Salem Food Digest - A Tale of two Festivals

A Tale Of Two Weekend Festivals 

A little seafood, a little culture, and one clear winner

By The BaldOne

“It was the best of festivals, it was the worst of festivals, it was the age of food wisdom, it was the age of food foolishness, it was the epoch of falafel, it was the epoch of The Adriatic’s fish tacos.”

I hope that Charles Dickens will forgive the above, because I just couldn’t resist.

Over the last two weekends Salem was host to two festivals. The first was the Salem Willows Seafood Fest. The second was the Salem Culture Fest which was held at the Salem Common. We and our highly qualified operatives attended both and in the case of one festival came away very impressed with the food offerings across the board.

The seafood festival was basically unchanged from last year when the major complaint was the lack of “top north shore restaurants” as declared in the marketing materials. There were three Salem businesses represented, The Clam Shack and Cindy’s Planet both of the Willows and The Adriatic from Washington Street. All three were there last year and all three again represented themselves well.

There was a shish-kabob stand, a  Boston burger truck, a fried seafood stand, an oyster shucker, and a place with some pretty good cajun chowder and a nice jambalaya. They were all from elsewhere.

The Salem businesses served some good offerings and to our experience none of the food served by the other places was bad. What hurts is the fact that this Seafood Festival lacked more seafood. Where were these “top north shore restaurants” that were promised? Three Salem businesses and a small gathering of the regular fair type food just does not fulfill the promise.

The Salem Culture Fest did not advertise itself as a destination for food, but in reality they really were, to us all about the food.

There were two Salem based business there, Paaastelito’s and Celia’s. Both serve Latin American fare, Paaastelito’s was serving their empanada type pastries and Celia’s served a full menu of lunch and dinner items. Both have been reviewed here and we still consider Celia’s the best kept secret in Salem.

On Sunday the “Most Interesting Reviewer In The World” accompanied us as we sampled the fare on the Common. He was drawn without delay to a tent creating lebanese specialities, Marouk Bread out of Gloucester.

His eye may have also been drawn by the attractive lady who stretching the dough called markouk, which she explained is the precursor to pita bread.

Here I will let the Interesting guy inform you.

“For those of us who yearn for the good old days, if Markouk preceded the sad 

dry pita shells I find at the grocery store, then Lebanese Markouk Bread is most definitely the good old days of pita. Fresh off the dome griddle (the Saj), slathered with hummus, sesame, zataar, mint and a variety of explosively gorgeous herbs and spices the Markouk hummus wrap was the best wrap of its kind I’ve had since the days of sitting at the counter talking with John the old scientist and falafel king who spent his retiring days helping his son in the Armenian restaurant in Carlsbad.

Along with the hummus wrap, we sampled the chef’s special, which is only something one samples at places where one trusts the chef. The chicken, cheese, and pesto Markouk wrapped sandwich did not disappoint. For the palate of this former Falafel Man, between the fresh made Markouk and mouth watering hummus, that is one of the best bets for good fair food on the North Shore of Boston.

It was to my great sadness to discover that they do not visit Salem often, and do not have a restaurant. They can be found every Thursday at the Cape Ann Farmer’s Market in Gloucester, and they also cater, and you can find them online at http://www.markoukbread.com.”

Now that is some “floury” prose.

We also indulged in some very good Jamaican food, Jerk Chicken, spicy mac & cheese, and some really wonderful soft and lightly fried plantains which had a sweetness to them that the hard fried plantains lack.

The Salem Culture Fest ruled when it came to the food and we declare them to be.

“The Best Festival Food Of The Summer…. so far.”