Looking back on the Rosa Mexicano Boston Fall Harvest Dinner

harvest-dinner
Rosa Mexicano Fall Harvest Dinner – Photo by Travis Rubury

I’m late in writing this piece thanks to a very crazy November, and first part of December. But, I needed to take the time to write a little about the great experience I had at Rosa Mexicano in Boston.

In late October, the Rosa Mexicano family of restaurants held their first annual Fall Harvest Dinner, which they did as an opportunity to celebrate their commitment to utilizing hyper-local flavors and farm-fresh ingredients throughout the year. The menu, crafted by Culinary Advisor Jonathan Waxman, had the flavors you would clearly expect from a Mexican restaurant, with fresh local ingredients peppered in.

A favorite appetizer of mine, and amongst the table in general, was the Oyster Tartare. A very fresh oyster, served with shaved coconut, lime and guava with chili infused sea water was a refreshing way to open the meal! A friend of mine, typically not a fan of oysters, enjoyed it, which is always the sign of a good dish.

Oyster Tartare - Photo by Travis Rubury
Oyster Tartare – Photo by Travis Rubury

Mixed in with the appetizers we enjoyed that evening was a Rosa Mexicano staple: Guacamole en Molcajete. I’ve always been a fan of table-side preparations, and this is one worth ordering at each visit to Rosa Mexicano. The twist is the inclusion of pomegranate seeds and toasted hazelnuts. Since this dinner, it’s impossible to have any type of guacamole without my wife immediately saying, “Remember the Guac en Molcajete at Rosa Mexicano…?” I most certainly do!

Guacamole en Molcajete
Guacamole en Molcajete

The main was lavender, black pepper and honey marinated duck served two ways: Sliced breast with apples, pears, pickled walnuts and duck mole, and a braised leg served with wilted kale, brussels sprouts, fall root vegetables and serrano sage butter. My preference of the two was the sliced duck breast, which was very juicy and went perfectly with the accompaniments and the duck mole. If I could have changed one thing, I would have liked for the skin to have been a little more crisp, though this didn’t impede me from having two helpings. The more I eat duck, the more I realize how much I love it!

Sliced Duck Breast - Photo by Travis Rubury
Sliced Duck Breast – Photo by Travis Rubury

As is the case with any meal, it’s never complete without dessert. While I would always expect churros to be my favorite when dinning at a Mexican restaurant, I adored the pumpkin cheesecake. The churros, with a trio of sauces, including cajeta (think dulce de leche made from goat’s milk) came in a close second.

Churros and Pumpkin Cheesecake - Photo by Travis Rubury
Churros and Pumpkin Cheesecake – Photo by Travis Rubury

One aspect of the dinner that made the evening for me was the service. Rather than what you’d have during a traditional dinner service, the entire meal was served family style. It offered up the opportunity to speak with other liked-minded foodies that I otherwise may never have had the opportunity to meet. Amongst those was Travis Rubury, the photographer who took all but one of the photos I’ve included in this piece. It’s the second time I’ve had a chance to eat family style at a special event dinner, and personally I hope it won’t be the last.

The entire evening, start to finish, was an excellent and enjoyable experience. With delicious food and excellent conversation, it’s hard to go wrong!

I’d like to extend my personal thanks to Rosa Mexicano Boston Executive Chef Matthew Wool for a great meal, and to the whole Rosa Mexicano team, including Culinary Director for Rosa Mexicano, Chef David Suarez.

Rosa Mexicano Boston is located at 155 Seaport Boulevard in Boston, MA.

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Food Experiences: The Napa Valley

I am an East Coast boy through and through. But, I have to admit, there are some things to appreciate when it comes to the Wild West. Up there would have to be the wine regions of California, in particular Napa Valley.

Invariably, when someone hears the words Napa Valley the first thing that comes to mind for most people is wine, and rightfully so. You will find few spots in the United States that have the climate or terrain to grow the kind of grapes necessary to produce such a fantastic variety of wines. For me, it brings to mind a few things in particular. First, and most obvious, excellent wine. Second, some excellent food. As I stated before, while I certainly don’t mind wine or alcohol in general, I really am all about the food. Napa Valley does not disappoint in this regard. Finally, it brings to mind one simple word: Loser. I’ll get to that in a moment. :)

Wineries

The primary reason for our visit to Napa Valley last spring was to do what most do when visiting Napa Valley: To drink some wine. We made it to two wineries in particular that stood out. The first was Rutherford Hill. Our group of six had a private tour of the wine cellar where we tasted six or seven excellent wines. My preference was for the medium-bodied malbec. Most people think of Argentina when it comes to malbecs, but this was a particularly impressive one. After the tour and tasting, we had a boxed lunch at one of the picnic tables overlooking the valley. Un-believable view. Truly a worthy winery to visit.

Our second winery was Rubicon. This place was truly amazing. Rubicon is owned by Francis Ford Coppola of Godfather fame. Not only does this man know how to make films, his winery produces some of the best wine I’ve ever had the pleasure to imbibe. We had a private wine tasting along with the chateau ambassador, Harold Francis. A nicer, more entertaining gentleman, you will not meet. Our tasting was followed by a walk around the estate, and then finally a visit to the wine cellar. Since our visit to Rubicon, the Coppola’s have managed to acquire the Inglenook trademark (the original name when the estate was first established in 1879). The winery is now known as Inglenook .

Now mind you, one of those in our traveling party (The Foodie Journal’s own Jersey Kid) has an “in” when it comes to wineries. The experiences we had were above and beyond a typical wine tasting and tour. That being said, both of these wineries are deserving of visits.

Loser!

I know I mentioned this as the third thing I think of, but as this story is directly associated to wineries, I thought it fitting to tell now. We visited a third winery, which I unfortunately can’t remember the name of. While that would infer that I was in a state that wouldn’t allow me to remember, that wasn’t the case. The most memorable moment of this particular visit, though, was the following.

We were pretty tired by the time we got to this final winery. So we found a small area with some tables and chairs to take some rest. Near us was a a knee-high stone wall, next to a grassy area. One of the ladies in our party, seeing the sun shining on the grass, thought it would be a great spot to lay down and enjoy a little sunbathing. We’re all sitting quietly. Suddenly we hear, out of nowhere, “Look her! She couldn’t handle it. LOSER!”

I looked up to see the man stumbling away from us, his wife (or caretaker?) coming to his aid, as he could barely keep his feet. We laughed and laughed.

The moral of the story? A) We were all feeling just fine (most definitely better than THAT guy), and B) people in glass houses… should probably stop talking when they no longer can form complete sentences. :)

Hope he managed to find his way back to the gutter.

Eatery

For dinner, we decided to go to Terra in St. Helena. This place was outstanding. I also liked the simple fact that there was a selection. Granted it is a prix fixe menu. You get a specific number of courses for a preset amount of money. But, they still offered you selection. You could select any of the dishes from either their “savory” or “sweet” menus. The menu has since changed, but my selections at the time heavily involved both foie gras and bone marrow.

Overall, it was an AMAZING day, start to finish. I hope to make it back to Napa again soon. Next stop for dinner will be somewhere in Yountville. French Laundry anyone?

UPDATE: I was reminded by the Jersey Kid (via the comments below), that the third winery was Mondavi. No slight meant to them in any way. Rutherford Hill and Inglenook simply went above and beyond expectations, making them easier to remember. I also would like to extend a very warm thanks to Neb Lukic of Southern Wine and Spirits as well. It was an amazing day!

Tell us about some of YOUR food experience in the comments. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and on Facebook!

Belated Review: Chez L’Epicier (Montreal)

At the end of May of this year, a group of friends and I made our way north to Montreal in Canada. As far as dining is concerned we had a couple of fantastic experiences up there, but the best by far was a lovely Old Montreal restaurant called Chez L’Epicier (www.chezlepicier.com).

At the end of May of this year, a group of friends and I made our way north to Montreal in Canada. As far as dining is concerned we had a couple of fantastic experiences up there, but the best by far was a lovely Old Montreal restaurant called Chez L’Epicier (www.chezlepicier.com).

Small sign, but huge flavors.
Small sign, but huge flavors.

It is a very understated place from the outside. The day before dining there, we had walked Old Montreal and drifted right past Chez L’Epicier twice without even realizing it. Once we actually made our way there to dine and realized where the restaurant was, it gave us a a bit of a laugh. So many restaurants, with windows open and hostesses standing outside the door, seem to scream at you, “Hey you, come eat here!” Chez L’Epicier just sits there patiently and knows that true foodies will find their way there.

Hosting and Service

When we arrived, we were promptly and kindly greeted by the hostess. She was very polite and quick to help us to our table. We had a relatively early evening reservation (and yes, reservations are recommended) so that we could take advantage of the Montreal nightlife afterward. Due to the early hour, the restaurant was only moderately full, but still had a great vibe.

The only place Chez L’Epicier missed, and it was a slight miss, was that our server could have done a better job. He started off well, but as the night progressed his visits to the table were few and far between. At the time our entrees were served, a few of us wanted to order wine to have with our meals. We only managed to get an order in for wine about halfway through eating, then had to drag out finishing a bit longer to manage to actually have the wine while eating the rest of our dishes. Had service stepped up a bit more, our meal would have been flawless.

The Food

The winner of the evening was the food, and there really was no chink in the armor to speak of. There are plenty of times when you go to a restaurant and manage to find something, even just one element on the plate, that just didn’t really mesh with the rest or that could have used a bit more seasoning. For this mean, not one of us could find something to complain about. You can find a few photos of some of our dishes below.

We started off the meal with an amuse-bouche of beef tartare with a touch of green onion.

An amuse-bouche, which loosely translates to “amuse the mouth”, is a single, bite-sized hors d’ouvre that is provided by the chef. It doesn’t cost you a dime, and is a great glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking. Plus, more often than not, it’s going to be something you wouldn’t necessarily have ordered for yourself, so be sure to take advantage and give it a try. You can look at it as a welcome gift from the chef!

My main dish was the Alberta Beef Filet Mignon. As the name suggests, the beef was from the Alberta province of Canada, a well known area for top quality beef. It was served in a decadent whiskey and cinnamon sauce with a sweet potato purée, and beef and cheddar fritter. The fritter in particular caught my attention as it was much lighter than I had expected considering it was made of beef and cheese. It served an even greater purpose as a sponge to soak up every last drop of the whiskey and cinnamon sauce. The meat was very fresh and cooked a perfect medium rare.

The other main dish I was able to try was the Variation of Mushrooms. This dish was basically mushrooms done four ways, and each way was the right way! The two that did the two-step on my tongue was a mushroom cake, almost like a meatloaf, that truly did taste like meat, and a cream of mushroom soup. Looking at their current menu, they seem to change the Variation dish seasonally, with the current Variation being of asparagus.

Dessert made it’s way to the table in the form of a medley of crèmes brûlées. The medley consisted of vanilla bean, chocolate, coffee and pistachio crème brûlées. Each was exceptionally flavored. Texture was spot on, including the perfectly hardened sugar topping.

Beef tartare
Beef tartare

Alberta Beef Filet Mignon
Alberta Beef Filet Mignon

Variation of Mushrooms
Variation of Mushrooms

Final Take

 

3 Forks - Great Dinning
Great Dinning

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Chez L’Epicier to someone that will be visiting Montreal. The overall experience was great, with only a slight hiccup in the service. Had that been avoided, this easily would have been an excellent dinning experience worthy of a four-fork rating.

Chez L’Epicier
311 rue St-Paul est
Montréal, QC H2Y 1H3, Canada
(514) 878-2232