Saturday, November 22, 2014

How do you get there from here?

For years, charter subscribers of this blog have been screaming about the North Shore.  My experience with the North Shore area of Massachusetts is somewhat limited to Rockport, but in recent months, I have ventured to the great North Shore to sample the goods.  Here are some comments…

From where I live…you can’t there from here.  Seriously, could the civil engineers who designed the highway system made it any more inconvenient to get to Marblehead/Swampscott or Salem?  You drive for 45 minutes on the highway, and then another half hour on back roads…rule number one for me:  unless it’s bbq, I don’t like to be inconvenienced for food.

However, having decided to pack a bag and take the long journey north, Mrs. Palate and I discovered a few places up in the north shore area that are worth the trip.

First stop…Marblehead. 

Killer Knish!
Evan’s New York Style Deli-I wrote about Evan’s last springtime, when I ventured up there the first time.  Though I don’t usually travel, and wait, for food, a pastrami knish at Evan’s is worth the drive.  A sublime mix of puff pastry dough and fatty pastrami, no words can do this justice.  Eat one, eat two, but eat this!  Really, this should be on your bucket list.  Of course, but you better hurry home, because your heart might just explode in the car.

Evan’s can be found at 31 Smith St, Marblehead, MA.

Shubie’s is a fantastic gourmet marketplace and liquor store, selling groceries, prepared foods and kitchen gadgets.  I love this place!  I was so taken with it, that I invited the owner on to the radio show back in July.  Doug Shube brought us delicious snacks (the cauliflower was like veggie meth…extremely addicting, but I don’t think it’ll rot my teeth) and discussed what it takes to run a successful business.  This is a family-run market, offering up delicious foods in a great atmosphere.  We need more places like this.

Shubie’s can be found at 16 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead, MA or at

Off to Newburyport

Mrs. Palate and I walked along the water, and after being shut-out of most of the sit-down restaurants, we found the most delightful sandwich shop, the Port City Sandwich Co., winner of the “Best of North Shore” for sandwiches 2 years in a row! 

Tuna melt
I was very impressed.  This is a small, clean, efficient and courteously run shop.  They gentleman taking orders was very accommodating with my wife’s food allergies, and the service down the line was prompt.  We dined al fresco at some picnic tables on the water, watching the ships and kayakers.  With a variety of made to order salads and sandwiches, some gourmet choices like Grilled jerk spiced chicken strips with red peppers, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing; Southwestern Chicken-Grilled Cajun spiced chicken strips with lettuce, tomato and sour cream, and The Mediterranean-Grilled chicken strips, crisp romaine lettuce, feta cheese, black olives, tomatoes and Greek dressing.

I was really pleased to return to dining on well-prepared and deliciously simple, and simply delicious foods. 

You can find Port City at 40R Merrimac Street, Newburyport or at

(This was a partial re-post from August 2014).

Chococoa Bakery, Newburyport

What more needs to be said about Chococoa?  I have been touting them for years.  These are without a doubt, the greatest whoopie pies on the planet. 

I had never actually been to their brick and mortar location, now located in The Tannery in Newburyport (where I expected to see cow hides hanging on the walls).  I love re-purposed mill buildings…tall ceilings, brick walls, wide-beam wood floors, and Chococoa has located in a beautifully repurposed spot.  Finally meeting Julie and Alan, the husband and wife geniuses behind the whoopies was a real pleasure, and these whoopie pies are even better when they are served to you by the hands of the baking masters that created them.  Kosher, and offering several gluten free options, race to your computer and order some of these bite-sized beauties!

Chococoa can be found at 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA or at

Burger and rings at Sylvan Street
We ended our day with a quick, late dinner at the Sylvan Street Grill in Peabody.  This is a large sports bar, and it was a beautiful night, so we ate outside. The outside seating area was built around a pool/fountain, and it was a very pleasant; the menu is typical sports bar food, but it was good enough, and did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Sylvan Street Grille can be found at 12 Sylvan Street Peabody, MA or at

I’m sure we’ll be heading back up north some time soon, and certainly will be encouraged by my north shore peeps.  Until then…order those whoopie pies!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What to watch?

Month ago, I read an article by Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe on his introduction of the Brady Bunch and other classic 60’s sitcoms to his young daughters.  Their impression of sexist dialogue was interesting, and it got me thinking again about the state of today’s sitcoms.

At the risk of offending some readers, with few exceptions, I think today’s sitcoms are crap.  For every great show like “Modern Family”, there’s “Jesse” or “A.N.T. Farm”, and I could name many, many more.  How did we get from “Must See TV” on NBC Thursday nights (Cosby Show [before we learned "The Cos" was a rapist], Night Court, Cheers and Wings, throw in Seinfeld and Frasier for good measure), or a strong CBS Monday night in the early 1990s (Designing Women, Evening Shade, Murphy Brown) to “Must Avoid TV” like “Two Broke Girls” where every joke is about the size of the girls’ equipment, or their bosses’?  Why, why, why the proliferation of such garbage?

500 channels on satellite or cable certainly do not help.  Those stations are on air, paying broadcast and transmission fees, so they have to fill their airwaves with something, so anyone with a half-baked idea for a sitcom can push their ideas to someone.   In the past, with so few channels, the networks and production companies had the luxury of cherry-picking the best of the best.  Now, with so many shows, networks, production companies, etc…any person with a sharp enough pencil can get a show. 

Even the semi-mainstream cable channels like Nickelodeon or Disney put on quite a bit of junk.  Check out the aforementioned “A.N.T. Farm” or “Austin & Ally”, “Jessie” or an oldie but a goodie…”Zoey 101”. 

Many of the most terrible shows feature or star young actors.  In the past, we only had to worry about the kids from the “Brady Bunch” or “Diff'rent Strokes”, now, there are probably hundreds of young actors that may struggle with work in the future, and only a half-step away from turning in to Dana Plato.  Exhibit A-Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger, yet slightly more promiscuous sister (if possible) of Brittany Spears.  Pregnant at 16, it’s too early to tell how she’ll crash and burn, but if her sister is any example, it won’t be long. 


Conversely, outlets like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are creating or carrying shows of such quality, they have been recognized with Emmy nominations.  Where the Fox Network would rather run episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” than Emmy winning “Arrested Development”, Netflix has been happy to fill the gap, run the fourth season of this great show, and be rewarded with an Emmy nomination.  In fact, Netflix, certainly not a traditional network by anyone’s measure, also received nominations for “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey.  It won’t be long before we are all watching Emmy award-winning shows on our cell phones at Starbucks.  As Seinfeld has said about “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (one of my current favorites), he tried to create a show that could be watched on our phones…can’t say I’d really mind…TV and coffee, what could be bad about that?