Pizza and Beer Hits the Spot at The Riverview

The Riverview Restaurant, an Ipswich, MA must-visit

The Riverview Restaurant, an Ipswich, MA must-visit

Some time ago, my friend Kristen (who is quite knowledgable about everything awesome in New England herself) recommended we visit The Riverview in Ipswich, MA. After someone smashed the front end off my car on my last attempt to get dinner and drinks with Kristen, almost a year later we were finally able to make good on our attempt to reunite and visit The Riverview!

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As Kristen told me, her father has been coming to The Riverview since he was a teenager and as far as he can tell, nothing about it has changed. And that is the beauty and the draw of this restaurant. From its online reviews, other people feel the same about it. The Riverview is clearly a much beloved Ipswich institution. I could certainly see why, as our tab with two full pizzas and four beers ran us altogether about $30 with tip. HOLY COW. (Something to note: The Riverview is cash only.)

The Riverview knows what it’s good at and doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. This means pizza, pizza, and more pizza. Pizza is the only thing on the menu, but there is a variety of choices. Let’s be realistic – who really needs more than that anyway? As Kristen told me and I soon learned, a full pizza there is like a personal size. It has smaller slices, so if you’re a pizza fanatic, you can definitely put away a whole pie.

Lots of pizza options, all affordable

Lots of pizza options, all extra affordable

The best part is that the pizzas generally run from $6.00 to $7.00, with a couple fully loaded options outside of this range. Kristen and I both ordered cheese pizza for $6.00 each. You literally cannot beat that price. The pizza itself is delicious as well. It’s definitely classically made, nothing too fancy, just right and hits the spot every time. It’s even served simply, on metal trays with plastic utensils. With a thin crust and just the right ratio of cheese to sauce, The Riverview’s pizza fills you up but doesn’t make you feel like you just ate your weight.

Possibly the greatest combination of all time: pizza and beer

In my opinion, nothing goes better with pizza than a cold beer, and there are a number of options to choose from at $3.00 to $3.50 each. I dare you to beat those prices on a regular night anywhere. You can’t! I ordered a couple Yuenglings and Kristen ordered Bud Light. If you’re not so much of a beer drinker, there are a variety of wines and wine coolers available as well. For regular beverages, sodas, juices, and milk are on the list.

Our waitress at the Riverview was also very friendly and attentive, and even came up with a makeshift plan to block the light that was in my eyes based on my proximity to a window. I hadn’t even thought about that until she fixed it so I could be more comfortable in my spot!

A classic interior can be found at The Riverview

As far as the environment of The Riverview, I’m sure it’s been pretty much the same since the days of Kristen’s dad’s youth. With red booths, nautical or beer-related decor, and classic wood paneled walls, this place keeps its classic touch in tact.  Adding to the retro ambiance, it even has an old school jukebox. After Kristen put in some quarters, we were able to listen to classic rock while eating our pizza and drinking our beers, giving it a real back-in-the-day vibe. I love it!

If you’re on the North Shore and looking for great pizza and beer that makes your wallet and your stomach happy, you must visit The Riverview in Ipswich. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday 4:00pm-11:30pm, and you can take out or dine in. Parking is available in a rear lot or on the street. As always, if you check it out, let me know what you think!

Featured: The Riverview Restaurant, 20 Estes Street, Ipswich, MA, 978.356.0500

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Amazing Food at A Mano

It’s just been a consistent fact of my life that I am powerless under the magic of Italian food. Few things make me feel quite as happy as a steaming plate of pasta being placed in front of me. Looking for a little bit of that serotonin boost during the dreary winter months, I booked a Valentine’s Day reservation for me and Nick at A Mano Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria here in Salem, MA.

A Mano is located in the same spot as the former 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar, and is owned by Executive Chef Antonio Bettencourt, who also owned 62. While I’d heard wonderful things about 62, I’d never gotten the chance to try it during my college years in Salem because, well, my college kid budget didn’t get me much more than Wendy’s. 62 closed and A Mano was born in its place in October 2015. The new restaurant still takes immense pride in crafting its from-scratch Italian dishes (“a mano” literally means “by hand”) but has a slightly more downhome, “approachable” feel, as was the goal of the rebrand.  Now that I moved back to Salem with a little more in my pockets than college funds had allowed, I was excited to try this new venture from Chef Bettencourt.

Ahh wine...the perfect compliment to any meal.

Ahh wine…the perfect compliment to any meal.

After taking an Uber not even five minutes down the road (hey, it was like -20 degrees out Valentine’s night), Nick and I walked into A Mano and, thanks to our reservations, were seated right away after hanging our coats. The interior of A Mano featured dim lights which are great for sipping your wine and feeling relaxed (not great for me taking photos with my phone, SORRY!). The atmosphere is cozy, with a bar and lounge tables on one side, and on the other, intimate tables and an area set up as one long booth style seat with tables for two placed intermittently, each offering a singular seat on the other side. We were seated in this area, and at first I thought we would be so focused on hearing other guests’ conversations, but that wasn’t the case and all went smoothly.

“Antipasti”…the meatballs!

We “went big” for Valentine’s Day and ordered a bottle of Riesling, my favorite type of wine. We also started out with an “Antipasti” (which I’ve looked up means “before the meal”), the meatballs which were comprised of beef, pork and ricotta with pomodoro over polenta.  The appetizer came out with three good-sized meatballs and they were perfectly tender and flavorful. I don’t think I’d ever had polenta before, because I’d never tasted anything quite like it and I think I’m now obsessed. I asked our knowledgeable waitress just what it was, and it’s like a cornmeal paste, kind of like an Italian version of grits. I probably could have been happy with just polenta as a side!

On the A Mano menu, pastas and entrees are separate sections (there’s also pizza and salad). The menu explains that pastas are mid-sized to be a second course before the entree, but you can get an entree-sized portion of any pasta. I decided to go with the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese in the mid-sized plate after seeing what still looked like a filling portion on the table of the person next to me and finding out it was the mid-size. Nick ordered one of the night’s specials, the lasagna (his favorite meal).

The photo doesn’t do the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese justice – this was seriously satisfying.

The Tagliatelle alla Bolognese was cooked to perfection and I couldn’t get enough of the Bolognese, which included veal, something else I’d actually never had before! I was just being a regular old daredevil with my food that night. The sauce had just the right amount of meat and the homemade aspect of the pasta really enhanced the dish. Nick was very happy with his lasagna, and I tried a bite; it did taste exactly as if an Italian grandma had cooked it up in her own kitchen.

Nick patiently waited, with hands crossed, for me to take this so he could dig in.

Nick patiently waited, with hands crossed, for me to take a picture so he could dig in.

I can’t end a nice dinner without something sweet, so we ordered the Warm Toffee Pudding on a recommendation from our waitress. It was delightful, and sweet it certainly was with a toffee sauce sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Toffee is one of those flavors I find to be more exciting than always getting a dessert focused on the regular old chocolate or vanilla, so I thoroughly enjoyed this ending to our meal.

Warm Toffee Pudding hit the spot!

Warm Toffee Pudding hit the spot!

Chef Bettencourt gets two thumbs up from me for A Mano, and I’m thrilled to have another date night option in our area to visit with Nick or to bring other couples we are friends with to. A Mano allows you to make reservations through OpenTable right on the homepage of their website, (I jump for joy when I can make reservations without calling) so go make one for your next night out and thank me later! 🙂

Featured: A Mano Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria – 62 Wharf Street, Salem, MA, 978.744.0062

Diner Dreams Come True at The Ugly Mug

Oh, Mr. Groundhog. You’ve angered a lot of people with what seems like a false prediction of early spring. Many of us here in the Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire region are currently having another snow day, after just having one on Friday. Because I think Salem is gorgeous in the snow, despite the hassle of bringing the car to a packed parking garage during a snow emergency parking ban, I wanted to make the best of the morning. I thought, what better way to kick off a snow day than trying a breakfast spot we hadn’t been to before? Enter: The Ugly Mug Diner!

A well-lit, inviting atmosphere adds to the ambiance at The Ugly Mug Diner.

The Ugly Mug Diner opened in 2014 while I was living in New Hampshire, or I would have tried it back then. I’m thrilled that this snow day allowed me the opportunity to check it out because this is definitely going to be my new breakfast spot. This diner, while cozy, is definitely not what I like to call a “dive bar diner”. You won’t find a dark, outdated environment or outdated menu items here!

The interior is very clean with a creative, quirky style of decor. If you look close enough in the photo above you can see that the lights over the counter are actually coffee pots! There were also cheese grater lights above our table. I absolutely loved this – what an excellent and unique idea. While not what I would call a rustic place, the multiple chalkboard menus added a touch of a homestyle feel. Near our seat I was delighted to see “pigography” by super talented and super sweet local photographer, Joey Phoenix. Retro 80s tunes played over the sound system, and the vibe in the diner was upbeat and friendly, yet relaxing.

You can’t help but smile at the adorable guinea pigs photographed by the talented Joey Phoenix. You can purchase these sweet scenes as well!

Now, for the best part: the eats. The Ugly Mug Diner is a far step ahead in my eyes in inspired diner food and beverage offerings. Sure, you could get plain pancakes and regular coffee here if you preferred, but with so many other standout menu options, I’m not certain you’d want to! It’s obvious that all involved in running this diner take pride in the food they serve. Their website describes it perfectly on the welcome page when it says, “We are a foodie haven, not a greasy spoon”.

One of the Ugly Mug menu pages, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch on the Benedict section!

An example of items on the sweeter side would be “The Elvis Waffle”, which includes peanut butter cup chunks, banana, bacon and whipped cream. Looking for something eggy? Perhaps try the Vegiluxe off of their “Deluxe Egg Sammiches” menu, which includes a fried egg, caramelized onions, Portobello, roasted tomato and roasted garlic goat cheese. If Benedict is your style, there are several options (hello Joe’s Fishprints Dueling Crustaceans benedict, I imagined to be named after the shop on Pickering Wharf). This section of the menu is complete with a photo of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the top.

There are also “Sammiches” and burger options sure to please the palate. Meat lovers will drool over The P.E.L.T., which includes  “bacon and pork belly confit in a double decker BLT with sriracha aioli on sourdough bread”. I could go on and on about the different mouthwatering combinations of food at The Ugly Mug Diner, but you can just check it all out yourself here.

Which winter drink special sounds most appealing to you?

We can’t forget about drinks, and drinks there certainly are here! I have never seen such a wide variety of drinks at a diner, and I think I’m in love. They even serve adult beverages, people! You want beer? Order it up! Even try a beer cocktail while you’re at it! (The High Life Lime Rickey sounds good to me.) Don’t whine about no wine here, because it’s on the menu. Mimosas? Of course!

If the morning isn’t quite your happy hour, perk up with one of the many caffeinated options. I’ll admit, I played the safe route because I was strongly craving a Chai Latte so that’s what I got, but it was very hard to pass up ordering something like their Salted Caramel Mocha or Nutella Latte. The Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate was also in the running for me. I didn’t regret the Chai Latte though, because it was actually a combo of their own Chai made in-house with tea from MEM tea in Watertown, MA.

The vast collection of ugly mugs at the aptly named diner is a delightful part of visiting!

Drinks are served to customers in random “ugly” mugs, of which I’ve heard come from a huge collection within the diner. One of my favorite parts of the experience was looking around to see all the crazy awesome mugs other patrons were sipping out of.  I definitely got an ugly mug as you can see – it has the name of a water treatment company from South Carolina on it. Nick’s mug is actually really cute, though. Who doesn’t love cartoon penguins in winter hats? Around the room, I also saw a mug with an image of the Beatles, and a funny-shaped one with the face of what seemed like a troll or a giant of some sort. I can’t wait for my next trip back to the diner just to see which mug I get next!

As for the meal, I couldn’t resist the sound of the Carrot Cake pancakes, which were written on the Specials chalkboard, complete with little carrot drawings next to it. I’m a sucker for anything adorable like that, so the deal was sealed for me.  I also got a scrambled egg on the side. Nick ordered the Western Omelet (sans avocado, which it usually comes with) and a Banana Nut muffin, which was also on the chalkboard, grilled up for warmth with butter on the side.

No words for the deliciousness of these Carrot Cake pancakes.

I don’t think I’ve ever had more enjoyable pancakes. The thought of Carrot Cake pancakes never even occurred to me. These were SO delicious, warm and soft with the scrumptious taste of carrot cake as if it was fresh from grandma’s kitchen. Sweet but not too much so, as the melty, sweet-tooth satisfying frosting provided that extra shot of sugary delight. There were actually carrot shavings on the side, so I tricked my mind into thinking, oh look! We’re even getting our vitamins today! I hope this is one special that returns again and again on the chalkboard.

Nick likes to put ketchup on everything…I’m not such a fan, but to each their own!

I know, I know, this is a horrible shot of Nick’s plate, but that’s because I was in a rush to take the first bite of those Carrot Cake pancakes 😉 As a side to his Western Omelet, Nick got a homefries mix, half regular and half sweet potato. I just had to try the sweet potato (love everything s.p.) and they were outstanding. I would take those over regular homefries any day, any time.

All too soon, it seemed like we had devoured our plates and our time at The Ugly Mug Diner came to a close as we geared up to head back out into the bitterly cold wind and snow. At least we would walk home (actually, to the bank first) full and satisfied! I’m already thinking ahead to my next visit to this delicious diner, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. After all, Ugly Mug won Editors’ Choice for Best Breakfast and Readers’ Choice for Best Brunch in Northshore Magazine’s Best of the North Shore 2015.

If you’re in the Salem, Massachusetts area, take some time to start your day out at The Ugly Mug Diner! Or, check it out for lunch. It’s open 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM every day. When you do go, let me know what mug you get in the comments 🙂

Featured: The Ugly Mug Diner – 122 Washington Street, Salem, MA, 978.745.MUGG (6844)

Date Night at Burton’s Grill Peabody

Hi everyone,

First, I want to apologize for the blogging hiatus! The past month has been crazy busy for me, but I’m ready to get back to the grindstone (the fun grindstone, that is) and start adventuring again around New England while sharing it all with you!

This past Friday, Nick and I wanted to have a date night (we have them a lot I suppose, but this time we decided to actually put a label on it). Nick had originally wanted a steak dinner, and while that’s not what he ended up ordering, we decided to go to Burton’s Grill on a recommendation, located at the Northshore Mall in Peabody, MA.

The bar at Burton's Grill

The bar at Burton’s Grill

So, Burton’s Grill isn’t exclusive to New England, but most of their locations are here, particularly in Massachusetts where you can find the restaurant in Peabody, Burlington, North Andover, Hingham, and Westford. In New Hampshire, it is located in Nashua, and in Connecticut, there is one in South Windsor.

A little scene from our table

We had made reservations through the website, so we barely had to wait when we got there. (I love when restaurants have the option to reserve online). We were luckily seated in a booth, which I prefer over tables, especially the ones that are super close to other patrons! The atmosphere had low lighting (so sorry about the photo quality) which one expects in a nice restaurant, and a contemporary vibe with nice furnishings. I didn’t feel at all like I was in the mall, although I could see stores from outside the door.

The *menu pricing is what we would expect to pay for a nicer night out. Compared to some of the places closer to the city where you might spend your entire rent on dinner, Burton’s is very reasonable, especially for us 20-somethings who really need to save!

My yummy Gingerbread Espresso Martini, complete with coffee beans

My tasty Gingerbread Espresso Martini, complete with coffee beans

We started with drinks and I decided to get a little festive by ordering the seasonal Gingerbread Espresso Martini. My friend Shiloh had been raving about Espresso martinis, and now I know why! It was so delicious, and almost like drinking a spiked ice coffee. It even had coffee beans in it.

We had been recommended by Nick’s co-worker to try the Philly Spring Rolls as an appetizer, so we did just that. Heavenly, like mini steak and cheese subs in the convenience of a spring roll. I could have eaten a thousand more. Okay, that may be excessive but you get the idea. We devoured them as soon as they arrived, and I forgot to take a picture. I told Nick the steak and cheese filling could compare to that of his favorite NH sub shop, Nadeau’s, but he told me (jokingly) to “watch your mouth” when I said that. Oops! We also had bread before the meal, and it came with a unique and tasty pesto-style dipping sauce.

The Pork Tenderloin entree in all its glory

For entrees, Nick actually ended up going with the Pork Tenderloin instead of steak. According to the menu, it came with “locally sourced pork, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetable (he got greenbeans), cider mustard jus, and cranberry chutney”. I tried a bite and it was very tender and flavorful. Not even a need for steak here!

It may seem like a small plate, but it was more than it looks! I had leftovers at the end.

I ordered the Pan Roasted Chicken which came with “locally sourced statler chicken breast, seasonal vegetable (I also got greenbeans), mashed potatoes, and cider au jus”. The chicken and all sides were the perfect meal for a winter’s night, juicy and perfectly seasoned. I had enough left over for lunch the next day too!

We were too full to order dessert, but I’m sure it would have been amazing. One thing to also keep in mind about Burton’s Grill is that it also has a *gluten sensitive menu, and a *vegetarian menu, so there really is something for everyone. It also has to be noted that the staff at this location was very attentive, and always made sure we were satisfied and had everything we needed. If you’re looking for a spot for your next date night and you live near any of the Burton’s locations listed, Nick and I recommend it!

Featured: Burton’s Grill – Northshore Mall, 210 Andover Street, Peabody, MA, 978.977.0600

*Side note: It seems, at least according to the website, that each location has its own menu, so be sure to check the locations page to find out the menu for the Burton’s Grill closest to you for accuracy.

Salem Fall Restaurant Week is Almost Here!

restaurant week logo

(Logo via Salem Restaurant Week Facebook page)

One of my favorite parts of living in Salem, Massachusetts is the abundance of culinary delights the city has to offer, and the roster is growing all the time. Although I dine out a lot, there are still many area restaurants that I have yet to try out. What better way to check some off of my list than during Salem Restaurant Week?

From Sunday, November 8th through Thursday, November 12 and Sunday, November 15 through Thursday, November 19, twenty-two of Salem’s restaurants will participate in the Fall Restaurant Week, giving customers the opportunity for a two-course prix-fixe dinner menu for $18, or a three-course prix-fixe dinner menu for $28 (not including drinks, taxes, or tips).

This is a can’t-miss chance to savor a variety of different cuisines at an affordable price. Also, talk about a fabulous date night plan! You are sure to leave stuffed. If there are restaurants you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t, this would be a perfect way to taste test the menu, and you might just come across a new place to frequent! I know that this is my goal for Restaurant Week, for sure. I find myself often drawn to the same spots, and I know that there are so many more I would love.

The list of participating restaurants is as follows:
A MANO Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria, Adriatic Restaurant & Bar, Aurora Vietnamese Cuisine & Wine Bar, Bambolina, Bella Verona, Black Lobster at Stromberg’s Cove, Brother’s Taverna, Finz Seafood & Grill, Firenze Trattoria, In a Pig’s Eye, Koto Grill, Life Alive Urban Oasis, Nathaniel’s at the Hawthorne Hotel, Naumkeag Ordinary, Opus, Regatta Pub, Sea Level Oyster Bar, Thai Place, Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall, Victoria Station & Vic’s Boathouse, Village Tavern Grill & Oyster Bar

Reservations are suggested; mention “Restaurant Week” when you make them. For more information, as well as to see the special menus for these restaurants as they are added, visit the Salem Chamber of Commerce website. See you out and about!

Weekend Recap: October 24-25

For the most part, I’d say we had a pretty lazy weekend. We live in Salem, Massachusetts which can get very chaotic this time of year during Haunted Happenings. I know how much fun it can all be as a tourist, and as a resident too, but sometimes as a local the crowds become too much to bear and we hibernate at home (no pun intended)! Essentially, this is what we did, enjoying the couch life and all the football watching the weekend brings. However, we did manage to make it out of the apartment a few times for some food (of course), drinks, and a tiny bit of sightseeing!

We didn’t do anything Friday night, so our first stop this weekend was on Saturday at lunchtime. We decided to go to Sylvan Street Grille in Peabody. I hadn’t been in a few years actually, and the last time I was supposed to go someone crashed into my car and I never made it. So, I was glad to finally revisit it this weekend!

I'm unsure who this patron is, but I wanted to capture a view of the bar and TVS

I’m unsure who this patron is, but I wanted to capture a view of the bar and some of the many TVs at Sylvan St. Grille

Sylvan Street Grille is a casual restaurant and bar with great service and a large, fulfilling menu for both food and drinks. They have many TVs in the bar, which were all playing various college football games. This was essentially Nick’s heaven, and I felt cozy here as well.  No need to get fancy, you can just come here to get some good drinks and food and have a fun time out. In fact, the motto on their website is “Eat, Drink and Chill at the Sylvan Street Grille”.

cranberry sangria

I started with the Cranberry Sangria from the specials of the day menu. Sangria is always one of my go-to’s and this one was pretty strong, but I’m a gal who likes to get her money’s worth, so I didn’t mind. Nick tried a Dogfish pumpkin ale, and he really enjoyed it as it was a strong beer with an unoffending level of pumpkin flavor. For lunch, I ordered the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad, which included grilled Teriyaki chicken breast, with sesame angel hair pasta, mixed greens, tomato, shredded carrots, crispy wantons and a homemade honey mustard sauce. I absolutely love these types of Asian salads with cold noodles, and I would definitely order this one again. Nick ordered a Chicken Parmesan sandwich and was very satisfied with his choice as well.

I had already dug into the salad when I took this photo...it did have a nice presentation before!

I had already dug into the salad when I took this photo…it did have a nice presentation before!

Nick's Chicken Parm sandwich, comfort food if you ask me

Nick’s Chicken Parm sandwich, comfort food if you ask me

I really wanted to try one of the delicious dessert options available on the Sylvan Street menu, but I didn’t know if I could stand any more food. I decided to combine my need for something sweet with a second drink order (I wasn’t driving). I chose the Blueberry Pie beer/cocktail combo of Wachusett blueberry ale with a shot of Absolut vanilla vodka (it might have been Pinnacle Whipped, I can’t find it on the online menu) and a graham cracker crust rim. With fresh blueberries inside, this combination was an incredible (and easily re-creatable at home!) palate-pleaser. The graham cracker crust was a sweet touch and the drink really did have the flavor of blueberry pie. YUM!

blueberry beer cocktail

While we didn’t do much after Sylvan Street Grille besides hang out at home and watch Halloween movies, we got out a bit on Sunday again. For more food, what else. I’ve started running again, so I don’t feel as terrible about all the food we consume, but when you love to try out restaurants, and combine that with writing about them, it becomes hard to not indulge!

Our initial idea on Sunday morning was to go to the Driftwood restaurant in Marblehead . I enjoy exploring other dining options in our surrounding towns here on the North Shore. However, upon arriving at the Driftwood, there was a pretty large group of people waiting outside and we weren’t sure if we were up for that. I figured this might happen, as I had read good reviews of the restaurant online before we left the house, so I don’t know why I didn’t just stay away if I wasn’t in the mood for crowds but alas. We kept driving through Old Town in Marblehead and came across some beautiful ocean views via the harbor, even though the morning was overcast. It made for a nice October effect over the landscape.

The view over Marblehead Harbor

The view across Marblehead Harbor

We walked a bit, admiring the seaside scenery. Then we got back in the car to meander through these historic neighborhoods as we headed back towards Salem. I had to make Nick stop so I could take a photo of one of my (many) dream houses that I come across here in coastal New England. The houses in this neighborhood are the epitome of classic New England, with many built in the early-mid 1700s, and one that was built in the 1660s! Imagine living there!

Marblehead house

The newest of my many New England dream houses…I love the classic red of these colonial homes, and the festive pumpkins across the door frame

At this point, I figured that we might as well try breakfast in Salem after all, and since I knew the Salem Diner was close to the Marblehead line, that’s where we headed. I hadn’t been there before, but had always seen it on my way to class as it sits in a vintage diner car right across from Salem State’s Central Campus. Luckily, it was around lunchtime by this point and we didn’t have a wait to sit down. I enjoyed the old diner car atmosphere and being around students. It brought me back to my college days, which are getting further and further into the past. When we looked at the menu, I noticed that it stated that the Salem Diner was run by Chartwells, which is the company that runs all the food programs at Salem State. Interesting! I had completely forgotten that the school purchased this diner early last year and reopened it.

The interior of the old diner car that is the Salem Diner

The interior of the old diner car that is the Salem Diner

Nick and I both ordered coffee and Western omelets, with ham, peppers and onions. I got cheddar cheese and Nick got American. The omelets came with home fries and your choice of toast. Home fries are a kryptonite of mine, and I think I ate more of those than I even ate of the omelet. In honesty, I wasn’t even that hungry while we were there so I only ate about half of my meal, but it was simple, classic breakfast fare and just what we needed at that moment.

After our meal at the Salem Diner we headed home again as Sunday is laundry and football day for us, as I’m sure it is for many of you! We were able to get out once more later that day, because temperatures were in the 60s and a nice walk was a necessity. We strolled around the Derby Wharf to Pickering Wharf area and made a pit stop into Jaho Coffee & Tea for a couple lattes (read my rave review of Jaho here). Granted, it was 6:00pm but I needed a pick-me-up, and I had gone to bed early the past couple of nights anyway. I ordered a French Toast latte, which has become my new favorite flavor there, and Nick ordered a Pumpkin Spice latte. (Yes, as you may have noticed, he’s very down with the pumpkin spice craze.) I also ordered an apple cider donut, well, because I clearly didn’t need it but…fall. And my sweet tooth dominates my life.

latte and donut

On our walk back, we admired the pumpkins and Halloween decorations that can be found everywhere around our neighborhood because this is Salem, Massachusetts, after all – Halloween capital of the U.S.!

A blurry photo from Nick's phone, but as Nick said, I look overly excited to see pumpkins everywhere...well yes, because I love fall!

A blurry photo from Nick’s phone, but as Nick said, I look overly excited to see pumpkins everywhere…well yes, because I love fall!

I also took a picture of another dreamy antique house, The Daniels House. Built in 1667, this house is now a bed and breakfast. I think this would be a wonderful place to stay for any history buffs who come to visit Salem and want to fully immerse themselves in its old charm!

salem house

Later on, the night was capped off by another yet walk because as crazy as this city can get this time of year, it’s home now and there is no more beautiful place in my eyes. I will always be able to see why so many people choose to make it a must-visit destination on their October itinerary, and year-round as well. That’s how I first discovered it, years ago as a tourist with my family.  Happy Halloween Week!

Featured:
Sylvan Street Grille – 12 Sylvan Street, Peabody, MA, 978.774.1724 (also a location at 195 Elm St. in Salisbury, MA)
Salem Diner – 70 Loring Avenue, Salem, MA
Jaho Coffee & Tea – 197 Derby Street, Salem, MA, 978.744.4300 (also located at 1651 Washington St. in Boston’s South End, and a coffee roaster and wine bar location at 665 Washington St. in Boston)

Apple Cider, a New England Favorite (with a twist)

You can usually find me out and about exploring New England, but sometimes I enjoy staying home in the comfort of my cozy apartment, especially when it’s chilly out. I’m no pro, but I do like to experiment in the kitchen a lot these days now that I finally have a live-in taste tester, a.k.a. my boyfriend!

Last night, Nick and I were hanging out at home when I opened my fridge to a gallon of apple cider I had purchased a couple days before. I thought, what better way to warm up on a cold New England night than with some hot apple cider with a twist?

The only liquor I had on hand was a bottle of white wine, so I set out to explore the internet and see what I could find in combining the two. I found a great recipe for “Hot Spiced Drunken Apple Cider” on Food52.com, but realized I didn’t have all the ingredients. I refused to give up on my idea, however! I just decided to go with an adaptation of this recipe based on what I did have.

The ingredients (after I started using them!)

The ingredients (after I started using them!)

The ingredients I ended up using were:

  • 1/2 gallon of apple cider (per the Food52 recipe)
  • 3/4 bottle of white wine (per the Food52 recipe…they suggest a semi- sweet white wine or one that’s not overly dry – all I had was Cupcake Angel Food and it worked for me!)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon (the original recipe calls 4-5 sticks of cinnamon, but I only had ground…1/2 teaspoon is about equal to one stick, so says the internet)
  • 3 tablespoons of honey (per the Food52 recipe)

Step One of the recipe is to add the cider and spices in a pot and bring to a boil. So, I added the cider and cinnamon, stirred it up, and set the burner on. I felt like it was starting to burn a bit, and because I used ground cinnamon it was developing a coating, so I didn’t bring it to a full boil but close enough. I am meticulous in most aspects of my life, but oddly when it comes to the kitchen, I sometimes stray from being exact.

apple cider in pot 2

The next step was to reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes, which I did. I originally added a little too much cinnamon and it kept building a layer (don’t worry, I’ve altered the ingredients above to be correct if you’re using ground cinnamon like I was). However, upon tasting, it seemed fine so sometimes mistakes aren’t so terrible!

The third step was to add the wine while the concoction was on low heat. The recipe said to just continue letting it simmer afterwards, so as not to let the alcohol evaporate. I let it simmer for a few minutes when the craving and delicious scent of the cider and wine mulling was just too much to not imbibe right then and there.

pouring wine 2

I filled up Nick’s glass first in an initial mug I had gotten him at Michael’s craft store, and added a Halloween colored straw for the final touch. He absolutely loved this drink, and I must say, so did I!

last one

Although I didn’t have all of the correct ingredients, it still tasted amazing and warmed our hands, tummies, and souls on that cold autumn night. This goes to show, if you are dead set on cooking something up, even if you don’t have all the right ingredients (within reason), there can be ways to work around it and make something delicious! I often find this is the case for me, and I’ve never been disappointed with my version of things. Cheers!

Original recipe found on Food52.com, created by member Cordelia, titled “Hot Spiced Drunken Apple Cider

A Fun Fall Night at the Black Cow Tap & Grill

Saturday was a chilly, windy day here in Massachusetts and the threat of rain loomed. While it didn’t actually rain, it was not the greatest day to do any outdoor activities so we hunkered down inside watching football. However, it was the weekend, and it’s no fun to just sit inside the apartment the whole day. We decided to step out into society and try to find a place around that we hadn’t been to for a drink, some light food, and college football watching.

My mind drifted to the Black Cow Tap & Grill in Hamilton, MA (there is also one in Newburyport). I had heard good things about the restaurant and had wanted to try it, but it’s one of those things that just always seemed to slip my mind.  I’m really glad we had time on our hands and the idea to visit a different town because I think this will be one of my new favorite stops!

bch wall

We arrived around 4:00pm, that awkward time between lunch and dinner on the weekends, so it wasn’t very busy at all when we got there. We found a couple of seats at the bar and looked around admirably. I absolutely loved the ambiance of the restaurant – it featured a rich, dark color scheme, and industrial touches with almost a vintage side, such as the exposed wood beam ceilings with visible ductwork painted black. The brick walls made it feel loft-like, and there was a triple-shelved wine rack that would make all my dreams complete if it were in my home. The bar was large and fully stocked, with what seemed like endless beer taps, and offered three big screen TVs facing each angle.

bar and tvs

We were given drink and food menus and set to work deciding what we wanted. Unfortunately, the Black Cow website menus hadn’t been changed to match those actually in the restaurants, so the drink I had gotten excited about online was sadly a no-go (an apple cider hot toddy style beverage). I chose to go with the Blueberry Vojito instead. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with a cocktail that includes blueberries, simple syrup, club soda, and mint. Nick got Tuckerman’s Pale Ale, one of his favorite beers. The great thing about Tuckerman’s is that it’s New England-based, right in Conway, NH!

blueberry vojito

Eventually, we got a little hungry and wanted to split something. I have an obsession with margherita pizza and saw that they had one on the menu which included prosciutto. I needed to try that for sure! It was absolutely delicious and we finished it in no time. The prosciutto added a more flavorful touch to what it usually a meatless pizza, and the mozzarella and tomatoes were so fresh.

pizza

I ended up ordering a beer called “Roadsmary’s Baby” made by Two Roads Brewing Company, also out of New England (Connecticut to be exact). It was a pumpkin ale that I’d never tried before, but it was rich and strong, with 6.8% ABV. I know a lot of people who turn their noses up at the pumpkin kinds, but I think Roadsmary’s Baby would satisfy even those picky beer drinkers. It’s not too overwhelming with pumpkin flavor, but is perfect for a harvest season. And I dare you to try not to call it Rosemary’s Baby like the movie…I accidentally ordered it that way, and the bartender said everyone seems to make that mistake!

roadsmarys baby

My Galaxy phone isn’t the best at taking high quality beer photos…but I try.

Once we were getting ready to leave a little before 6pm, the Black Cow had turned into a packed house. There were no more seats left at the bar and it seemed like every table was filled. The patrons seemed to be comprised mostly of adult couples or families, as well as some individuals at the bar. There was a friendly and upbeat atmosphere and even though it was busy, it didn’t feel overwhelming. We got to chatting with a few people at the bar, one in particular named Steven who was a great match for Nick to talk to all about football, as I was no help in making conversation in that area!

I loved the decor at the Black Cow.

I loved the decor at the Black Cow.

We were having such a great time at the Black Cow that we almost didn’t want to leave. It just has that jovial vibe, friendly staff, pleasant customers and trendy surroundings. We only live a couple towns away, so I know we will be back sooner rather than later to try some more delicious drinks and menu items…umm, Fall Harvest Ravioli? Beer Can Chicken? Yes, please. Those are next on my list. If you find yourself in the Hamilton, MA area, the Black Cow Tap & Grill is a must-visit!

Featured:
Black Cow Tap & Grill Hamilton – 16 Bay Road, Hamilton, MA, 978.468.1166
(also located in Newburyport, MA at 5R Merrimac Street)

Portland Part 2

The other day, I posted about our trip to Portland, Maine for our 2nd anniversary – click here to read about our first night! Today I’ll be sharing all the details of our second fun-filled night in this beautiful coastal city.

breakfast

We had a little too much fun at Top of the East the night before, so we wanted to start our day off with a hearty pick-me-up. After doing some research into top breakfast spots around Portland, we chose The Front Room on Congress Street. It had a cute country, rustic vibe to the atmosphere, and I thoroughly enjoyed my 3-egg omelet with ham, peppers, and cheddar cheese with a side of homefries. I must say, I also enjoyed the mimosa selection, and my apple cider mimosa…a little hair of the dog, as they say!

view from hill

After a filling breakfast, we headed toward Fort Allen Park which has the most beautiful views of Casco Bay. As you can see above, the view from the top of the hill was as pretty as a painting, and of course, even nicer in person!

path

Once down the hill, you can admire the views from close up as you walk along the Eastern Promenade Trail. We took this path all the way into downtown, seeing some interesting sights on the way.

train

We were passed (and I was scared by) a honking train, filled with tourists, as it made its way down tracks beside us.

Portland is a destination for many luxury cruise ships as they travel up to Canadian waters. We spotted a massive ship docked in the bay alongside where we were walking. I’m sure this generates quite a bit in tourism money for the city.

Is this not the cutest little guy you’ve ever seen? Once we arrived closer to the downtown, there was a farmers’ market of sorts going on near the path. I saw this little goat and just had to take a picture. His name is Rumplestiltskin and he is a dwarf goat who lives at Sylvan Woods Farm in Poland, Maine. Two people from the farm were there with him, selling goat’s milk soaps and products (great for the skin!) and let me grab a picture. I can see a dwarf goat as a pet in my future…

donut sign

When we first arrived downtown, I was craving ice cream, but the place we stopped into was cash only, which we didn’t have. It was then that fate intervened and I remembered being recommended to visit The Holy Donut, a glorious donut shop in Old Port that makes their donuts with real Maine potato. So it was there we headed! We arrived just in time, as a long line formed behind us once we were inside this heavenly scented shop. However, it was run like clockwork and the line kept moving.

As we got closer to the counter, we were under the gun to choose a flavor, so I went with Sea Salt Dark Chocolate and Nick chose Maine Blueberry. We were extremely glad that we ran out of cash and remembered The Holy Donut recommendation! We would have missed out on a wonderful treat otherwise.

After satisfying the sweet tooth, we decided to grab a drink at Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub. They had a nice selection of their own craft beers, and I went with the Halloween Ale while Nick chose the Best Bitter Ale. It was a welcoming spot to grab a lunchtime pint, perfectly brewed.

grittys

I wasn’t hungry while we were at Gritty McDuff’s but I was afterwards once we did some more walking around, of course! It was then that we stopped into Old Port Tavern. To my good fortune, they had Haddock Chowder on the menu, which I had been thinking about since my first time trying it the night before. I never find haddock chowder anywhere else so I thought, might as well maximize my ability to get it while I can!

haddock chowder 2

The decor and feel of Old Port Tavern was under-the-sea nautical themed, and it seemed like a place where you can watch a big game, have some fun-loving chatter with the people around you, and grab a good drink and some chow.

bar

We did some souvenir shopping following our stop at Old Port Tavern, and Nick bought a sweatshirt to keep warm because we were about to board for a Sunset Lighthouse Cruise with Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours! We arrived early to get in line for better seats and we were able to sit in the front row of the top of the boat, close to the tour guide and captain’s quarters.

We embarked on a beautiful journey to learn more about Portland and all its coastal scenery and history. It was a fun tour and I learned so much more about the area, thanks to our great guide and captain. We were even able to spot some animal life, including a couple of adorable seals on rocks! Oh, and having a bar on the boat was nice too 😉  I captured a few nice views below before my phone sadly died or I would have posted more lighthouse-related pictures!

tour 1

tour 2

Nick caught this up-close shot of one of the lighthouses we learned about on our tour. A family of, I believe, nine used to live here. Can you imagine raising that large of a family at a lighthouse? It would be a life unlike no other, I’d imagine!

other lighthouse

A word of advice if you ever take this cruise: BRING WARM CLOTHES. I can’t stress that enough. Although it was a warm day, it was MUCH colder out there on the water. I thought I was prepared with a jacket, but a jean jacket didn’t cut it! Other than that, I had a wonderful time aboard.

After getting off the boat and getting our land legs back, we headed out in search of somewhere to have dinner in the city. We walked around and around until we agreed upon a meal on the pretty patio of Timber Steakhouse and Rotisserie.

timber sign

The drink menu was large, with many flavorful cocktails and an excellent wine selection, but unfortunately I was all cocktailed/beer’d out for the night and stuck to water. Instead, I focused on the food and ordered Cornbread Fritters for an appetizer and Slow Roasted 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken with a side of mashed potatoes for the main course.

The Cornbread Fritters were a great choice for an appetizer, not too filling but good enough to share between the two of us with a yummy spicy remoulade to go with them. I love rotisserie chicken any night of the week, and this one was especially tasty as it was, according to the menu, “brined in maple bourbon, rosemary and garlic for 24 hours then slowly roasted to perfection”. Nick ordered the Hard Apple Cider Glazed Baby Back Ribs from the appetizer menu for his main meal and devoured it. I tried a bite as well, and it was certainly satisfying.

Unfortunately, my phone was long dead at this point so I couldn’t take any pictures of our meal. Just know, it was worth the argument we got into trying to decide upon what we wanted for dinner before we came across Timber! This was mainly because we hadn’t set out with a plan (my fault) and didn’t make reservations anywhere so waits were very long. Luckily, Timber had a nice big patio  aside of indoor seating, so we were able to be seated instantly there and it all worked out nicely.

nick and i

We were so tired out from all the activity (and hearty food and libations) of the past two days that following dinner, we called it a night and took a cab back to the hotel where we promptly fell asleep before 11pm. When we woke up the next day, it was raining out so we thought it best to head home and get back to our regular lives. I’ll always remember what fun we had on our first trip to Portland, and I’m already looking forward to the next time we can make a trip back to try out even more of the top-notch  restaurants and coastal excitement that this awesome city has to offer!

Featured:
The Front Room – 73 Congress Street, Portland, ME, 207.773.3366
Sylvan Woods Farm –  207.330.8368
The Holy Donut – (2 locations) 194 Park Ave. and 7 Exchange St., Portland, ME
Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub Portland – 396 Fore Street, Portland, ME, 207.772.BREW
 The Old Port Tavern – 11 Moulton Street, Portland, ME, 207.774.7016
Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours – Long Wharf, Portland, ME, 207.774.0808
Timber Steakhouse and Rotisserie – 106 Exchange Street, Portland, ME, 207.805.1469

Portland Part 1

A classic coastal New England streetscape can be found in Old Port

Classic coastal New England streetscapes can be found in Old Port and all across the city

Recently, Nick and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary. I can’t believe it’s only been two years! Most of the time it feels like I’ve known him my whole life. We love going to Maine to celebrate special occasions like this together. This time, we decided to spend a weekend in Portland. I’d never been before, and was excited to experience this coastal New England city that I’d heard such rave reviews about.

Let me tell you – if you’re looking for anywhere to do a culinary or bar tour of in New England, Portland is  a MUST visit.  Everywhere you turn there is a restaurant, bar, or other food or sweets shop. I’d heard tell of this from friends when I asked for recommendations of what to do in the city, as well as from our various cab drivers. I’m not ashamed to admit that most of our time is occupied with thinking about food, making it, or going out to restaurants and bars. There are just so many options these days! So, when we arrived in Maine, checked into our hotel in Scarborough (it saved a lot of money to stay outside of the city), and got dropped off in Old Port at dinnertime, finding something to chow down on was first on my list.

We walked around Old Port, a bustling and historic part of Portland, looking in windows and doorways of numerous bars, restaurants and shops – it was slightly daunting! When faced with too many choices, I sometimes begin to withdraw. Decision making is not my forte! We chose to just continue walking around to view more of the city. We ended up in the eclectic Arts District. People-watching in this area was top notch! We kept on the hunt for somewhere to grab a drink and eat, and finally settled on Congress Bar and Grill because they had tables and chairs on the sidewalk and we wanted to eat outside.

congress menus

Our waitress, Jen I believe, was incredibly friendly and welcomed us to the city. My day was absolutely made when I saw Haddock Chowder on the menu. If you’ve followed the blog, you may know that I’m allergic to a majority of shellfish and can’t have clam chowder. Living in New England my whole life, this is something that has haunted me. I’ve longed for that seafood taste in the comfort of a chowder, but always had to settle for something else as clam chowder was usually the only offering. However, not here! The Haddock Chowder was heavenly and all the feelings of being left out of the seafood chowder club instantly melted away. I could have eaten ten bowls of this stuff, never mind the tasty grilled biscuits it came with!

I could eat this haddock chowder every day for life and be happy

I could eat this haddock chowder every day for life and be happy

As for drinks, I had the Strawberry Vodka Lemonade, which included Svedka vodka and lemonade with house infused Grand Marnier strawberry purée. The purée really added a nice, fresh touch to this already yummy cocktail.

strawberry vodka

Jen, the waitress, recommended if we wanted to continue getting drinks after leaving Congress, we should head to Top of the East, on the last floor of the Westin Hotel down the street. That sounded like a great idea to us, so we headed over there after paying the bill.

If you ever visit Portland, take my word when I say you cannot leave before having a drink (or two, or three…) at Top of the East. After taking the elevator to the top floor and walking up some stairs, we entered a beautiful, elegant lounge with floor to ceiling glass windows on all sides, providing the best sunset views of Portland that we could imagine finding indoors.

Unfortunately, pictures from my Galaxy were unable to effectively capture the view from the top - but trust me, it was a sight to see!

Unfortunately, pictures from my Galaxy phone were unable to effectively capture the view from the top – but trust me, it was a sight to see!

The bartender that night, Jaren, hails from Miami and was fantastic at his job. We would sit just watching him mix drinks with flair, and he was so outgoing as well.  I wanted one of the non-alcoholic drinks (called Temperance Cocktails here), but with alcohol of course, so Jaren added gin and it quickly became my new favorite. I can’t remember the exact name of the drink (it looks like their online menu has been updated in the past week to reflect newer autumn cocktails) but I know it had Maine blueberries in, that’s for sure, and I believe it had mint as well.

blueberry cocktail

For the most part, Nick stuck to Allagash beer, which is brewed right in Portland. We had the best time just enjoying the luxurious yet upbeat atmosphere of Top of the East and the company and chatter of the bartenders and barbacks. It felt like we were there for hours, and we probably were. Everyone we had interacted with thus far in Portland was really friendly and inviting. It made us feel at home there.

top of the east

Cool lights add a relaxing ambience to the lounge as Jaren, the bartender, mixes up a cocktail in the bottom right

We rounded out the evening by splitting a margarita, another masterfully made drink by Jaren. We then took an Uber back to our hotel, although I wished we were staying at the Westin! Maybe next time when we have just a bit more money to spend 🙂

Overall our first night in Portland was a success, and we didn’t even have to visit a hundred places to be happy. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming visiting a new area because you feel like you have to fit every single activity and must-see place in at once. But, if you’re having a great time right where you are, why rush it? That’s what we learned from this mini-vacation. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Featured:
Congress Bar and Grill – 617 Congress Street, Portland, ME, 207.828.9944
Top of the East – 157 High Street, Portland, ME, 207.775.5411