February: The Sweetest Month?

Posted: February 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Christopher's Table, Event, Finz, Gloucester, Harbor Sweets, Ipswich, News, Red Lulu, Rockport, Salem, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We hope you spent January getting all the holiday excess behind you because February promises to be a great month for indulgence, with or without a sweetheart. There’s one contest to win chocolate, two chocolate tours, and several Valentine’s Day dinner menus.

Wake up your creative side and enter Harbor Sweets’ Valentine’s Day Poem contest—the winner receives the gift-basket (pictured above) of chocolate worth $100 sent directly to their sweetheart. Just write a poem (1,000 words or less) about chocolate and submit it by February 11 to Poems@Harborsweets.com. Include your first and last name, phone number, and email. The winner will be notified by February 13 to allow enough time to ship the basket.

Chocolate lovers will want to be in Salem on February 8 for the 11th Annual Chocolate & Wine Tasting. Tickets are on sale now ($25 at the Salem Chamber of Commerce, this event sells out quickly, so don’t wait). From 6:30 to 8:30 at the Colonial Hall, there will be samplings galore from restaurants, stores, and sweet shops. For a taste of what to expect, check out our coverage of the 2011 event. The tasting is part of Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival, which runs from the 8th to the 14th and includes a myriad of offers and tastings.

On February 9, Gloucester hosts its first Downtown Chocolate Tour, marked by retailers with large red hearts on their doors. You can pick up a tour map at Toodeloos, Harbor Goods, or Premier Imprints after February 1. Then simply follow the map to pick up goodies at all the participating stores and bring your completed map to Island Art & Hobby to be entered in a raffle for a Cape Ann gift certificate.

Christopher’s Table in Ipswich is celebrating February 14 with a four-course romance-inspired dinner that includes a wine tasting. They’re following that up with a Crazy Sexy Chocolate party on February 23. This “evening of chocolate decadence with a cash bar” sounds intriguing.

The Valentine’s menu at Finz in Salem has unusual items such as strawberry burratta salad, cocoa-dusted scallops, and duck breast with a ginger/brandied pears/cherry/soy reduction.

Rockport’s Emerson Inn by the Sea always goes all out for Valentine’s Day. This year, the menu features fire-roasted shrimp and corn chowder, beef wellington, duck confit with blackberry reduction, and expresso crème brulée or spiced apple anadama bread pudding.

Red Lulu in Salem promises secret suprises on the 14th, along with a menu that includes spiced lobster bisque grilled endive and frisee salad with spiced candied walnuts and manchego cheese, statler chicken breast with don julio reposado
tequila sauce, and blackened ribeye with creamy polenta and tart cherry sauce

Also in Salem, the Hawthorne Hotel will be serving up Wellfleet oysters, seared tuna with spicy mediterranean-style relish, and Valrhona chocolate torte for two, among other things in a lavish Valentine’s spread.

Last, but certainly not least, Andover’s Wine ConneXtion and China Blossom are collaborating to find help you create a simple, romantic evening with their Take Out to Stay In deal. Place any takeout order from China Blossom before the 14th, and they will contact the Wine ConneXtion to put aside a perfectly paired wine for the order and have it ready for pick up. Or you can peruse the Wine ConneXtion aisles February 10 through February 14 for highlighted wines along with suggestions of the best China Blossom dish for pairing.

So go out and celebrate—we’ll eat healthy in March!

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Red Lulu Rolls Out the Red Carpet

Posted: October 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Mexican, Red Lulu, Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

When a friend messaged me and asked if I wanted to attend the pre-opening party at Red Lulu Cocina and Tequila Bar in Salem, how could I refuse? The subject of much gossip, Red Lulu is the sibling of Boston hot-spot Lolita, both of which are spin-offs of restaurants of the same names in Connecticut. North Shore natives Chris Jamison, Josh Jamison, and Mark Malatesta are running the Boston versions.

Does Salem need a fourth Mexican restaurant? Will it alienate the local crowd by catering to the young hipster crowd? Is there enough parking in the neighborhood? All of these questions have been raised by Salemites as they watched the former Strega space change hands. Others got their backs up over job ads that specified “stylish hostesses and captivating bartenders” and required a “dress-to-impress” interview.

Last night Red Lulu opened its doors for an invitation-only preview party, and the place was quickly packed. We recognized local business owners and press but didn’t catch any politicians on hand.  It was nice to see they had invited other restaurateurs; Dee Wolfe from the Lobster Shanty, John Andrews from Victoria Station, and several managers from Finz were spotted. The beats were loud and throbbing, and the décor was what my companion accurately described as Edward Gorey Whorehouse. (I wonder if they told the interviewing female bar staff that their idea of stylish was super-tight, barely-there short shorts.)

Grabbing a seat at the bar, we decided to try some signature cocktails. Their nod to autumn was the Spiced Apple margarita, which, unlike so many too-sweet apple martinis popping up this fall, was tart and refreshing with green apple and lime. The cinnamon-sugar rim seemed superfluous. Next up was the Broken Heart featuring Gran Centenario Rosangel, (hibiscus infused tequila), St. Germain, Patron Citronge, white grapes, and fresh raspberries. It was fun, with raspberry ending up the main flavor, and it wasn’t cloying.  We also tried the Lolita, a more standard margarita that was very smooth and drinkable with Sauza 100 Anos Azul Reposado, Patron Citronge, fresh lime, cane syrup, and grapefruit.

Bite-sized tastes of menu items were being passed by the waitstaff, and they were varied and tasty. There was a corn bisque that was rich and savory, a cast-iron pan corn bread with roasted garlic sauce that was delicious but much too large for the “single serving” spoons, and the chips with guacamole were quite respectable. The  pork taco was my least favorite; the meat was well-spiced and tender but lacked interest. My favorite was the Ahi tostado: pepita-crusted ahi tuna on crisp corn tortilla with avocado, watercress, and chipotle aioli. Complex but balanced with nice heat.

Quality tequilas, interesting food, and funky décor are all great ingredients, but I’m not sold yet. The verdict is still out until we sample a few meals. The menu will be pricier than neighbors Howling Wolf and Comida, but it’s an entirely different experience and, likely, different audiences.

Red Lulu opens to the public tomorrow night. (10/28).

Red Lulu
94 Lafayette Street, Salem
www.redlulusalem.com

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