Windward Grille Chowder Wins People’s Choice Award at Essex Clam Fest

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Essex, Event, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The gals from Ipswich Clambake dish out samples of chowder

If you’re tired of watching those judges on TV taste all that delicious food prepared by chefs, Essex Clam Fest is the place for you. We had a great time on Saturday sampling eight chowders prepared by local restaurants and voting on our favorite.

The lines were long, but the weather was great, and there was plenty to evaluate as we waited for our next sample. Although there was no chowder we didn’t like at all, there were definitely standouts. The ones that didn’t wow us included Lobsta Land (too watery, too much herb flavor) and J.T. Farnham’s (too thin, too buttery, too much pepper).

In the middle were Shea’s Riverside (large clams but a bit too heavy and perhaps too much nutmeg), Emerson Inn (made with salt pork for great flavor, but it overwhelmed the seafood a bit), and Woodmans (good consistency, good flavor, but mushy pototoes).

Our favorites were Ipswich Clambake (creamy but not thick, large clams, lots of perfectly-cooked potatoes, very good flavor) and Windward Grille (great seafood taste, perfect consistency, large chunks of potatoes and clams).

Windward Grille was also the winner of the people’s choice award. Speaking of awards, Periwinkles won the judges award, and it was one of our least favorite samples, so we’re going to disqualify ourselves on that one. Our sample was very thick and tasted burned, so we’re guessing we got a bad batch.

The tasting cost $5 and began at 12:00. We got there just about that time to be sure we’d be able to participate, but the tasting was still going strong until it ended at 2:00. Several of the restaurants brought 40 gallons of chowder!

With our bellies full, we walked the rest of the event, which included pony rides and other children’s activities, a variety of craft booths, and live music.

We were glad to see the Ipswich Ale Tapmobile, which carries eight taps ($4 per pint). Although their Pumpkin Ale sounded festive, we opted for the Stonecat Hefeweizen, which was bright and refreshing. Both Captain Dusty’s and Down River had ice cream stands set up. Along with the usual flavors, Dusty’s was serving samples of “cold clam chowder,” a truly unique eating experience. By the way, they’re opening for one day in December with holiday flavors like pumpkin pie and egg nog: 12/4 from noon to 4:00 at the Manchester location only.

We love Dusty’s, but Down River is our absolute favorite, and they did not let us down. They were serving large portions in their delicious waffle cups for $3, and their caramel apple flavor is to die for.

So if you have a secret desire to be a food judge, mark your calendars for next year’s festival, and in the meantime, get yourself to Windward Grille for a bowl of outstanding chowder.

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Autumn Events: Food and Brews to Cure the End of Summer Blues

Posted: September 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Amesbury, Beverly, Essex, Event, Gloucester, Ipswich, Peabody, Rockport, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the kids are back to school, and everyone else is back to the grind. If the end of summer is getting you down, we’re here with good news. This fall is so full of terrific events, you’ll be too busy making merry to notice the shorter days and cooler temps.

If you’re interested in dining diversity, you’ll want to head over to Peabody Square on Sunday: the 27th Annual International Festival begins at 11:30 a.m. This popular event offers a variety of live entertainment and kids’ activities, but the real draw is the food, with more than 60 booths serving up traditional fare from Greece, Brazil, China, Poland, Italy, the Caribbean, and many others.

And the feast doesn’t stop when the festival is over. Peabody Restaurant Week starts September 12th and runs until the 15th.  Participating restaurants will offer a three-course prix fixe meal at the bargain price of $15 per person (tax and gratuity not included). So far, the list of participants includes Firebull, Paddy Kelly’s, Sugar Cane, Tokyo Steakhouse, Trackside, Wardhurst, and Willowtree. As with any restaurant week, it’s wise to make reservations.

September 16 brings the Taste of Cape Ann to Cruiseport in Gloucester. This is a great opportunity to try offerings from some of the area’s best restaurants and caterers and to sample beer, wine, and more. All proceeds benefit YMCA youth programs in Gloucester and Rockport. Tickets are $35 per person and available at the Gloucester Y or at the door.

On the 18th, head out to the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm in Newbury for the annual Ipswich Ale Fall Fest. There will be food from Ipswich Clambake and Tennessee’s BBQ alongside Ipswich and Stone Cat Ales. Entertainment includes live music and vintage baseball games. Admission is free; food and beer are extra.

The folks at Henry’s Market are getting a jump on things by celebrating Oktoberfest in September, and they’re looking to throw quite a shindig on the 25th. They’ll have tents set up for a huge beer tasting, including samples from both local and national brewers. They promise plenty of grilled sausages and other taste treats, and the highlight of the event will be the judging of the Home Brew Competition.

Also on the the 25th is the 4th Annual Brew Fest  at the Amesbury Sports Park from 12:00 to 8:00 p.m. which promises “Beers Bands and BBQ” and tickets are $10.00 per person. The event kicks off North Shore Beer Week, which we’ll be talking more about in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.

And if you’re looking for something to do with younger kids that day, you might want to check out the Ipswich Chowder Fest, which takes place from 12:00 to 3:00 on the Ipswich River Walk and features family-friendly activities as well as chowder tastings from area restaurants.

Did you know that Salem’s Lobster Shanty is being featured on an episode of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives? The segment airs September 27th at 10:00 p.m., and to celebrate, the folks at Cinema Salem are hosting a free viewing party starting at 9:00 p.m. The action will be starting at the Shanty at 7:oo pm and Mayflower Brewing will be on hand with samples of their IPA, Porter and new seasonal Autumn Wheat. They’ll also have it available on tap if you want to purchase a pint.

On the 28th, Green Land Café will be hosting a beer dinner featuring some unusual beers. They will have Tilburg’s Brown Ale, Hitachino Red Rice, Schlenkerla Marzen, Tripel Karmeliet, Saison Dupont, and Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout paired with dishes like kobe beef, pumpkin lobster bisque with chanterelles, roasted local quail, New England cheeses, and more. Tickets are $65 per person. Call (978) 744-7766 for information and reservations.

The Lyceum will be presenting an Introduction to Wine Varietals at 6:00 p.m. on the 30th, and they promise a fun tasting and discussion of six wines along with appetizers for $30 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. If interested, they ask that you RSVP to (978) 745-7665 to reserve a spot.

Speaking of local dinners, don’t forget 62 Restaurant and Winebar is running its Passports promotion throughout September, October, and November. Not only is it an opportunity to sample terrific food at a great price and widen your wine horizons, it’s also a chance to win a free trip to Europe.

Caffe Graziani is hosting an International Wine Dinner on October 14 at 6:00. They’ll be serving five courses, each with a different wine, including a spiedino of scallops and shrimp in curry ginger sauce with Rioja Blanca Cortijo from Spain, gorgonzola and walnut gnocchi in cherry tomato cream sauce with Gamekeeper’s Reserve Cabernet Graham Beck from South Africa, and beef braciolettine in sauce of fresh roman tomatoes, black olives, and capers with Salice Salentino Rivera from Italy. Tickets are $75 per person, which includes tax and gratuity. Reservations and prepayment are required. For more information, e-mail paulag@caffegraziani.com or call Giovanni or Paula at (978) 741-4282.

October 16 brings the Salem Harvest Fest at the Knights of Columbus at 94 Washington Square. The party features live music, food, more than 50 wines to sample, and tastes of brews from Magic Hat, Cape Ann Brewing, Harpoon, Cody Brewing, Mayflower Brewing, Dogfish Head, Berkshire Brewing, Wachusett, Narragansett, Ipswich, and Stone Cat. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door and are available at Salemharvestfest.com or Pamplemousse, 185 Essex St. (The Harvest Fest website hasn’t been updated as of this post.)

October 17 marks the start of Cape Ann Restaurant Week, which runs through the 22nd. Area restaurants will offer a three-course prix fixe dinner for $25 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Many local favorites including Gloucester’s Lobsta Land and Rockport’s Emerson Inn By The Sea will be participating. The Cape Ann website will be updated as the list is confirmed, and we’ll keep you posted as the week nears.

The 28th Annual Essex ClamFest, a North Shore favorite, takes place on October 23. It starts at 11:00 a.m. Memorial Park in Essex and features lots of fried clams, food and fun, but the main event is the Clam Chowder Tasting. Ten local restaurants will serve up their favorite chowder recipe starting at 12:00, and the contest judges will include Jeff Jones, Senator Bruce Tarr, Ann-Margaret Ferrante and
Legal Seafoods CEO Roger Berkowitz among others. The public will have the opportunity to sample and vote on their favorite chowder.

And if that isn’t enough to fill your fall, don’t forget that many of the local orchards and farms feature hayrides, cider donuts, and live music on weekends to accompany apple picking and pumpkin purchasing. So stop moping over summer; get out there and enjoy the tastes of autumn on the North Shore.

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Dish Tidbits: Spring 2010 Restaurant Openings

Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Essex, Marblehead, News, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Whether it’s a sign of economic upswing or simply the continued evolution of the North Shore’s vibrant restaurant scene, it’s difficult to keep track of all the exciting openings going on in the area this spring.

A few weeks ago, Bolivian coffee importer Cafe Valverde Coffee Roasters replaced Fuel coffee shop at 196 Essex Street in Salem. This was apparently the starting flag, signaling a host of new openings.

This week saw the openings of Greenland Café and Coven Dessert Bar and Artisanal Market in Salem and the much-anticipated 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead.

Marblehead will see another new storefront soon, when Hooked Seafood & Grill opens in the old Super Sub space on Pleasant St. in June. Sticky Rice, the on-again off-again Thai restaurant on Hawkes St., has been sold to a new owner and is slated to re-open under the name Sticky Rice Bistro.

Salem has become a hotbed of restaurant activity recently and is looking forward to several openings in addition to the two this week. Since publishing its menu online, there has been a ton of buzz about Howling Wolf Taqueria, which will open at 76 Lafayette St. in early summer. The plentiful burritos and veggie options look to be winners.

Also on Lafayette Street a new restaurant serving pub fare, The Lafayette Grill, is scheduled to open in the old Casa Blanca space, which neighbors are hoping will be a step toward cleaning up the troubled area.

In the former Edgewater Café space on Washington St., the Adriatic Restaurant and Bar, which will feature a mix of Italian and European food, is finishing up renovations and hiring waitstaff and will open doors shortly. (added 5/17/10:  a great video of Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll interviewing the owners of both Coven and Adriatic can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INGDTKQo4Ww )

Another seafood venue has taken over the empty Derby Fish & Lobster space at 215 Derby St. and will be opening under the name Seaport Grill. No word yet on how soon.

And if that’s not enough new food for Salem, the recently renovated jail space is reportedly in talks with a restaurant, but nothing official has been announced yet.

Vinnin Square is seeing its share of the action as well. On the Salem border, Rizzo’s Roast Beef and Pizza of Peabody will be opening a second location in the plaza next to Staples. And on the Swampscott side, it looks like City Bar and Grill, which acquired a liquor license during the winter, has finally started to fit up the former Friendly’s/Finagle spot. Any independent venture would be welcome in the square, which feels overrun with chain restaurants and fast food outlets.

Over in Beverly, North Shore Restaurant group has taken on the new eatery being developed at the revived North Shore Music Theater. Named BackStage Bistro, it promises “top notch American cuisine” with theatre props from favorite past performances as decor and a show-tune sound track.

We hear that Mark McDonough and Co. will also be making some big changes to Alchemy in Gloucester, giving it a more comfy, lounge-y feel and emphasizing small plates and platters to share.

Also in Gloucester, Giuseppe’s, a new restaurant and piano bar will be moving into the former Elliot’s space in the Blackburn building. Their website promises the place will be “very musical, very Italian and

On Cape Ann, rumor has it that the Market Restaurant in Annisquam will be re-opening May 29 under the management of two former Chez Panisse chefs, which certainly sounds worth investigating.

There have also been murmurs about a tapas and healthy-fare venue opening in Essex. In a town synonymous with fried seafood, we’re sure this will be a welcome addition.

Looks like we’re going to have an exciting summer trying out all the new tastes, and perhaps some we don’t know about yet. Give us a shout at email@northshoredish.com, or leave a comment if you know of any more our readers would be interested in.

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A North Shore New Year’s Eve

Posted: December 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Essex, Event, Gloucester, Lynn, Newburyport, Rockport, Salem | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

This year’s holiday season got a bit crazy and we haven’t had time to even think about what to do on New Year’s Eve till this very moment. Luckily, whether it’s a romantic dinner to woo your honey or a hopping party, the North Shore has a myriad of options to help you ring in the new year.

In Lynn, Matt O’Neil and the crew at the Blue Ox will extend their hours and are offering their regular menu as well as upscale specials, so there will be a tasty offerings for every budget, and all include a champagne toast at midnight.

Pickering Wharf in Salem will be abuzz with the party atmosphere;  Capt.’s and Finz will both feature live music and special menu items, Victoria Station will have a dj and dancing with free party favors and champagne toast, and 62 on Wharf is offering a special New Year’s Eve five course tasting menu ($55 per person, $75 with wine pairings) as well as their regular menu.

If you’re in the mood to dress up, we’ve got two masquerade balls worth considering. First, the Gulu Gulu Café in Salem will be hosting a masquerade ball with music by Big Blue Octopus, appetizers and champagne, ($8 in advance, $10 at the door) Farther north, Latitude 43 in Gloucester will be hosting a Black & White Masquerade Ball with live entertainment, champagne toast and balloon drop at midnight. ($10 in advance or $15 at the door)

If a more formal sit-down dinner is what you’re looking for,  Lat 43 will also be offering a gorgeous three course dinner with amuse-bouche, intermezzo, champagne toast and live entertainment. (check out the menu here) Reservations are required for a 5:00 seating ($65 a person) and a 7:30 seating at ($75 a person)

Other formal dining options include a lovely five course menu ($75 per person) with live entertainment at Nathaniel’s at the Hawthorn Hotel in Salem and a five course dinner with amuse-bouche, champagne toast and live music at Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport. And if you’re out that way, don’t forget to check out New Year’s Rockport Eve.

In Newburyport, 10 Center Street has three ways to celebrate: a 6pm seating three course pre-fixe menu with champagne toast ($45 per person), an 8pm seating of the same, but at $55 per person includes entry to late night cocktail party and the cocktail party itself, which starts at 10pm ($55 per person) Also in Newburyport, the Mission Oak Grill has your whole evening planned out for you. For $80 per person, not only do you get a hors d’oeuvres reception and dinner, but also an hour long comedy show, dancing and a champagne toast at midnight.

If you happen to be out and about for Beverly’s New Year, check out the shindig at Soma, a three course dinner ($55 per person, $75 paired with wine) with live music till 2am and a champagne toast at midnight.

And if you’re in the mood for casual, inexpensive fun, The Farm in Essex is offering this special; one appetizer, two entrees, and a bottle of wine for $40, and after dinner you can hang out to hear live music. Even more casual is the Lobster Shanty’s New Year’s Eve Pajama Party. Wear your most comfy p.j.’s to the party, and don’t forget to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to a local food pantry.

With so much going on, it’s going to be hard to choose where to go, but who says you have to limit yourself to one venue? Though if you’re going to party like it’s 2009, you might think about swapping out your car keys for cab fare, or check out the MBTA schedule, both the Newburyport and Rockport lines will be running extra trains.

Cheers!

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November: A Month of Mouthwatering Events

Posted: October 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Drinks, Essex, Event, Italian, Lynn, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Snow storms and seventy-degree temps in the same week? Welcome to October in New England. Even though we’ve had some beautiful days lately, the weather is getting colder, and all those wonderful outdoor fall food events are coming to an end. The good news is that as we head indoors, so do some upcoming chances to eat, drink, and be merry.

102209Starting things off, Matt O’Neil at Blue Ox is offering another cooking demo and dinner on Tuesday, October 27. Just in time to wow your Thanksgiving guests, the class is on making spicy pumpkin soup. A three-course tasting menu with the soup as the first course will follow the demo. If you haven’t been to one of Matt’s classes, they are worth checking out. You may recall we had a ball learning how to make gnocchi. The dinner is $29 per person, and reservations are required. Past demonstrations have sold out quickly, so if you’re interested, call soon.

On November 5, Italian vintner Matteo Ascheri will take you on a tour of the Alps with a Piedmontese wine dinner hosted by Sixty2 on Wharf. Chef Tony Bettencourt will inspire your senses with his food pairings designed to complement each pour. If you’re like us, one look at this menu and you’ll be drooling.  Tickets are $85 per person. To reserve your seat, contact Jonathan at (978) 744-0062 or e-mail him at jbrackman@62onwharf.com.

A few events we previously mentioned but are included here for the sake of completeness: Cooking with Sweet Sloops at Harbor Sweets on November 7 and the November 12 Grand Wine Tasting hosted by Salem Wine Imports.

If you’re a food history geek, The Essex Shipbuilding Museum has just the thing for you. On November 13, go back in time to experience Tavern Fare in 18th and 19th Century New England with Bean Supper, featuring noted food historian Joseph Carlin. The dinner will include baked beans, fish cakes, cole slaw, and desserts by Laurie Lufkin, and the discussion will center on what and how early Americans in the area ate. Admission is $12 in advance or $15 at the door.

102209cIf beer is your beverage of choice, you’ll be happy to hear that it, too, receives the gourmet dinner treatment in November. Check out this terrific Burgers and Brews dinner coming up on the 17th at Finz. Each course features a beer from a different country and is accompanied by an inventive “burger and fries” pairing, ranging from a hearty Black Angus American to an inventive French burger made with beef and duck confit, brie, melted mushrooms and leeks, and truffle fois gras aioli. Tickets are $40 per person for this little trip around the world.

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Autumn Events: Farms, Clams, and Celebrity Chefs

Posted: September 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Essex, Event, Gloucester, Hamilton, Ipswich, Newburyport, Rockport, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

91709Sadly, Salem restaurant week ends today. But fear not, intrepid foodies—there’s no shortage of taste-bud-tempting events on tap to keep you busy, including yet another restaurant week and not one but two clam festivals.

Tonight brings two terrific opportunities. The first is The Taste of Cape Ann, at Cruiseport in Gloucester, which features tastings from many of the area’s top restaurants and vintners, as well as Gloucester Brewery and Ryan and Wood Distilleries. Tickets are $35 per person, and all the proceeds go to fund children’s programs at the Cape Ann YMCA.

Also this evening is the first of the Celebrity Chefs Best Local Food Series, which takes place at the Inn at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate. This series of four dinners invites area chefs to be as creative as possible with fresh local produce, seafood, and meats. The four-course menu, with two wine pairings, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres, including tips and taxes, is $135 per person.

The series features the following chefs:
9/17  Chef Robert Grant and Cheese Director Stephanie Santos of The Butcher Shop
10/1  Chef Paul Callahan from High St. Grill in North Andover
10/22  Chef Richard Morin, executive sous chef at Eastern Standard
11/12  Barbara Lynch, the force behind No. 9 Park, B&G Oyster, The Butcher Shop, and Sportello

On September 22, Sixty2 on Wharf will host a Farewell to Summer wine dinner that has us salivating already. The evening promises “a seafood-centric menu paired with wines from the prestigious Alois Legeder vineyards in Alto Adige, Italy.” Tickets are $85 per person; reservations are required. Click the link above to check out the terrific menu.

Friday September 25 brings a unique multi-farm-to-table dinner experience with the Farmer’s Market Dinner at historic Spencer Pierce Little Farm. Newburyport area restaurants will be paired with various local farms to create a wide range of inspired tastes. There will be live music, tours of the farmhouse, hayrides for the family, and free admittance (pay per dish and drink).

IpswichIf you haven’t filled up at the farm the night before, head over to Ipswich on Saturday the  26th from 12:00 to 3:00 for the annual Ipswich Clam Festival. For $10, you can taste chowders from many local restaurants and vote for your favorite. Plenty of family activities will be on hand, along with Mercury Brewing Company with their popular sodas.

And speaking of Mercury Brewing Company, they will be hosting the Ipswich Ale Harvest Fest at Green Meadow Farms on October 3. They will have a wide selection of Ipswich ales, Stone Cat ales and lagers, as well as Mercury soda pop and bubbly waters available, alongside food by Ipswich Clambake and live music.

CARWOctober 18 to 23 marks the return of  Cape Ann Restaurant Week, which features three-course meals for only $22.09 per person. (Drinks, tax and tip not included.) Restaurants from Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester are participating, so what better excuse to take a scenic drive, ogle the foliage, and explore the coast? Click the link above for a list of the participating restaurants.

No one will argue that the lowly bivalve is one of the biggest draws in bringing people to Essex, and where best to experience it than the Essex Clam Fest? Now in its 27th year, this local festival takes place in Memorial Park in downtown Essex on October 24 and boasts 40 to 50 food, craft, and local product vendors and a clam chowder competition.

So even though the days are getting shorter and the air cooler, take heart—the eating season is just heating up!

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DownRiver: Best Ice Cream on the North Shore?

Posted: August 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Down River Ice Cream, Essex, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Honestly, the things we won’t do for you people. The other night, we were reading about DownRiver Ice Cream, and were compelled to get out our comfortable deck chairs and see for ourselves if it lived up to the hype.

It does. This was some of the best ice cream we’ve ever eaten.

Yes, this is quite a statement, and, yes, Richardson’s and Dick and June’s have terrific ice cream. But DownRiver outdoes them with its creaminess. Try it for yourselves and see if you agree. (If you’ve already tried it, let us know your favorite flavor.) The store opened at the beginning of the summer on the Essex/Ipswich line.

We had a cup of Deer Tracks, with toffee ice cream, peanut butter truffles, and fudge. The ice cream had a strong toffee flavor, and the fudge was to die for—abundant and seriously decadent.

We also had a cone of Willy Wonka, which has vanilla ice cream, M&Ms, peanut butter cups, Heath Bar, Snickers. The vanilla flavor really come through, the candy was packed in, and the cone was a crisp waffle (no extra charge).

DownRiver charges $3.50 for a regular cone and $4.25 for a large. A cup is $.25 extra as part of the shop’s sustainability efforts (we didn’t see the sign in time). Those efforts mean everything served to customers either goes in the recycle bin (drink cups, napkins, and sundae bowls) or the compost bin (biodegradable ice cream cups, spoons, and straws).

On our next trip, we may try one of the simpler flavors; we’re curious to see how the ice cream makers do with something like strawberry. Or we might start with vanilla and make our own flavor with mix-ins ($.85). There are also several gelato flavors that sound interesting. Then of course there’s Mill River Mix (fudge, coffee ice cream, and Heath Bar) and Clam Flats (chocolate ice cream with white chocolate and macadamia nuts) calling our names.

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

DownRiver Ice Cream
241 John Wise Ave, Essex (Rt. 133)
(978) 768-0102
Downriver Ice cream on Urbanspoon

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Down on The Farm: New Essex Eatery Shows Promise

Posted: April 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Essex, Farm Bar & Grille | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

ribs2When we drove into the parking lot of The Farm Bar and Grille, the new Essex eatery, at 6:30 last night, we were lucky to find a space. We wondered whether the jammed lot was because it was new, good, or simply the only neighborhood bar.  Inside, we realized there was something else we hadn’t considered: thirty-five-cent wing night. Yep, that’s right, Thursday nights at The Farm feature wings for just thirty-five cents apiece, and the sizable bar was packed with both young and old taking advantage of this deal while sampling the many beers available on tap.

We were seated in the dining room, which was about half full when we arrived and at capacity by the time we left. The room has a nice open feel to it with big windows, warm tones, vintage farm tools adorning the walls and a vast chalkboard filling the rear wall. This isn’t a quiet romantic dinner place; it’s a big boisterous family and friends place.

While the much of the beer selection was listed on the blackboard, when asked about wine our waitress said there was no wine list, but recited a handful of reds and whites. We opted to try a few of the brews and also ordered a Sidecar from the bar, which tasted oddly of Benedictine, so was likely made with B&B ifarm21nstead of brandy.

We felt compelled to start off with some of the wings, which required a minimum order of six and were available in buffalo, BBQ, or honey mustard. We opted for the buffalo, which were meaty, hot but not eye watering, and accompanied by homemade blue cheese sauce that was marvelous.

The menu was short and to the point, focusing on comfort food at very reasonable prices. There was no kids’ menu, but we were told that burgers and mac and cheese were available in less expensive smaller portions for children.

The burger ($9) was fresh and juicy, piled high with bacon but missing the cheese, which was quickly rectified. Also missing was a pear salad that never arrived, but truthfully we didn’t notice once the other entrees were served. The rack of smoked babyback ribs, ($22) were very impressive—a huge portion falling off the plate. They were tender and meaty, wet-style with a tangy sauce and excellent flavor. We also tried the grilled salmon topped with cilantro olive oil infused oranges. ($16) The oranges were unremarkable, without much cilantro taste, but the salmon itself was delicious. It was moist and rich, enhanced by the subtle smoky grilled flavor. The grilled seasonal vegetables were also quite good, especially the zucchini spears. All of the entrees were served with hand-cut french fries, generous and tasty.

Alas, we were disappointed when told that the restaurant had already run out of all of the desserts except apple crisp. However, when the junior member of the party ordered an ice cream, it arrived as a mini sundae, complete with whipped cream and a cherry.farm-sign

The Farm has only been open a week and the owners are still obviously working out the kinks, but they’ve got a lot going for them. With a great outdoor patio, weekend live music (no cover charge), plans for a volleyball court, horseshoe pits and a Richardson’s ice cream stand, they are positioning to be the destination for fun this summer. All we can say is that if they succeed, they’re gonna need more parking spots.

The Farm
233 Western Ave., Essex
(978) 768-0000
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Essex-MA/THE-FARM-Bar-Grille/61002762093

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