Local Takes on New Meaning at The Market in Annisquam

Posted: June 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Gloucester, Steakhouse, The Market | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

You couldn’t get much farther apart than Berkeley, California and Annisquam, Mass, but these two towns do have something important in common—a love of fresh, local food. And now, they have something else tying them together: The Market Restaurant, owned by Annisquam native Amelia O’Reilly and Berkeley’s Nico Monday.

Both recently moved back to the North Shore after more than five years cooking at Northern California’s famous Chez Panisse. They brought Monday’s brother, Oliver, with them to oversee the purchase of local produce and seafood.

It’s no coincidence that O’Reilly and the Mondays arrived in May to set up their new restaurant. For one thing, the idea is to take advantage of the abundance of the New England summer—lobster and other seafood, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and people not wanting to turn on their stoves. For another, their restaurant license is seasonal (until October 15), although O’Reilly says they may hold cooking classes or offer catering out of the space during the winter.

The restaurant’s space is small and casual but charming, with eight indoor tables and six outdoors, overlooking picturesque Lobster Cove. Starting June 4, dinner will be served nightly except Wednesdays; the menu will feature three entrees, three salads, and one or two desserts. For now, dinner service is BYOB, but a beer and wine license is in the works.

The menu will change nightly depending on what seafood and produce are freshest and will include options like fish stew, fried scallops with homemade onion rings, and a vegetarian option. O’Reilly says they plan to serve meat only if it comes from a local, organic source.

Starting June 5, breakfast will be served, starting with fritter-like sour cream donuts at 7:00 and full entrees at 7:30. Expect to see hearty fisherman’s fare like fishcakes, beans, and anadama bread (a local favorite flavored with molasses and cornmeal). On June 21, a picnic-style lunch service will begin with items like lobster rolls and fried fish sandwiches, perfect for taking to an outside table, the beach, or a boat.

We were invited to attend the restaurant’s grand opening this weekend, where we sampled crispy brandade, lobster paella with aioli, and rocket salad with shaved fennel. Everything we ate was delicious—perfectly cooked and seasoned—a successful tying together of the traditional (brandade are fritters made with salt cod), the local, and the gourmet. The paella looked marvelous and tasted even better, with large chunks of lobster, mussels, clams, saffron flavored risotto, and the addictive aioli.

It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of these three food lovers and their passion for local products. Seafood comes from Cape Ann Fresh Catch and other local purveyors and may, one day, simply arrive at the restaurant’s dock. Bread baskets will be filled by Salem’s A&J King, hot dog rolls are from Virgilio’s in Gloucester, and Oliver has posted a Google map showing North Shore farms that will supply the restaurant’s produce.

Some greens won’t have to travel even that far—lettuce and herbs are already growing at O’Reilly’s mother’s house in nearby Lanesville. We can’t help but think that Alice Waters would approve.

The Market Restaurant
33 River Rd, Lobster Cove, Gloucester
(978) 282-0700
www.themarketrestaurant.com

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Rowley’s Secret Revealed

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Rowley, Seafood, Steakhouse | Tags: | No Comments »

Editor’s Note 5/1/09

We are sad to report that Sidney and Hampton didn’t make it through the recent economic upheaval and has closed it’s doors. Any outstanding gift certificates will be honored by the Sylvan Street Grill, either at the Peabody or Salibury locations.

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When friends who live in Ipswich suggested we go to dinner in Rowley Saturday night, our first thought was Rowley, huh? What’s there? The answer came back: Sidney and Hampton. We duly Googled the place, and came up with scant mention, aside from their own Web site. Curiouser and curiouser; now we felt compelled to check it out, if simply to clear up all the mystery.

While the name might sound like a law firm, it turns out that Sidney and Hampton is the newest incarnation of the old Eagle House on route 133. Acquired three years ago by Ernie Tremblay, owner of the Sylvan Street Grill restaurants, it has obviously gained a loyal following; both the bar and dining room were packed when we arrived.

Our table wasn’t great (I hate sitting near the door), but we had only made our reservation that morning. Still, the rooms were much more warm and inviting than the slightly antiseptic photos on the Web site led us to expect. The exposed beams, crackling fire, and well-chosen light fixtures created a level of comfort to accompany the food, which leans toward reasonably priced upscale country dining with a few twists.

The mixed drinks looked terrific, nicely sized with a lengthy martini menu, most priced around $10. However, having cocktailed earlier, we ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir from the wine list, which was quite respectable.

The appetizers were all generous portions and arrived in good order. The oysters on the half shell ($13 for ½ doz.) hailed from Virginia this time of year and earned high marks from those who tried them for freshness and taste. The fried calamari ($10) was excellent; light, crispy, and tender. Chef Jameson Donlan, whom we met later in the evening, told us he uses graham cracker crumbs in the coating mixture. The lump crabcakes ($12) were moist and tasty with a tangy chive remoulade.

Last but not least, we tried a house favorite, the popover salad. ($8) Being a fan of any excuse to incorporate baked goods into the meal, the idea of mixed greens, fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, sliced apples, and balsamic vinaigrette served in a fresh baked popover sounded intriguing to say the least. Both the salad and the popover tasted pleasant, but somehow the combination wasn’t spectacular. Perhaps it’s our preconceived notion that popovers should be served piping hot and slathered with butter, which we couldn’t quite shake.

With all of the appetizers, you’d think we’d have been sated by the time the entrees arrived, but we soldiered on. Our waitress, when asked about the baked seafood risotto ($28) said, “What’s nice is that it’s not an archeological dig to find the seafood,” and upon its arrival, we noted that she was spot on. The risotto was creamy with great texture, and the chunks of flavorful shrimp, scallops, and Maine lobster meat were large and abundant.

The salmon picatta ($24), fresh Atlantic salmon with capers, artichoke hearts, and a lemon white wine butter sauce, was a bit ho-hum, probably the least interesting entrée of the evening.

Both the New York sirloin and the frenched New Zealand rack of lamb were trimmed in-house and grilled to order, served with house potato and vegetable. Each cut of meat was tender and juicy, ensuring no need for a doggie bag. The sautéed green beans were of note, tasty and bright with a bit of crunch, and the garlic mashed was lovely as well.

By this point, we had been sussed out as food bloggers, (must learn to be more discrete!) and our waitress very kindly brought out Head Chef Jameson Donlan to say hello. An attractive young man with an obvious enthusiasm for his job, Donlan is relatively new to the position and refreshingly without attitude or ego. He had an honest interest in what we thought of his food, and after shaking hands and chatting a bit, he retreated to the kitchen.

After that, we couldn’t leave without at least tasting a few desserts we had seen displayed at other tables, along with espresso. The ubiquitous crème brulee and chocolate flan were fine; the standout was a special that evening, a Guinness cake with Bailey’s icing. The cake, created by Chef Donlan, was rich, dense, and tasty and well complemented by the icing, which had just the right amount of sweetness.

It’s obvious that the solid country steakhouse menu and reasonable prices will have locals returning on a regular basis, but it will be interesting to see, as Chef Donlan evolves, if his youthful creativity can blossom and turn Sydney and Hampton into a destination restaurant.

Sidney and Hampton has a pre-fixe menu, a first seating menu, and two function rooms available in the fully-restored New England barn, built in 1880.

Sidney and Hampton
87 Haverill St. (Rt.133), Rowley
(978) 948-6666
www.sidneyandhampton.com

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