Celebrating Mom on the North Shore

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Beverly, brunch, Danvers, Event, Gloucester, Marblehead, Newburyport, Peabody, Rockport, Salem, Wenham | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mother’s Day, May 9, is fast approaching, and if you still haven’t made any plans to honor mom, don’t panic, we’ve got a few ideas for you.

If you’ve got brunch in mind, it looks like Salem is the place. As usual, the Hawthorne Hotel will pull out all the stops to impress, with a huge buffet including both breakfast items and heartier fare, from 10:30 to 7:00 at $40 per adult and $15 per child.

The Salem Waterfront Hotel is offering two different options. From 8:00 to 9:00, it’s $26 per adult and $11 for children 12 and under. From 9:00 to 1:30, it’s $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. If you want to make a weekend of it, stay at the hotel Saturday night and receive one free brunch for Mom per room (based on availability). Things that caught our eye on the menu were the mascarpone and lobster scrambled eggs in toasted brioche and the Viennese dessert station.

Another deal that might tickle mom’s fancy is being offered by the Peabody Essex Museum. Enjoy a sumptuous brunch prepared by Hawthorne Catering and served in the Garden Restaurant overlooking PEM’s Asian Garden. After your meal, visit the Museum Shop, where you can exchange your brunch voucher for a complimentary gift for Mom!

Pickering Wharf also offers plenty of options. Finz will be serving brunch buffet from 11:00 to 3:00; it will include a raw bar and several seafood choices for $35 per person, $16 for kids under 12.

Sixty2 on Wharf will also be dishing up brunch. They haven’t published a full menu, but Chef Tony Bettencourt promises pecan sticky buns, brioche french toast, and all sorts of other goodies. Reservations recommended.

If you’re looking for something more casual, Victoria Station will be offering a brunch buffet from 11:00 to 3:00 and a dinner buffet from 3:00 to 7:00, at $30 per person. There will be live entertainment with Joe Mcdonald from 1:00 to 5:00.

Of course, Salem’s not the only place you’ll find a meal to impress mom. Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport serves up a gorgeous buffet with treats like truffle honey glazed salmon over a bed of maple roasted squash and Kahlua Bavarian chocolate trifle, for $45 per person, $22.50 for children ages 3 to 10.

Ten Center in Newburyport will host a buffet in their private dining room, where mom will enjoy a complimentary mimosa. They will offer two seatings: 11:00 to 1:00 and  3:00 to 5:00 at $45 per person and $15 per child.

If your mom is a traditional sort, she might enjoy a beautiful afternoon tea. The Exchange at the Wenham Tea House will be presenting their annual Mother’s Day Brunch featuring a la carte specials, along with an afternoon tea. For more details and reservations, call them (978) 468-1398.

Lastly, there are those of us who find Mother’s Day bittersweet, because while we can celebrate with our children, our mothers are no longer with us. My own mother fell victim to breast cancer almost 20 years ago, and so the Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer yearly event really hits home.

During the week up to and including Mother’s Day, local restaurants and bakeries will be selling special treats and desserts, with 100% of proceeds from the sales of the specific dessert going to breast cancer research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Here on the North Shore, the chocolate buchon from A & J King Artisan Bakers, one of our all-time favorites, is on the list. Cakes for Occasions in Danvers will be offering a traditional whoopie pie with pink cream filling, and Cassis Bakery in Beverly will have Boston crème pies on offer. Participating restaurants include Duckworth’s Bistrot in Gloucester, Mission Oak Grill in Newburyport, Pellana Prime Steak House in Peabody, and Pellino’s Ristorante in Marblehead.

So whether it’s an indulgence for mom or in honor of her, there’s no better excuse to go in search of these sweet treats in the upcoming week.

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Hands-On Chocolate Lessons at The Cocoa Belt

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Classes, Danvers, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Learning a new skill is always a pleasure, and if that skill involves chocolate, you’ve pretty much hit the jackpot. And hit it we did, last Friday afternoon at The Cocoa Belt in Danvers. We had set up a private chocolate class with owner Theresa Whitman for ourselves and three enthusiastic youngsters.

The class was held in a large workshop behind the retail store. It started with a brief presentation by Whitman on the origins of chocolate, allowing us to see the stages of chocolate making, including the raw pod, nibs, chocolate liquor, and pure cocoa butter. We also tasted a number of bars with various percentages, starting from 100% chocolate and moving down to dark, semi-sweet, and milk.

Then we each got a parchment-lined tray, cups of almonds and peanuts, and a bowl of warm, tempered milk chocolate from which we made clusters. Next we learned to hand-dip items like caramels, pretzels, and creams (it’s harder than it looks, but oh-so-satisfying). Our final work with milk chocolate was using small funnels and a tray of multi-colored sprinkles to make nonpareils of all sizes and shapes.

We set all our treats to dry in front of a fan and moved onto truffles. First we learned the ratio and technique for making ganache, then dug into ganache that was ready to be formed (the adult bowl was flavored with Chambord), learning to shape it into balls, lightly coat it with semi-sweet chocolate, and roll it in cocoa.

We had requested a lesson in tempering chocolate at home (no machinery involved), and Whitman graciously complied, explaining the science behind this sometimes-tricky process and giving us all manner of tips for success. We then packaged up all the chocolates we had created.

Throughout the class, Whitman was relaxed and patient, making the entire afternoon a joy. She told us how she learned to hand-dip chocolate from her great-aunt (of the well-known Nichols family), encouraged us to eat as much as we wanted as we went along, and happily answered all of our questions.

The 2.5 hour class cost $30 per person, a great value considering the knowledge we gained and the amount of high-end chocolate we each took home. Classes are for a minimum of four people, can be set up for any day but Sunday, and can cover topics such as making caramels and decorating finished chocolates.

The Cocoa Belt
58 Maple Street, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com/The_Cocoa_Belt_Workshops.html

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Home-Town Favorites for Valentine’s Day

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Salem, Sweets and Treats, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Looking to score extra points on Valentine’s Day? Skip that box of prewrapped chocolates from the drugstore and head to one of these North Shore favorites. You’ll get better quality, more interesting choices, and personalized service—all while supporting your local chocolatier.

Harbor Sweets
If your sweetie likes all things nautical, you cannot go wrong with Sweet Sloops, an addicting confection of toffee, pecans, and white and dark chocolate. There are many other sea-themed chocolates available from the tiny Harbor Sweets factory in Salem, and they can be purchased in almost every North Shore town, including Shubie’s in Marblehead, Henry’s in Beverly, The Partridge Tree Gift Shop in Danvers, Connolly’s Pharmacy in Hamilton, Bruni’s in Ipswich, LuLa’s Pantry in Rockport, and Valentine’s in Newburyport.

85 Leavitt St, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

Pride’s Crossing Confections
This converted train station on Route 127 is the place to go if you need gifts for a variety of tastes. The shop is jam-packed with everything from bags of chocolate covered potato chips and pretzels to cases of fudge, truffles, soft-centers, and white chocolate-covered confections. Don’t miss the famous turtles (seven varieties) and buttercrunches, all hand-made on premises.

590 Hale St, Prides Crossing
(978) 927-2185
www.pridescrossingconfections.com

Stowaway Sweets
It doesn’t get much more charming than this tucked-away shop in a former mansion, where the chocolates are extremely high quality and you can select each piece that goes in the box. Do not, under any circumstances, skip the meltaways.

154 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0303
www.stowawaysweets.com

The Cocoa Belt
This elegant shop is a new favorite, both for its selection of delicious truffles in sophisticated flavors like black forest, cappuccino, and champagne and its ability to improve on perennial favorites like peanut butter cups and scotch kisses.

58 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com

Turtle Alley
Known for its luscious turtles, this local maker also stocks an impressive supply of fruit slices, caramels, and fudge. We are especially fond of the kicked-up versions, including spicy peanut butter cups and almond chipotle turtles.

91a Washington St, Gloucester
(978) 281-4000
Museum Place Mall, Salem
(781) 740-0660
www.turtlealley.com

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Bringing the Corner Deli Back to Danvers Square

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Danvers, Danvers Fresh Marketplace, Deli, Marketplace | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

When you hear the phrase “corner deli,” you might think nostalgically of the days before computers and cell phones. But the truth is, this type of establishment has more relevance than ever for today’s busy shoppers.

Late last year, John Gross opened Danvers Fresh Marketplace one block from the center of Danvers Square, bringing produce from his Chelsea-market business and adding a selection of bakery, deli, and gourmet products.

The produce is the star in this relatively small space—carefully laid out groupings of vegetables and seasonal fruits, nothing past its prime or bruised. A table near the door holds specialty items; on a recent visit, there were last-of-the-season berries, persimmons, figs, and concord grapes. Nearby was a large table of good-looking sugar pumpkins for $.75 each. (Weekly sale items are listed on the store’s Web site.)

Also by the door is a small deli counter with a huge selection of Boar’s Head meats plus cranberry walnut chicken salad, bean salad, ham salad, dips, and cut fruit. Sandwiches are made to order, and deli platters are available. In front of the case is a selection of half loaves from West Concord-based Nashoba Brook Bakery.

In the back corner is an immaculate salad bar featuring the usual suspects along with less common items like grilled chicken, ham, artichokes, feta cheese, banana peppers, and sunflower seeds. Nearby are kettles of soup from Chelsea-based Kettle Cuisine ($2.69 small, $6.99 large). Manager Andrea Harry suggests coming early if you want soup—lunchtimes are busy, and many selections sell out.

Whether you stop in for lunch or a produce run, you may want to seek out a few of the store’s other treats. In the dairy case are small containers of Rachel’s yogurt, which come in exotic flavors and are creamier than other low-fat yogurts. Near the soup kettles are bottles of Il Moretto olive oil from Sicily and small jars of Christopher Ranch garlic, ginger, shallots, and pesto. Last but not least, tea breads from The New Salem Tea Bread Company in Amherst are near the register. We tried the apple cinnamon—not inexpensive at $5, but hard to distinguish from homemade.

Although it would be great to see a few more local products in the store, we give John Gross and his team high marks for bringing back the corner deli—and making it better than ever.

Danvers Fresh Marketplace
17 Elm St, Danvers
(978) 774-2756
www.danversfreshmarketplace.com

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Sweet Times in Danvers

Posted: November 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cocoa Belt, Danvers, Goodies Ice Cream, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Wandering around Danvers Square last weekend, we were surprised and delighted to discover two terrific places for after-lunch treats, one newly expanded and one new to us.

Goodies has been serving up ice cream for six years, but we’d never been inside and were delighted to find a 1950s-style décor with a wonderful selection of ice cream, soda-fountain drinks, and desserts. In addition to flavors like chocolate peanut butter chip, falcon crunch, and chocolate walnut, there is yogurt, sugar-free, soft service, and sherbet, plus fun candy toppings. We tried two seasonal flavors, including pumpkin (think pie) and apple crisp (with great caramel flavor). Prices range from $2.59 for an itty bitty to $4.61 for a large.

We’re planning a return trip to sample some of the shop’s other offerings like freshly filled cannoli, churros, chocolate-chip-cookie sandwiches, and, of course, the fried dough sundae.

Just down the street The Cocoa Belt is newly expanded, run by Theresa and Mark Whitman. Theresa was there with her adorable four-month-old the day we visited, and she couldn’t have been more welcoming. The shop features a line of fresh-made, hand-dipped chocolates ($21.95 per pound) that we found top quality and delicious, especially the coffee cream and the chocolate dipped fudge. The shop is known for delighting patrons with almost-lost traditional confections like scotch kisses as well as new traditions like black forest truffles and cranberry clusters.

Theresa, whose love for chocolate might have something to do with growing up in the Nichols family, makes the chocolates in the couple’s Essex home and packages them in a workspace adjacent to the shop. The workspace is also where she holds birthday parties and candy-making classes for children and adults.

In addition to Theresa’s confections, the shop features Lake Champlain bars in a variety of cocoa percentages and a line of letterpressed, hand-made cards. Both Whitmans are looking forward to their first holiday season in the new space, and we are looking forward to returning to support this talented entrepreneurial couple.

Goodies
46 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 762-4663
www.goodies-icecream.com

The Cocoa Belt
58 Maple St, Danvers
(978) 774-4332
www.thecocoabelt.com

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Hot and Crunchy at Danvers’ Sawasdee

Posted: October 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Danvers, Sawasdee Danvers | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

Award-winning Thai food for lunch? Conveniently located in downtown Danvers? What’s not to like? Indeed, we found everything to our liking on our visit to Sawasdee, which recently won Northshore Magazine’s vote for best Thai food.

The interior is airy and comfortable, with brick walls and wood floors, funky light fixtures, and more tiny bamboo plants than we’ve ever seen in one place. A cozy bar occupies one corner, and the restaurant serves beer and wine.

The menu is just as well thought out, with a huge selection of appetizers, the option to create your own stir fry or curry (choice of meat and sauce/veggies), and plenty of lunch specials. We especially like the option to change the white rice in the specials for brown rice ($.75), sticky rice ($1), or rice noodles ($1).

We started with a DIY appetizer special call fun fun lettuce wraps: large leaves that hold a chicken mixture and crispy bean thread noodles, all dipped in a sweet chili sauce ($5). Fun, crunchy, and delicious.

Then we moved onto pad thai ($6.75), panang curry with beef ($7.75), and pla rad pik (crispy fish, $7.75). The pad thai noodles and large shrimp were succulent, and the sauce was a tad sweeter than we’re used to—absolutely addictive. The panang had just the right combination of coconut and curry, although the beef was a bit chewy.

The fish was quite fiery and had a terrific light breading. It’s available as a whole fish for dinner, and we recommend it for those who complain that Thai restaurants turn down the heat too much for Americans. The vegetables on both the fish and the curry dishes were crisp/tender, just the way we like them.

Done right, there’s nothing like Thai food to satisfy those cravings for comforting carbs, salty sauces, and heat—and Sawasdee definitely does it right.

Sawasdee Danvers
49A Maple St, Danvers
(978) 744-8424
www.sawasdeedanvers.com

Sawasdee Danvers on Urbanspoon

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Nine Elm Makes Danvers a Dining Destination

Posted: September 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Danvers, Nine Elm American Bistro | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments »

The dining scene in Danvers Square has seen quite a revitalization over the past year, and the leader of the pack is Nine Elm American Bistro, which has garnered a loyal following since Matt and Jean Sanidas opened the doors last September.

We decided to see what all the buzz was about and headed there for dinner recently. The cozy dining room was inviting, with warm lighting, wooden tables, chalkboard specials, and the smell of garlic wafting from the kitchen. An adorable bar lines one wall, though only beer and wine are served. (Danvers only accommodates nine full liquor licenses, so new restaurants are often granted a partial one.)

Our server was friendly, attentive, and quite happy to let us linger over the menu. After ordering a bottle of wine, we settled on the Prince Edward Island mussels, sautéed with parsley, lemon, garlic, and white wine ($8) and the summer vegetable tart baked with goat cheese and ricotta ($8) to start.

The tart was unexpected; instead of the sautéed veggies we imagined, it was a pastry shell with a cheesy, almost quiche-like filling. While tasty, it lacked a certain oomph. The mussels, however, were a memorable standout— lush and delicious. The shellfish was fresh and the jus perfect; it deserved to have every drop sopped up with the wonderful grilled bread that accompanied the dish.

For entrees, we chose the pan seared sea scallops with spinach-basil risotto and sweet corn butter sauce ($24) and grilled filet mignon with yukon gold mashed potatoes, blue cheese butter, and a red wine reduction ($26).

Once again, the seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly. The scallops were expertly seared, and the risotto had a wonderful light pesto flavor that tasted of summer. The steak was marvelous with a slightly smoky grilled exterior and melt-in-your mouth interior. Matt Sanidas’ secret to making red wine reduction is mystery, but with a taste like that, I bet the recipe is kept under lock and key.

We didn’t really need dessert, but we were having such a lovely leisurely meal that we decided to prolong it by ordering the flourless chocolate torte with vanilla bean ice cream ($6) The torte was rich and dense and quite good, though we regretted not ordering the profiteroles when we saw a delectable trio of them served to an adjacent table. Oh well, next time.

And where Nine Elm is concerned, there definitely will be a next time. Some may find the idea of an upscale bistro in Danvers Square a bit surprising, but with meals like these, it’s certainly worth investigating.

Nine Elm American Bistro
9 Elm Street, Danvers
(978) 774-9436
9elm.com

Nine Elm American Bistro on Urbanspoon

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First Look: Sweet Heart Bake Shop in Danvers

Posted: July 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Danvers, Sweet Heart Bake Shop | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Right off the bat, we need to say we’re very picky when it comes to baked goods. After all, if you’re going to consume the umpteen calories in a cake slice or pastry, it should be fantastically delicious, rather than just sweet and “pretty good.”

We sampled several treats from the new Sweet Heart Bake Shop in Danvers Square yesterday, and although some were quite good, others did not meet our (admittedly) high standards.

Sweet Heart is a tiny space offering everything from egg sandwiches and fruit cups in the morning to subs, sicilian pizza squares, and quiche for lunch and dinner. Breakfast pastries include muffins, coffee cake, and mini breads (banana, pumpkin, zucchini). We sampled a poppyseed muffin with lemon glaze ($1.50) with a dense crumb that was good but not great.

In addition to cheesecake, carrot cake, and bundt cake, the shop offers cookies, cupcakes, and biscotti. We sampled the lemon square, brownie ($1.25), whoopie pie ($1), and a mini éclair ($2.25). The lemon square was terrific—just enough sweet to balance the tart, and great texture to the crust and filling. The brownie, topped with chocolate chips, was very good. It was large and fudgy without being overly dense.

We were less impressed by the whoopie pie (the cake was crumbly and the filling was bland) and the éclair (flavorless filling and underbaked shell).

If you’re in Danvers Square and looking for breakfast or lunch, Sweet Heart is worth stopping by to check out. Owners Jeremy and Joan Smith obviously care about providing their customers with fresh, quality food. The shop is still quite new, and as Joan (the baker) gets her feet under her, SweetHeart may become more of a destination than a drop-in.

Sweet Heart Bake Shop
2 High St, Danvers
(978) 774-7467

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