Part of my passion for what we do: An interview with chef Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina

Living a bit north of Boston is a blessing and a curse. I love the access to great restaurants, but sometimes it can be tough finding something of that quality a little closer to home. Finally, though, there are some great spots popping up north of the city including a great Italian restaurant called Evviva Cucina.

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Living a bit north of Boston is a blessing and a curse. I love the access to great restaurants, but sometimes it can be tough finding something of that quality a little closer to home. Finally, though, there are some great spots popping up north of the city including a great Italian restaurant called Evviva Cucina. At the helm in the kitchen is Executive Chef Anthony De Palma, who made his bones in all manner of great kitchens (working alongside the likes of Jim Dodge, Chris Douglas, Gordon Hammersly, Chris Slesinger, and Jody Adams), and his skill and passion come across in the great food at Evviva.

Continue reading “Part of my passion for what we do: An interview with chef Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina”

Chef Recipes: Pasta Bologenese

Courtesy of Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina in Westford, MA.

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Courtesy of Anthony De Palma of Evviva Cucina in Westford, MA.

Continue reading “Chef Recipes: Pasta Bologenese”

Chef Recipes: Ajo Blanco, a chilled almond and garlic soup

A recipe for Ajo Blanco, a chilled almond and garlic soup, courtesy of Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville, NC.

Courtesy of Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville, NC. Continue reading “Chef Recipes: Ajo Blanco, a chilled almond and garlic soup”

M.C. Spiedo opens in Boston’s Seaport District

Almost 2 years ago I had one of the greatest meals of my lifetime at Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine. That meal clearly defined in my mind the capabilities of chef/owners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. So when I heard that they were opening a new restaurant in Boston (sure Ogunquit isn’t FAR, but Boston is a hell of a lot closer), I was thrilled!

Almost 2 years ago I had one of the greatest meals of my lifetime at Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine. That meal clearly defined in my mind the capabilities of chef/owners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. So when I heard that they were opening a new restaurant in Boston (sure Ogunquit isn’t FAR, but Boston is a hell of a lot closer), I was thrilled! I’m excited to see what Mark and Clark have to offer at M.C. Spiedo, which officially opens today at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, located at 606 Congress Street in Boston.

Continue reading “M.C. Spiedo opens in Boston’s Seaport District”

An evening with Chef Kristen Kish: The autumn preview dinner at Menton

It’s funny how plans can change some times. Originally, I was set to attend the 1st Annual Blizzard Bash presented by the Barbara Lynch Foundation. In a monumental display of irony, the Blizzard Bash was cancelled thanks to, of all things, a blizzard.

It’s funny how plans can change some times. Originally, I was set to attend the 1st Annual Blizzard Bash presented by the Barbara Lynch Foundation. In a monumental display of irony, the Blizzard Bash was cancelled thanks to, of all things, a blizzard.

One of three compensatory options for Blizzard Bash ticket holders was to attend a special dinner at Menton, Barbara Lynch’s youngest brain child and Boston’s only Relais & Châteaux, AAA Five-Diamond, and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property.

Kind of a no-brainer. 

So, I would attend the Autumn Preview Dinner with Chef Kristen Kish. No write up. After all, I’m not a reviewer or critic by any stretch (and have no interest in being such). Just going to sit back and enjoy! No notes. No photos… just enjoy.

Like I said. It’s funny how plans can change sometimes. 

The singular expectation I had walking through the door of Menton was that I was going to have an exceptional meal. But, as anyone who enjoys an evening out will tell you, it’s about more than “just food”. It’s about the whole experience, and on this night I enjoyed an experience that forced my hand. How could I not write something about it?

I know that, for many, hearing the term “fine dining” evokes thoughts of the stuffy and uptight, making them feel intimidated or out of place. Menton is not that. From the moment you walk through the door, you are made to feel at home and comfortable. The dining rooms are impeccable and inviting – the staff friendly and accommodating.

A big part of any dining experience is who we end up dining with, and events like this are no different. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with John and Christine Williams (John is president and CEO of an early stage medical device company called NanElute, and Christine works as Regional Sales & Marketing Coordinator for All-Clad), Vivien Li (President of The Boston Harbor Association), and Chef Susan Regis. Comfortable conversation goes a long way to making a night fly. Before even realizing it, four hours had come and gone!

In those four hours, we were treated to course after course of delicious, seasonal fare expertly paired with wines by Executive Wine Director, Cat Silirie. The winners on the night, for me at least:

  • The lobster served with caviar, lychee and candied hibiscus (the wine pairing for this one was out of this freakin’ world, a 2012 Alois Lageder Moscato Giallo “Vogelmaier”);
  • A perfectly cooked beef sirloin alongside a 3-day beef tongue, beef cheek and a crispy rösti (paired with a 2009 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva, of which I couldn’t help getting a 2nd glass);
  • Dessert. … Now, I’m a fan of chocolate. Like, obsessed. Seriously. I should call someone about it. This dessert had no chocolate. And yet… this may have been the best dessert I’ve ever had. Period. Pecan sandies with crème fraîche, coffee and muscovado. I want this at the end of every meal. Every day. Forever.

The only thing that shined brighter than the 5-course menu was Chef Kristin (this being her debut menu since becoming Chef de Cuisine at Menton). You could feel the pride emanating from her as she introduced each course. These were her  dishes. This was her  show. Her moment. And she absolutely slayed it.

Menton is located at 354 Congress Street in Boston Fort Point neighborhood.

Gallery

 

Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine: Celebrating 25 years of memories

So many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether good or bad, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

“How do you measure a year?” – Jonathan Larson

Many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether with a smile or a tear, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

A year alone can bring with it a gentle rain of memories. Now imagine the deluge that one might make over 25 years of running “a world class destination restaurant” the likes of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine.

Opened in April of 1988 by chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows rapidly established itself in the culinary world in spite of its somewhat remote location. About those early days Frasier says,  “I remember being asked when we were first opening the restaurant in Maine, ‘What kind of fried clams are you going to serve?’ People didn’t expect a fine dining restaurant, but that’s what we wanted to do.” 

It’s not only what Frasier and Gaeir wanted to do, but in actuality it is what they accomplished. And, they did it well, garnering a plethora of accolades and awards. They would receive multiple glowing reviews from then Boston Globe food critic Robert Levey, something few restaurants at the time could boast. Gene Burns, who hosted ‘Dining Around’ on Boston talk radio station WRKO, declared when Arrows first open that it wasn’t only a great new restaurant, but that it would “change the New England dining scene.” Arrows would be included in a variety of “Best Restaurant” lists compiled by Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit Magazine, and Chefs Frasier and Gaier would go on to win the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chefs Northeast in 2010.

Industry recognition is always a source of pride. It creates buzz and interest for a restaurant and a chef, or in this case chefs. But, what has mattered above all things has been the memories that have been created here.

In July, as we walked through the Arrows garden, a garden established in 1992 by Frasier, Gaier and head gardener Robin Barnard, Chef Frasier reminisced, “We were just looking at photos the other day from those early years, and there is a shot of the back of the restaurant right from where we’re standing. There was no garden. Now look at it!” The garden at Arrows is now over an acre and provides the vast majority of produce used at Arrows and its sister restaurant MC Perkins Cove.

In speaking with Chef Frasier about the memories that have come from running Arrows, he mentioned how much he has enjoyed the opportunity to cook for many, both chefs and friends alike, over the years. One in particular warranted being recalled specifically: The first time Julia Child came to dinner.

It was 1991, and Arrows had just reopened for the season. Leading up to that night, the staff knew that Julia was on the books to dine there. Chef Frasier recalls how Lucia Velasco Evans, who had just started working for the restaurant as a pastry assistant, reacted to the news. Frasier said,  “Depite having heard the others chattering about Julia dining at Arrows, she wouldn’t believe it. ‘Why would Julia Child come out here?’”

Without fail, the night arrived. As did Julia Child. 

Her first stop upon arrival was the kitchen. Ever a proponent of women in restaurant kitchens, Julia was glad to see women hard at work in preparation for service. She made a bee line for Lucia and, in that singular voice, asked, “How long have you worked here?” Very little can make a memory stick quite like surprise. No doubt Lucia can atest to that fact!

Yes. Measuring a year, or 25 even, can be done most easily through the memories that were made along the way. Those found here are just a couple of the many for Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, and the men and women who have both worked and dined at Arrows. Even this 25th anniversary will itself serve as a memory some time down the road, undoubtedly with many other mile markers along the way.

Photos: Then and now 

 On Sunday, September 22nd, Arrows will host a special 25th Anniversary Dinner. They will be joined by Jeremiah Tower, Barbara Fairchild, and fellow chefs who competed alongside Clark and Mark on season 4 of Top Chef: Masters. Reservations are still available by contacting Arrows directly at 207-361-1100. The cost of the dinner will be $149 ($195 w/ wine pairing).

 

A preview of the Rosa Mexicano “Flavors of Mexico” series – Desayuno, a Mexican Breakfast

This past weekend I had the opportunity to preview Rosa Mexicano‘s “Flavors of Mexico” series. The first in the series, Desayuno, or “Mexican Breakfast”, is being served from February 23rd to March 10th at all Rosa Mexicano locations, including their Boston outpost, located at 155 Seaport Boulevard.

With my wife, and a couple of other friends in tow, we made our way over to Rosa Mexicano on a brisk Sunday morning. Mind you, ‘brisk’ in mid-Februrary, especially by the water, equals 30 to 40 MPH wind gusts, but the various dishes we tried did an excellent job of warming us back up!

We started our brunch off with a glass of passionfruit aqua fresca, which lived up to its name and really was quite refreshing. The beverage winner for me, though, was the Chilled Horchata de Coco, a beverage made from coconut infused rice milk and cinnamon. The grown-up version, the Horchata Especial, was phenomenal with the addition of añejo tequila, coffee liquor, and espresso.

From left to right: Chilled Horchata de Coco, El Tule (w/ gin), Horchata Especial, and El Vaquero (w/ tequila and bourbon)
From left to right: Chilled Horchata de Coco, El Tule (w/ gin), Horchata Especial, and El Vaquero (w/ tequila and bourbon)

We had the opportunity to try four dishes from the Desayuno menu: Torrejas de Miel Rellenas, a stuffed french toast consisting of cinnamon-cascabel chile-crusted brioche filled with a mascarpone cheese, and caramelized plantains; Nopales con Huevo, a soft egg scramble with cactus paddle; Machacado con Huevo, a scrambled egg dish with dried shredded beef, jalapeños, tomato, and onion; and Mexico City Chilaquiles, a traditional dish served with a seared, house-glazed ham, scrambled eggs, and a smoky chile sauce. Everything was delicious, but the stand out to me (and my fellow diners) was the Mexico City Chilaquiles. Known as a pick-me-up, the dish brought a warming smokiness in the form of a creamy chile sauce. This dish alone would be sufficient enough reason to make a return trip to Rosa Mexicano! The other highlight was the stuffed french toast, declared by one of my table mates as possibly being “the best french toast I ever had”.

Mexico City Chilaquiles
Mexico City Chilaquiles – The highlight of the morning

During our meal, we spoke about how difficult it can be for restaurants that want to be authentic, and be true to the flavors they’re representing as part of their identity. That’s something the team at Rosa Mexicano are clearly aiming to do with their “Flavors of Mexico” series, having sent a team of chefs to various parts of Mexico to find the necessary inspiration. In my opinion, they did not disappoint. Having made a recent visit to Mexico, and dining at a few local spots in the area, I feel that Rosa Mexicano hit the mark, producing authentic Mexican.  I wouldn’t hesitate to head back to Rosa Mexicano to have another go at their Desayuna menu.

You can see the Rosa Mexicano Desayuno menu on their website, along with a full list of the “Flavors of Mexico” series events. As a point of full disclosure, the dishes served from the Desayuno menu were complimentary, but all opinions expressed herein are my own, and I stand by them. A special thanks to Carolyn Marrans, and Chef Perez!