Terrific Tacos at the Beverly Arts Fest Food Truck Court

Posted: June 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Event | Tags: , , , , | 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.

Share

Summer on a Plate: Cooking Classes and More at Appleton Farms

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Appleton Farms, Event, Farm, Ipswich | Tags: , , , , , | 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!

Appleton Farms
Rt 1A, Ispwich
www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/northeast-ma/appleton-farms.html

Share

From Lunch to Brunch to Gourmet Dinners, We’ve Got Plenty of Ways to Celebrate Mom

Posted: May 7th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Blue Ox, brunch, Event, Finz, Nathaniel's at the Hawthorne Hotel, Victoria Station | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Forgot Mother’s Day is this Sunday and scrambling to make plans? We’ve got a quick round-up of brunch ideas as well as some less traditional options.

If delighting in a little taste of everything is mom’s style, there are several buffet options. Salem’s Victoria Station is featuring breakfast favorites as well as a carving station and plenty of seafood. And cocktails, of course. Perhaps a “Mom’osa” is in order? ($30 per person, $15 for kids,children under five eat free.)

Is mom a fan of oysters? Next door at Finz, the offerings include a raw bar along with a full buffet and the tasty-sounding waffles with blueberry whipped cream or banana encrusted salmon over coconut jasmine rice. ($39.99 per person, $15.99 for children 12 and under.)

A few blocks away, the Hawthorne Hotel will make mom feel like royalty. Their spread is available all day, with a change in focus at 3:00 from breakfast items to dinner. The veggie options look plentiful, including non-traditional salads like red-white-and-green salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, edamame, and fresh basil and a sweet-and-spicy cucumber salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, and red onion. The make-your-own strawberry shortcake will appeal to the kids in the group. ($42.95 adults; $2 per year of age for children.)

Newburyport’s 10 Center wants to ensure mom enjoys herself, too. In addition to an extensive buffet with dishes like stuffed french toast and lobster mac and cheese, they are offering a complimentary mimosa to each mother. ($40 per person, 10:00 to 3:00.)

A reliable favorite of many moms is the Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport for their always-beautiful grand buffet. Live piano music and ocean views accompany offerings like a smoked salmon, trout and mackerel display; chilled salad of shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari; and roasted garlic and gorgonzola encrusted black angus sirloin. ($49 per adult; $24.50 for children ages 3-10; 10:00 to 2:30.)

For those who would rather forgo brunch and treat mom to a luscious lunch or dinner, several terrific restaurants have special menu items on offer.

62 Restaurant and Wine Bar in Salem has a special menu just for mom from 11:00 to 9:00. In addition to regular menu items, Chef Tony Bettencourt will tempt you with crostini topped with whipped ricotta, roasted black mission figs, and aged balsamic vinegar and grilled lamb chops with zucchini, black olives, roasted tomato, crumbled feta, Sardinian couscous, and basil.

Lynn’s Blue Ox has put together a three-course meal for mom that has us salivating.
The pan-roasted cod with spring pea risotto, oven dried tomatoes, fava beans, pea tendril salad, and truffle vinaigrette and the strawberry rhubarb tart with strawberry and mint champagne sauce and whipped cream are calling our names. The special meal is $44 per person, available from 12:00 to 6:00.

Ceia in Newburyport will feature special selections such as a luxe steak and lobster benedict; spaghetti with black garlic, mint, and serrano chili; and shrimp with linguica, fingerling potatoes, kale, and a farm egg.

Last but not least, if the celebrated lady in your life loves eating out, our friends at Dinner Dealer have the perfect gift: a deck of restaurant-discount cards costs $25 and provides more than $300 in savings to North Shore restaurants ($1 from each sale is donated to a local food pantry). And if you contact them in the next few days, Dinner Dealer will throw in a free mini pampering kit with treats like chocolates and skincare products from local, women-owned companies.

Looks like there are plenty of options for treating your mom, grandmom, stepmom, godmom or anybody else to a great meal this weekend. Remember to call ahead for availability and that tax, tip and drinks aren’t generally included in the price, and enjoy!

Share

Christopher’s Table Wins Best Chef Award from Beverly Bootstraps

Posted: March 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Event, News | Tags: , , , , , , , | 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!

Share

Four North Shore Chefs Will Battle It Out at Beverly Bootstraps Event

Posted: February 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Event | Tags: , , | 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.

Share

Digging Out From Nemo: What’s Open Today

Posted: February 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, Amesbury, Beverly, Event, Grand Trunk Imports, Hungry Betty's, Lynn, Marblehead, Newburyport, Rolly's Tavern on the Square, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

We hope everyone is safe and warm and starting to dig out from this crazy mess the blizzard has dumped across the North Shore. Some folks are without power, and as of this writing the driving ban is still in effect in Massachusetts, so a hot meal or a cold cocktail may be hard to come by unless you can walk, snowshoe or ski to a local establishment. Most markets and restaurants are closed today, we’d like to help out by listing which places are currently open or will be serving dinner tonight.

We’ll keep this as a running list, so please feel free to contact (email@northshoredish.com, @northshoredish on twitter) us with updates!

Updated Saturday February 9, 2013 at 7:44PM

Amesbury

• Barking Dog Bar & Grill is open
• Phat Cats Bistro will be open for dinner

Beverly

• Chianti will be open, live entertainment still pending
• E.J. Cabots is open
• CitySide Diner is open their regular hours.
• Cielito Lindo will be open for dinner

Essex

• The Farm Bar and Grill is open tonight

Gloucester

• Cape Ann Brewing Pub will be open at 6:30pm…bar only. Kitchen is closed
• Seaport Grille is open

Ipswich

• Christopher’s Table is open and has live jazz

Lynn

• Tatiana’s is open
• The Blue Ox opens at 5PM
• Rolly’s Tavern plans to open at 4pm

Marblehead

• Hayley’s Wine and Market Café is open
• The Landing is open
• 5 Corners Kitchen will be open at 5pm for dinner
• Maddies is open.
• 3 Cod Tavern will be open for lunch and dinner
• Hungry Betty’s will be open at 4PM

Newburyport

• Mission Oak Grill is open for dinner
• Brine will be serving dinner after 3PM
• Ceia Kitchen + Bar will be open at 3PM
• Enzo will be open for dinner at 5PM
• Andiamo will have the bar open at 5 and dining at 6PM
• The Grog opens at 5PM and Mardi Gras is ON
• Grand Trunk Market potentially opening at 1PM today

Peabody

• Maki Sushi is open
• Bill & Bobs Roast Beef will be open at 6PM

Salem

• Salem Beer Works is open
• Sushi Garden is open and DELIVERING
• The Grapevine opens at 6PM
• 43 Church is open and WILL have live music
• Victoria Staion and the Boathouse are open, with fires roaring
• Pamplemousse is open
• 43 Church will be open at 5Pm
• Bill & Bobs Roast Beef will be open at 6PM
• The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel is open, with roaring fire.
• O’Neill’s will be open at 4 and their Black Heat Ball will go on as planned.
• Witches Brew café open at noon
• Gulu Gulu will open at 4PM
• In a Pig’s Eye will not be open for lunch, but will open later for dinner.
• Village Tavern open their regular hours, 11 – 1AM
• Howling Wolf will be open at 5PM

Swampscott

• Red Rock Bistro opens today at 4PM

6:56 PM Additional: Swampscott Patch just reported that the following take out places are open and delivering

China Green
781-203 Burrill St Swampscott, MA 01907
(781) 592-5357

Captain Pizza
3 Railroad Ave Swampscott, MA 01907
(781) 593-1568

Cindy’s Pizza
653 Humphrey St Swampscott, MA 01907
(781) 599-0358

Share

February: The Sweetest Month?

Posted: February 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Christopher's Table, Event, Finz, Gloucester, Harbor Sweets, Ipswich, News, Red Lulu, Rockport, Salem, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We hope you spent January getting all the holiday excess behind you because February promises to be a great month for indulgence, with or without a sweetheart. There’s one contest to win chocolate, two chocolate tours, and several Valentine’s Day dinner menus.

Wake up your creative side and enter Harbor Sweets’ Valentine’s Day Poem contest—the winner receives the gift-basket (pictured above) of chocolate worth $100 sent directly to their sweetheart. Just write a poem (1,000 words or less) about chocolate and submit it by February 11 to Poems@Harborsweets.com. Include your first and last name, phone number, and email. The winner will be notified by February 13 to allow enough time to ship the basket.

Chocolate lovers will want to be in Salem on February 8 for the 11th Annual Chocolate & Wine Tasting. Tickets are on sale now ($25 at the Salem Chamber of Commerce, this event sells out quickly, so don’t wait). From 6:30 to 8:30 at the Colonial Hall, there will be samplings galore from restaurants, stores, and sweet shops. For a taste of what to expect, check out our coverage of the 2011 event. The tasting is part of Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival, which runs from the 8th to the 14th and includes a myriad of offers and tastings.

On February 9, Gloucester hosts its first Downtown Chocolate Tour, marked by retailers with large red hearts on their doors. You can pick up a tour map at Toodeloos, Harbor Goods, or Premier Imprints after February 1. Then simply follow the map to pick up goodies at all the participating stores and bring your completed map to Island Art & Hobby to be entered in a raffle for a Cape Ann gift certificate.

Christopher’s Table in Ipswich is celebrating February 14 with a four-course romance-inspired dinner that includes a wine tasting. They’re following that up with a Crazy Sexy Chocolate party on February 23. This “evening of chocolate decadence with a cash bar” sounds intriguing.

The Valentine’s menu at Finz in Salem has unusual items such as strawberry burratta salad, cocoa-dusted scallops, and duck breast with a ginger/brandied pears/cherry/soy reduction.

Rockport’s Emerson Inn by the Sea always goes all out for Valentine’s Day. This year, the menu features fire-roasted shrimp and corn chowder, beef wellington, duck confit with blackberry reduction, and expresso crème brulée or spiced apple anadama bread pudding.

Red Lulu in Salem promises secret suprises on the 14th, along with a menu that includes spiced lobster bisque grilled endive and frisee salad with spiced candied walnuts and manchego cheese, statler chicken breast with don julio reposado
tequila sauce, and blackened ribeye with creamy polenta and tart cherry sauce

Also in Salem, the Hawthorne Hotel will be serving up Wellfleet oysters, seared tuna with spicy mediterranean-style relish, and Valrhona chocolate torte for two, among other things in a lavish Valentine’s spread.

Last, but certainly not least, Andover’s Wine ConneXtion and China Blossom are collaborating to find help you create a simple, romantic evening with their Take Out to Stay In deal. Place any takeout order from China Blossom before the 14th, and they will contact the Wine ConneXtion to put aside a perfectly paired wine for the order and have it ready for pick up. Or you can peruse the Wine ConneXtion aisles February 10 through February 14 for highlighted wines along with suggestions of the best China Blossom dish for pairing.

So go out and celebrate—we’ll eat healthy in March!

Share

Enzo Chef Draws Culinary Inspiration from the Great Molasses Flood

Posted: January 14th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Enzo, Event, Newburyport | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 fascinates many of us that grew up in the Boston area. And why not—the idea of an eight- to 15-foot wave of molten sugar syrup that and ravaged a couple of city blocks is pretty amazing. (There was a great pictorial in last week’s Globe.)

Chef Mary Reilly, owner of Enzo Restaurant & Bar in Newburyport is no exception, and she has taken her interest to a new level. Each year on the anniversary of the flood, she creates dishes with molasses to commemorate the event. When she opened the Enzo almost two years ago, she continued the tradition and offers diners a special menu for the occasion.

We caught up with Chef Reilly this weekend and asked her what spurred this connection for her. She told us that she likes unusual anniversaries and this one is especially interesting due to the molasses and because of the Italian immigrants in the North End who were affected.

“Even though the molasses in question was destined for industrial alcohol distillation, not consumption, molasses is an ingredient that doesn’t get a lot of respect these days,” she said. “I like to show its versatility, and this event gives me something to tie it to.”

So what will she be serving on Tuesday, the 94th anniversary of the disaster?

First, a Spiced Molasses Toddy will be on offer featuring Gloucester’s Folly Cove Rum, spices, molasses, and butter. (Hot Buttered Rum Day is January 17: start your celebration a few days early!)

On the savory side, Reilly will be serving a non-traditional bruschetta with house made Anadama bread (the traditional Cape Ann bread made with molasses), house butchered and smoked ham, taleggio, and molasses mustard.

And for a sweet end to their meal, diners can indulge in molasses cookie ice-cream sandwiches.

Whether you’re a Molasses Flood enthusiast or just interested in sampling unique menu items, head over to Enzo on Tuesday for a taste of history.

Enzo
50 Water Street, Newburyport
(978) 462-1801
www.enzo-restaurant.com

Share

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.

Share

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

Share