Monday, May 5, 2014

Connoisseur's Corner

Thanks to Jordan Rich for having me in studio today to record another 12 classic episodes for "Connoisseur's Corner".  We'll be rolling these out on Thursday, May 8, 2014 on WBZ 1030am on your radio dial.  11:58am and throughout the weekend, please tune in and hear about some new discoveries, old favorites and great grilling tips.  Here's a taste:

1.  Evan’s NY style deli, Smith Street in Marblehead

A counter service deli with several booths and tables, a real surprise.  NY delis have the reputation of making huge sandwiches, and Evan’s tries to replicate the experience, within reason. 

The corned beef and pastrami are served warm, and are exactly what you hope such sandwiches would be.  Served with a pickle from Guss’ Pickles in NY, and you can’t get much better than that.  They also have two kinds of potato salad, coleslaw and a variety of meats and salads.

Corned Beef on Dark Rye at Evan's!
Pastrami knish...heaven on a plate!
Probably hell on your arteries!
The real treat and star of the show is the knish.  Several different kinds of fillings wrapped in puff pastry, but the best, IMHO, was the pastrami-stuffed knish.  I must have said “wow” three times after my first bite.  That feeling did not subside even after I ate it.  It was decadently delicious.

This place hits all the high notes.

15 Smith Street, Marblehead and a food truck throughout the city.

I love little gourmet markets that sell kitchen gadgets, serving pieces, pots, pans and knives.  Add in samples of all sorts of foods and cheeses, mix in a liquor and wine shop, throw in a gourmet food bar and bakery, around 10,000 square feet, and it’s a huge hit, in my opinion.  That sums up Shubie’s Marketplace on the North Shore in Marblehead.

In business for 65 years, according to their website, and at the current location for the past nine years, if you have a cocktail party or dinner to cater, want some unusual but delicious snacks to serve, and great liquor and wine, it’s the place to go if you’re in that area. 

At you can find their menus, a description of the items they sell, and if you live or work in Swampscott, Marblehead or Salem, they will deliver you lunch for free.  Check them out at 15 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead or on the web!

3.  Ice Cream

With summer upon us, what do New Englanders think about…lobster rolls, clams, and ice cream.  Revisiting my my ice cream tour, here is a selection of some of the best, after I sampled over twenty places recently, and pushed myself in to lactose intolerance!

Leavitt’s (Atkinson NH)-This is a tiny little shop in he middle of nowhere in Atkinson, NH.  We discovered it years ago at camp visiting day.  Other friends really enjoy it as well.  They serve Richardson’s ice cream, and have premium soft-serve.

Honey Pot Hill (Stow, MA)-nothing says fall in New England than the premier apple orchard selling vanilla soft-serve.  A surprise, for sure.  I said to Mrs. Palate that “this is what Vanilla soft-serve should taste like.”  The taste was great, but it had a grainy texture, and it was a poorly formed cone.  Otherwise, great.  I suspect they’ll work out the kinks, and soon enough, it’ll be a nice addition to cider donuts and especially their apple pie.

Rockin’ Cupcakes (Rockport, MA)-ice cream is hidden in this cupcake bakery, and there are a bunch of places to choose from along Bearskin Neck, but I like this one and they sell Richie’s Slushes in a variety of sizes.  It’s almost at the water’s edge, and there’s something very pleasant about grabbing a cone, and a seat at the water, and watching the tide roll in and out.  Just watch out for the seagulls.

Truly Yogurt (Wellesley, MA)-one of my favorite places.  High quality frozen yogurt up the street from the Dana Hall school and Wellesley College.  Great price to value ratio in a town not known for low prices.

JP Licks (Newton)-over-priced and unimpressive.  Built on a reputation that is not all that well deserved.  I like the Brookline location well enough, but Newton and Wellesley…feh!

Trombetta’s Creamery (Marlboro , MA):  nice selection of home-made flavors, Richie’s slushes and soft-serve, though the soft-serve uses a flavor syrup that swirls around the edges of the ice cream, as opposed to being mixed-in.   While I prefer the thoroughly mixed-in, I just enjoy my soft-serve fix at Trombetta’s.  My mother hires them to bring their ice cream truck to her offices throughout the summer, and they know she loves her “purple cow” frozen yogurt.  They’ve been around a long time, and have a solid reputation and well-deserved following.

Lizzy’s (Waltham, MA)-I like Lizzy’s.  It’s not a place that you’ll drive 20 miles for, but if you’re in Waltham, it’s a good place to stop.  They make their own “tofutti” style ice cream, good for the lactose intolerant, and they do a great off-site sundae party.  Full disclosure-we’ve used them twice for parties, and they have been fantastically easy to work with, and alway perform as promised.  Each party was a big hit, and their ice cream is pretty, pretty good too.

Kimball’s (Westford, and other locations)-This is the Disney World of ice cream.  They have a million flavors, the scoopers pile on the ice cream, a phenomenal price to value ratio (my kiddie size was bigger than most places “large” and it was $2.49!!!).  They have a pitch and putt golf course, mini-golf, bumper boats, a country store, a sandwich stand…ice cream as a destination.  And by the way, the chocolate-peanut butter ice cream was the best I ever had, and all the family palates agree!

 4.  Grilling tips

As we reach the summer time, as there are a number of bbq restaurants, nothing beats a backyard bbq with family and friends.  With bbq-ing and smoking as my avocation, I thought I’d offer some of my tips.

a.              Don’t be afraid of charcoal.  I dare say most people here use a gas grill.  Turn the propane on, hit a button and hopefully the grill lights.  Most people complain that charcoal is messy, and it takes too long.  Using a chimney style starter, which is essentially a big can with a handle, can get the charcoal burning hot in 10 minutes, without the need for smelly or foul-tasting lighter fluid. 
Chimney starter in action

b.              Use natural hardwood lump charcoal or briquettes.  Kingsford is the big player in charcoal, but you get a nicer, smoke-wood flavor, by using natural lump, which is real wood burned down to coals.  The pieces are irregular, but burn hot and long, and impart a delightful smoke flavor.  If you want consistent shape, there are some brands that make natural hardwood briquettes.  Some of the more popular brands of natural lump are Cowboy, or Royal Oak, both of which are usually available at local big-box retailers.  These start easily in a chimney starter without lighter fluid;
c.               Make sure you start with a clean, hot grill.  I always pre-heat my gas grill for 10 minutes, then I scrape any residue off, and I lightly oil the grates with a paper towel with some canola oil on it.  If I’m using my charcoal grill, I do the same, and let the charcoal get the grates really hot;
d.              Learn fire management.  Whether on the gas grill or a charcoal grill, have different heat zones.  I have a big pile of burning coals on one side, and a lot less on the other.  This allows me to move the food away from the fire if there are flare-ups or cooking too fast.  Same in a gas grill;
e.              Use the grill like an oven.  I love the flavor from the bbq.  In the nice weather, and sometimes not so nice, I love cooking whole meals on the grill.  Many gas grills have multiple burners, so you can create a convection oven at a specific temp;
f.               Season.  Many people complain that their food is burned after grilling.  The secret to avoid that-avoid saucing until the end.  Most commercially prepared sauces, especially bbq sauce, have very high sugar contents.  Sugar burns easily and will burn long before the food is done.  The secret is to sprinkle spices liberally on the meat, called “rubs”, cook, and sauce them at the very end, just to add a little glaze.  If you watch carefully, you’ll get great results without the burnt meat;
g.              Try “smoking”.  Everyone has seen the bbq shows on TV that are becoming so popular.  For a real treat, people should try smoking.  If you have a kettle grill, you can smoke by building a fire on one side, getting some wood chucks, like oak, maple or hickory (available at big box retailers) and placing them on the smoldering fire.  Chicken will only take a couple of hours, and while longer than regular grilling, will be well worth the wait.  If you want to engage in the hobby in the more serious way, purchase a Weber Smokey Mountain, the best entry-level vertical smoker;
h.              Don’t forget your veggies.  Vegetables grilled are a fantastic treat.  I toss peppers, baby carrots, mushrooms and onions in a little olive oil and salt and pepper and throw them on a disposable perforated grill pan (to make sure things don’t fall through the grates) for a while.  You can also do potatoes, but I usually steam or microwave them for a while before grilling, to make sure they get cooked through.

Please tune-in to WBZ to check out what else we say.  Eat often!