Five Corners Kitchen Offers Casual Elegance and Memorable Meals

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, American, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sunday night we finally got a chance to check out the recently opened 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead. They have been open for a couple of weeks now and look to be doing a booming business. Reservations are definitely recommended as tables fill up fast.

The room has a casual elegance, the decorative tin ceiling and fun light fixtures lending texture to the clean lines and no-nonsense table settings. Our table wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we visited the bar. Although a relatively small space, the bar area is friendly and warm and features a fun seating niche in the window. The bartender was terrific, smiling and helpful and pouring us samples when we inquired about various wines. He entreated us to stay and eat with him, but our table was ready to go.

The wine list covers a good range, from $6.50 to $13.50 a glass, and the bottles were reasonable as well. We started with several of the appetizers; the cauliflower, leek and potato vichyssoise with lobster and fine herbs vinaigrette ($9), the rustic country pork terrine with whole grain mustard and pickled vegetables ($7), and the roasted beet and watercress salad with shaved fennel, red onion, ricotta salata, and horseradish crème fraiche vinaigrette ($8). Both the soup and the salad were quite good, with a lovely complexity of flavor. The terrine came with a plate of grilled bread and was excellent, quite a bargain given the amount of food for the price. That and a salad could be a meal.

The star of the starters, though, was the simplest—we had heard good things about Chef Edelman’s fries and were not disappointed. These are some seriously delicious fries; fresh house-made beauties served with a lush basil garlic aioli ($5). If we hadn’t ordered so much other food, we might have come to blows over the final few.

For entrees, we were interested in the sautéed skate wing, but they had sold out by the time we ordered. Instead we went for the roasted half chicken with oyster mushrooms, wilted spring greens, and brown butter jus ($18), the potato gnocchi with grilled asparagus, fava beans, fiddleheads, braised lettuce, mushrooms, and house-made crème fraiche ($17), and a special that night, a house-made saucisson on creamy lentils ($16).

Roasted chicken when done well can be a revelation, and this one was: crispy, juicy, and savory. The sausages were also excellent, not too dense and full of flavor. The gnocchi was tender and the vegetables perfect, sautéed but still crunchy, but some might find the portion a bit small.

Currently, 5CK is only offering one dessert per evening, which was an orange panna cotta with raspberry rhubarb compote ($6) the night we were there. Light and refreshing, the delicate texture and flavor were a perfect end to our meal.

The only drawback of the night was the noise level. It’s a small space with a high ceiling, and sound really bounces around. Clever use of fabrics or acoustical panels would help immensely. The din seemed to drop around 8:30 when the crowd thinned, so a later seating time is in order for those in search of a quieter meal. The restaurant will soon be offering lunch, and that might prove a less noisy alternative as well.

When we interviewed Chef Edelman in March, he spoke about his passion for creating simple meals with local foods and having attentive staff. We found he has come through on both counts. Our waitress was phenomenal, and the food was excellent. Chicken, sausage, pasta—all simple, ordinary foods made extraordinary by the obvious freshness and thoughtful preparation.

5 Corners Kitchen
2 School Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-5550
www.5cornerskitchen.com

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Blue Ox’s Matt O’Neil Knows His Gnocchi

Posted: June 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Blue Ox, Event, Lynn | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Potato gnocchi, pea puree, ham, mint, mascarpone. Sound like spring on a plate? It was, and it tasted even better than it sounds. This was the main event at last night’s cooking demonstration at The Blue Ox in Lynn.

Chef/owner Matt O’Neil charmed an audience of about 40 with both his cooking advice and his food at this special event ($29). We had expected more of a stand-around-watching-the-chef type of demonstration and were pleasantly surprised when we were led to a table and handed a wine list along with the night’s menu and several recipes to take home.

We tried the house white ($5.50), a dry blended wine that’s very good for the price, while snacking on an antipasto of sopressata, prosciutto de parma, fresh mozzarella, shaved parmesan, roasted peppers and asparagus, grilled artichokes, and aged balsamic.

Then Chef O’Neil began demonstrating the gnocchi recipe on a large table at the front of the room. While he worked, he gave us tips on many of the ingredients he uses in the restaurant along with things to avoid when making gnocchi.

Here are a few take-aways from the chef:

  • Use kosher salt or sea salt that has not been iodized. The iodizing process changes the salt, preventing it from drawing out moisture from food you are trying to sear.
  • Splurge on a bottle of aged balsamic. You only need a few drops in a salad or antipasto, so a small bottle will last quite a while.
  • Likewise, spend the money to get a good bottle of fruity olive oil, not for cooking but for salads and adding to pasta or gnocchi. O’Neil uses one from Greece.
  • With the right ingredients, it’s easy to “doctor up” something like a jar of roasted peppers. Just sprinkle with lemon juice, good olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • For gnocchi, use Russet or Idaho potatoes, bake them in the oven, and rice them while they are hot.
  • For extra flavor, O’Neil drizzles a tablespoon of good olive oil into the gnocchi dough when he adds the eggs. He also adds a small amount of freshly grated nutmeg.
  • He cautions never to overwork the dough. It should still be bit rough when you begin rolling it out, or the final product will be chewy rather than fluffy.
  • After rolling the gnocchi (O’Neil uses a fork for this), place them on a sheet pan sprinkled with semolina flour. All-purpose flour would get absorbed into the dough and make it gummy.
  • To freeze the gnocchi, put them in the freezer still on the tray. Once frozen, you can pack them in a plastic bag or container.

At the end of the demonstration, we were invited to try rolling out dough and forming the gnocchi up at the front table, and then we were served a steaming bowl with the aforementioned sauce and ham. The gnocchi were tender, the sauce was to-die-for delicious, and the mint puree drizzled on top added incredible freshness. The main course was followed by a cannoli with a crisp shell and an extra-creamy filling.

O’Neil, a Swampscott native who now lives in Nahant, is clearly one of the area’s top culinary talents. We look forward to returning to sample the dinner menu, which the chef describes as American style with a twist. The main dining room features a handsome bar area and the gorgeous art of Martha’s Vineyard-based painter Traeger DiPietro. There is a free parking lot a few yards away from the front door.

After seeing Chef O’Neil in action, we’re also hoping for more cooking demonstrations. Eating, drinking and learning—the perfect way to spend an evening.

The Blue Ox
191 Oxford Street, Lynn
(781) 780-5722
www.theblueoxlynn.com

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