Tag Archives: Newburyport

Loretta’s Newburyport – Clam Chowder Review

Loretta’s is one of Newburyport’s best little restaurants. Not as fancy as Mission Oak or Black Cow, but equally as adventurous in menu variation. Not as much of a bar scene as Agave or Port Tavern, but the perfect atmosphere for mid-week lunch. And since Loretta’s posts its daily specials on line, today I tried the clam chowder for the first time (after probably 20 meals there).

First Taste: clam and bacon on one spoonful — that is about as good as it can get

Fishy Substance: plenty of clams, cooked a little less than most chowders (maybe this was early in the day for the soup, as it was just a few minutes after noon). Nothing special and no grit, but fresh-tasting and abundant

Essential Extras: bacon bacon bacon bacon. Yes, some purists will say clam chowder should stand on its own without needing the magical power of bacon, but this clam chowder had a perfect balance of enough bacon and enough potatoes and enough spices and little extras to make it all work

Creamy Quality: Initially, the chowder seemed a little thin, but throughout the cup it tasted heavier and heavier, without being creamy…so, yes, a creamy chowder that wasn’t creamy, somehow

What It’s Got: tremendous balance between bacon and clams, plus a slight mustard-colored hue that made me initially think I was tasting mustard, although enough spoonfuls into it that sense went away. Something gives it a less-than-creamy-white-color (essence of bacon?) that helps it all come together

Overall: I check Loretta’s menu almost daily and probably get there twice a month, so I am disappointed that they don’t have clam chowder more often (disappointed like a gluttonous hog is disappointed when the trough is empty). When they have it again, I’ll be back. Easily one of the best chowders I have had.

Rating: 4.5 Clams...I am trying to decide what could make it better and perhaps the creaminess could come out just a bit more. And with respect for the purists, I’ll refrain from giving it a 4.85 since it does have bacon. But the bottom line is simple: this is the best clam chowder in Newburyport.


Tendercrop, Newbury, MA – clam chowder review

Tendercrop is a farm and farmstand along Rt 1A in Newbury and after a few years boycotting the place (long story), we’re back to going there for fresher vegetables and better (grass-fed) meat. And on Wednesday, I tried the clam chowder….

First Taste: heavy and peppery, which is not a bad thing

Fishy Substance: good clams and enough of them, but instead of grit (always good in small amounts), there was a piece of shell (never good…didn’t stop me from eating the rest, of course)

Essential Extras: the potatoes weren’t great, a little too mushy and bland…and if a potato is remarkably bland, it is really bad. The chowder also had some other indistinguishable extras…and being indistinguishable here is not good.

Creamy Quality: I kept thinking the chowder was too thick and chewy, but it never tasted too thick. If it makes any sense, it was thicker on the spoon than on the palate, which means they got the balance close to perfect.

What It’s Got: like The Old Salt, there was nothing special at all about this chowder. Basic, notable only for its creamy balance and a piece of shell.

Overall: Tendercrop undoubtedly gets a lot of touristy traffic, in addition to the die hard local loyalists. And I asked when I bought it whether it was made on site. This is a place that sells fresh everything, locally grown everything, from carrots to ground turkey to minestrone soup…but not their own chowder. The lovely lady at the counter said its the only soup they buy from a distributor (Shaheen, I think), adding that they don’t sell much seafood. Good point, but then why sell chowder? I think that goes back to Tendercrop’s location. I may have been the first local to buy chowder there in years. At least, I hope so, since Ipswich Clam Bake is so close by.

Rating: 2.2 Clams...it gets an extra .2 for being so close by and reliable, if really necessary. Wait, I take that back….just 2 Clams, which is pretty low for a place so close to the water. Wait, knock it down another .5 for not even being homemade. Final Rating 1.5 Clams

ELLT Pic of the Day (#38)

nothing to do with ELLT, but a cool picture from August 2007

Best Bartender Ever

On Saturday night, Maureen and I had the pleasure of dining with the Laphams at Ezno in Newburyport (link below), a restaurant that opened in March of this year and due to the crowds and relatively small size of the place, we ended up sitting at the bar, leading to a chat with the bartender and a chance to watch him work. I was looking forward to a Manhattan, but saw he had fresh-looking mint, which made me lean towards a mint julep. On the menu was a drink made from rye and described as an Italian version of a Manhattan. On the bartender’s recommendation, I had one (which led to a second…very good drink). Overall, tremendous food, good drinks, good atmosphere, and potentially a new favorite Newburyport restaurant. But the discussion with the bartender at the end of the evening and a chat with Eric on the way home made me think about the best bartenders ever.

I know I am forgetting some memorable evenings and very good bartenders, but that is the result, I think, of a concussion in my freshman year of college that saddled me with a terrible medium-term memory. Here is my short list:

  • the guy at all our fraternity parties when we needed a bartender (looking to Fes and Mike Graf to remember the guy’s name). I have no idea how well he would handle a full bar or if he could make a decent Manhattan, but once he learned I liked my Jim Beam and ginger ale with both a lemon and a lime, he always had that ready for me the moment I got close. A good guy, decent as it gets….
  • the woman bartender at 10 Center St in Newburyport the last four or five times we’ve been there. She makes a very respectable Manhattan and an exceptional French martini. She also asks, not long after you’ve had a few sips, if you like what you have. And she has done that every time. So few bartenders ask. I can understand if someone orders a Stella or a Sam Adams, you don’t need to ask if they like it. But if you’ve just spent four or five minutes crafting something, you should check and see if it came out ok. Simple thing, makes all the difference.
  • the guy at Del Merei Grille in Aleanxdria, Virginia (now gone). No better Manhattan in the world. I am not sure what he did differently as I watched – but I know I have never had a better-made Manhattan.
  • Steve Ball. For two (maybe three, who can count) straight years, Steve mixed the perfect drinks for the ladies on Valentines’ Day while Eric Shimp and I made dinner. Steve kept Eric and me happy, fed us martinis, opened the wine on time, basically worked bartender magic. And he has introduced us to more consistently perfect drinks — cucumber martini with Hendricks, French martini, that sort-of-gross-Mexican-beer-and-tomato-juice-concoction — that he is a adult beverages genius. They should give him one of those MacArthur genius grants. Every bar across America would benefit.

On that note – cheers.


The Black Cow, Newburyport

On the one sunny day this May, we went to the Black Cow on Newburyport’s waterfront for dinner, starting with clam chowder. Thankfully the Kentucky Bourbon Ale, the Plymouth IPA, and the Cod Provencal were all good, because the chowder….ehh…kinda wasn’t.

First taste – something sweet. Not pepper, not clams, not cream, not potatoes, but something sweet, which was odd.

Fishy substance – if I counted all the clams, I am not sure I would have made it to five. Admittedly, only a cup and not a bowl or a fish bucket, but one expects more clams than very few.

Essential extras – the potatoes were fine, but other than the source of the mysterious sweetness, the chowder lacked anything else. It wasn’t bland – the sweetness prevented that – but it also wasn’t full of flavor.

Creamy quality – on this point, the Black Cow got it exactly right. Perfect cream-to-soup ratio, very good balance.

What it’s got – if you’re sitting out on the deck overlooking Newburyport harbor and the Merrimack River, than this chowder comes with a great view. Otherwise….

Overall – I’ll order this again, because I like the restaurant…but I hope it gets better. More clams, more pepper, a dash of something extra to balance out that sweetness.

Rating: 1.5 clams…too good a restaurant to be serving lousy chowder.