The Line on Hooked

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Hooked, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When the eye-catching blue and yellow Coming Soon signs appeared in the windows of 114 Pleasant St. in Marblehead last week, locals were impressed. Although the new restaurant, Hooked, won’t open until June, it’s already got a website with a sample menu and a twitter feed to boot.

“Oh,” you might say, “A seafood restaurant in a shore town, how (yawn) exciting.” But the truth is, with its family-friendly combination of casual restaurant and take-out, Hooked’s unique approach may just be what some are looking for, especially as it will be open for lunch.

I stopped by today and chatted with partners Ben Rhodes and Rafe Hershfield about their new venture. Rhodes, a well-known Marblehead native, owns the building and for many years ran the Super Sub that Hooked is replacing. He was ready for something new, and long discussions with the enthusiastic Hirschfield gave birth to this concept.

The space will feature about 32 seats in a combination of counter, high-top tables, and regular tables. Diners will order at the counter, their meals will be brought to them, and they’ll bus their own tables as they depart. A step above the familiar red-and-white checked paper baskets, the food will be served on china with flatware, and a selection of beer and wine will be served.

Hershfield promises the fried offerings will be fresh, not frozen, with generous portions at highly competitive prices. Clam strip fans will be intrigued—the jumbo refers not to the portion but to the size of the clams.

Unlike the standard clam shack, Hooked’s menu will include plenty of fresh fish (locally sourced when possible) as grilled and baked options, with items like swordfish kabobs over salad for healthy or gluten-free choices. Less-common sandwiches like crab cake sliders and fish tacos will also make an appearance, and the guys hinted at a few more menu surprises they have up their sleeves.

Everything will be available for take-out, which is sure to please summer beachgoers and boaters. The interior is getting a complete overhaul, including a brand-new kitchen, and they plan to open in mid to late June. Rhodes says farther down the line, they are looking at turning the adjacent driveway into a patio with outdoor seating, something of which Marblehead has surprisingly little.

The restaurant’s website quips “Once you try it you’ll be ‘Hooked’!” and after my visit today, I’m looking forward to returning to see if it’s true.

Edit 7.20.10: You can read about our first visit to Hooked here: A First Look at Hooked, Marblehead’s Newest Seafood Eatery

Hooked Seafood & Grill
114 Pleasant St., Marblehead
781-631-8200
www.hookedmarblehead.com

Share

Much More Than a Fish Market

Posted: April 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Ipswich, Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market, Marketplace, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

It’s no secret that we love exploring gourmet food markets, and when they carry lots of local and store-made products, we really get excited. At Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market, it seems like every time you turn around, you discover something wonderful.

For starters, there’s the gorgeous display of fresh fish, clams, and Maine crab—lobsters swim in a custom-built pool nearby. Then there are prepared foods like stuffed peppers, grilled cajun scallops, lobster-stuffed clams, and salmon cakes, plus taramosalta and fresh Greek yogurt. If you’re in the store near lunchtime, you can feast on a variety of soups, sandwiches, a great-looking salad bar, and individually packaged desserts.

And that’s just the beginning. There are store-made sauces, seasonings, and vinegars (blood orange and black fig sound particularly good). There’s an Asian-food section that includes nori, bonito flakes, short-grain rice, and rice paper wrappers for summer rolls, saving area residents a trip to a specialty market. A rack of bread holds a number of selections from Annarosa’s in Newburyport and Alexandra’s in Gloucester.

The freezer contains a wealth of treasures like salt cod, octopus, fish stock, and lobster stock, along with a selection of prepared entrées. If you have a sweet tooth, we highly recommend a package of whoopie pies from Newburyport’s Chococoa ($5 for three and worth every penny).

Treasures for those eating gluten free are also abundant, including a hot prepared entrée each day, frozen entrées, and packaged goods like bread crumbs, crackers, rice pasta, and granola.

But perhaps the most surprising thing you’ll find in this fish market is grass-fed beef from Appleton Farms, a Trustees of Reservations property located a few miles from the store.

The beef is not only fresh and local, it’s considerably healthier than beef from cows fed a grain diet. Store manager Zina Smith says she tried the ground beef and a few steaks from last year’s supply (it’s available from late spring to early winter), and it was terrific. She added a warning not to overcook it, as it’s much leaner than supermarket beef.

Smith suggests calling the store in advance if you’re looking to purchase beef, as the farm’s CSA members get their shares first, with the remainder going to Ipswich Shellfish and Bruni’s Market.

Tucked away on a side street a few blocks from the main drag, this beautiful, well-stocked market is a hidden gem worth seeking out.

Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market
8 Hayward St, Ipswich
(978) 356-6941
www.ipswichfishmarket.com

Share

Fish Tales: Does Cape Ann Fresh Catch Measure Up?

Posted: March 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cape Ann Fresh Catch, Gloucester, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Cape Ann Fresh Catch, the Gloucester-based community supported fishery program, has certainly made a big splash since it debuted last year. Lauded by the likes of Boston.com and Saveur, the program has been popular among those with a desire to eat fresh, locally produced foods.

Caught fresh daily by Gloucester fishermen, approximately five pounds of seafood per customer is delivered to seven Boston area communities; Cambridge (two locations), Jamaica Plain, Acton, Lincoln, Marblehead, Gloucester, Newburyport, and Ipswich. There is a two-hour window for shareholders to pick up. Consumers get local, seasonal, super-fresh fish, and the money goes directly to the fishermen, supporting the local economy and encouraging sustainable practices.

We subscribed to the winter season, which started in the middle of December. It was supposed to run eight weeks, but due to understandable delays caused by stormy weather, we just picked up our last share. Winter shares included an option for local or “Maine” shrimp, as they are in season. We opted for a half fish/half shrimp share, which meant receiving five pounds of shrimp alternating weeks with five pounds of fish.

3152010cSign up was easy and pick up relatively convenient. The CAFC people were great with keeping everyone informed about schedule and expectations via Web, Twitter and e-mail. Our delivery guy Steve (pictured here) was helpful and even emailed out a fish cake recipe after chatting about it. The fish itself was incredibly fresh and delicious. If you are used to buying fish at the supermarket, I can’t stress this enough—the difference in taste is phenomenal.

Something I didn’t anticipate was the “facing your food” sensation. Unlike the bland fillets from a glass case, here was a whole damned fish (thankfully gutted) taking up my kitchen counter and staring at me with his big eyes. Truth be told, I was fascinated. During the season we ended up Googling all manner of fishy facts and watching YouTube videos on everything from filleting techniques to shrimp recipes. We contracted for fresh seafood and got an education in the bargain.

So, what’s the catch? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Although we liked the program so much we’ll sign up for another season, it’s not without issues. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is the lack of variety. Along with the shrimp, we ended up with cod, pollock, and haddock during the season. This was change enough for me, but we also had several missed weeks due to inclement weather. I can see how one could easily end up with a freezer full of pollock.

The shrimp were also a surprise. Despite having grown up on the North Shore, I was unfamiliar with the local variety. Used to big gulf shrimp, these wee pink ones were a mystery to me. The flavor was wonderful: sweet, delicate, and almost lobster-like. But shelling them was extremely time consuming and seemed hardly worth it for the amount of meat harvested. I think next time I’ll skip the shrimp and buy the shelled meat at a local fish monger.

That brings us to the question of cost, which figures in at $4/lb for fish and $3.50/lb for fish and shrimp. Sounds like a bargain until you realize that you are receiving whole fish or shrimp that needs to be processed. Even if you’re an expert with a fillet knife, how many edible pounds are you actually buying? Is it worth the effort?

Unless you live in a coastal town with a reasonably priced fish market selling dayboat fish you can patronize at whim, the answer is a definite yes. That’s what Cape Ann Fresh Catch delivers—incredibly fresh, great quality fish that helps food lovers support the local economy.

Cape Ann Fresh Catch
Gloucester, MA
(978) 283-2504
http://namanet.org/csf/cape-ann-fresh-catch

Share

Lunch on the Water

Posted: February 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Finz, Salem, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

We’ll come right out and say it: we think Finz should lower their prices, at least on their lunch menu. The dining room is inviting, the view of Salem harbor is wonderful, and the fish is fresh, so we enjoyed our lunchtime visit overall. But it’s hard to feel as though we got good value for our dollar.

The best entrée we tried was the blackened catfish tostada. The fish was moist and flaky, with great grilled flavor, and the accompaniments worked to make the dish a success—corn tortillas, Manchego cheese, tomato/avocado relish, and cilantro crème fraiche. Still, at $14, that’s one pricy taco.

The scallops in our pan seared scallop salad were cooked perfectly, but for $14, we wished for a few more. The greens beneath them were fresh but needed more dressing and were not all that plentiful.

The fried flounder po’ boy was reasonably priced at $8, but the roll was bland, the remoulade was unremarkable, and the Cajun seasoned fries, although crispy, weren’t really seasoned. The fish was good, however, fresh and perfectly cooked.

We commend the service (friendly and proficient) and the menu, which has a terrific selection of appetizers ($5 and up) and entrees ($8 to $16 at lunch). But given the current economic climate, it might be a good idea to make sure customers leave with full stomachs rather than empty wallets.

Finz
76 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 744-8485
www.hipfinz.com/salem.php

Share

Quick Trip to the Azores

Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Azorean, Gloucester, Portuguese, Seafood | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

If your travel budget is looking as slim as ours this year, consider taking a culinary trip to the Azores. On a recent frigid Saturday night, our spirits were lifted by the warm atmosphere and out-of-the-ordinary cuisine at The Azorean in Gloucester.

We began with cocktails, including a very tart version of sangria featuring passion fruit liquor (passion fruit is a popular local item in the Azores, located about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal).

The accompanying cheese platter ($7) fell flat, with flavorless black olives and none of the selections piquing our fancy. The marinated pork spread was interesting, though, spiced with cinnamon and vinegar. And we thoroughly enjoyed the owners mix, a good-sized bowl of garlic shrimp and fried calamari ($13). The batter on the squid was pleasingly light, and the spicy garlic sauce in the bottom of the bowl had wonderful flavor.

The entrée selection is varied, with a large number of beef, chicken, and pork dishes, along with more than 10 seafood selections. Not all of our dinners were a success, but we can recommend the seafood casserole ($17), the monkfish in lobster sauce ($18), and the grilled codfish ($19), which came with whole smashed potatoes and delicious fish stuffing. Unless you are a true salt lover, we suggest staying away from dishes based on salt cod, which has been salted, dried, and reconstituted.

We’re a fan of green wine, a Portuguese specialty, and were disappointed that they were out of the $22 bottle we selected. Although we were perfectly happy with the crisp white our server suggested as an alternative ($30), do try the slightly effervescent vino verde if it’s available.

The restaurant was also out of the chocolate mousse, which leads us to believe it’s good. We did try the chocolate layer cake (rich ganache but nothing fantastic) and the pineapple coconut tart with chocolate crust—an interesting flavor combination and not overly sweet.

Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, and the ochre walls, European-style tiles, and old-world paintings helped us forget this tough New England winter for a few hours. The restaurant area emptied out fairly early, but the good-sized bar has tables as well and seemed like an excellent place to send your taste buds on a mini vacation.

Azorean
33 Washington Street, Gloucester
(978) 283-5500
www.azoreanrestaurant.com

Share