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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Corks and Forks and the Best Cheese Ever

Posted: May 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

corks2Saturday we took some time to check out Shubie’s First Annual Corks and Forks event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We got there just before 2 p.m., and the place was packed. There were seven distributor tables in a relatively small space, with each pouring six to eight wines and so many people milling around it was almost sensory overload.

While we are far from being true oenophiles, we love wine and really enjoy learning about and tasting new vintages. Most of the wines were in the $11 to $25 range, and discounts were offered when purchasing six or more bottles. A few of the whites we liked were the Siblings Sauvignon Blanc, which was full of super sassy citrus; the Domain de Huards Cheverny, which was grassy and crisp; and the Zenato Pino Grigio, which was light and summery.

Reds we enjoyed included the Carpe Diem Pinot Noir, which was rich and fruity; the Casa Castillio Monastrell, which was savory and a bit peppery; and the Jiminez Landi Tinto, which was strong and direct but quite beguiling. Andrew Crookes, who poured the Jimenez and other Eric Solomon Selections, was by far the most engaging of the reps. Young, chatty, and enthusiastic, he knew his stuff and seemed to genuinely love his job.

cheeseThere were also several tables of cheese vendors set up, various chips and dips and sweets set out throughout the store, and servers circulating with appetizer sized tastes from Chef Lynn Aronson’s kitchen.

Our favorite cheeses were the Springbrook Farm Tarentaise, a Vermont Alpine cheese similar to a gruyere; the Vermont Butter and Cheese Coupole, another of their “age in your fridge” offerings; and several selections from Jasper Hill Farms.

While their Constant Bliss and Bayley Hazen Blue were both excellent, the knock-your-socks off star of the day was the Jasper Hill Farms Winnemere, which is only produced November to April. This was simply the most amazing cheese I have tasted. It is an aromatic raw milk cheese that has had its rind washed in lambic beer and wrapped in a strip of spruce. Everything from the cow’s milk to the wild yeast for the lambic and the spruce bark is harvested from Jasper Hill’s Vermont farmland. The result is complex: a smooth and creamy yet bright tangy flavor with an earthy, almost woody, note that is truly addictive. We brought some home, and it is only through sheer force of will we haven’t inhaled it all and licked the package clean. Yet.

Another discovery of note was the Fra’Mani handcrafted salumi which was tasty in the extreme. We tried the salametto, the soppressata, and a rosemary ham, all of which had us snitching extra samples.

While the event really only offered bargain prices if you were interested in buying larger quantities, Corks and Forks was  a terrific opportunity to widen our taste horizons and take home a few new favorites. Certainly worth checking out the next time Shubie’s hosts it.

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Ladies Who Lunch

Posted: November 16th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Marblehead, Marketplace, Shubie's Market Place | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Okay, so it’s not The Birdcage in the Boston Lord & Taylor (remember when department stores had restaurants?), but we love Shubie’s market in Marblehead and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch there this past weekend.

If you live on the North Shore and haven’t been to Shubie’s, you should put it on your list. There is an amazing selection of goodies packed into this store, including wine, kitchen gadgets, serving dishes, prepared foods, deli items, and pastries. It’s the perfect place to pick up stocking stuffers, edible and otherwise, for that foodie on your Christmas list.

We began with an inspection of the wine department and were pleased to find a large selection of reds and whites under $15. A number of interesting selections are highlighted with a detailed description, including Boston Globe wine writer Stephen Meuse’s pick for this month’s Plonk (wine for $12 or under). There’s a large section on the back wall with wine pairings for seafood, beef, pasta, and even pizza.

We lingered a bit over the gadgets (do I need onion chopping goggles?) and lusted after the Incanto plate collection from Vietri (www.vietri.com). After a browse through the gourmet food display (olive oils, imported packaged foods, jams, and more), the diverse cheese and deli-meat section, and the prepared foods, we ordered sandwiches and sat at a nearby table.

We sampled the warm cuban sandwich and the vegetarian, enjoying both. The cuban featured pulled pork, ham, gruyere, pickle, and ancho vinaigrette. The bread was toasted, the cheese was melty, and the flavors worked. We asked for the vegetarian on sourdough (there are many breads to choose from); it was spread with delicious hummus and stuffed with roasted vegetables, provolone, and arugula. The sandwiches are on the high side ($8 for the veggie; $9 for the cuban), but they’re made to order, and the ingredients are top-notch.

Adjacent to our table was a freezer filled with Lizzy’s ice cream (made in Waltham, www.lizzysicecream.com), gourmet heat-and-serve hors d’oeuvres from Good Wives (also local, www.goodwives.com), and much more. On the other side was a dessert case filled with mini cakes, brownies, and pastries, not to mention a giant-sized whoopie pie.

Being the kind people we are, we selected a few sweets and brought them home to share with the ones left behind to install the garage-door opener. The mini apple pie looked cute but was altogether bland, more like Table Talk than gourmet. But the mini flourless cake was rich and mousse-like, and the two cookies (cherry white chocolate chunk and chocolate-filled peanut butter) were first rate.

A few more items of note. Shubie’s has an e-newsletter you can sign up for to learn about the frequent wine tastings and specials (sometimes there are e-coupons, too). The service is outstanding, and during past visits we’ve received excellent advice on wine and cheese selections. Last, but not least, Shubie’s has three things you won’t find in many Marblehead businesses: food samples, wi-fi, and parking—all free.

Shubie’s
15 Atlantic Ave, Marblehead
(781) 631-0149
www.shubies.com

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