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

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.

Share

Weekend Picks, December 9-12

Posted: December 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Coven, Event, Green Land Cafe, Ipswich, Marblehead, Milk & Honey, Salem, Shubie's Market Place, Wenham | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

It’s been a while since we talked about weekend picks, but this weekend there’s so much going on we can barely scratch the surface.

Tonight is a great night to get some shopping done in Salem. Many of the stores are open late and are offering deals and treats to shoppers. Salem Wine Imports will have a free tasting and special discounts; Milk and Honey Green Grocer will offer cheese and crackers, food samples, and 15% off your purchases; and Pamplemousse holds their annual open house from 6:00 to 9:00 with wine, hors d’oeuvres, and free gift wrapping.

Also open late tonight are the shops in Hamilton and Wenham. Stop into the Wenham Museum from 4:00 to 8:00 to check out their terrific gift shop as well as the Gingerbread Express model train layout and the Gingerbread Contest Judging.

From 6:00 to 9:00 tonight, the Mansion at Turner Hill hosts the 13th Annual Taste of Ipswich Wine & Food Gala. You can taste local fare prepared by Ipswich’s finest restaurants, sip wine, and sample Ipswich and Stone Cat brews, as well as Mercury Soda Pop. This year, the proceeds will benefit the Ipswich Family YMCA. For more information, call the Ipswich YMCA at (978) 356-9622.

The Salem fun continues on Saturday, when Santa will make a visit to Coven. Your small person can check out the big guy while you warm up with a coffee and tasty treat. Also on Saturday, Green Land Café will be holding a Toys for Tots drive. Children eat free when they bring a toy to donate.

Marblehead continues its annual Christmas Walk this weekend with music, street entertainment, and shopping deals on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, you’ll find two wine tastings. From noon to 5:00, Haley’s will be sampling Y & B organic wines with Neil Deininger. (Even though it looks like a juice box, we like the Sauvignon Blanc) From noon to 4:00, the fun loving BZ Zohn will be back at Shubies with for a tasting of French, Italian, and California wines. Joining BZ will be Demaris Cahoon, owner of Landmark Winery in California, and Helen Gallo of Winebow Imports.

If you’re looking for a tree this weekend, stop by Marini Farm in Ipswich. Not only do they offer the kids cookies and crafts with Santa and tractor rides around the farm, but they’re also ladling out free bowls of hot chowder from the Clam Box to help fend off the falling temps.

Now here are some picks from our pals in the North Shore Bloggers Consortium:

header

The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction.

foodforthought

Heather Atwood from the Gloucester Times has her picks at Food For Thought

towerlogo500px

Media giant Seth gives up the best of Lynn at Lynn Happens.

GMG

Joey at GMG has the scoop on all that’s going on in Cape Ann at Good Morning Gloucester.

image

Great pick for North Shore Families from North Shore Kid.

Share

Milk & Honey: A New Twist on the Urban Grocery Store

Posted: September 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Marketplace, Milk & Honey, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Man, do we wish we lived up the street from Milk & Honey in Salem. With gourmet items, bulk grains and spices, fresh produce, a variety of groceries, and a great selection of artisan cheeses, this new market in downtown Salem is a gem.

Sharon Driscoll, a 14-year Salem resident, tells us the idea is an urban country store with an emphasis on natural and organic items. She also tells us her new venture is a lifelong dream, but we could see that the moment we stepped in the door.

The market is welcoming and well laid out, with wood floors and exposed brick walls. There’s a display of fresh vegetables from Crown of Maine and Maitland Farm (located off Loring Ave in Salem) plus bins of onions, potatoes, and shallots. There are organic grass-fed meats from New England Family Farms and Free Bird, as well as a selection of vegan and vegetarian items, including Macro Vegetarian prepared foods.

We love how many items are available in bulk, saving us from buying more than we need and all that unnecessary packaging. There are several varieties of beans; rice, lentils, quinoa, and polenta; loose tea; coffee; dried peppers and mushrooms; dried fruits; vanilla beans; and more.

The grocery section includes an interesting mix of the practical (cereal, pasta, dog food) and the gourmet (wine jelly, Taza and Vao Vao chocolate), plus a large selection of baking items, many of them gluten free.

We were happy to see a number of local products on the shelves, including Appledore salsa, Pemberton salsa, Lark cookies, and Effie’s oatcakes. Fresh loaves are available from A&J King and Nashoba Brook. Not food but quite local is a collection of Plum Island soaps and body butters.

The fresh pastries in the case next to the register are also local; some are from Nashoba Brook and the rest from Dough Raise Me in Amesbury. We sampled an individual pumpkin cheesecake, a berry berry tart, an apple tart (needed more flavor), and the ginger chocolate cookie. The cookie might have been the best of the bunch, with the almond-y tart taking a close second.

Ordinarily, we’d wish Driscoll good luck on her new spot, open for only two weeks, but we really don’t think she’s going to need it. We’re thrilled to see this well-thought out market join the ranks of the many businesses helping make the revitalized downtown Salem such a great place to shop.

Milk & Honey
32 Church Street, Salem
(978) 744-6639
www.milkandhoneysalem.com

Share