Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Village Restaurant, Essex, MA

Stop #2 on my personal Clam Quest took me to the Village Restaurant located just a couple of miles down the road from JT Farnhams.  Founded in 1956, with just 15 seats, the Village was originally a hamburger spot known as Wimps and was then purchased by the Carters and transformed, over the years, to feature classic New England food and now houses over 200 seats.  The Village still sits with the family, and tales of the days past, of late night discussions about menus and plans are very much alive and well.  This is a family spot and they are keeping the traditions of their forefathers alive and well.  

The Village really surprised me as I drove up.  I had been anticipating a spot similar Farnham's, casual in style, however the Village presents it self as a much more diverse restaurant, serving the beach favorites we all crave, as well as a host of other items all created and made with family recipes like Haddock LuAnne which tops fresh caught haddock with bread crumbs, tomatoes, onions and olive oil.  The other true point of note with Village are their prices- think a 14 oz Sirloin for just $18.00.   

I wasn't there for the steak however, I was there for their clams.  Now I have to
note.  As I was going through my day in Essex I was asking all of the owners where they sourced their clams from, and while all listed off a group of local businesses, none did it with the passion as Kevin at Village.  When I asked he listed friends, not businesses.  People that he knows personally, and trusts implicitly.  It was awesome to see the true love of the industry shine through.

The clams arrived and I dug in.  Village uses large belly clams and a mix of both white flour and corn flour in their breading.  They had a great crunch and a softer flavor from the coating, allowing the full flavor of the clams to shine through.  The clams were fresh and fully flavored with the ocean.  They were perfect on their own for true clam lovers, and a quick spritz of lemon heightened their flavor even more.  

I couldn't resist trying out their clam chowder as well, as it gets some pretty great reviews.  This was the cleanest tasting clam chowder I've had.  Made very simply in the style of the family's old recipes,   it includes just half & half, onion rendered in salt pork (NOT bacon), potatoes and clams.  I loved this.  Too often clam chowder is a thick mess of ingredients, and overwhelmingly tastes like bacon.   True clam chowder should taste of clams, cut with cream.  This was truly delicious.

I had the opportunity to try out a couple of desserts as well.  All are made in house and each that I sampled was fantastic.  The key lime pie was the perfect combination of tart and sweet with gentle acid.  The baked Indian Pudding was a New England classic combining molasses and spices in wonderful harmony.  It's warm and comforting- just what you want on a snowy night.  The best however was the Coconut Cream Pie which screamed fresh coconut in every bite, exactly as it should.

Village Restaurant is obviously dedicated to the craft.  Their food is simple, uncomplicated by too much fanfare and everything is made in house with love.  It is definitely worth a stop for true New England fare, and located in the heart of town, its a wonderful place to "meet" Essex, Massachusetts.

1 comment:

Michelle Collins said...

Fried clams are the #1 reason I could never give up seafood (along with fresh lobster). This place looks great!


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