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Seven Acre Poultry Farm, N. Reading.

Thanks, Greygarious. The search must not have been working the other day, because that's the search I ran, and it only came up with one of those hits. Weird. Couldn't understand why no one had talked about it.

Oct 02, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Seven Acre Poultry Farm, N. Reading.

Nothing insidious except the Orwellian language. "Air chilled" means rapidly cooled to a temperature well below freezing. And yet, in the bureaucratic Newspeak of the USDA, "airchilled" chicken has not been frozen, and can be sold as "fresh." Whereas if you freeze a chicken more slowly--but to a higher temperature--it is "frozen" and this "not fresh." I acknowledge that there is a qualitative difference when anything is frozen more rapidly. But "frozen better" is still "frozen." Except within the walls of the bureaucracy.

Sep 29, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Seven Acre Poultry Farm, N. Reading.

I'll start by noting that my choice of dish for tonight is not optimum for evaluating the meat. I made a Moroccan chicken stew that is strongly seasoned with cinnamon, ginger, and saffron, in a tomato base. It's a good enough dish that even supermarket chicken tastes okay in it.

Having said that, it was a darn fine bird I bought. (It was $7 for a broiler, close to 4lbs.) The breast had a smidge more color (uncooked) than a grocery store chicken. The meat hadn't been frozen (excuse me, "air chilled") and so still had a suppleness that I'm not used to.

I sampled the meat once it was fully cooked (in 4 large section, prior to shreding and incorporating into the stew) and it was excellent. The breast had a definite, though mild, chicken flavor. This was, sadly, a young bird, because they had no older "fowls" (as their nomenclature has it). The dark meat was outstanding.

In short, I am pleased with the quality, and very pleased with the quality/price ratio. I'll make sure to try an older, stewing hen, and may try to snag a capon for Thanksgiving, since two of my three kids hate turkey.

I hope others will give them a look, and report their results.

Sep 29, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Seven Acre Poultry Farm, N. Reading.

I was a bit surprised to find only one mention of Seven Acre on here. They;ve been around a while, and word of mouth is good. I just 30 minutes ago bought my first bird from them, a 4lb. broiler, and a dozen of their eggs. I'll report back on the results later (torn between a chicken Tagine, chicken pot pie, or chicken barley soup with the bird). But meanwhile, so I don't forget, I thought I'd see what other experiences people have had.

Sep 29, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Pastured meat in Greater Boston

I know you didn't really ask about beef, but the thread title may drag in some beef-eaters. So allow me to mention River Rock Farm beef, from Brimfield, MA. They sell direct and at some farmers markets. I know Davis Sq. (Somerville) and Brookline are two, though there are many more. They also sell eggs through Dave's Fresh in Davis Square, which I think also carries their beef. It's tremendous stuff, and they are now fully recovered from last summer's tornadoes. (I don't know the owner, but the folks who run it are friends...he adds in the interest of full disclosure.)

Jun 06, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Hot and Sour Merrimack Valley

Don't know how Teatone escaped my brain. Never had the soup, but everything else is good. Ring ring...thanks

Jun 06, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Looking for Andover/South Lawrence lunch recs

My last two experiences at Sweet Basil have been terrible. Orders messed up, food done differently, grease coefficient very high. So they've fallen off my list for good.

Jun 06, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Hot and Sour Merrimack Valley

I have scoured the boards, and only find out of date or out of geography references to hot and sour soup. Someone tried to start a Lawrence/Methuen thread on this a year or so ago but I'll try again. Who in the 93/495/133/28 region have good hot and sour soup. I have a stupid summer cold and that soup is the best for it.

Jun 06, 2012
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Moved from North End to North Andover....Need help please.

No doubt, Blue. I was referring to the sub grades of select, choice and prime. The price difference usually (but not always) gives it away. At some stores though the difference isn't enough to tell.

I too like Hilltop but they sometimes have sold me select at what I consider a choice price, though just as often the other way around. McK's sells a lot of select at very good prices. And their choice prices are often terrific

Dec 26, 2011
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Moved from North End to North Andover....Need help please.

In addition to many of the comments already made, I can add a few.

The Vineyard in North Andover has a very different wine dept from Andover liquors. The owner, Bill Dwyer, has a very different palette than Andrea DiFiore, the wine manager at Andover liquors. I prefer Bill's selections to Andrea's, but both are good. Both also host Grand Tastings quarterly, usually a week or two apart. It's actually a great way to see how different the stores are--it's usually many of the same distributors pouring at each event, but the selections are often miles apart.

Wine Connextion (sic) in North Andover has the best prices around, bar none. They also do periodic grand tastings. I try to divide my custom among the 3, because each has something different to offer, and I want to keep them all happy. (The note about beer at And. Liquors is spot on, by the way.)

Take a look at Palmer's in Andover for a less pricey, somewhat better experience than Burton's. It's not terrifically awesomely fantastic, but it's pretty good, nice atmosphere, and about 20-25% less than Burton's.

Dylan's is more of a neighborhood bar/eatery, but pretty inconsistent. The food is often very good, sometimes very disappointing. But it's not very pricey and a comfortable space.

for breakfast, I can't recommend Carleen's in Lawrence highly enough. Prices are very very good, and it's big and open compared to Shawsheen Luncheonette. (Or Lantern brunch, another similar place in Andover.) It's cash only, but they have an ATM that only charges a $0.95 fee. Food is quite good, esp. for the price. It's always busy but there's also not usually a long wait for a seat. I have only eaten breakfast foods there, so can't speak to other meals.

If you are willing to drive a little bit, there's a McKinnon's in North Salem NH that beats Butcher Boy in just about every regard. Prices are better, quality is quite good as long as you pay attention to the grades--they are all properly labeled, but sometimes quite hard to see the labeling.

Welcome to the neighborhood, a bit late!

Dec 21, 2011
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Fine Foods at The Vineyard, North Andover

The Meat House is still in business, as is the Vineyard. But the "fine foods" business has been closed a long time. I'm in there more or less weekly. I will say that on the whole the Meat House has been a decent replacement for the former co-tenant. The cheese selection is as good or better and they still carry some of the overpriced pastas and things that populate gourmet shops without justification. The meat selections range from very good to phenomenal--I'm especially partial to their sausages. They don't really offer the sandwich/menu choices, but it is a heckuva lot busier than FF @ TV was.

https://www.themeathouse.com/store-lo...

Dec 21, 2011
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Heading to Oshkosh next month

Boston-area hound, heading to Oshkosh for Airventure next month. Anyone have any recommendations of places to eat? No particular food style is required: quality over variety is the goal. So a great brewpub beats a so-so tapas bar, etc., etc. Any thoughts appreciated!

Jun 09, 2010
headmaster in Great Lakes

So-so Ole

Alas, the kids were to go to the grandparents so we could go out for a Saturday night meal. But the oldest got the flu, and couldn't go, we we had to put it off a night. I too would have preferred any other night. But, at the same time, the place was hardly crowded, and the staff was not in the least harried.

As for Tortilla Espanola, I make a very good rendition of it, so I know it's not difficult to do well, and I actually prefer it the next day (or at least after quite a few hours in the chill chest. The fact that it was not made that day therefore isn't the huge problem for me, but rather the waiter's thinking that telling me something was old, and therefore stale, and that this is somehow an excuse for putting crappy food in front of me: well, that's just plain dumb.

And finally, sorry to all for the confusion. This is the first post I've made since the board was updated, and I didn't know until after posting that the restaurant location info would be buried at the bottom, rather than in the subject line or at the top. I'll be clearer in future posts.

Feb 16, 2010
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

momofuku noodle bar type places in boston???

Darn! He was here, signing?? Oh that would have been a hoot. A few years ago, several of us who taught him were attending a conference in NYC. I tried to organize an outing to his restaurant (the manager was THRILLED at the idea that we might show up and heckle him!!!) but schedules didn't work out. Such a shame I missed the book signing!

Feb 14, 2010
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

So-so Ole

Mrs. H and I decided to try Ole for Valentine's Day. The kids were off to the in-laws, and for the first time since the third child came along, we had the night to ourselves, with no babysitter awaiting a ride home. So, really, it's Valentine's Day and we're kid free--we should have been easy to please. That we weren't pleased is the reason that the place gets only two instead of three stars.

The highlights: Papas Ole, which often go by Batatas Bravas at other tapas places, were different than most, and quite good. Rather than a straight garlic aioli, they were in what I would describe as an aioli bechamel. Not what I was expecting, but unusual in a good way, and fairly tasty. The empanadas make it onto both the highlights and the disappointments list. The chicken one was delighftul and perfectly cooked. The pork...below...The garlic shrimp (gambas al ajillo) were good not great, but better than many rubbery overcooked restaurant shrimp that I've tasted.

The lowlights: our waiter was not someone who should plan on a long career in food service. We ordered our first bottle of wine, and off the server went. 7 or 8 minutes (!) later, he appeared to announce that they did not have any more of the wine we ordered. we ordered an alternative, and off he went again. 4 or 5 minutes later, he appeared again to tell us that--desolee--they were out of that as well. He then proceeded to suggest one that was moderately more expensive than our other choices. As the Clancy brothers once sang, there's nothing so sad nor so lonesome nor drear, than to stand in the bar at the pub with no beer--and the same is true for wine. When the suggested wine finally appeared, I had to reposition myself while the waiter opened it, because I was fairly sure when he finally wrestled the cork free that he would manage to whack me in the face with the cork and opener. And after it was open, he tried to flip the cork and reinsert it in the neck, though I stopped him at least from this.

Now, I've never had multiple attempts to order wine fail before. The few times I've ever placed an order in a restaurant, if the wait staff has left my table with the order and then discovered they couldn't fulfill it, they have always returned with an alternative that falls into the "same or greater value" for the same price kind of category. It rarely happens, but they always return with a solution after the first failure that is designed to make me feel that they are more upset than I am. I've never felt like the menu was a bait-and-switch, but the thought crossed my mind tonight after two goose eggs. It's a truism that the second least expensive wine on the menu is the most popular, and I'm as budget conscious as the next person these days, so I'm frankly flabbergasted that the place was out of two different wines in that price range. (As an aside, one of the things I loved about Tango in Arlington center is how very many wines they had on their list around that "second cheapest" price point.)

The bread was three small slices not replenished, with a small amount of (yummy) garlic oil. The pork empanada was seriously overcooked. And, most shockingly of all, the tortilla Espanola was inedible. That's a bit like a barbecue place with lousy pulled pork, or a Thai place with rubbery fish. Tortilla Espanola is close to the r'aison d'etat of a tapas place. When the waiter inquired about it, I told him it was "a disappointment." It had too little egg, and was dry to the point that it crumbled to oblivion when I attempted to slice off part to share with my wife. (It also had red peppers in it, though they weren't mentioned on the menu. I have problems eating large quantities of red peppers, and am very careful to minimize how much of them I eat. I dislike it when a description of a meal omits a major ingredient, esp. one that is a known allergen.) If the tortilla had been otherwise acceptable, I would have eaten a small amount and been okay with it. Anyway when I expressed my disappointment, the waiter, by way of apology apparently, explained that it was left over from the night before, and not fresh, and so that probably explains its texture and general inedibility.

I will pause a moment, to allow you to consider that last sentence. I'm still having trouble processing it, three hours later.

The general ambience of the place was decent, though it was a little jarring to realize that the singer was covering "C'mon Baby Light My Fire" in Spanish at one point, and early on the taped music at the bar was competing with the live music. We had no trouble carrying on a conversation at our table, though, even with the music, and that's unusual. Lighting was restaurant dim, but adequate, and the decor was somewhat more restrained than many tapas restaurants.

Most of the deficiencies could easily be overcome with some consistency in the kitchen. The best was quite good, and most was acceptable. But the inept service and lack of attempts to make up for the deficiencies has made me reluctant to return, unless I become aware of some major changes. A lot of training or a greater selectivity for the wait staff are a must.

I don't post a lot of reviews, but I think if you read the ones I have posted, you will see that I go to most restaurants willing to be pleased. I am looking for the good and willing to overlook the minor snags that accompany most human activity. The fact that I have detailed them here will, I hope, speak a lot. I know the board is mixed on Dali, and in some ways even more so on Toro, but I would certainly return to either of those over Ole any time soon. Fortunately, Mrs. H is a trooper, and the company more than made up for the limitations of the restaurant. As a plus, I can also mention that Ole is a short walk from Caffe Paradiso, where we had good coffee and great desserts!

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Ole Restaurant
76 Merrimack St, Lowell, MA 01852

Feb 14, 2010
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

momofuku noodle bar type places in boston???

I just need to chime in, because I find the David Chang aura hilarious. I was one of David's high school teachers in Maryland long ago, and I loved the kid, but never would have foreseen this. None of us, even his most ardent admirers, would ever have dreamed of writing the sentence "I realize that [so and so] is not David Chang..."

Okay, end of name dropping.

Brian

Feb 14, 2010
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

McKinnon's Meat

They were the gristle free flat piece. They were choice, but honestly the marbling was so good I half suspected they were prime.

Aug 02, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Trader Joe's In Fresh Pond

Can someone please explain to me why and how TJ's does not have a location in Salem NH, or some other border town, where they can sell booze and avoid sales taxes on their products??? The Tyngsborough store is fifty feet from NH, which suggests that they really have an issue, but I can't fathom it...

Ciao, Chow

Jul 30, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

davis sq suggestions

Greek Corner is one of my value favorites around the Camb/Som/Arl line. For the price, the quality is outstanding. (It's above average on an absolute scale, but not enormously above). The calamari is generally excellent, though the second to last time I had it (last fall) it was overdone. The chicken gyro is fabulous, and the dinner plates very good. I've never had a bill, including beer or wine, over $35 for two people, and it's usually closer to $25. The decor is Mediterranean-Kitsch, but what they don't spend on fancy appointments they also don't charge you for on your plate. Definitely recommend.

Jul 30, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

McKinnon's Meat

I have seen lots of references to McKinnon's, but never a thread solely about them, so thought I'd start one.

First, it appears that the Davis McKinnon's is not connect to the Danvers, Everett and Salem NH McKinnonses, which are connected to each other. The websites are different as are the graphics. The store quality is noticeably different as well. I used to live very near Davis Sq, and can't claim to have ever enjoyed the smell in McKinnons/Davis during the summer time. It's been three years since I went in, so maybe it's better, but whew.

I recently visited the Salem NH chain store, and was very impressed. Excellent meat prices and fabulous selection. They had a stack of Flat Iron Steaks (a perennial favorite with the Chowb and the pups) at least a dozen high, at a very reasonable $3.39/lb. I find Flat Iron very difficult to get anywhere but Hannaford's. (When I asked for it at Hilltop Butcher Shop, the two guys I talked to had never even heard of it!) I bought four chuck eye fillets for about $4/lb and they were excellent on the grill two nights later. The prepared/pre-marinated choices were vast as well, for those who roll that way. I bought some lemon-butter chix breast (we're packing and moving, so convenience wins this week) That was pretty tasty and successful, for $3ish a lb. I had no cooler with me, so I didn't try the fish market offerings, but they looked very appealing. Good variety, acceptable or better prices, and for crustacean fans they had a jumbo lobster tank with the 2.5+ pound monsters in it. I never see those in the regular grocery stores.

The groceries by and large were a bit over priced compared to MB or Hannaford, but not outrageously so--less than Butcher Boy, for instance, with a bit broader set of offerings. The deli meat selections were okay, but not great. Only one "Virginia" ham to choose from. They do carry both Luzianne and French Market brand chickory coffees, though, which is a bonus. Beer and wine prices were convenience store average. Twelve packs of beer ran in the $14 range, though there were one or two $11 specials.

On the whole, worth an occasional trip, with coolers and what not to carry largeish quantities back to the freezer.

Ciao, Chow!

Jul 30, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Is there a Flank Steak conspiracy?

It's never more than $5.99 at Demoula's/Market Basket, and frequently $4.99. Hilltop in Saugus also carries it for around those prices, and sometimes as low as $3.99. The $3.99 version is usually select, not choice, but honestly, if you marinate it and then grill it, then slice it properly, the difference between select and choice on that particular cut is negligible.

Jul 04, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Toro dinner report

Ah, good questions. Went on Sun Jun 14. Arrived just as the private party was ending, so call it 6. No wait to speak of, though I think by 6:30/6:45 people were indeed waiting for tables. I would have had to wait until the end of the party had I arrived at 5 as originally planned, but for some reason we called ahead.

Dali's Churros are savory, too, but less obvious pepper, and a bit more cinnamon sugar all around balances them better.

Jun 15, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Toro dinner report

So, tomorrow's the birthday, and the wife and kids (foodies all) decided to take me out for a nice dinner. The Lad, a 12 y.o., is probably the biggest foodie of the bunch, and will try most anything you offer, if it doesn't sound completely disgusting. (He's not ready for cooked heart, for instance, but there's hardly a conventional part of an unconventional critter he won't chow on.)

Anyway, first restaurant in a while that lived up to the hype. Thanks to all the unknown Hounds who posted reviews (unknown to me--the Wife reviewed the board thoroughly). [It probably would score me no points to use a term for a female hound, would it? No. So, I'll go with "the Wife." ;-)]

We kept it fairly conventional, since the Lass is a first grader who is not as adventurous as the Lad. (The wee Lass, 6 months old, heartily recommends the rustic bread, whose crust she loved gnawing on.)

Ordered: Hummus. Yum. Deliciously seasoned with good spanish paprika.
Pan con tamate. Good but not spectacular. Delightfully salty. Out of season tomatoes, so so.
Patatas Bravas. Mmmm. perfectly cooked, with crispy outside and creamy insides.
Annas Empanadas. Outstanding. Unusual pastry crust, tasty but not over the top Chicken filling.
MaĆ­z Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija . Wow. Great cheese sauce. Perfectly cooked grilled corn. Might have been one one fhe best of the night.
Bistec de Faldilla a la Plancha*. Perfectly cooked steak. The onions were a revelation.
Hamburguesas de Kobe*. These were for the Lass, who was struggling. When her brotehr asked her what the Kobe beef tasted like (American Kobe, no doubt) she replied "It tastes like hamburger, brother."

Least pleasing aspect of the night: there was a gay pride thing ending around when we arrived. That's not the problem, so much as the music during it was like the gay bar scene in Police Academy. The patrons: no problem. The music: well, it got better after six.

Least successful food: the churros. I had high hopes, but the pepper was over the top. I don't mind a savory dessert, but this crossed some imaginary boundary. Liked em, but Dali's churros are way better.

Cheers,
Brian

Jun 14, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

If it has to be a chain, it has to be...

What's the chain restaurant you go to when no other options work, and why that one?

For me, it's the 99. The food is only so so, but there's something on the menu for each of the hounds in the family--the wife, me, the 12 y.o. lad, and the 5 y.o. lass. And I do enjoy the "Wild Bleu" chix salad. And there are enough tvs that I can always see the Sox game during baseball season, which isn't always true at Friday's or Tucci's or the other options.

Jun 11, 2009
headmaster in Chains

Are There Any Brewpubs with Good Food?

Oh, yeah, forgot about them. I second the Portsmouth rec. Might be the best riced brewpub in the area, and the quality is high for both food and beer.

Jun 11, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Are There Any Brewpubs with Good Food?

If you are willing to travel a bit, I also recommend Martha's Exchange in Nashua. The beer is very good to excellent, and the food is much more creative/interesting than the usual brewpub fare. The prep is a bit unusual sometimes, but tasty. For instance, I once had a flank steak entree that was creatively prepared and perfectly coked. But they cut it in 1/3" slices, which made it very, very unnecessarily chewy.

Jun 11, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Are There Any Brewpubs with Good Food?

Salem Beer Works and Boston Beah are the same company. But for some reason the food in Salem is generally more pleasing to me. Can't say why that should be, since the menus are the same.

Jun 11, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Are There Any Brewpubs with Good Food?

I live in Andover, and hit the Tap every couple of months. It's a bit uneven, but generally pretty tasty. I haven't had anything bad there, but my wife, a creature of habit, reports that her burgers have been from "pretty good" to "mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!" The beers are good, but have a definite house style that might not be to everyone's liking.

Jun 11, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Cape Ann area baked stuffed lobster?

[never mind. just discovered that Blackburn tavern died a few years ago.]

Jun 08, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area

Restaurants everyone seems to HATE but you love

Dali totally belongs in the Love, not love but hate, column. It's a small location, so a long wait is what it is. Hardly fair to punish a place for being busy. Tapeo, has sometimes disappointed me, but Dali never has.

Also, Blue Ginger. I know it's a bit pricey, but 1) the Bing bar is fantastic. If you haven't been since that opened, go. Reasonable prices in there, and great food. And 2) I get the sense that many board people dislike it not for its value/quality, but merely because Ming is famous and successful. There's a lot of carping about the merchandising, which I have always found to be plenty understated. But it's a terrific wine list, the best calamari I have ever had anywhere at any time (my kids, 5 and 12, always order it and scarf it down), and enough variety from visit to visit without absolutely everything being new that I have no complaints. Other than price. Which is real. (Pretty cool kids that love calamari, too....)

Jun 08, 2009
headmaster in Greater Boston Area