Not Your Typical Coffee and Donuts

Posted: February 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cherry Farm Creamery, Danvers, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

We’ve heard of breakfast for dinner, but ice cream for breakfast—in January, no less? Still, it was for a good cause, so off we went to Cherry Farm Creamery in Danvers this weekend. They were celebrating National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (who knew?) by serving special flavors on Saturday morning and donating half of the proceeds to the HAWC organization.

The creamery went all out for the event, making fresh waffles for waffle sundaes and coming up with great flavors like banana grape-nut and maple bacon, so we were glad to see a line out the door when we arrived. Yes, it was chilly, but it was also fun and thought-provoking. The maple ice cream with real bacon crumbled in was especially interesting, with a strong maple flavor mixing with that wonderful salty element.

Our waffle sundaes were amazing—the waffle soaked up the melting ice cream and mixed with the delicious hot fudge. The coffee ice cream with chocolate-glazed donuts mixed in truly put it over the top, and one of our party opted for the bacon topping. We didn’t try it, but there was a sundae option featuring a warm blueberry or strawberry Pop Tart, and in addition to bacon, toppings included granola, warm maple syrup, and warm blueberry sauce. Maybe we should have ice cream for breakfast more often…

Cherry Farm Creamery
210 Conant Street, Danvers
(978) 774-0519
cherryfarmcreamery.com

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Lynn, Lynn, the City of…Donuts

Posted: July 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Donut City, Lynn, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Even unintentionally, Corey Jackson inspires me to eat in Lynn. This morning I was planning to take Route 1A through Lynn when Corey posted a picture of the awful  Lynnway traffic on Facebook. Having no desire to experience it for myself, I decided to take Route 107, conveniently passing directly by Donut City, which sits at the intersection of Western Ave. and Chestnut Street.

A small, independent, family-owned shop that’s been open about a year and a half, Donut City makes donuts fresh each morning. I had been meaning to check them out, and this was the perfect opportunity.

Everything looked so good, I ended up leaving with a variety of treats to share with my colleagues. Both the raised and cake donuts (.75 each) were terrific. My all-time favorite, the chocolate frosted old-fashioned cake donut was excellent. The crunchy fried outside encased moist cake and was topped with chocolate icing that didn’t overwhelm. The raised doughnuts were heavenly—even the glazed was feather light, and the raised cinnamon was a revelation. That’s the one I’ll go back for.

Donut City offers muffins in two sizes, (.79 for small and $1.65 for large) and produces a variety of unusual flavors along with the old standbys. Who could resist a Boston Cream Pie muffin? I certainly couldn’t, and I threw in a pineapple coconut one for good measure. My colleagues were quite happy with the decision. The muffins were moist, lightly sweet, and had a nice springy crumb—the Boston Cream Pie drew raves.

I was interested to discover that aside from a myriad of sweet treats, croissants and breakfast sandwiches, the shop also offers fresh, hot, savory meat pies. The chicken and beef pastelitos (.80 each) looked so good, I opted to try the chicken then and there. A crisp pastry filled with chopped meat, onions, and sweet peppers, it was delicious. A couple of those and a coffee and you’ve got yourself a bargain lunch.

Speaking of coffee, I was excited to see that Donut City carries locally roasted fair trade coffee from Beverly’s Atomic Café.

The quality and freshness of this unassuming corner bakery blows chain store donuts out of the water, so don’t wait until the next traffic jam to stop by.

Donut City
515 Chestnut Street, Lynn
(781) 477-0766

Donut City on Urbanspoon

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Café Zabaglione Charms Us Into a European-Style Lunch

Posted: May 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Café Zabaglione, Cafe, Ipswich, Italian, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

We’ll admit it: it was the dessert case that drew us into Café Zabaglione. It holds a huge variety of Italian and American desserts, including some luscious looking cakes. Often, authentic Italian pastries are an indicator of high-quality, European-style food, and that is definitely the case here.

We thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely lunch last weekend, which included genuinely warm service and great tasting sandwiches. The vegetarian in our group enjoyed the Italian, which consisted of fresh mozzarella cheese and marinated vegetables on focaccia ($8.50). The ham and cheese croissant with a side salad ($6.50) was also very well received.

The large chicken caesar wrap was filled with tender breast meat and crisp lettuce, fresh and delicious ($8.95). The meatball panini was enough for two (maybe three)—hand-made meatballs with great texture, chunky sauce, and fresh bread, with delicately breaded eggplant on the side ($8.95). The escarole soup was filled with vegetables, pasta, and flavorful meatballs and accompanied by a huge slice of fresh bread ($4.95). The café is an offshoot of the well-respected Zabaglione Restaurant around the corner on Central Street, and it clearly benefits from the same attention to detail.

It was fun to peruse the many cakes, pies, and other pastries in the case, and we finally settled on the mile high chocolate cake and the chocolate mousse torte ($7.95 each). The mousse was rich but not heavy, and it was surrounded by melt-in-your-mouth chocolate meringue. Still, it was upstaged by the cake, which had five layers of moist cake, intense chocolate filling, and even richer frosting. The price for a slice may seem high, but that’s only until you see it. This is clearly a two-dessert portion, and the quality is top-notch.

Café Zabaglione
1 Market St, Ipswich
(978) 356-6484
www.zabaglioneristorante.com

Zabaglione Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Pączki Day at Coffee Time Bake Shop

Posted: March 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Coffee Time Bake Shop, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Whether you are of Polish heritage or just want to indulge in deep fried taste treats, Fat Tuesday offers a great excuse to ditch your diet, as it’s the traditional day for Polish Americans to partake of pączki.

For the uninitiated, pączki (pronounced pooch-key or poonch-key) are balls of fried dough, similar to jelly doughnuts but denser and more eggy. They can be served plain with sugar, glazed, or filled with fruit or cream. Traditionally, making pączki just before Lent was a way to use up items like eggs and lard, which would be abstained from during the pre-Easter season.

Salem’s Coffee Time Bake Shop has a reputation for making the rich pastries, and this morning while suffering the hell that is the Bridge Street construction, we spotted their sign reminding us that today is pączki day. Seizing the chance to duck the traffic, we popped in and purchased a few.

The coffee shop produces plain and several stuffed varieties, priced from $1.89 to $3.50 each. The decadent cream- and strawberry-filled option was tasty, and the whipped cream was fresh, but it was overwhelming. A bite and a half was plenty. The raspberry fruit-filled was very good, but our favorite was the unfilled glazed. The glaze provided just enough sweetness, and the flavor of the dough was still discernible.

Coffee Time makes fresh, hand-rolled pączki daily at this time of year and will have them available now through Easter Sunday. The pastries are more of a bread dough than a doughnut, so we advise purchasing them early in the morning. The ones we tried were terrific, but I can imagine they dry out pretty quickly.

They offer a huge array of baked goods, doughnuts, and cookies and has other seasonal baked goods, including king cake for Mardi Gras and Irish soda bread. So if you find yourself waiting to be waved on by one of the endless police details lining the street, a pastry break might just be in order.

Coffee Time Bake Shop
96 Bridge Street, Salem
(978) 744-0995
www.coffeetimebakeshop.net

Coffee Time Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

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Wine and Chocolate Tasting Kicks Off Salem’s So Sweet Festival

Posted: February 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Coven, Drinks, Event, Milk & Honey, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We threw all caution and calorie counting to the wind upon entering historic Hamilton Hall on Friday night. The reason? The 9th Annual Chocolate and Wine Tasting, the kick-off event for Salem’s yearly Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, running through the 14th.

We had a terrific time at the tasting, getting to see old friends and make a few new ones while sipping and nibbling our way across the room. The participating restaurants went all out with beautiful displays and an insane amount of sweets.

We can’t even begin to mention everything we tasted. Coven had an impressive table stacked with huge, beautiful chocolate cupcakes. Coffee Time Bake Shop offered vast array of luscious baked goods, presided over by a fabulous Barbie cake that induced pangs of nostalgia. (My mother used to make them!) Those that stopped by Ye Olde Pepper Company‘s table were urged to choose chocolates from the largest heart-shaped box we’ve ever seen.

We got a kick out Chef John Andrews of Victoria Station playing with fire as he expertly flambeed cherries for a tasty dessert, and we chatted with Chef Steve from the Regatta Pub at Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites (one of the event sponsors) about his hand-made truffles. They were all rich and decadent, but our favorites were the ginger and cayenne,both set off nicely by the bubbly being poured at their table.

Speaking of cayenne, we really enjoyed the Caliente Cafe cocktail the ladies of Finz were serving. Made with pablano-infused espresso, vanilla vodka, and creme de cacao and then rimmed with white chocolate and cayenne, it had a spicy zing but wasn’t too sweet.

Some of the wines that stood out were a vegan Malbec being poured by the Gulu-Gulu Cafe and the fun Apothic Red on sample from both Victoria Station and Busa Wines. It was lush and spicy yet smooth, a perfect companion to the chocolate we were consuming. Ian from Isaak’s of Salem was on hand pouring his Popp Road Raspberry, which paired nicely with the chocolate cake being served by Green Land Cafe.

We also caught up with Sharon Driscoll, owner of Milk and Honey, who was scooping ice cream. She reminded us that as part of the festival, the green grocer is running a great special—20% off all products with chocolate listed in the ingredients.

In fact, that’s just one example of the tasty specials available throughout the festival. For a full listing of events and savings, pick up a brochure or check out the Salem Chamber of Commerce website. Even if you missed Friday night’s event, there are still plenty of opportunities to savor Salem. With fabulous ice sculptures and sweet deals, it’s the perfect date destination for Valentine’s Day.

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Creamy Cool Treats at Hodgie’s

Posted: August 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Amesbury, Hodgie's Ice Cream, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

As the saying goes, man cannot live on cider donuts alone—so after our recent idyllic visit to Cider Hill Farm, we stopped at Hodgie’s for some ice cream. We’d heard quite a bit about this Amesbury stand from friends, and we were not disappointed. The ice cream, handmade on site, is extremely high quality, and there are a number of appealing flavors we don’t often see, including grasshopper, cherry chip, grapenut, and chocolate walnut.

We tried the coffee fudge and the mint oreo cookie; both were excellent. We also sampled the cranberry-raspberry sorbet, which had tons of flavor and was extremely refreshing. Deciding which size to order can be confusing because the portions are truly enormous. One scoop is $2.95, and it’s plenty for one person. Two scoops are $3.80; it would be the equivalent of a large at most ice cream place and just right for sharing.

Two of our group went outside the cone to try the peanut butter bomb  and the crunch ball. Both were $3.25 and very large. The peanut butter bomb is vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and then in peanut butter coating. It was delicious, as was the crunch ball, with vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and dipped in peanut crunchies.

Hodgie’s also serves soft serve ice cream, soft serve frozen yogurt, as well as sandwiches, burgers, and fries. We didn’t get a chance to sample any of them, but we may on our next visit, which will coincide with their famous fall special: cider donut ice cream.

Hodgie’s Ice Cream
1 Haverhill Road (Rt 110), Amesbury
(978) 388-1211
www.hodgies.com

Hodgie's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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The Unsung Tastes of Summer

Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bakery, Boston Hot Dog Co., Cafe, Cider Hill Farm, Coven, Green Land Cafe, Jack Tar, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

While it may seem we write about every single thing we eat, that’s obviously not the case. And trust us, you really don’t want to know about all the cold leftovers or bowls of cereal in our lives. However, there have been some unsung tid-bits we’ve enjoyed this summer that deserve mention.

Jack Tar is an unassuming restaurant and pub tucked in behind the storefronts on Washington Street in Marblehead, and on a couple of occasions this summer we have found ourselves enjoying their little patio in the early evening. Our drink of choice? The refreshing Lemon Jack, which is similar to a lemon drop, made with citrus vodka and limoncello. Icy and tart, it’s just the thing to cool you off after a sultry day. Their house-made warm potato chips with bleu cheese, smoked bacon, and scallions are extremely tasty and just the right accompaniment to cocktails.

When a friend requested a stop at Boston Hot Dog in Salem recently, we heartily agreed, fully expecting to order one of their stellar dogs. Upon entering, we noticed the hot pastrami special and decided it warranted further investigation. Man, was that one excellent sandwich. If tender, savory pastrami slow-cooked all day, loaded into a French bread bun with Dijon mustard and a bit of swiss cheese sounds like heaven to you, check this baby out.

Autumn may be when thoughts typically turn to cider doughnuts, but we’ve been obsessing about them this summer, and those from Cider Hill Farm are the objects of our affection. Fresh, light, and cake-y, these old-fashioned doughnuts are coated in cinnamon sugar and simply melt in your mouth. Cider Hill sells them at several farmers markets across the North Shore, but we love them still warm from the bakery at the farm itself.

Another dessert worth seeking out is the dark chocolate bread pudding from Coven. It is dense, not too sweet, and the deep chocolate reminiscent of my grandmother’s homemade hot fudge sauce. This insanely lush treat is so rich we couldn’t finish it all, but it’s the sort of left over that won’t languish long in the fridge.

We have yet to get to the newly opened Green Land Café in Salem for dinner, but we did stop in for lunch last week and were quite impressed by the grilled avocado and crab salad with ginger-lime gastrique. Both the avocado and the crab were super fresh tasting, and the dressing was bright and tangy. This lovely entrée was light yet filling, just right for a summer afternoon.

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A Collection of Confections at Cassis

Posted: June 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Beverly, Cassis Bakery, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

June is a busy multi-birthday month for us, so when we needed a couple of birthday cakes we thought of Cassis Bakery in Beverly. Since its inception 10 years ago, Cassis has won many accolades and become well known on the North Shore for its pastries and wedding cakes.

We stopped in last week to peruse the refrigerated cases and order our confections. The bakery offers a wide range of cakes and tortes to choose from, including a new gluten-free menu. Our first request was a Sacher torte, but we were told that due to time and complexity, the baker no longer makes them for small orders, and even when ordering a large one, it must be done further in advance. So we decided to go with a fruit flan and a standard chocolate mousse birthday cake.

The beautiful display in the pastry case was so alluring that after we placed the order, we couldn’t leave without taking a few treats along. The porcupines ($2.85) were so damned cute that you almost don’t want to eat them—but we did. A butter cookie tart shell filled with chocolate cream, almonds, and a coat of dark chocolate, they tasted as wonderful as they looked. The cinnamon twist ($2.20) was also quite good; like an elongated cinnamon bun with plenty of icing, it was lovely with coffee.

When we picked up the cakes on Sunday morning, everyone was wowed by how gorgeous they were. The fruit flan ($37.50 for 9″) was spectacular. Completely unlike supermarket tarts, the fruit was sliced thinly to make an intricate pattern and included fresh peaches, kiwi, strawberries, and raspberries. The tart shell was buttery, the flan itself rich and creamy.

Although the chocolate cake ($30 for 8″ plus $3 for the purple frosted decorations) was beautiful, flavor-wise it was unsuccessful. The sponge cake was a dry and not chocolate-y enough, though the layers of mousse in the middle helped it, and the buttercream frosting was heavy and bland.

With the chefs’ obvious care and attention to detail, one can see how Cassis has gained its reputation, and it’s definitely worth frequenting for pastries and specialty items. And you didn’t hear it from us, but fruit flan leftovers are especially good for breakfast…

Cassis Bakery
263 Cabot St., Beverly
(978) 922-2053
www.cassisbakery.com

Cassis Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Newburyport: Home of the Whoopie

Posted: May 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe, Chococoa Baking Company, Newburyport, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Alan Greenspan seems an unlikely person to provide impetus for a small bakery in Newburyport, but a couple of years ago, Alan Mons and Julie Ganong wanted to leave their jobs in financial services and took to heart Greenspan’s advice on improving an existing product.

Mons and Ganong thought long and hard and decided the whoopie pie could use an update. They had fond memories of baking these treats with their grandmothers (Ganong is originally from Maine) and wanted to give this New England favorite a makeover.

Today, the two are churning out between 2,000 and 3,000 mini-cakes a week from their Newburyport location. The cakes contain three types of chocolate, giving them a rich, unique flavor. In between is a layer of decadent buttercream in flavors like vanilla, espresso, and raspberry. The antithesis of junk food, these treats contain no preservatives, are made with natural and organic ingredients, and contain local products like free range eggs from Newbury.

We stopped into the Chococoa bakery over the weekend and found not only the delicious, sinfully decadent whoopie pies, but muffins, scones, cookies, brownies, savory croissants, and quiche, as well as Atomic Café coffee. Ganong told us everything other than the whoopies are supplied by local bakers who have been certified for safe food practices and work with Chococoa on a co-op basis.

At the bakery and in various locations in Boston, Southern New Hampshire, and the North Shore (including Cassis, Green Meadows Farm, and Cider Hill), the whoopies sell for $1.68 each or three for $4.98. In about a month, anyone in the US will be able to order from the company’s Web site (they ship frozen and arrive in two days).

Lately, the company has been seeing increased requests for a unique use for their whoopie pies: birthday and wedding cakes. Says Ganong of this and other twists her life path has taken recently: “It’s been a journey. It’s been fun.”

Chococoa Baking Company
38 Washington St, Newburyport
(978) 499-8889
www.chococoabaking.com

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Coven Promises Fine Foods and Funky Fun in Downtown Salem

Posted: May 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe, Coven, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

What would happen if your playful, sugary-cereal-and-Saturday-morning-cartoon-loving childhood self collided head on with your older, fine-food-loving self? You’d wake up at Coven.

I stopped in yesterday to chat with Jen Vourlos, who created this brainchild along with partner Rob Trezza and is busy training staff and setting up, with plans to have a soft opening tomorrow morning. Not all of the foods and services will be available immediately, said Vourlos, but everything should be in order by the grand opening at the end of the month.

What exactly is Coven–bakery, café, artisanal market? Take all of the above, add vintage toys, games, and a dash of retro rockabilly décor, and you’ve got the idea. This storefront on Essex Street in Salem is a little bit of everything and unlike anything else.

Whether you are looking for gourmet foods, local artisanal cheeses, and fresh produce; indulgent and whimsical baked goods; or a casual place to eat, drink and hang with friends, Coven has got you covered.

Recent transplants from NYC where they owned a small dessert shop, Jen and Rob moved to Salem to be closer to family and create their vision of making “a change to the everyday cafe experience by providing a place where people can unwind while enjoying unprocessed and freshly prepared foods and whimsical desserts.” The treats will range from cakes, bars, and tarts to things like Nutella cannoli and all-natural, homemade versions of Twinkies and Poptarts.

Your inner child will delight in the cereal bar, where you can pour yourself a bowl of anything from Special K to Count Chocula, and the top-your-own-cupcakes with retro favorites like pop rocks. Your date-night self will appreciate a quiet corner to have a glass of wine with a cheese plate and play a favorite board game. Vourlos said she even plans to offer wine and beer dessert pairings. (They have acquired a seasonal beer and wine license and hope to eventually have it year-round.) The gourmet in you will love having a place to buy Richardson’s dairy products, cage free eggs, Voges curry coconut ice cream, or locally made cheese.

Coven will be open from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm, serving baked goods, daily specials, sandwiches, salads, deli items, and prepared foods. Everything is available to take out or eat in, and you may find yourself staying just to check out the vintage Smurf collection. Me? I’m looking forward to trying out some to those homemade Twinkies.

Coven
281 Essex Street, Salem
(978) 741-0500
http://www.facebook.com/CovenSalem
(final website is under construction)

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