Smoke is the barbecuer master's livelihood, but it's a delicate substance—too much and your meat tastes charred, too little and it's bland. Thankfully, Chris Thompson and Kate Economides have learned to tame the fickle ingredient. They smoke all of their meats on-site at Blackstrap BBQ, monitoring the slow-cooked pieces for hours on end. Their supply of oak wood lends a deliciously burnt tinge to brisket, sausage, chicken, and ribs, which are then rubbed with spices and arranged with down-home sides.
It can be hard to pick your meal, though, as The Boston Globe magazine attests: "Everything on the blackboard is irresistible." A classic single-meat plate comes with two sides and cornbread, but you can also pile sauce-covered bites between sandwich buns, which let you eat with your hands instead of large, unwieldy jai alai scoops. Then there's the Hog—a kielbasa wrapped in bacon, smoked, fried, and put on a roll. Most entrees come with sides, ranging from baked beans and collard greens to sweet-maple mashed potatoes.
Depending on your choice of meat, you get to sample different regional tastes. Ribs get a Memphis-style dry rub, whereas the pulled pork follows North and South Carolina traditions, and the brisket is all Texas. Kate and Chris serve these signature suppers from their Winthrop kitchen, but they also convey them to events through their catering business, Tastyplates.
Cast in dim, incandescent light creeping out of the dining room’s decorative lanterns, Kasbah Restaurant's cushy seats surround tables filled with slow-simmered tagines, fluffy couscous, and tapas plates selected from a menu of Moroccan fare. The chicken tangiers’ apricot-kissed sherry sauce helps it maintain its status as the restaurant’s best seller, but the house specialty is the fried calamari, which arrives dotted with cherry peppers and doused in a secret sauce whose recipe is only known by the kitchen’s chef and the mayor of Casablanca. An expansive drink list showcases the eatery's carefully crafted martinis and homemade sangria, and weekly events invite belly dancers to shimmy to the sounds of a live Middle Eastern band.
Butter, sugar, and flour. These three simple ingredients form the basis of each treat cooked up at Oakleaf Cakes. While the ingredients are straightforward, the cakes are anything but, as proven by head baker Amanda Oakleaf and the 4-foot-tall Dora the Explorer cake she constructed on the Food Network?s Cake Challenge. At her shop, Amanda and her team of artists, sculptors, and bakers create treats that run the gamut in flavor and function, from elegant tiers of red velvet to sugary cartoon figurines placed atop marshmallow fondant. Guests can dream up flavor combinations such as gingerbread cake slathered in white-chocolate buttercream or chocolate samoa layered in honey icing, or offer up a 3-D object for Amanda and her team to re-create in meticulous, edible detail. Regularly scheduled cake-decorating classes impart visitors with some of the team?s creative tricks of the trade, such as leveling cakes and keeping schoolchildren from swarming in through the doggy door at the sight of snickerdoodle cupcakes.
The bakery's from-scratch approach extends to the attached caf?, as well. Rather than keeping coffee warm throughout the day, staffers ground and brew each cup to order, using custom-roasted Barrington Coffee beans and an Aeropress. This cutting-edge brewing method is designed to extract exactly enough flavor from the beans to create the best brew possible, and achieves it in less than two minutes. Each sultry cup of joe perfectly complements the bakery's wide assortment of baked goods, which range from classic cupcakes, cookies, and muffins to wholly unique goodies including made-from-scratch pop tarts, artisanal marshmallows, and miniature cheesecakes.
Salvatore Gaglio—Salvo to his friends and family—grew up working in his uncle’s restaurant in Sicily, but he never imagined that he would make a career out of it. In fact, he wanted to pursue a very different calling: music.
As a young adult, Salvo enrolled and gradated from a music conservatory in Palermo, where he studied classical trumpet performance. He then spent the next several years performing with operas and symphonies around Italy. But eventually, Salvo realized that he had enough creativity to pour into another passion, and he returned once more to the kitchen. Today, the executive chef at Volare Revere channels this creativity into his rustic Sicilian and Mediterranean dishes crafted from farm-fresh meats and vegetables.
He adorns pizzas with figs and pancetta and makes his pastas in house before coating them in plum tomato sauces and topping them with creamy Vermont cheddar and lobster. He’s also been known to venture out into the dining room with his trumpet after dinner to play classical songs and “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
The up-close sounds of waves crashing onto Revere Beach permeate the soundscape at Antonia's at the Beach Restaurant, an eatery that embraces the dual cultures of Italy and the New England coast. The menu reflects this duality by placing Old World dishes, such as homemade ricotta gnocchi and veal parmigiana alongside maritime-influenced staples, including fried haddock and cedar-plank-smoked Atlantic salmon.
The decidedly rustic decor draws much more inspiration from the area's coastal influences, with nautical lanterns hanging from the exposed rafter beams and wooden ship's wheels fastened to the bar area's walls. Small aesthetic touches adorn the space and help capture the historically inspired ambience, including an antique sewing machine, a rotary telephone, and a dial-up modem.
“The Lamplighter has sampled lobster bisque and chowders from Rhode Island to Maine,” the Haverhill Gazette column The Lamp Post commented in 2012, “but has tasted none better than those at…the Pine River fish market.” Family owned and operated for more than 20 years, Pine River Fish Market earns such accolades by reliably supplying customers with fresh fish and shellfish, groceries, bisques and chowders, and live lobsters and crabs. In the store, maritime dwellers such as haddock, swordfish, conch, shrimp, steamers, and cherrystones—all of which are delivered daily—sit on ice, awaiting the day they’re thawed and can experience a strange new future world. The helpful staffers can also special order any in-season fish and have it ready for pickup the next day.