Beat the Winter Blues With Local Food Events

Posted: January 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Blue Ox, Event, Finz, Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The holidays are over and that means it’s time for food events to kick into high gear here on the North Shore. Our heads are swimming just looking what’s going on in January and February. And that’s without considering Valentine’s Day specials, which we’ll cover separately.

On Tuesday January 18 at 7:00, Chef Matt O’Neil will be doing a cooking demo and three-course tasting at The Blue Ox in Lynn ($39). There will be a mache salad with braised beets, walnuts, parmesan, blood oranges, and blood orange vinaigrette followed by butter-poached lobster and porcini/saffron quinoa. For dessert, a honey cake with chocolate, raspberry puree, and whipped cream. We’re salivating already. Call (781) 780-5722 to reserve a space.

The next Tuesday, January 25, Finz in Salem is putting on a vodka dinner hosted by Pinnacle Vodka at 6:30 ($59). It begins with oysters accompanied by a mango vodka-blood orange puree cocktail. Next is an Asian scallop ceviche with a lychee martini, mojito grilled swordfish with a berry vodka mojito, and espresso rubbed tenderloin with a caliente café martini. Dessert is a Pinnacle and strawberry sorbet with strawberry Pop Rocks. Sounds like a taxi may be in order after this one.

Vodka is also the star of Red Rock’s Tuesday Tasting on the 25th at 7:00 ($25 including tax and gratuity). Russian Standard Original, Platinum and Imperial vodkas will be featured in six cocktails. Russian-influenced appetizers like smoked trout, oysters, salmon roe caviar, dark pastrami, gravlox, pickled beets, and herring will accompany the drinks. Break out your (faux) fur hat and head on over to Swampscott.

On Saturday January 29 at 6:30, Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead hosts its annual Taste of the North Shore ($60). The event includes an all-you-can-eat buffet with specialties from North Shore restaurants and caterers, a silent auction, and a live auction. For more information, call (781) 631-9300 or e-mail

Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia visits 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar in Salem on Sunday January 30 at 6:30. For $75, attendees will enjoy a cooking demonstration by Chef Antonio Bettencourt and Ms. Esposito, a multi-course dinner, and a signed copy of her latest book Ciao Italia: Five-Ingredient Favorites. Call (978) 744-0062 for a reservation. Sounds like a true Italian extravaganza.

Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival begins on Friday February 4th with a chocolate and wine tasting at Hamilton Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 ($25). Tickets are on sale at the Salem Chamber of Commerce office, 265 Essex Street Mon-Fri from 9:00 to 5:00 and will be on sale the night of the event based on availability (the event sold out last year). Sugar rush, here we come.

On Tuesday February 8 Red Rock’s Tuesday Tastings is USA Craft Beers ($25 including tax and gratuity. At 7:00, Local beer master Kyle Sartanowicz will offer expert commentary while attendees taste six outstanding made-in-the-USA beers with foods to match.

Last but not least, on Thursday February 10 at 6:00, Caffe Graziani in Salem is hosting an international wine  dinner featuring a five-course meal and an abundance of French, Italian, and Argentinean wines. The full menu is posted here. The cost is $75, and space is limited. Call (978) 741-4282 for information and reservations.


Spirited Happenings on Cape Ann

Posted: August 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Gloucester, Ryan & Wood Distilleries | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

North Shore folks like us, who delight in seeking out local artisan products such as bread from A&J King and cheese from Valley View Farm, have a new selection to try: spirits from Ryan & Wood Distilleries. Better yet, you can see the hand-crafted process yourself at their Gloucester facility.

We had never given much thought to why there are so few small distilleries in the US (and none in this area). A few minutes after meeting co-founder Bob Ryan, who is clearly passionate about the subject, we understood perfectly.

Ryan’s story began in 2004, when he and his nephew, Dave Wood, read about a small distiller in Northern Vermont making vodka from maple sap, and it culminated this summer, when Ryan & Wood produced their first commercially available batch of Beauport Vodka, named after the original moniker given to Gloucester by explorer Samuel de Champlain.

In between is a twisted tale of expensive equipment sitting as the fledgling company waited for licensing (you can’t apply for a license without working equipment), recipe and sample submissions, and endless struggles with the Trade and Taxation Bureau on the size of the type of the labels. And that’s before you get to the taxation, which is prohibitively high.

Fortunately, that’s all behind them now, and the business is up and running. In a few weeks, Knockabout Gin and Folly Cove Rum will join the vodka on the shelves of local restaurants and liquor stores. In addition to being locally made from grain to final product, these spirits are carefully produced in small batches using top-quality ingredients.

The vodka has just a hint of citrus flavor and is intentionally “thin” to mix well in cocktails. One reason it stands out is the water used in the process, which is filtered as many times as the alcohol. The gin gets special treatment, too, in the form of 10 botanicals that are infused into the distillate for no less than 12 hours. (The gin drinker in our group pronounced it outstanding.) Likewise, the molasses used in the rum is fine quality, and the aging takes place in charred oak barrels.

Each of the products is made in a gorgeous Arnold Holstein still that was custom built to allow fractional distillation for the highest quality. Tourists and locals can see it in action at 10:00 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (groups can call to arrange tours for other times).

In the meantime, you can seek out Ryan & Wood products at places like Ryal Side Liquors in Beverly, Chebacco Liquor Mart in Essex, Causeway Liquors in Gloucester, Duddy’s Liquors in Peabody, and Shubie’s in Marblehead. You can also request it at many North Shore bars and restaurants, including Franklin Café in Gloucester, Maddie’s Sail Loft in Marblehead, and Indigo Bar & Grill in South Hamilton, where they feature it in a ginger martini.

Or you may want to try it in what Ryan says is the “in” drink this summer: The Tennis Ball is made in a rocks glass, over ice, with equal parts Beauport Vodka and club soda with a splash of Rose’s lime juice and a lime wedge. How’s that for crisp and refreshing? We’re no master mixologists, but using hand-crafted spirits in our drinks and supporting the local economy at the same time sounds like the perfect cocktail.

Ryan & Wood Distilleries
15 Great Republic Dr, Gloucester
(978) 281-2282