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The Dining is Fine at Nathaniel's During Salem Restaurant Week!

For the fourth year in a row, local restaurants in Salem, Massachusetts are participating in Fall Restaurant Week sponsored by the Salem Chamber of Commerce.  In an article in, Rinus Oosthoek, the executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, stated that following the rather hectic month of October, “It’s a welcome back to residents because residents tend to stay away from downtown Salem during October and this is a way to get them back and sort of reward them for all the trouble they see in October with the number of people and less parking, etc.”

Technically, Salem Restaurant Week is actually Salem Restaurant Weeks as it runs from Sunday through Thursday for two weeks giving people a chance to visit more of the participating restaurants that are offering either a two-course prix-fixe dinner menu for $15 or a three-course prix-fixe dinner menu for $25, or, in some cases, both options are offered. This year there are 21 different restaurants participating in Restaurant Week with diners having the option of choosing from American, Italian, Polish, Mexican, and Thai - hence the reason that two weeks is really needed!

Fortunately you don't have to be a North Shore resident to be able to take advantage of Restaurant Week so out-of-towners like myself (who wish that they were North Shore residents), can still come to Salem and enjoy some truly delicious food at a darned good price - which is exactly what I did!

It's no secret that I am rather enamored of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem and during previous visits I've had the pleasure of dining in their more casual setting of The Tavern several times as well as having breakfast in Nathaniel's Restaurant twice.  I'd never had the opportunity to have dinner in Nathaniel's but I was presented with the perfect opportunity to remedy that oversight during my most recent visit which just happened to coincide with Restaurant Week (there is, indeed, sometimes a method to my madness!)

Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne in the dining room named for him at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Mass.Unique from the the other restaurants that take part in Restaurant Week, Nathaniel's doesn't simply offer diners a special menu from which to choose but instead they get to choose either a soup or salad along with one of the demi-portion entrées from the regular dinner menu and one full-size dessert from the regular dessert menu - all for just $25.  A true deal if ever there was one!

With my daughter having taken the train down to Boston to visit with friends, I took myself to dinner and treated myself to a nice glass of Chardonnay to go along with my delicious dinner choices.  I should probably mention that beverages, taxes, and gratuities aren't included in the prix-fixe dinner prices but diners are already getting quite the bargain so that seemed quite fair to me!

After perusing the menu several times over and changing my mind a couple of times, I finally made my choices and then sat back to sip my wine and enjoy the atmosphere of Nathaniel's while waiting for my food to be prepared.  I used to feel a bit awkward dining by myself but I've gotten better at it over the years and I found it rather interesting that during the course of my dinner there were two other ladies who came in by themselves to dine also. It made me wonder if women were more apt to go out to dinner alone than men were - I'll have to check around the internet and see if anyone has done a study on that!

Before going any further I should apologize for the quality of the pictures of my food as they're a bit dark due to the fact that I wasn't about to use the flash on my camera and disturb the other people enjoying their own dinners around me. Once I eventually get around to updating my old iPhone 3S to a snazzy new 4S I'll be able to take better sneaky pictures but for now, shots taken with the Nikon and no flash will just have to do - which are hopefully better than no pictures at all!

My meal began with a basket of crusty rolls and a dish of savory olive oil for dipping along with a very tasty mini-squash tart compliments of the chef.  My compliments right back at him as it was absolutely delicious - like a small bite of fall with a crust! 

For my soup I chose Steve's Seafood Chowder which is made with shrimp, scallops, haddock, clams, and potatoes in a creamy New England-style broth.  To be honest, I've never really even entertained the idea of ordering Seafood Chowder before as I'm not a scallops fan but for some reason it sounded good to me so I figured I'd give it a go and I'm glad I did.  I don't know who Steve is but I'll tell ya this - he makes one heck of a good chowder!  Had the meal ended right there I could have gone back to my room a very happy diner!

It didn't end there, though, for as soon as I had eaten my last spoonful of chowder, my entrée arrived - Grilled Swordfish with three-tomato and basil sauce, herbed pappardelle, and grilled broccolini. Truth be told, I had no idea what "pappardelle" even was when I was first looking at the menu but a quick search on my iPhone told me that they were large, very broad fettuccine noodles. Ah, okay, I like noodles and these noodles were delicious as was my swordfish.  Unlike scallops, I'm a huge swordfish fan!

As for portion size, if that was a demi-size entrée then I can only imagine what a full-size entrée must look like!  As my old Gram B used to say it was "more than I could possibly eat!" but I put a pretty good dent in it keeping in mind that I still had dessert coming.

Having heard the table next to me discussing the dessert choices I didn't even have to look at at the dessert menu to know that I was ordering the Pumpkin Cheesecake with caramel sauce and whipped cream. I knew that if either of my daughters were there, they'd be ordering the Chocolate Crescendo (three notes of chocolate: a chocolate-cherry biscotti, dark chocolate truffle and a cup of mocha cappuccino) but I figure a person can get chocolate any time of the year while pumpkin is only around for so long and you've got to take advantage of it while you can!  Like my other two courses it was absolutely delicious and I'm a little embarrassed to say the only thing left on my plate was the leaf garnish!

When I finally managed to push myself back from the table I was quite full and briefly debated a walk around the block to work off some of the food I'd just eaten but instead I merely took the elevator up to my room and enjoyed the feeling of having just had a very nice meal for a very nice price in a very nice atmosphere.

Sometimes life really just doesn't get any better than that!

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