton, Manchester | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

You may not have realized it, but several of the terrific restaurants we enjoy here on the North Shore are the result of the hard working folks at Serenitee Restaurant Group. The group (previously known as North Shore Restaurant Group) has just unveiled a fun promotion aimed at encouraging diners to discover restaurants they may not have tried and, of course, to get out to old favorites as well.

At any of the six eateries, all with unique atmospheres and cuisines, you can pick up a “Discovery Card” that gets stamped with the purchase of a meal. Whether from six different restaurants or the same one, after you accumulate six stamps, you are rewarded with a free entrée at any of the locations.

The restaurants included in the promotion are:

15 Walnut, Hamilton (read about our experience here)

Cala’s, Manchester (read about our experience here)

Hale St. Tavern, Sushi and Oyster Bar, Beverly Farms

Latitude 43, Gloucester

Backstage Bistro, at the North Shore Music Theater, Beverly

Alchemy Tapas & Bistro, Gloucester

You know us, we’ll use any excuse to get out and try different restaurants, and a free meal is a great one. The offer expires December 31, so there’s plenty of time to explore these North Shore eateries.

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Amesbury’s Neighborhood Bistro Offers Unique Flavors

Posted: August 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Amesbury, Bistro, Phat Cats Bistro, Seafood | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Amesbury is a bit off our beaten path, but we recently met up with some of our favorite local food bloggers for dinner, and it proved a great gathering location. We decided to check out Phat Cats Bistro on Market Street and were in very good company with Jane of Food and Fiction, Laura of The Two Palaverers and Mary of Cooking 4 the Week whom we thank for some of the photos.

Phat Cats has been open for almost three years now and is run by husband and wife chefs Christina Johnson and Paul Eastman. They locally source as much of the produce and seafood they can, dependant on the season. The dining room is casual and comfortable, with warm tones, exposed brick, several chalkboards sporting specials, and a full bar along one wall. The cocktail list was fun, the wine list included some great picks, and our drinks were generously poured.

We started with several appetizers to share. The lobster rangoon was appealing, but the texture was unexpected. The filling was more liquid than traditional rangoons, and the tubular shape of the pastry made them a bit splurty ($9). The calamari was crisp and flavorful, accented nicely by the chipotle dipping sauce ($8). The haddock cake was light, moist, and savory ($8).

The entrées are varied, and several are offered as full or half portions. The seafood crepe was a surprise, as we envisioned a French style crepe with a cream sauce, but it was more Southwestern, with fresh corn, tomatoes, and spinach surrounding large bits of lobster and scallops. It was served with a bruleed savory corn pudding that was lovely ($16/22). The bistro steak, an herb crusted hangar steak ($18), was very tasty, and the surf and turf risotto (tenderloin beef tips and wild shrimp served over caramelized onion sausage risotto) was wonderfully complex and the favorite at the table ($24).

The veal saltimbocca special ($19) and the herb gnocchi gratin ($11/16) were less successful. Although obviously prepared with care from quality ingredients, the final product somehow lacked zip.

The junior member of our party was quite pleased with her mac and cheese, ordered with the optional shrimp. The pasta was firm and not overwhelmed by the rich cheese, and the shrimp were good-sized and moist. ($13/18)

Most of us were too sated for dessert, but we did try the homemade coconut pudding accompanied by a brownie. Both were excellent, the pudding rich and lightly sweet.

While not every entrée was spectacular, we enjoyed our visit overall, aided by the friendly, helpful staff and the unique flavor combinations on the menu.

Phat Cats Bistro
65A Market Street, Amesbury
(978) 388-2777
www.phatcatsbistro.com

Phat Cats on Urbanspoon

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Nine Elm Gift Certificate Winner!

Posted: July 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Danvers, Nine Elm American Bistro | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

Wow! Not only did we receive over 100 entries, but you guys came up with a terrific list of north shore eateries. Several places were mentioned twice, and the ones noted three or more times were an interesting mix; Nine Elm and Sawasdee in Danvers, Tryst and Cielito Lindo in Beverly, 62 on Wharf in Salem and Riverview in Ipswich.

But you really want to know who won, right? We used the random number generator at Random.org and the winning entry is #95! Congratulations to Michael, who encouraged us to get carnivorous at Fire Bull in Peabody.  He will receive a gift certificate worth $100 to Nine Elm American Bistro. (Michael, please email us your mailing address and we’ll get the gift certificate right out to you. And don’t forget to check back in and let us know how your meal was.)

Thank you so much to everyone for entering the giveaway. Never fear, there will be plenty of future opportunities to win tasty prizes, so keep an eye on the Dish!

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Dish Giveaway: Gift Certificate to Nine Elm

Posted: June 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Danvers, Nine Elm American Bistro | Tags: , , | 111 Comments »

North Shore Dish is excited to announce our first-ever giveaway! And believe us, this is a contest worth entering.

We are giving away a gift certificate worth $100 from Nine Elm American Bistro in Danvers.  The Boston Globe said Nine Elm “deserves to be a regional draw,” and we agree. We’ve enjoyed dinner there on several occasions, and you can find our post about the bistro here.

How to enter

To enter, leave a comment on this post answering the following question: What North Shore restaurant is your favorite hidden gem?

That’s all there is to it! Your answer has no bearing on who wins—we’d just love to hear your feedback.

Contest rules

Deadline for entries is midnight on Thursday, July 1, 2010. A winner will be chosen Friday, July 2 by a random number generator and notified by e-mail. You must enter a valid e-mail address with your comment. US residents only, one entry per person. Good Luck!

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