Five Corners Kitchen Offers Casual Elegance and Memorable Meals

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, American, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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

5 Corners Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Marblehead’s Ataraxis Tavern Brings New Energy to the Avenue

Posted: March 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Ataraxis Tavern, Casual/Pub Food, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Edit 12/29/10: We are sorry to report that Ataraxis Tavern has closed it’s doors.

Marblehead’s got a new bar and grill in town, though you likely haven’t heard of it yet. Ataraxis Tavern has quickly and quietly filled the space left by Flynnie’s and in the month since their soft opening, has been generating great buzz.

Jeff Flynn and his family are well regarded by Marbleheaders and both Flynnie’s on the Avenue and at Devereux Beach were favorites of many, so while it may not be fair, comparisons by locals will be inevitable.

We stopped by last night to take a look for ourselves and had the opportunity to chat with owner Dean Santamaria-Capetanelis. Dean grew up in Marblehead and when he and friend Paul Riccardi, previously the executive chef at Jack Tar, were looking to open a restaurant and saw the space for sale, they jumped at the chance to return to town. Dean and Paul’s shared vision is that of a relaxing family-friendly tavern atmosphere serving quality comfort food. The name, Ataraxis, is actually an English word meaning “the absence of mental stress or anxiety.”

On first glance, the interior feels darker, warmer and indeed quieter for such a small space. The paneling on the walls, which was originally reclaimed wood from a tannery in Peabody, has been stained a dark walnut. The other big change is the black tablecloths and linen napkins at each table.  Dean explains that not only does this help in baffling noise, but using linens is also more cost effective and creates less waste than paper. The new chairs and fresh coat of paint add to the revived atmosphere. And families with children shouldn’t be put off by the new look—our junior Dish member was delighted at the offer of an Etch-A-Sketch from the stash at the hostess stand to occupy kids waiting on their food.

332010aThere are a couple of changes that haven’t happened yet, but are in the works. The floor needs refinishing, but instead of fighting the salt, sand and snow of winter, that will wait till warmer months. Also, the custom painted glass between the restaurant area and bar is in the process of being replaced.

Much of the transformation, Santamaria-Capetanelis tells us, will never be seen by the public. The kitchen has gotten a facelift, as well as new chef (Riccardi) and sous-chef (Jake Soucy), and a new computer system installed. There are some familiar faces, though, because he hired back the former Flynnie’s wait and bar staff which made the transition smoother than most.

The menu, as promised, centers on hearty and comfort food favorites. The big difference here is that everything is prepared to order from scratch, using fresh ingredients. Dean already uses local suppliers like Patriot Lobster for seafood and Atomic Café for coffee, and is interested in locally sourcing as much as he can as the seasons change.

332010bWhile we didn’t get to explore much of the menu, we did try the ribs ($14.50 for half rack, $21 for full) which were terrific. They were fall-off-the-bone tender and had great flavor. The grilled farmhouse burger ($8.75) was fresh, juicy and generous, and the fries plentiful and tasty.

Santamaria-Capetanelis is pleased with the initial public reaction, and said that business for February, (a difficult month to open anything) exceeded their expectations. Visitors have warmed to the new place, and with so many storefronts still vacant from economic upheaval, we’re thinking Atlantic Avenue can only benefit from the energy generated by Dean and his crew.

If you are interested in checking out the AT for yourself, think about heading over tomorrow night, Thursday March 4th, for their grand opening celebration. They will be serving up samples of their signature dishes as well as handing out fun freebies from Cape Ann Brewing Company from 5-7 pm.

Ataraxis Tavern
28 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead
781-639-2100
ataraxistavern.com (the menu is up, but the site is still under construction)
Ataraxis Tavern Facebook Page
Ataraxis Tavern on Urbanspoon

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The Driftwood Serves Up Local Charm on Marblehead Harbor

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Diner, Driftwood, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Driftwood Restaurant has been a Marblehead institution for so long we’re surprised it hasn’t been granted official historic landmark status. And while its reputation has gone up and down over time, and earlier this year it was closed for a while due to a tax issue, it remains a local favorite and still boasts a line out the door on weekend mornings.

The interior décor is diner meets clam shack, with nautical doodads and work by local artists adorning the counter area and walls. The small tables covered with red and white checked vinyl cloths are set pretty close together, and on a busy day, you may end up chatting with your neighbor as you chow down. The crowd includes everyone from crusty old locals who all know each other to young families and summer tourists.

On a recent visit we decided to try a breakfast special that included two eggs, two pancakes (we chose blueberry), bacon or sausages, and tea, coffee, or juice for $7.75 as well as a mushroom cheese omelet ($6.25) with a side of corned beef hash ($3.75)

The coffee arrived quickly, and while it’s never going to threaten the local coffee house business, it was respectable. The omelet was decent, and we liked the wide range of breads on offer for toast. The waitress warned us ahead of time that the corned beef hash was cooked to order so it could take longer, but the wait wasn’t noticeable, and the hash was quite good—savory and not greasy.

The breakfast special was definitely satisfying, with crispy bacon and eggs cooked to order, and the winner of the morning was the blueberry pancakes. Fluffy, golden, and studded with fresh berries, they were delightful. The waitress was quick to refill our coffee and didn’t rush our check, two things we appreciate anywhere, but especially at a busy diner.

The restaurant is primarily known for its breakfast, as it opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 2:00 p.m. We hear the lunch menu features a pretty good lobster roll, though we haven’t tried it yet, and the famed fried dough served only on weekends and holidays sounds inviting as well.

Like a weathered old wharf rat sitting at the town landing, the Driftwood may be rough and tumble to look at, but it’s full of salty charm.

The Driftwood Restaurant
63 Front Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-1145

Driftwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Lime Rickey’s: Mom Would Never Approve

Posted: July 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Lime Rickey's, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

When I was a kid, my mother would herd my siblings and all our friends to the beach on many a summer’s day, but plead as we might, she would never let us buy lunch there. Instead, we would grudgingly eat our limp tuna sandwiches, into which grains of sand invariably found their way, adding grit to every bite. The reason for this torture? Mom would repeat it like a mantra, “Buying food at the beach is too expensive. What do you think I am, made of money?”

Not surprisingly, all these years later, beach food is still expensive. Most beach shacks have a captive audience—unless you bring your own food, they’re the only game around, so their prices don’t have to be competitive.

We accept this; we only wish that Lime Rickey’s at Devereux Beach made us feel better about it. Unfortunately, the quality of the food that we have tasted is less than stellar, and the service, by what appears to be bored college kids, is lackluster at best.

The fried foods are priced similarly to those at the clam shacks in Essex and Ipswich, (clam plate is $18, shrimp plate is $16), but the quality doesn’t come close. The breading is heavy and over-fried, and the only selection that it doesn’t overpower is the scrod, making the fish and chips ($12) a reasonable choice.

The lobster roll is decent, if a bit frou-frou. (Call us purists, but tarragon doesn’t belong in lobster salad.) And at $16 each, these guys clearly haven’t heard that the boat prices have plummeted lately.

The burger is a smallish, previously frozen, overcooked patty, ($5) but the fries (small $3.25, large $4.75) are the coated-to-be-crispy kind and are tasty. For the same money, you could have stopped at Five Guys in Vinnin Square on your way to the beach and gotten a larger, much better tasting burger and much larger fries.

The ice cream, however, is excellent. It’s Richardson’s and is priced similarly to the other places you’ll find it in town, from $1.90 for a single scoop up to $3.90 for a triple.

Aside from the location, which can’t be beat, Lime Rickey’s does have two things going for it. The first is variety; they offer salads, wraps, hummus plates, and a few specialty sandwiches ($5 to $8) in addition to the more traditional beach fare. The second is free live music Friday and Saturday nights in August, and live music at the beach anywhere on the North Shore is pretty hard to come by.

Yes, we’re a bit nostalgic for the days when a hot dog and a Hoodsie could be had for a dollar and a quarter, but the truth is, there are so many excellent North Shore eateries to patronize, the next time we hit Devereux, we’re packing lunch.

Lime Rickey’s
Devereux Beach
105 Ocean Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-6700
www.limerickeys.com

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Old Salts, Fresh Drinks, and Good Deals

Posted: March 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Jack Tar, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Jack-Tar may have a historic name (it’s another term for old salt), but this restaurant is up to date, serving a variety of American dishes with a creative flair and catering to today’s cash-strapped patrons with worthwhile deals.

We visited on the Old-Town Marblehead restaurant Sunday night and were warmly greeted. We ordered drinks at the large mahogany bar and were pleasantly surprised by the Not Your Mother’s Gin & Tonic, featuring freshly muddled cilantro and Tanqueray 10. It was a bit on the sweet side, but the good-sized drink went down easy and was a nice change from the ordinary.

We sat down a few minutes later and were served warm bread with herb butter and told the specials (including the prices, which we love). Both of the appetizers we sampled were tasty: a saucy, good-sized barbeque duck quesadilla ($9) and five bacon-wrapped scallops over a salad with an apple slaw ($9). Also on offer are smaller apps portions for $2 to $4, a nice option for sampling.

We took advantage of an every-night special: a choice of four pizzas are $5 between 5:00 and 7:00. The pancetta and blue cheese ’za also featured fresh basil, plum tomato slices, and aged balsamic. The medium-thick crust had good flavor, and the toppings were plentiful and delicious.

We also ordered the Memphis ribs ($18), featuring tender ribs, crunchy sweet potato fries, corn bread, coleslaw, and baked beans. The grilled salmon ($19) with a maple balsamic glaze and horseradish mashed potatoes was perfectly cooked, moist and savory.

The junior member of our group was enthusiastic about her chicken quesadilla from the kids menu, and the price was right: kids eat free on Sunday night.

The service was friendly and attentive, and our only complaint was a wait of about 15 minutes for our appetizers. There were quite a few families with toddlers when we arrived, so plan to dine after 6:30 or so for a quieter meal. We congratulate new owners Scott and Emily Brankman, both of whom have considerable restaurant experience, on their menu and hope they keep up the good work—we’re looking forward to drinks and snacks on their outdoor patio this summer.

Jack-Tar American Tavern
126 Washington Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-2323
www.jacktarmarblehead.com

Jack-Tar American Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Italian Warmth to Thaw Those Mid-Winter Blues

Posted: February 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Italia, Italian, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Not sure how it happened, but two different times in the past few weeks we found ourselves having a light supper at the bar at Caffe Italia on School Street in Marblehead.

Both the restaurant and bar are very inviting on a frigid winter’s eve; warm lighting, delicious smells, and pleasant staff make it a welcome respite. We weren’t looking for a big meal and, like everyone these days, are keeping a tight rein on our budget, so decided sampling few appetizers might be the way to go.

The bar was hopping both weekend nights we went, mostly with a 40-something crowd, eating as well as drinking. The bar is U-shaped which gives it a convivial atmosphere, and the single large screen tv is at the back of the room, so it doesn’t overwhelm.

Every entrée that went by looked and smelled terrific, making us question the decision to order just apps, but we stuck to the original plan. Both the Guazzeto di Cozza, PEI mussels sautéed with fresh tomato seafood broth, ($10) and the Cappesante, pan-seared jumbo scallops served with spinach and drizzled with balsamic reduction topped with roasted pepper, ($11) were excellent. In fact, we enjoyed the scallops so much we ordered them the second time as well. The Broccoli Stufate, sautéed broccoli rabe, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and a touch of hot pepper, ($7) was tasty, and the only clunker was a potato leek soup on special one night. Lumpy and oily with little flavor, it was a big disappointment.

Where drinks are concerned, the cocktails are reasonably priced, and the wines run from $6 to $7.50 per glass. The wine list is respectable, with the expected concentration of Italian selections. Although the bartenders are eager and attentive, they are also young and inexperienced. When a request for a Manhattan or a Sidecar is greeted with a sure smile but a quizzical look and an inquiry about the ingredients, you know you’re in trouble. Both attempts were palatable, but we suggest these kids bone up on their cocktail knowledge.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Caffe Italia offers live music some weekend nights. Their online entertainment calendar doesn’t seem to be kept up, so you’ll have to call to find out the schedule. On one of our visits, The Transistors, a fun retro rock band, had the place jumping. People of all ages got up and danced, and many of the patrons at the bar found themselves singing along.

So while we have yet to partake of a full meal there, we can recommend Caffe Italia for its warm, inviting atmosphere and the bar as a fun place to have a tasty and inexpensive dinner.

Caffe Italia
10 School St., Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
http://caffeitaliarestaurant.com/

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Immovable Feast

Posted: November 25th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Cafe, Foodie's Feast, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Tucked into a relatively small space in old town, Foodie’s Feast has a terrific storefront in a gorgeous antique building, with a casual café atmosphere inside featuring inviting cases of bakery items and a changing exhibit of local artists displayed on the walls.

This summer, a friend was staying in Marblehead and we met her there for breakfast. (Our only prior experience with Foodie’s had been a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie on a cold day, and both had really hit the spot.) There are scant few places in this neighborhood to stop in for breakfast or a light lunch, and while the Muffin Shop down the street is something of a local institution, Foodie’s offers quite a bit more.  Prepared foods, baked goods, (mostly their own, but they are also a welcome supplier of Iggy’s bagels) breakfast offerings, soups and sandwiches fill the menu. We ended up ordering coffee and the breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin. ($4.00) Freshly made and appetizing, it rates well above the standard Egg McMuffin.

Back in old town Marblehead this weekend for a bit of early holiday shopping, stopping in at Foodie’s to refuel was a no-brainer. We sat near the window in the sun, which was very pleasant, and had a great view of the comings and goings on Washington Street. Our food arrived in short order and the hot apple cider was just the thing to ward off the chill of the day. The sandwiches are on the pricey side ($6.85) and come with a pickle and choice of deli side. The one we sampled, grilled panini with mozzarella, tomato, and pesto, was a bit disappointing. The soup of the day, Veggie Chowder ($4.25), was excellent; really quite delicious and would make a great non-traditional first course to your Thanksgiving meal. The baked goods we ended our meal with were tasty but unspectacular, leaving us wondering whether we should have chosen the scones for which they are renowned.  We’ll have to try them next time– skip the sandwiches and go straight for the goodies. That’s what we all want to do anyway, right?

Foodie’s Feast
114 Washington Street, Marblehead
781-639-1104
http://www.foodiesfeast.com/

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