Much More Than a Fish Market

Posted: April 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Ipswich, Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market, Marketplace, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

It’s no secret that we love exploring gourmet food markets, and when they carry lots of local and store-made products, we really get excited. At Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market, it seems like every time you turn around, you discover something wonderful.

For starters, there’s the gorgeous display of fresh fish, clams, and Maine crab—lobsters swim in a custom-built pool nearby. Then there are prepared foods like stuffed peppers, grilled cajun scallops, lobster-stuffed clams, and salmon cakes, plus taramosalta and fresh Greek yogurt. If you’re in the store near lunchtime, you can feast on a variety of soups, sandwiches, a great-looking salad bar, and individually packaged desserts.

And that’s just the beginning. There are store-made sauces, seasonings, and vinegars (blood orange and black fig sound particularly good). There’s an Asian-food section that includes nori, bonito flakes, short-grain rice, and rice paper wrappers for summer rolls, saving area residents a trip to a specialty market. A rack of bread holds a number of selections from Annarosa’s in Newburyport and Alexandra’s in Gloucester.

The freezer contains a wealth of treasures like salt cod, octopus, fish stock, and lobster stock, along with a selection of prepared entrées. If you have a sweet tooth, we highly recommend a package of whoopie pies from Newburyport’s Chococoa ($5 for three and worth every penny).

Treasures for those eating gluten free are also abundant, including a hot prepared entrée each day, frozen entrées, and packaged goods like bread crumbs, crackers, rice pasta, and granola.

But perhaps the most surprising thing you’ll find in this fish market is grass-fed beef from Appleton Farms, a Trustees of Reservations property located a few miles from the store.

The beef is not only fresh and local, it’s considerably healthier than beef from cows fed a grain diet. Store manager Zina Smith says she tried the ground beef and a few steaks from last year’s supply (it’s available from late spring to early winter), and it was terrific. She added a warning not to overcook it, as it’s much leaner than supermarket beef.

Smith suggests calling the store in advance if you’re looking to purchase beef, as the farm’s CSA members get their shares first, with the remainder going to Ipswich Shellfish and Bruni’s Market.

Tucked away on a side street a few blocks from the main drag, this beautiful, well-stocked market is a hidden gem worth seeking out.

Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market
8 Hayward St, Ipswich
(978) 356-6941
www.ipswichfishmarket.com

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Psst! Want Some Chicken Pot Pie?

Posted: March 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Ken's Kicken' Chicken, Marketplace, Salem | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments »

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Put on your trench coat and fedora. Drive to Salem on Route 114. If you’re sure you haven’t been followed, turn in between the Hess station and HMA Car Care. Turn left on Franklin, go to the end, and park. Proceed to Ken’s Kicken Chicken and score a large pie with stuffing…

Okay, so it’s not as clandestine as all that, but we were intrigued by the mainly word-of-mouth business Ken Rothwell of Rothwell’s Custom Catering has built up around his chicken pot pies.

Rothwell sold his Salem restaurant, A Taste of Thyme, four years ago and now runs the catering business out of a large industrial kitchen on Franklin Street. A few months ago, frustrated by the quality of available pre-packed chicken pies, his wife challenged him to come up with something better. Pretty soon, his friends were clamoring for them, and word spread from there.

Today, Rothwell is selling 1,000 pies per week out of the catering kitchen and has added a variety of high-quality prepared foods including 15 kinds of soup (the clam chowder is famous among those in the know), shepards’s pie, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and chicken broccoli ziti. Cold offerings such as Waldorf chicken salad (delicious), horseradish cheese spread, and hummus are also available, along with several desserts.

But the pies are the stars of the show, or perhaps we should say the heavyweights—the large pie with stuffing weighs five pounds. And we’re happy to report it lives up to the hype. The huge chunks of white-meat chicken are moist, the sauce is rich but not cloying, the vegetables are cooked perfectly (carrots and peas, tender but not mushy), and the stuffing is tasty with great texture. The crust puts it over the top—buttery and delicious.

We bought a large pie with stuffing, which is $16.95 and feeds four to six. Fresh pies take 35 minutes to bake and will keep for five days in the fridge. Frozen pies will keep for several months and take about an hour to bake. The pies are available in small ($8.95 with stuffing, feeds three), without veggies (chicken and stuffing only) and without stuffing (chicken and veggies only).

For now, the pies are not available in stores, and we recommend buying them during the week if you can. The lines are long on weekends, and they sometimes run out. Look for new offerings soon, including a chicken pie with cornbread topping and a buffalo chicken pie.

Ken’s Kicken’ Chicken
7 Franklin St, Salem
(978) 825-0200
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kens-Kicken-Chicken/218158584732

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Adventures in Saké at the Wine ConneXtion

Posted: February 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Marketplace, North Andover, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

North Andover is slightly outside our usual territory, but we heard about a kikishu, or saké tasting, at the newly opened Wine ConneXtion and headed there on Saturday to see what it was about.

The tasting was hosted by local blogger Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie, and it quickly became obvious that one of the things Rich is passionate about is saké. He had eight bottles available for tasting, and he expertly explained the ingredients and processes involved in making each.

We enjoyed exploring the surprising range of tastes provided and learning the differences between the Ginjo, Daiginjo and Honjozo. If your only experience with saké is sipping it warm at a Japanese restaurant, it’s time to take another taste.

The sakés we tried ranged from earthy to crisp and clean, some akin to a very dry white wine that would pair exceptionally well with any seafood. Most of them were subtler on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe. Favorites included the Kurosawa Jun-Mai Kimoto ($16), which was earthy and hinted at mushrooms, and the Ichishima Honjozo ($22) which was bright and crisp.

LaRosa’s in Andover provided quite a spread of finger foods, and the crowd favorite was definitely the wonderful arancini. You might not initially think to serve a Japanese wine with Italian food, but some of the offerings paired quite well.

2110Whether you’re a casual wine drinker or a serious enthusiast, the Wine ConneXtion is definitely worth investigating. Owners (and siblings) Sam and Tina Messina, who have been in the business for more than 20 years, really know their stuff, with Sam finding unbelievable deals and Tina streamlining the operation to make sure those deals get passed along to the customer.

It’s a large, clean, well-lit warehouse-style space with fantastic inventory and unbeatable prices. Unlike many wine stores, where the only information is a simple price tag or a glossy ad provided by the distributor, each and every wine here is informatively labeled. Uniform, well-designed signs listing price, origin, taste, and body of the wine take the mystery out of comparing vintages and make it easy to find new bottles to try.

Sam and Tina are working on getting their inventory online; in the meantime, they will happily take orders over the phone to ensure the bottles you want are waiting for you on arrival. And if the idea of saké has piqued your interest, Sam is carrying a range of bottles, several half-sized, for you to investigate. You can also find a wealth of saké information, and if you scroll down a list of  links, here on Rich’s site.

We’re glad we took the time to venture off the beaten path this weekend, since it led us to discover both the world of saké and a great new place to shop for wine.

Wine ConneXtion
117 Main Street North Andover
(978) 965-8000
www.wineconnextion.com

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Home-Town Favorites for Valentine’s Day

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Salem, Sweets and Treats, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Looking to score extra points on Valentine’s Day? Skip that box of prewrapped chocolates from the drugstore and head to one of these North Shore favorites. You’ll get better quality, more interesting choices, and personalized service—all while supporting your local chocolatier.

Harbor Sweets
If your sweetie likes all things nautical, you cannot go wrong with Sweet Sloops, an addicting confection of toffee, pecans, and white and dark chocolate. There are many other sea-themed chocolates available from the tiny Harbor Sweets factory in Salem, and they can be purchased in almost every North Shore town, including Shubie’s in Marblehead, Henry’s in Beverly, The Partridge Tree Gift Shop in Danvers, Connolly’s Pharmacy in Hamilton, Bruni’s in Ipswich, LuLa’s Pantry in Rockport, and Valentine’s in Newburyport.

85 Leavitt St, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

Pride’s Crossing Confections
This converted train station on Route 127 is the place to go if you need gifts for a variety of tastes. The shop is jam-packed with everything from bags of chocolate covered potato chips and pretzels to cases of fudge, truffles, soft-centers, and white chocolate-covered confections. Don’t miss the famous turtles (seven varieties) and buttercrunches, all hand-made on premises.

590 Hale St, Prides Crossing
(978) 927-2185
www.pridescrossingconfections.com

Stowaway Sweets
It doesn’t get much more charming than this tucked-away shop in a former mansion, where the chocolates are extremely high quality and you can select each piece that goes in the box. Do not, under any circumstances, skip the meltaways.

154 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0303
www.stowawaysweets.com

The Cocoa Belt
This elegant shop is a new favorite, both for its selection of delicious truffles in sophisticated flavors like black forest, cappuccino, and champagne and its ability to improve on perennial favorites like peanut butter cups and scotch kisses.

58 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com

Turtle Alley
Known for its luscious turtles, this local maker also stocks an impressive supply of fruit slices, caramels, and fudge. We are especially fond of the kicked-up versions, including spicy peanut butter cups and almond chipotle turtles.

91a Washington St, Gloucester
(978) 281-4000
Museum Place Mall, Salem
(781) 740-0660
www.turtlealley.com

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Bringing the North End to the North Shore

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today is the grand opening of Il Mercato, a unique Italian market in Marblehead. The brainchild of Donna Oliviero, who owns Caffe Italia, the market is located in what was the restaurant’s secondary dining area.

Oliviero has been planning the opening for almost a year, and she’s created a destination market by combining foods imported from Italy with take-home entrées and breads made fresh on premises.

The imported foods include olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, packaged almond and ladyfinger cookies (for making tiramisu), panettone, bags of dried oregano still on the stem, and soda in flavors like pear and apricot. There’s also a selection of imported dried pasta in large shapes not usually seen in the states.

A deli case contains prosciutto, mushrooms, anchovies, fresh mozzarella, and a large bowl of colorful olives. On top are arancini (rice balls), hot stuffed cherry peppers, and cannoli shells in two sizes ready to be filled.

Nearby is a selection of fresh-frozen pastas like fusilli, gnocchi, agnololotti, ravioli, manicotti from Original Gourmet Creation in Somerville. Oliviero’s tomato, bolognese, and pesto sauces are available to go with them, as are fresh-frozen porcini mushrooms.

In addition to selling the restaurant’s famous rolls and foccacia, the store carries Italian baguettes, multigrain ciabatta, and olive loaves. Two panini sandwiches are available each day: mozzarella/tomato/olive oil and the daily special. A selection of prepared dinners like lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and meatballs are available to take home.

Oliviero is offering a huge variety of catering options, from antipasto trays and Italian cookies to entrees like chicken marsala and rolatini eggplant in sizes to designed to feed anywhere from 10 to 25 people. There is also a chef’s table that can be booked for between six and 14 people every night but Monday. The menu is designed with Oliviero to suit your party, starting with appetizer, entrée, salad, and two jugs of wine for $30 per person.

The market’s grand opening is today from 11:00 to 6:00, with a ribbon cutting at 4:00. Permanent hours are 11:00 to 6:00 Monday through Saturday.

Il Mercato / Caffe Italia
10 School St, Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
www.caffeitaliarestaurant.com/home_marblehead.html

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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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Look Local for Great Holiday Gift Ideas

Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

During a recent Senatorial debate, one of the questions asked each candidate was what they had changed about their own home lives in the face of the difficult economy. Attorney General Martha Coakley answered “We eat out less often and cook at home more,” and restaurateurs across the area will confirm that she’s not the only one. Back in April, the Zagat 2009/10 Boston Restaurant Survey showed that 25% reported eating out less often, and since then, we’ve seen even higher numbers nationwide.

This has left many of our local favorites, be they clam shacks, markets, or trattorias, struggling to stay afloat, so this season we urge you to think about giving the gift of good food. It’s a win-win proposition; the people you care about get a chance dine out or savor treats they wouldn’t normally buy themselves, and you help boost the local economy.

350_project_150x133If you haven’t seen the 3/50 project, it’s worth a look. The movement is all about saving our small, local, independent businesses, and it’s how we here at the Dish feel about neighborhood fish markets, wine shops, delis, and bistros. If you would miss a shop or restaurant if it disappeared, why not do your holiday shopping there? Here are some great gift ideas to please the palates of everyone on your list:

Give gift certificates to your favorite eateries—not just “occasion” restaurants, but your favorite pub or bistro, too. It’s easy to tailor the gift for the recipient: that little Italian place for your parents, Thai for your sister, vegetarian for your co-worker.

Many diners and corner cafés don’t have gift cards, so make your gift a date and take someone out to breakfast! (This works better than trying to wrap bacon.)

Give gift cards to the places you wish someone would give you a card for, like a wine and specialty cheese shop, coffee house, or bakery. Instead of giving out Starbucks gift cards, why not Jaho, Java Sun, or Atomic Café?

If a gift card seems too impersonal, pick up your favorite food items. And don’t get all angsty about having to make a complicated gift basket. Many markets do make baskets or have pre-made ones available, but your gift recipient is going to love you for the gorgeous sticky buns from A&J King, lobsters from Paul Crowell, or fabulous cheese selections from Grand Trunk Imports whether or not they are prettily wrapped.

Gift giving doesn’t get much simpler than candy, but put down that supermarket chocolate and pick up a box from Turtle Alley, Stowaway Sweets, Ye Old Pepper Company, The Cocoa Belt or Harbor Sweets. Locally made will mean fresher sweets for your sweetie.

Get creative! If your recipient is a fan of adult beverages, a tour of Cape Ann Brewing Company or Ryan and Wood Distilleries would be great fun. If they like to cook, a class with local chefs like Mary Reilly of Newburyport’s Savory Kitchen or Salem’s Mamma Licia would be perfect.

For a list of local resources from farms to wineries and culinary tourism ideas, check out MDAR’s Mass Grown Web site; it’s full of great information.

At North Shore Dish, we’re all about discovering the terrific eats in our own backyard and hope we’ve inspired you to do the same. May your holiday season be full of fun, family, friends, and of course fabulous food.

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Bringing the Corner Deli Back to Danvers Square

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Danvers, Danvers Fresh Marketplace, Deli, Marketplace | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

When you hear the phrase “corner deli,” you might think nostalgically of the days before computers and cell phones. But the truth is, this type of establishment has more relevance than ever for today’s busy shoppers.

Late last year, John Gross opened Danvers Fresh Marketplace one block from the center of Danvers Square, bringing produce from his Chelsea-market business and adding a selection of bakery, deli, and gourmet products.

The produce is the star in this relatively small space—carefully laid out groupings of vegetables and seasonal fruits, nothing past its prime or bruised. A table near the door holds specialty items; on a recent visit, there were last-of-the-season berries, persimmons, figs, and concord grapes. Nearby was a large table of good-looking sugar pumpkins for $.75 each. (Weekly sale items are listed on the store’s Web site.)

Also by the door is a small deli counter with a huge selection of Boar’s Head meats plus cranberry walnut chicken salad, bean salad, ham salad, dips, and cut fruit. Sandwiches are made to order, and deli platters are available. In front of the case is a selection of half loaves from West Concord-based Nashoba Brook Bakery.

In the back corner is an immaculate salad bar featuring the usual suspects along with less common items like grilled chicken, ham, artichokes, feta cheese, banana peppers, and sunflower seeds. Nearby are kettles of soup from Chelsea-based Kettle Cuisine ($2.69 small, $6.99 large). Manager Andrea Harry suggests coming early if you want soup—lunchtimes are busy, and many selections sell out.

Whether you stop in for lunch or a produce run, you may want to seek out a few of the store’s other treats. In the dairy case are small containers of Rachel’s yogurt, which come in exotic flavors and are creamier than other low-fat yogurts. Near the soup kettles are bottles of Il Moretto olive oil from Sicily and small jars of Christopher Ranch garlic, ginger, shallots, and pesto. Last but not least, tea breads from The New Salem Tea Bread Company in Amherst are near the register. We tried the apple cinnamon—not inexpensive at $5, but hard to distinguish from homemade.

Although it would be great to see a few more local products in the store, we give John Gross and his team high marks for bringing back the corner deli—and making it better than ever.

Danvers Fresh Marketplace
17 Elm St, Danvers
(978) 774-2756
www.danversfreshmarketplace.com

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Celebrating Thanksgiving on the North Shore

Posted: November 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s coming down to the wire for Thanksgiving, and sometimes the pressure of making everything come together for a holiday can be overwhelming. Hoping to ease your angst, we’ve put together a list of useful North Shore resources.

Tendercrop Farm in Newbury is offering fresh local hormone- and antibiotic-free turkeys, and their Web site even offers cooking advice. Vermont free-range turkeys are available through New Meadows Market in Topsfield, which also offers prepared birds, side dishes, and desserts. If you’re not familiar with it, Northeast Harvest is a terrific resource for locating local farms selling fresh vegetables and poultry. And if you’re looking for quick and easy recipes, check out this fantastic list from the New York Times.

For beautifully prepared gourmet sides and desserts, Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market in Ipswich, Henry’s Market in Beverly, and Foodie’s Feast in Marblehead all have special holiday menus. Ordering deadlines vary, so call as soon as possible if you are interested. Shubie’s Market Place also has a special catering menu, and if you’re worried about pleasing the different wine drinkers at your table, they have a great solution: a six-pack containing carefully selected wines of uniquely different styles. That way, you’ll be sure to have something for everyone, and it’s offered at 20% off the regular price.

If you’re not in the mood to cook, there are plenty of local options still available for tucking into holiday fare. Both the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem and 10 Center Street in Newburyport are serving buffet-style meals. The Hawthorne’s is offered from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and runs $41 for adults and $17 for kids. 10 Center is offering seatings at 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00. Their feast is $55 for adults, $15 for kids, and children under six are free.

Both Mission Oak Grill and David’s Tavern in Newburyport have special offers. Along with their regular menu, Mission Oak will feature a four-course Thanksgiving meal at $21 per adult and $10 per child. David’s is serving a three course meal for $32 per adult and $12 for kids.

Victoria Station in Salem is running list of holiday specials as well as an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving feast for $30 per adult and $12 per child (children under five eat free). For those in search of alternative ideas, Rawberts Organic Garden in Beverly offers a full holiday menu available for eating in or taking out.

If you’re looking for a more casual atmosphere where you can relax and sip a brew with your turkey and fixin’s, Sweeney’s Retreat in Marblehead will be open, offering their Irish Pub style Thanksgiving meal, and the Lobster Shanty in Salem promises a tasty looking family-style communal table meal at $25 for the all-you-can-eat extravaganza.

Finally, we’d like to give a big shout-out to Tavern on the Square in Salem, which is serving a free Thanksgiving dinner from 11:30 to 2:00. It is open to all but focuses on the elderly, the homeless, and families that are struggling in these difficult times. Talk about the holiday spirit!

We hope this list helps to alleviate some of your impending holiday stress and that your Thanksgiving is full of family, friends, and great food.

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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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