New to the area
We are new to the Merrimack Valley region and would like some hints. We aren't as much into dining out as preparing our own fine dining experience using the freshest and best ingrediants. I have not been overly impressed with the selection of fresh fish and cuts of meat in the Andover/ Lawrence area. I have visited Butcher Boy and the seafood place next door, the seafood place in downtown Andover. Whole Foods is ok as are both Mckinnes(sp)? in Salem and Havehill Meat Market. Are we missing any hidden jewels? Prefer not to drive into Boston or that immediate area. Have already explored farmers markets in the immediate area and am quite pleased. Discovered Wilson's Farm and envision many trips that far south. Plan to explore the North Shore area but would appreciate any input before setting out.
Thanks in advance
BobB, as a fellow MV resident, I'd say it is on the cusp, with about as many Boston posts as New England - maybe more,
Dennis56, it sounds like you've hit the best meat and seafood options in your area. You should visit Mann's Orchard in Methuen (across from The Loop), which has plenty of produce and also its own good bakery items. Once fall comes, consider heading an hour north to Gould Hill Orchard in Contoocook, NH, for heirloom apple varieties available nowhere else.
Do visit the local farmstands and farmers' markets, a complete listing is available at localharvest.org. Andover has a small FM on Saturdays that I have been to - nice produce. Lowell's, on Friday afternoons, includes vendors of Asian and South American produce, if you would like to explore that.
Also, there is the butcher shop adjacent to the Hilltop Steakhouse on Rt, 1 southbound in Saugus - not near you, but perhaps worth an occasional sortie, especially if you have enough freezer space to stock up. Warning - take a jacket, it's seriously cold in there!
Welcome to the Bay State.
Do check out the New England board - the moderators used to treat the communities along Rte 128 as the effective boundary of the Boston board. There was discussion years ago about being more definite in the descriptions, but they remain mysterious.
Just be aware to be very selective about the Hilltop butcher shop. On the return trip, be sure (unless it's a Sunday outside the holiday season) to check out Karl's Sausage Kitchen on Rte 1 northbound (just north of the Walnut Street overpass).
Another revered shop in your locale is Thwaites Market in Methuen. Great fresh kielbasa.
Shaw Farm in Dracut is a great source of good local dairy (they also sell non-homogenized milk, which is wonderful when you want quality milk).
Cider Hill Farm, just off MA Rte 150 from Amesbury just south of the NH line, is a great farm. They carry a very wide assortment of apples during apple season (including SunCrisps, my new favorite variety, much better than HoneyCrisps - I had a SunCrisp from last October in my fridge that was still crisp and tasty after Memorial Day!!! wow). You can get living apple cider (as opposed to the dead, pasteurized apple juice people call cider) and many other goodies there (though I'd pass on the kind of adjunct gourmet offerings there - like fancy dried pasta - as they are overpriced and you can get better elsewhere for less).
Further afield, there's Blood Farm in Groton, which is revered for the quality of its own meat products:
Market Basket can be a wonderful resource if your branch is a nice one (they vary in quality). While it maybe a bit of a reach for you, the one in Reading right off Rte 128/95 (across from the Jordan's Furniture megaplex) is wonderful.
In addition to the already mentioned, check out in your travels:
Tripoli in Lawrence
Piro's in Methuen
Korbani's in Methuen for fresh pita bread and Lebanese goods
George's in Methuen for fresh pita bread and middle eastern foods and supplies
Joseph's Trattoria and Bakery in Ward Hill part of Haverhill
Fantini Bakey in Haverhill
Annarosa's in Newburyport - great organic artisan bakery
Borelli's in Methuen - great homemade sausage and deli meats
Italian Kitchen in Lawrence across from Tripoli's for fresh Rice Balls Wed. thru Sat.
Fowle's Market in West Newbury - great sausage too
The Butchery in Newbury
Tender Crop Farm in Newbury
I have no problem with Market Basket
Bradford Seafood in Haverhill
David's Fish Market in Sailsbury
Lots of place to pick your own fruit like Cider Hill in Amesbury, Turkey Hill in Haverhill, Rogers Spring Hill in Ward Hill part of Haverhill, Smolak Farm in North Andover.
Mann Orchards in Methuen for pies, produce and baked goods.