North Shore Food Finds

Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Asian, Bakery, Beverly, Bistro, Deli, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Everyone has their favorite restaurants, from the one you look forward to visiting on special occasions to the one you turn to when you can’t even think about cooking. But what about those favorite dishes and treats you’ve discovered in your neighborhood or on your travels? We’ve put together a list of ours in the hopes that readers will be inspired to respond in kind. If you’ve got a North Shore food find to add to the list, let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Bouchon, A&J King
Talk about addictive. This little cake looks simple, but it’s not. It’s rich and not too sweet with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderful hint of almond. One of the best chocolate experiences on the North Shore. Oh, and they have great bread, too. ($2.25)

House Dumplings, Sugar Cane
We love dumplings of all sizes and shapes, but these are our favorite. The dough is thin and wonderfully crispy, the inside is flavorful, and the accompanying ginger soy sauce puts these little gems over the top. ($6)

Tiger’s Tears, Floating Rock
This dish has it all: spice, citrus, and crunch. Thin slices of marinated beef are served cold and paired with sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground roasted rice. If you like spicy food, you will love this—but don’t be scared off, we found the balance of heat and citrus just right.

Chicken Salad, Henry’s Market
We’re picky when it comes to chicken salad—no large chunks or odd ingredients, thanks. Henry’s makes it just the way we like it: finely ground, super fresh, and perfectly seasoned. We like it made into mini-sandwiches on the top-knot rolls baked fresh in the store daily.

Guacamole, Cielito Lindo
Made fresh and served in a molcajete (a stone bowl for grinding), this guac is the perfect antidote to a long day and just one of the things we love about this often-overlooked Mexican restaurant in Beverly. Grab a tortilla chip and dive in—you’ll be amazed at how quickly the generous serving will disappear. ($8)

Fresh-Baked Cookies, Shubie’s
These are the kind of cookies you could easily pass off as homemade (not that we would ever do that, of course). They’re baked fresh in the store every day, and while the peanut butter and oatmeal raisin ($8/pound) are terrific, the larger kitchen-sink cookies are the stuff of dreams, packed with dark and white chocolate and cranberries ($1.75 each).

While you’re in the store, be sure to check out the cheese counter, which has one of the largest selections of New England cheeses we’ve seen. Selections include several from Vermont Butter & Cheese, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Jasper Hill blue, Blue Ledge Farm crottini, Ploughgate Creamery willoughby, Spring Brook Farm tarentaise, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, Shy Brothers Farm Hannabells, and cheddars from Shelburne and Grafton Farms.

Strudel, Helmut’s Strudel
What is it about apples and pastry that makes us swoon? We don’t know, but this place is the gold standard for the combination. Sweet, gooey apple filling and a crunchy, flaky not-too-sweet shell come together for the perfect mouthful. Folks, there’s a reason this tiny Bearskin Neck shop stays in business selling nothing but strudel and croissants. ($4 per slice)

Hot Cookie Dough Topping, Terry’s Ice Cream
If you like your cookies just barely cooked and hot from the oven, you get the idea here. Even better than hot fudge on top of ice cream, this is decadence in a cup. Go ahead, indulge; we’ll never tell.

Toasted Iggy’s Bagel, Foodie’s Feast
If you’re a fan of Montreal-style bagels (thinner and more flavorful than New York style), you’ve got to try Iggy’s, which are very similar. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to let the nice counter folks at Foodie’s toast one up and serve it alongside a steaming mug of joe. They’re also available at Whole Foods in Swampscott.

Truffle Paté, Crosby’s
This mousse-like spread is the perfect addition to your holiday cheese platter. We like to serve it on lightly toasted baguette slices or water crackers. It’s so good, you may want to buy two for your next cocktail party and forget to put the second one out.

Ribs, Smokin’ Jims
If you’ve never heard of Smokin’ Jim, you might be tempted to drive right by his parking-lot location on East Main in Gloucester. But these ribs are the real deal: smoked on oil-drum cooker until they just about fall off the bone. Side dishes like cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are available, too. There are picnic tables nearby, or you may want to drive over to Stage Fort Park. Hours vary seasonally, so check the Web site before visiting.

Marissa’s Salsa, Whole Foods
You’ll never want to go back to that stuff in the jar once you try this fresh version, packed in ice in the produce section and featuring a heavenly balance of heat and cilantro. Even better, it’s made in small batches by Nahant resident Marissa Salomon.

Potato Chips, Mandrake
We like the well-built drinks, reasonably priced food, and friendly bartenders at this downtown Beverly spot. Add the freshly made potato chips served as bar snacks, and you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

We had a lot of fun putting this post together, and we look forward to hearing from readers who try one of our “finds” and those with a special treat to contribute…

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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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