Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vacation eats - Salem, MA

Wow, this post was difficult to get done... I wanted to try and include every little detail, and it just kept getting longer and longer. And now it's been almost 2 months since the trip, so enough is enough. Here are the (food related) highlights of the October trip to Salem with my friend Allison :)

After literally years of planning, my friend Allison and I ventured to Salem, MA this past October to indulge in some Halloween-y goodness. As with any good trip, food played a big part in the goodness. Sadly, I was so busy catching up with my friend and enjoying the food that I failed to take any pictures of the meals... bad food blogger! *hand slap*

She flew into Burlington, VT where I picked her up and we drove down to Salem together. Around lunch time, we stopped in the small town of Contoocook, New Hampshire, and decided to try the Everyday Cafe for lunch. And I have to say, we were really pleasantly surprised. The menu was simple, mainly breakfast and sandwich fare, along with coffee and homemade baked goods, and the staff were extremely friendly. I had the Breakfast Burrito (eggs, potatoes, cheese and meat in a tortilla with salsa) while Allison went for the Butchie Brie sandwich (turkey, apples and brie cheese on a croissant), and both of us were delighted with what we got. We happily chatted with full mouths and happy tummies.

For the trip, we didn't stay in Salem proper, but rather in the next town over, Marblehead, at the Harbor Light Inn. We stayed in one of the smaller rooms with minimal frills, but it was still a great stay. The staff was incredibly warm and friendly, the room was cozy and comfortable, and the food was delish. They had afternoon 'snacks' each day (I'm not sure homemade Boston Cream Pie counts as a snack, but I won't argue ;) and a breakfast each morning that I was happy to crawl out of bed for. It was one of the best B&B experiences I've had so far... so much so that I'm already looking for another excuse to head back down there for another stay!

Once we were settled in, we then proceeded to walk our butts off over the next few days. The first night we had dinner just down the street from the inn at The Landing. I don't remember what Allison had (something with shrimp, I think?) but I had pork tenderloin with fried onions and a salad with pecans and dried cherries. Oh. My. God. It was so good. The pork was thick, juicy and nicely cooked, and the onions gave a nice added taste/texture. What really amazed me was the salad... dark greens and a simple dressing, the cherries and pecans paired unbelievably well with the pork. Must try making that one at home. We didn't get to see much in terms of scenery since we were seated inside and it was dark out, but being right on the water, I imagine this would be a lovely spot for an early evening meal in the summer when you could sit out on the deck. 

The next afternoon we paused in our marathon sight-seeing to find ourselves in front of Red's Sandwich Shop. It was a very busy place and I was a little sad that the lunch counter was already full (an actual lunch counter... how cute is that?), but we were whisked off to a table right away. The atmosphere is no frills, but rather casual and homey. The menu is downright staggering, overflowing with home-style dishes, sandwich and breakfast offerings. Allison went with a pot pie (topped with the puffiest puff pastry I've ever seen) and I tried the lobster/crab cakes. Both dishes were served simply and piping hot, and along with some entertaining people-watching and friendly staff, was a very satisfying meal. Food aside, the building is also of interest. What now houses Red's used to be the London Coffee House and in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War served as a meeting place for the Salem chapter of the Sons of Liberty.

That evening we had dinner at Rockafellas. It is in a building (with a ghostly history) that used to be a bank and before that a church, so the layout of the dining area was rather awkward. Because the ceilings were so high and the space so open, the noise levels made conversation almost impossible. The food itself was ok... I had local fish and Allison had pumpkin ravioli, both of which were good, but not particularly memorable. The one element that was exceptional was the Oysters Rockafella (*groan*) that we had as an appetizer. The bivalves were sweet and tender and the topping was both crunchy and creamy at the same time. Very good... I even attempted to recreate the recipe myself at home with moderate success.

Our last full day in town, we had lunch at the Green Land Cafe and enjoyed extremely tasty hamburgers and fries, and that evening had dinner at the Jack Tar Tavern in Marblehead, which suffered from the opposite problem of Rockafellas, though with similar results: it was a small space, and packed full of locals, and was so loud we gave up on the conversation altogether. Instead we enjoyed some pumpkin beverages... Allison had pumpkin pie soda while I had a pumpkin ale (I can't quite remember which, but I _think_ it was a Shipyard ale)... both very tasty (and Halloween-y). While Allison had a small pizza and salad, I stuck with the seafood theme and had fish once more, this time in taco form. While it was good food, my "full" button finally popped and I just couldn't finish.

The next day we were up early and on the road (after a very necessary stop at Starbucks), Allison headed back to California and me headed home to Montreal. It was a short but extremely enjoyable trip, both for the company, sight-seeing and food. Being only a 5-6 hour drive south, I think B and I will be venturing down that way again, and I strongly encourage you to do likewise if you get the chance!

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