|Michael Krupp and Michael Leviton from Area Four|
The first (and only) food charity event I attended was 10 years ago during my internship at Casablanca restaurant. I was helping the chef hand out samples. My job was to repeat "Would you like a fig and blue cheese tart with arugula walnut salad?" roughly 500 times. This time I was on the other side. Surprisingly, I found it even harder. It required 2 skills I do exceptionally poorly: take pictures in bad lighting and network with people I don't know. Luckily, there was no shortage of liquid courage. After a few mixed drinks, I finally got myself to start talking to people.
Green Street was handing out samples of addictive beef tartar. It was a bit homey because they ground it instead of mincing. But that was one of its charms. It was almost reminiscent of rillettes, but raw. When I asked Greg Reeves, Green Street's chef, what cut he used, I was in shock and awe. Top round. Top round?! I could never find a use for that cut. It's too tough to cook medium-rare, yet it's too lean to grind for a burger, or to braise. It never occurred to me to make a tartar out of it. What made his version particularly good was that he ground it twice to remove all chewiness and mixed it with truffle mayo to give it much needed richness. The pickled mushroom was a perfect addition. Now I'll have the answer for my students who subscribe to meat CSAs and are forced to deal with this frustrating cut.
New England Charcuterie (that's promising to open soon) attracted a lot of attention for a reason. The cured sausages and meats were excellent. The most memorable of their samples for me was a pork liver mousse. We see plenty of chicken and duck liver on the menus, but pork liver is often overlooked. It was a pleasure to see it cooked so well.
Puritan and Co. was one of the few "modern" dishes that was as delicious as it was visually appealing. The light and creamy texture of foie gras made me stop and talk with Chef Will Gilson. Turned out it was passed through a tamis to remove the veins, and then whipped with a mixer. The results were absolutely stunning. Next time I make foie gras, I'll have to try this method.
Hmm, it looks like I ate nothing but liver and meat at this event. Unfortunately, vegetables were non-existent and the seafood had a much smaller representation.
Catalyst's hamachi tartar provided a much needed break from a meat overload. Pickled watermelon radishes were a perfect crunchy counterpoint to the creamy fish.
Area Four. Chickpeas, olives, preserved lemons, and parsley solidly rooted this punchy salad in the Mediterranean traditions.
I wish more of Boston places came down to earth and put deliciousness before innovation, presentation, and virtuosity. I feel like many of them are cooking way above their heads. It's as if you took a fabulous salsa dancer and asked him to do Bill T. Jones choreography.