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!


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

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!

An Outstanding Lunch at Sea Level Oyster Bar

outside restaurant

The other weekend, Nick and I were finally able to experience Salem’s newest and very rave-reviewed restaurant, Sea Level Oyster Bar. I had been seeing so many social media posts from friends and other businesses in the Salem area featuring their amazing drinks and meals from Sea Level, and I could not wait to try it out. It certainly lived up to all the hype!

Customers use this handy paper to order their oysters.

We went on Memorial Day, so it was busy as expected but there was plenty of room because there is an upstairs and a downstairs. We chose to sit downstairs and were led to a table by a window overlooking the beautiful Derby Wharf and the majestic historic ship, The Friendship. Although our area wasn’t directly open to the outdoors, the upstairs of the restaurant and certain areas of the downstairs are, and the whole space was very open and inviting. I wish I’d gotten more interior shots, but I was so focused on the mouthwatering food surrounding me as you will see…

Even on cloudy days, the view is pretty.

The view is pretty even on cloudy days.

Our table was covered by a large white paper cloth, and our waitress wrote her name on it when she introduced herself which I thought was a great idea. Nick started with a bowl of the New England Clam Chowder and he was an instant fan, saying it was some of the best chowder he ever had. When he got up from the table for a minute, he even told me to make sure the last bites left in the bowl weren’t taken away by the waitress!

I started out with a drink recommended to me by Joe Keefe, the General Manager of Sea Level Oyster Bar. The drink is called the Strawberry and Basil Shrub, and it was honestly one of the most unique tasting drinks I have ever had – I loved it! I wasn’t sure how I was going to like the basil aspect, but it really added a refreshing and tastebud-enticing flavor to the cocktail. This drink is definitely a must on a hot summer day while you relax overlooking the great views offered at Sea Level.


Sea Level Oyster Bar offers many more options than seafood for those like me who are allergic to shellfish. For my meal, I ordered the Grilled Cheese, but this was no ordinary Grilled Cheese. This version came with Red Dragon and cheddar cheese, ale mustard, apples, and bacon on grilled Texas toast. The texture of the apples, bacon, and cheese were a wonderful combination. The ale mustard really took the sandwich to another level. I’m not even a mustard gal, but I would like to purchase a bottle of this stuff!

A much more grown-up grilled cheese, with a side of house made chips!

A much more grown-up grilled cheese, with a side of house made chips!

Nick ordered the So Cal Chicken Sandwich, which features grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar, avocado, lettuce, and tomato on grilled Texas toast. He was very satisfied with his choice, and I had a bite as well. You can never go wrong with grilled chicken, avocado and bacon!

Because we wanted the full experience, we decided to take a look at the dessert menu. In an act I’d never seen at a restaurant before, the waitress came over and stamped the dessert menu onto our paper tablecloth. What a unique idea!

We chose the Salted Caramel Cookie Pie with vanilla ice cream on top – so decadent, so delicious. A group at the table near us even ordered the same dessert because they looked over and saw us eating ours in delight. Salty and sweet is one of my favorite flavor combos.

At the end of our meal, our bellies were more than full and our spirits were up. Eating food clearly made with care and detail and having the tastiest of drinks while overlooking the gorgeous views of Salem, Massachusetts is an experience I highly recommend. Sea Level Oyster Bar absolutely deserves all the praise it has been getting since its opening. Here’s to many more successful years of business!

Sea Level Oyster Bar – 94 Wharf Street, Salem, MA, 978.741.0555

Becoming a Boston Tastemaker

Check out the Tastemade app today!

Check out the Tastemade app today!

Recently, I’ve been very involved in a project that I’m really excited to share with you guys today! I scored the opportunity to become a Tastemaker for Tastemade, an incredible app which allows food lovers around the country to create their own videos (called “appisodes”) showcasing their favorite restaurants.

Tastemade’s motto is “Raves Not Reviews”, which means that featured restaurants are verified amazing in every facet by whoever films them. The app allows you to edit your clips and choose from a variety of fun music and pretty intro fonts for each video, so even if you’re an amateur at creating videos, you can learn to use Tastemade with ease!

Tastemade is now launching in cities around the U.S. and around the world, and I’ve been involved in the Boston launch. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve visited some of the top restaurants in Boston and raved about them through my Tastemade appisodes. It’s been an incredible experience to make super fun videos and promote great local restaurants, all while enjoying the most delicious food around the area. I really have to give a shout out to Nick, who’s accompanied me to all the spots I’ve hit thus far. He’s been such a good sport about constantly being asked to eat food on camera through multiple takes, of which there have been many!

While Tastemade is an app, they also have a website where you can check out all the videos and restaurants featured in the Boston area. If you happen to live in another part of the country, you can check out your specific area as well.

To see all of my Tastemade appisodes, you can check out my personal Tastemade page for the low down on restaurants like Boston Beer Works, Big Daddy’s Pizza and Sub Shop, Crema Cafe, Strega Waterfront and more, directly from me to you!

The Tastemade takeover in Boston is just beginning. To all my readers in the city, you can become a Tastemaker too! Just download Tastemade and join in the fun along with us! All you need to have is a passion for local food and a phone, and let the possibilities of awesome appisodes unleash. I look forward to seeing you on Tastemade, and make sure to follow me there at @Lindsey_Paige because there will be many more appisodes to come!

Comfort Food for a Chilly Night at the Homestead


I haven’t often been to the Merrimack, NH area lately, but last weekend Nick and I just so happened to be and decided to spend time visiting a new restaurant (new to us anyway). We settled on The Homestead Restaurant & Tavern off of D.W. Highway after we remembered hearing good things about it. I was excited to give it a shot!

As you may know from other posts, I am a history buff and was thrilled to learn that the building which houses the Homestead was built in the 1700s, one of my favorite time periods. As we walked in the door, I instantly knew that this would be a cozy New England dinner based on the atmosphere. The space was decorated with classic decor such as bookshelves, painted pictures and old fashioned wagon wheels. It was quiet in the background of the restaurant, although there were plenty of diners chattering away.


These tables were all full when we got there – we took our time eating!

After being seated instantly upon walking in (bonus points, although we did come in a bit late),  Nick and I were greeted by our server Erin, who was very friendly and knowledgeable of the menu. Starting with drinks, Nick ordered the locally brewed Auburn ale from the Able Ebenezer Brewing Company, also out of Merrimack, and I ordered the red house sangria. I always have to go with that option when I see it on a drink menu! Normally I prefer a glass of white wine to red, but I’m the opposite with my sangria. Nick was very satisfied with his beer and was happy to support a local brewery, while I was on cloud nine with my sangria. I’ve had some less than stellar versions at other restaurants, but that was happily not the case at the Homestead!


Pre-dinner, we were given two kinds of bread – tasty rolls and an absolutely delicious zucchini bread. I almost filled myself up on that alone! For an entree I was in the mood for warm comfort food, what with all the snow and ice just outside the window. I substituted my rice pilaf side for sweet potato fries, which is another menu item I can’t pass up anywhere. Nick’s favorite meal is shepherd’s pie, and the Homestead has a winter special called Rib-Eye Shepherd’s Pie – two of his favorites in one! Of course that’s what he had to order.

Shepherd's Pie with steak - you can't go wrong ordering that!

Shepherd’s pie with rib eye – you can’t go wrong ordering this!

The food took a bit to come out, which is always a positive thing in the dining world as you know what you are about to get is truly fresh. Sure enough, my chicken pot pie was just as good as Mom’s, with hearty pieces of chicken and veggies in a delicious cream sauce topped with freshly baked flaky puff pastry. Nick feasted on his mouthwatering Rib-Eye Shepherd’s Pie and polished it all off. He added ketchup which I think detracts from the flavors of the meal, but he and our server chatted agreed that they both love doing so with their food! The sweet potato fries certainly tasted homemade, with the perfect texture. I may not like to add ketchup to other foods, but I certainly smother my fries with it!

Chicken pot pie perfection

Chicken pot pie perfection

After eating so much we thought we wouldn’t be able to stand up, Nick and I passed on dessert but didn’t want to leave yet. We felt coffee was in order, but not just any coffee. We wanted to go the Irish way and add a bit of liquor – hey, it was Friday night after all! Erin, our server, suggested her favorite spiked coffee choice, made with Bailey’s and Kahlua. After tasting it, we were so thankful for her input. I wish I could have coffee like that all the time, but I guess I should save it for the weekends 🙂

After a long time spent savoring our drinks, meals and coffee, it was time for the restaurant to close and for us to head on home. I think we may have waddled as we walked out the door! That’s how you know it was a dining experience done right. If you’re looking for a calm, comfy place where you can take your time dining, enjoy wonderful service and relax in a cozy, classic place to stay out of the New Hampshire cold, I would definitely recommend The Homestead in Merrimack!


The Homestead Restaurant & Tavern – 642 D.W. Highway, Merrimack, NH, 603.429.2022 (also a location in Bristol, NH)

Winter Wine Spectacular 2015

On Thursday, we at, New England State of Mind and Mike Lowe Media had the pleasure of attending the Easter Seals Winter Wine Spectacular at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. Easter Seals is a wonderful non-profit organization dedicated to providing a number of services, advocacy and outreach to those living with autism and other disabilities. It was amazing to be able to support such a significant organization while enjoying the greatest wines from near and far and signature dishes from local restaurants.


Mike Lowe of Mike Lowe Media and I ready to taste test!

We arrived early, and there was already a line. Lots of people were ready to get their wine on! After grabbing our glasses we were able to meet up with Christine Pederson, Director of Events and Corporate Relations for Easter Seals. She showed us inside the tasting room and we were off and running.

The first stop Mike and I made actually wasn’t for wine, but for food sampling at the Tuscan Kitchen table where we tried fresh, homemade bread with an olive oil dipping sauce. We even got a free take-home loaf! Tuscan Kitchen is focused on crafting from-scratch, artisan dishes, breads and desserts with the true flavors of Italy. You can find the restaurant in two locations, Salem, NH and Burlington, MA. Alongside each of these, customers can also find the Tuscan Market, where pastas, breads, pastries and more are made fresh and able for purchase, along with prepared foods and an extensive selection of Italian wines.

The Tuscan Kitchen men smile for the camera, surrounded by their delicious bread

The Tuscan Kitchen men smile for the camera, surrounded by their delicious bread

After filling up on bread, we made our way over to the Jewell Towne Vineyards table for our first tasting of wine. Jewell Towne Vineyards is New Hampshire’s oldest winery, located in South Hampton. There were a number of options to try, but we decided to go for the Seyval, a white wine with notes of nectarine and passion fruit. It was light and crisp, a perfect choice to start our tasting with!

Jewell Towne Vineyards, the oldest winery in NH

Jewell Towne Vineyards, the oldest winery in NH

As we continued moving (albeit quite slowly, as the event was jam-packed!) we came across another New Hampshire based winery, Candia Vineyards. What intrigued us most about the wine at this table were the thinner bottles made of frosted glass, with eye-catching labels, featuring names like Black Ice and Ice Storm. We just had to try Black Ice, as it was a dessert wine with a color so unique in itself. And the flavor? Unlike any wine I’ve ever tasted before! It was such a rich flavor, yet sweet at the same time, that it’s honestly hard to describe. It’s no wonder that Black Ice holds the title of New Hampshire’s only world-ranked label. If you try it, you won’t soon forget it!

The table next to Candia Vineyards featured students from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) cooking up a storm. SNHU has a lovely student-run restaurant called The Quill where student chefs create exquisite dinners and lunches, and are able to be involved in every aspect of running a restaurant, including serving and interacting with guests.

The Quill at SNHU's student-chefs

The Quill at SNHU’s student chefs

For the wine event, students were hard at work cooking delicious samplings of some of The Quill’s menu offerings. We decided to try the Brûléed Cornbread and my tastebuds sang. The torch had given it a smoky flavor, which combined with the zesty sauces on the side and on top and the complementary flavor of the cream produced an appetizer that was perfect for wine pairing. I enjoyed supporting SNHU as well, because my younger sister is a student there.

The gourmet bruleed cornbread made by The Quill chefs

The gourmet cornbread made by The Quill chefs. Photo credit: Mike Lowe

After circling around the busy downstairs some more, we decided to head to the second floor and see what wines and foods abounded there. I spotted a table for Zorvino Vineyards, based out of Sandown, NH, which was exciting because I had tried their wines before and was a fan. They have a delicious selection of fruit wines among their whites and reds, and I was delighted to see they were offering their Strawberriez wine for the event. I’d once gotten snowed in with only my friends and a bottle of Strawberriez and it had hit the spot.

Zorvino Vineyards representing at the Wine Spectacular!

Zorvino Vineyards representing at the Wine Spectacular!

As I received my sample and relished in the flavor, Mike tried it for the first time and was instantly hooked. I have a massive sweet tooth, and love the flavors of fruit based wines. We also tried their Pearz flavor (notice the “z” on the ends of the names, to go along with Zorvino Vineyards), and it was so light and sweet as well, true to its pear taste.

Our next stop was at the La Belle Winery table, a winery located in Amherst, NH and a favorite amongst my friends. They have gone on tours and tastings there before, but I shockingly haven’t. After talking with the fabulous woman of La Belle, I will certainly be doing that sooner rather than later. Be on the lookout for a post! At the event, we tasted their cranberry wine, slightly sweet and tart just like its namesake, and made with Cape Cod cranberries. There were many other options at the La Belle Winery table that sounded amazing, but we had a lot of ground to cover and continued on.

The ladies of La Belle Winery

The ladies of La Belle Winery

We ventured across the room towards the Moonlight Meadery table. Moonlight had been at another event alongside iHeartDining, and Mike raved about their selection. I had read about Moonlight Meadery, based out of Londonderry, NH, but had yet to try their meads. Mead is a wine made with honey, which gives it a varying level of sweet yet powerful and original flavor.

The many meads of Moonlight

The many meads of Moonlight

The first mead we tried was Wild, made with mountain blueberries. The Wild is a dry mead, packed full of blueberry and honey goodness. The rep at the table then had me try an entirely different kind and one of the most popular, Kurt’s Apple Pie. This mead was literally like a slice of apple pie in a glass, a most divine dessert wine. Made with apple cider from Sunnycrest Farms, also in Londonderry, and wordly ingredients including Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon spice, you can’t go wrong with a glass (or rather a bottle!) of Kurt’s Apple Pie.

Just a few feet away,  Ipswich Clambake of Manchester, iHeartDining’s newest featured restaurant, was serving up their famous clam chowder and renowned seafood stuffing to a bustling crowd of tasters. I heard people exclaiming out loud as they ate the stuffing how delicious it was, and knew I had to give it a whirl. One word – AMAZING. Made with scallops, shrimps, and panko breading among other ingredients, this seafood stuffing was as fresh and palate-pleasing as it gets.

The Ipswich guys and their famous clam chowder!

The Ipswich guys and their famous clam chowder! Photo credit: Mike Lowe

Across the room, Tek-Nique of Bedford was also serving up a seafood sampler, Smoke Salmon Tartar. I love salmon but had never had it in this way – cured with salt and sugar and smoked. Combined with pumpernickel and red beets, this appetizer was a pleasing blend of taste and textures, and I certainly plan on visiting Tek-Nique and ordering up some more.

Smoke Salmon Tartar from Tek-Nique

Smoke Salmon Tartar from Tek-Nique. Photo credit: Mike Lowe

We headed back to the first floor where we continue with our food sampling as we stopped at the Firefly Bistro table. Firefly Bistro is a Manchester restaurant creating and serving American style dishes with an original twist. On this night, Firefly was offering Creamy Cajun Penne and as pasta lovers, we were very satisfied with the comforting taste and texture coupled with a kick of spice.

The Firefly Bistro table, serving Creamy Cajun Penne, was a crowd pleaser

The Firefly Bistro table, serving Creamy Cajun Penne, was a crowd pleaser

As the event was wrapping up, we spotted a Barefoot Wine table, which was thrilling for me as I often purchase their wines. While Barefoot is not New England-based (they’re out of Modesto, California), they have a huge selection, and I have never gone wrong no matter which option I’ve chosen. We were able to meet the winemaker, Jen, and sample the Crisp White and Summer Red wines from their Refresh© selection. They certainly are refreshing! Jen gave us the idea of making a quick “lazy man’s” Sangria using the Summer Red and adding fruits. I will absolutely be trying that idea for a warm-weather gathering, if the nearly three feet of snow ever melts!

Barefoot wine certainly makes me smile too!

Barefoot wine certainly makes me smile too!

Shortly after 9 p.m., the rooms were starting to clear out and we’d had our fill of wines and foods. It was clear that New Hampshire is a hotspot for top-notch wines from beautiful wineries and the finest foods one could have from exceptional restaurants. The Winter Wine Spectacular 2015 was one to remember, and it was amazing to know that all was in support of the wonderful Easter Seals organization.

Keep on wine-ing!