Salem Food Digest - Bistro 118 - Une Novelle Aventure Alimentaire Salem

Lappin Park Gets A French Accent - Industry Nights Begin Monday

By The BaldOne

New life is being breathed into the front corner space at Lappin Park. Years ago this space stood empty, long abandoned after the great Gerber’s Restaurant fire that bequeathed us the corner that became Lappin Park.

Bistro 118 has decided to bring a little Julia Child type cooking into the Salem dining scene. Butter and cream are not evil in this kitchen. They are key ingredients in the goal of bringing a little Parisian decadence to your dining experience.

We were treated to a 16-course tasting the other day in order to showcase for you what it is that they offer. This was as difficult and harrowing an experience as a food journalist can endure. We certainly hope that you fully appreciate the sacrifice that was made to bring this column to you.

We began with Marinated Spanish White Anchovies in olive oil, garlic, and lemon. These little fish are pickled and no attempt is made to hide that fact. A little pucker factor is affected and that is it should be.

Next was a Chicken Liver Mousse with smoked whole grain mustard and  teeny pickles served with a thin and crispy crostini. The touch of Hennessy Cognac used in the preparation may be what puts this dish over the top.

The Fried Shishito Peppers with bonito flakes and sea salt came out a very vivid green. They are very soft and salty with a mild spiciness, except for the one in ten that may have a little more bite.

When we saw the Cauliflower a La Plancha what stood out was the variety of colors such as yellow, green, and purple. Sweetened by apple, made interesting by pine nuts, and accented by fried garlic we enjoyed this dish very much.

What can be said about a Duck Taco that has not already been said. Duck has made quite a comeback in the food world. Made in a soft tortilla with a hoisin slaw and a cilantro lime crema to compliment large pieces of moist duck, these will probably be quite popular with the late night crowd.

In a country dominated by hundreds of local and ethnic meatball recipes, Bistro 118 has stepped up with a Pork Meatball in sauce and Asiago cheese with celery, carrot, onion, parsley, and a small amount of red pepper flakes. As much as we liked everything else these meatballs really stood out.

The Heirloom Tomato Salad with vivid red, green, and yellow colors looked great and was very fresh. The pea puree made for an attractive presentation and added a little sweetness to the plate.

The Calamari came with sweet peppers, parsley, on a squid ink aioli. You get the rings and the tentacles which makes for a better presentation and experience than just the rings alone.

An Oyster Po’Boy featuring thickly cut pickled red onions, ramen aioli, and mustard greens looked inviting as it came out of the kitchen. Three tasty fried oysters sat on the bread. They were hot, not greasy at all, and fat enough to satisfy.

As the Soy Garlic Marinated Tofu appeared we at first though it was fish. The browning fooled us from a distance. With very thinly sliced radishes, scallions, and lime there was a nice variety of flavor to go around.

Green Tea Escabeche Oysters, I need not say more. Try them. Challenge yourself and order the Pork Belly with kimchi and sweet Cointreau carrot puree at the same time.

The Roasted Beet Salad with red and yellow beets, herbed goat cheese, candied walnuts, mustard greens, and thyme vinaigrette and the Side Grilled Asparagus with siracha butter came out at the right time , just after the oysters and the tofu.

Desert was nor forgotten. Somehow there was room for the Olive Oil Cake with orange butter cream and macerated strawberries and a a lovely Flan.

The standout in a very tasty night was the Seared Scallops on a sweet potato puree with piquillo pepper relish, and mustard greens. The scallops were big, juicy, and seared perfectly.

We declare Bisto 118, to be without a doubt The Best French Restaurant with and Industry Night  In Lappin Park.

Try them out and let us know what you think. We are dying to find out whether or not we know what we are talking about.

 

Bistro 118

118 washington Street

Salem MA

bistro118.com

Salem Food Digest - Salem Farmers Market Returns

New Season Of Fresh Outdoor Food Shopping Arrives

By The BaldOne

If ever you hear someone say that there is is no returning to the past, gently take him or her by the hand and mosey with them down to Derby Square in Salem on a Thursday afternoon.

Once there they will see that history does not have to remain in the past. It can repeat itself, and in a positive way. The return of the Salem Farmer’s Market proves it.

Last week was the opening bell rung by the energetic Kylie Sullivan of Salem Main Streets. The sun was shining, the crowd was large and festive, and the goods were fresh and full of color.

Derby Square is where most of the tents and stands are set up, running from the top near Wicked Good Books all the way down both sides of Old Town Hall to Front Street, and across the street onto the the new and improved Artist’s Row.

 

Fresh seasonal produce is available as are lobsters, fresh eggs, spices, locally made wines and ciders, sauces, soaps, and many other local items.

I must admit an affinity for Salem based businesses and whenever I am at the market those are the first that I seek out. There are a few there every week.

Maitland Mountain Farm has been a fixture since the market was revived a few years ago.They refer to themselves as an Urban, Small-Plot Farm. To me they are the local family who are actually farming here in our little city, providing fresh produce, wonderful pickles, and a really tasty giardiniera.

Also there every week is Milk & Honey Green Grocer. This Church Street business has been with us for a few years now. They purvey the best and freshest of goods on a daily basis. Fresh made sandwiches and salads are always available, but I love the little section by the door in their store where you can scoop your own almonds, cashew, and walnuts.

Jodi Bee Bakes, soon to open at the Museum Place Mall got their Salem start at the market. If the vegan/vegetarian thing is for you then they are there. We have heard some debate as to whether or not a baker can be actually bake vegan. That is not our argument, but it hear it has something to do with not using lard.

You will need some spices to prepare whatever you are bringing home to cook, so a stop at the Salem Spice booth will be in order. A variety of natural salts, fine and coarse peppers and other sweet and savory cooking accents are there for you, along with some helpful suggestions on how to best mix and match this or that spice with a particular food item.

Shopping and cooking can be thirsty work, so a visit to the big guy with the bigger beard is probably a necessity. At Far From The Tree Cider, your thirst will be quenched, and you just may learn a little about how cider is made.

Salem Soapworks is also there to help you to clean up after the work is done. After all, smelling like food is all good, until it comes time to clean up and go out on the town

There are of course other vendors there for you, many more than I could visit last week. They are not all from Salem, but local is local and none of them had to come far to get here. The bread from When Pigs Fly is always good, and the Valicenti Pasta Farm sauces will compliment any cooks presentation.

Don’t wait until it is too late, head on down to what we have declared,

“The Goshdarn Best Farmer’s Market Since This Little Piggy Went Wee, Weee Weeee.”

Kylie Sullivan (Salem Main Streets) Mayor Kimberly Driscoll,  Rinus Oosthoek (Salem Chamber of Commerce) Gus Sousa(Market Manager)

Kylie Sullivan (Salem Main Streets) Mayor Kimberly Driscoll, Rinus Oosthoek (Salem Chamber of Commerce) Gus Sousa(Market Manager)

Salem Food Digest - O’Neill’s Irish Pub - Shepherd’s Pie, Extreme Burgers, Irish Curry, and Weekend Balladeers

O’Neill’s Irish Pub - Shepherd’s Pie, Extreme Burgers, Irish Curry, and  Weekend Balladeers

By The BaldOne

We all, over time come to a decision as to how we feel about a place. Reputations, deserved and undeserved develop. Once that happens it can be difficult for a business to recover.

Recently I had heard through the local rumor mill that there there had been a change in attitude, if not latitude at this well known Irish eatery and watering hole. The local characters spoke of a new manager, a new menu, and stressed that it was still the place to go if a lilt or a ballad was something that you desired to hear.

So I decided to go in search of some traditional Irish music and a little something to sooth my appetite.

There band was warming up as I entered and most of the seats at the long bar were taken. I selected one closer to the door and ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a menu. I like my PBR, but only cold and on tap. It is an old school no-frills American lager with a slight sweetness and a moderate hops accented finish (how’s that for some beer snobbery?).

The new menu still features a few of the old reliables. Shepherds Pie, Curried Fries, Quesadilla, Fish & Chips, and the Steak Tips are all there. A few of the new appetizer type items caught our attention. Mac & Cheese or Shepherd’s Pie Rangoons jumped out right away, to say nothing of the bacon cheeseburger bites.

Since I was looking for something photogenic, the Extreme Burger medium-rare was the call. It came with a quite large patty, pulled pork, bacon, lots of cheese, an egg, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños, and a stack of onion rings on the top, slathered in a spicy mayo. The whole thing came skewered on a steak knife.

This was a burger. A young lady a few seats down advised me to crush it flat and attack it like a normal everyday burger. That would have been a sloppy move. Being a gentleman with a modicum of dignity I did not consider that option. After all, I have a reputation to consider.

Deconstruction seemed the best move and that is what I did. Using a fork and the provided steak knife I removed the top piece of the egg washed bun and and began to eat this creation in layers. I was very happy to discover that despite the thickness the kitchen knew how to cook a burger medium-rare. That can sometimes be a problem in this modern world of ingestion provoked litigation.

I managed, with the assistance of one more PBR to finish this extreme creation. All that was left was the bottom bun, I’ve got to watch those carbs you know. It was properly cooked, assembled well, served with a smile, and well worth the time and money invested. The steak fries were slightly over cooked which is my preference.

They also pleased in the mustard category. I like my mustard brown and spicy. The creamy dijons and such will serve in a pinch, but the Gulden’s Spicy Brown hit the spot. The various yellow creations out there are best left to the uncultured.

So, a decent and affordable beer, a good and exceedingly large burger, and some nice traditional Irish music played by some local yokels. I may not have climbed off of my stool and step danced across the floor, but I did enjoy my visit.

So in closing I will say to Dana, the young and energetic manager, keep up the good work.

The Salem Food Digest declares O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Restaurant the “Best Place That You Haven’t Visited Lately.”

Drop in and check it out yourself, after all I’m the only one who believes that I know what I’m talking about.


O'Neills of Salem

120 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970-3545
(978) 740-8811

 

 

Salem Food Digest - Paaastelitos comes to Salem

Paaastelitos Comes To Salem - A non-traditional take on a traditional pastry

By The BaldOne

What is a paaastelito (pastelito)?

Simply put, it is a filled pastry of various ethnic origins now being served at an old and venerable location on the edge of the Point neighborhood. Pastetilo is the Cuban word for this filled pastry. It is comparable to a an empanada or even a quesito depending on what kind of filling is used.

Paaastelitos is located on the corner of Lafayette and Peabody Streets, right next door to that fast food burger joint whose name will never grace these pages. Most recently it was a Dominican restaurant and club. In years past it was a donut shop under various owners, most notably Priscilla's Donuts owned by the Garrette family.

Partnered with Stands-With-A-Fist (Stands) I walked into Paaastelitos and was pleasantly surprised to see that the space had undergone some serious upgrades. It is clean, and brightly lit by the sun light that streams through a large plate glass window. We were surprised that the two counters had no stools, so if you choose to eat there you will do it standing up.

We discovered later that the lack of seating was due to a lack of a Common Victualers License. Without that document you cannot have chairs or stools. It does not effect your legal ability to serve food and they have all of the required health board approvals for food service.

There are many selections broken down into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert categories. The fillings are numerous in number and ethnicities. A variety of fries are available to include waffle fries, yuca fries, plantains and tater tots.

Ordering is done by walking down the line, cafeteria style and choosing your pastry from a glass counter.

Stands and I selected four of the filled pastries to explore. From the breakfast options we chose the "JR", which is salami and dominican cheese. The dinner selection was the "Pupu" made with asian style chicken, beef, and pork. We also opted for the "Alex" which is mixed seafood and the basic ham and cheese. Our order was completed with some plantains.

Collecting our pastelitos we stepped over to the window to await our plantains. The one staff member working began to focus on other customers and it was almost ten minutes before the plantains were delivered.

The pastelitos were good, but maybe due to a lack of turn over some were fresher than the others. The fillings were all moist and flavorful but a there was some dryness on the edges that detracted from the overall experience. The seafood filling and the asian style meats stood out.

Plantains are one of my favorites, especially when fried. Theirs are very good, salted just right and not cooked to dryness.

Paaastelitos also offers sandwiches, but those are made to order so you can expect a short wait. 

Don't take our word for the experience, or that of the Phantom Gourmet who visited their old Lynn location. Drop in and try them for yourself and then let us know what you think.

Paaastelitos

101 Lafayette Streets

Salem MA. 01970

paaastelitos.com

 

Salem Food Digest: Sunday Brunch - The Village Tavern Enters the Fray

A jazzy brunch effort brings a new player on the Salem brunch scene

By The BaldOne

20150412_112858.jpg

Brunch as defined by the Salem Food Digest is, "a late morning to mid-afternoon meal offering both breakfast and lunch type offerings. It may include either buffet or menu style service and MUST include a full cocktail bar."

The full cocktail bar requirement eliminates many of the regular breakfast joints in Salem. That does not mean that we discount their efforts, but for purposes of brunch we require the ability to serve a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa.

Recently twelve of us ventured to The Village Tavern at 168 Essex Street, which is on the pedestrian mall behind the big fountain that is known to sometimes have actual water in it. The Ingemi family, a long time Salem restaurant staple, think of the Beef & Oyster, Hared's, Texas Red's, and City Side Pool, have been running this business from inception.

The first ever brunch at the Village Tavern was just a few weeks back. We invaded their space during the third Sunday of this omelet and oyster adventure.

Taking up space in the small dining room, except for the California Lovers who sat at the bar we wasted no time in exploring out options. Some of us were presented with a lunch style menu, and some of us were not.

Most of chose to fill out omelet cards which we then brought to the chefs station. I thought we were supposed to give them to James the waiter. If that was true the chef didn't know and he took our cards and began cracking eggs.

Menu items were available but the chafing pans beckoned and we all approached them with anticipation. There was house made sausage and biscuits, one fried potatoes, hash browns with sausage, eggs benedict, bacon, and a banger type of sausage available.

The omelet station was a bit of a challenge. A few of us had our omelets come out quickly, some others had to go up and ask when their omelets would be coming. One or two were made incorrectly, but amends were made quickly. Overall the omelets themselves were a great hit, stuffed generously and cooked properly.

The lovely Jacqui commented that the "waffle was great" but that there are a few issues to be worked out with keeping the food warm and fresh." Jean was in agreement finding the eggs benedict to be a bit less than warm.

Jean, she of the broken sidewalk can be a bit tough, but she has plans to go back sometime soon

Beth's Beau was quite impressed with his omelet, but felt that the ordering system need a bit of tweaking. He would have liked for the sausage gravy to have a "bit of a kick". He is also planning on a return trip.

The Bloody Mary's impressed all around. The mix is made in house and they have a good selection of vodkas. Yours truly is a bit of a bloody snob and found that they quite strong, I prefer a more balanced bloody in order to explore the base, but would never complain of a strong drink.

As we were eating the buffet crew fell behind in keeping the stations filled. It was good to see that Arthur Ingemi, the "Bull of the Woods" at Tavern,  step right up and pitch in by changing chafing trays and checking on the omelet process. He introduced some scrambled eggs to the mix which was a good move.

Overall what we saw was a new concept being introduced and a staff learning how to handle the challenges. The music added to the experience, brunch and jazz after all goes together like ham and eggs.

We'll be back Village Tavern, but you won't know when. That Sunday night prime rib has gotten our attention.