Lowdown on the Throwdown: 5 Corners Kitchen Wins Lobster Challenge

Posted: July 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, Ataraxis Tavern, Event, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s not every day you get to attend a live event that rivals popular reality TV. Today we had a chance to check out the Seafood Throwdown at the Marblehead Farmers’ Market and enjoyed every minute of it.

For those unfamiliar with this type of contest, two chefs are given limited time and a secret ingredient to battle it out for the winning title. The event is sponsored by the farmers’ market in partnership with Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and Cape Ann Fresh Catch in an effort to support local fishermen and educate about sustainable fishing practices. The throwdown is a relatively new idea, and although there have been several at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, this was the first in Marblehead.

The chefs competing in the event were Paul Riccardi from Ataraxis Tavern and Barry Edelman of 5 Corners Kitchen. Sean Sullivan and Niaz Dorry from NAMA were there to oversee the proceedings, and guest judges were Rosalie Harrington, chef and former owner of the legendary Marblehead restaurant Rosalie’s; Leigh Vincola, director of marketing at Edible Boston Magazine; and Rosalie’s husband, Todd Feinberg, morning talk show host on WRKO, who also emceed.

The morning got off to an exciting start when Sullivan announced that the mystery seafood would be lobster, courtesy of Marblehead’s own Paul Crowell. The chefs were then given $25 each and 15 minutes to shop the market for ingredients. When time was up, the horn sounded, and the chefs were allotted one hour to create a meal using the lobsters, their purchases, provided staple ingredients, and up to three unannounced items they were allowed to bring with them.

As the cooking proceeded, Feinberg gave a play-by-play, cracking jokes and asking the chefs questions, even breaking into his best Gordon Ramsey impression at one point. The crowd grew, and everyone, including the kids watching, felt the excitement. It was a treat to see.

Interestingly, both Riccardi and Edelman had chosen some of the same produce from the market, including small potatoes and corn. Riccardi boiled his lobsters while Edelman cut them up, boiling the claws and sautéing the bodies.

The end results were gorgeous. Edelman plated a vegetable mélange first, which included the sautéed corn and potatoes as well as grilled zucchini and fresh carrot, then added the claw meat in roe butter, the lobster half, and beautiful greens that included fresh squash blossoms.

Riccardi plated his “deconstructed” lobster with sautéed potatoes and corn and grilled spicy sausage on a bed of greens that had been sautéed with toasted garlic oil, which he playfully garnished with the lobster body.

The scoring was based on five categories that included originality and use of whole animal. The judges had a difficult job because, as Sullivan opined, “both dishes are unbelievably good.” Harrington noted that Edelman’s combination of flavors were so fresh that all together they “tasted like summer.” Feinberg was surprised by Riccardi’s sweet and sour sauce. “Mango sauce is great with lobster,” he said, “I never would have guessed.”

After tallying up the votes, 5 Corners Kitchen was announced the winner, and both participants were soundly applauded. There is no prize for winning except bragging rights, and, truly, both contenders should be proud of what they accomplished. Can you imagine creating a meal off the cuff in a hot tent in front of a crowd of milling strangers, on a deadline?

Our hearty congratulations to Chef Edelman, and we hope he and Chef Riccardi continue to be involved in this sort of event. Not only does it spotlight local seafood and produce, it is also a great way to get the public more involved in their town’s food scene. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.

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Marblehead’s Ataraxis Tavern Brings New Energy to the Avenue

Posted: March 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Ataraxis Tavern, Casual/Pub Food, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Edit 12/29/10: We are sorry to report that Ataraxis Tavern has closed it’s doors.

Marblehead’s got a new bar and grill in town, though you likely haven’t heard of it yet. Ataraxis Tavern has quickly and quietly filled the space left by Flynnie’s and in the month since their soft opening, has been generating great buzz.

Jeff Flynn and his family are well regarded by Marbleheaders and both Flynnie’s on the Avenue and at Devereux Beach were favorites of many, so while it may not be fair, comparisons by locals will be inevitable.

We stopped by last night to take a look for ourselves and had the opportunity to chat with owner Dean Santamaria-Capetanelis. Dean grew up in Marblehead and when he and friend Paul Riccardi, previously the executive chef at Jack Tar, were looking to open a restaurant and saw the space for sale, they jumped at the chance to return to town. Dean and Paul’s shared vision is that of a relaxing family-friendly tavern atmosphere serving quality comfort food. The name, Ataraxis, is actually an English word meaning “the absence of mental stress or anxiety.”

On first glance, the interior feels darker, warmer and indeed quieter for such a small space. The paneling on the walls, which was originally reclaimed wood from a tannery in Peabody, has been stained a dark walnut. The other big change is the black tablecloths and linen napkins at each table.  Dean explains that not only does this help in baffling noise, but using linens is also more cost effective and creates less waste than paper. The new chairs and fresh coat of paint add to the revived atmosphere. And families with children shouldn’t be put off by the new look—our junior Dish member was delighted at the offer of an Etch-A-Sketch from the stash at the hostess stand to occupy kids waiting on their food.

332010aThere are a couple of changes that haven’t happened yet, but are in the works. The floor needs refinishing, but instead of fighting the salt, sand and snow of winter, that will wait till warmer months. Also, the custom painted glass between the restaurant area and bar is in the process of being replaced.

Much of the transformation, Santamaria-Capetanelis tells us, will never be seen by the public. The kitchen has gotten a facelift, as well as new chef (Riccardi) and sous-chef (Jake Soucy), and a new computer system installed. There are some familiar faces, though, because he hired back the former Flynnie’s wait and bar staff which made the transition smoother than most.

The menu, as promised, centers on hearty and comfort food favorites. The big difference here is that everything is prepared to order from scratch, using fresh ingredients. Dean already uses local suppliers like Patriot Lobster for seafood and Atomic Café for coffee, and is interested in locally sourcing as much as he can as the seasons change.

332010bWhile we didn’t get to explore much of the menu, we did try the ribs ($14.50 for half rack, $21 for full) which were terrific. They were fall-off-the-bone tender and had great flavor. The grilled farmhouse burger ($8.75) was fresh, juicy and generous, and the fries plentiful and tasty.

Santamaria-Capetanelis is pleased with the initial public reaction, and said that business for February, (a difficult month to open anything) exceeded their expectations. Visitors have warmed to the new place, and with so many storefronts still vacant from economic upheaval, we’re thinking Atlantic Avenue can only benefit from the energy generated by Dean and his crew.

If you are interested in checking out the AT for yourself, think about heading over tomorrow night, Thursday March 4th, for their grand opening celebration. They will be serving up samples of their signature dishes as well as handing out fun freebies from Cape Ann Brewing Company from 5-7 pm.

Ataraxis Tavern
28 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead
781-639-2100
ataraxistavern.com (the menu is up, but the site is still under construction)
Ataraxis Tavern Facebook Page
Ataraxis Tavern on Urbanspoon

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