My time at Menton

It’s amazing what real hard work can do for a persons’ soul. I’ve always looked up to people who have the truly tough jobs in life; fire fighters, service men and women, the folks from those Alaskan king crab shows and well now I can add commis to that list. What is a commis you ask? Under the french brigade system designed by Auguste Escoffier, a commis is a new chef, typically the term given once entering a restaurant after formal training, and yes smack dab at the bottom of the proverbial food chain.

Being invited to work for the best restaurant in town is a no-brainer, you say yes. Then you give yourself a few weeks to mentally prepare, say goodbye to friends, free time, sleep and any money you might have because you won’t be seeing these things or the daylight for awhile. Small price for an experience of a lifetime.

I entered Menton completely naive. If I thought my stage was an indicator of the work ahead, I was kidding myself. In retrospect the stage was the easiest 14- hour- sweaty- busy- hectic- nerve- racking- day I ever had at there.

Since leaving Menton for a completely different opportunity at America’s Test Kitchen, my friends and family have been asking “what was it like?”

Menton is a nationally known fine dining restaurant, world ranking even with its addition to the Relais & Chateaux standing of the worlds best restaurants. In Boston, we only have a few restaurants offering unique, seasonal, and well executed french technique at its best and Menton is certainly at the top of the list. It holds such a reputation because they give their diners the full experience. Not only is the food memorable, exciting, and visually different, the dining experience is top notch. I once had a friend (before I started working there) tell me that it was as if the waiter knew he had to use the restroom before he knew he had to use it. This might have been an exaggeration on his part, however, this was still the kind of impression Menton gave him. Most recently, Cat Silirie the wine director for the Barbara Lynch Gruppo just won a James Beard Award for her idea and direction of their wine program. Not only is the wine and food excellent, the staff, atmosphere and attitudes of the front of the house play just as important of a balance. Without them, the food would not matter as much, the wine wouldn’t taste as good, and the atmosphere wouldn’t play such a unique presence. This is why I came to work here.

Showing up for my first day of work was intimidating; I was nervous, excited and questioning my ability to be there, since, I had never actually worked in a restaurant before. I showed up in my own chef pants, rookie move number one. I had to remind myself that Chef Colin and Chef Wyatt saw something in me during my stage and that they knew I could do it. Setting up my station in the midst of 10 extremely well trained cooks (all men) sent nervous twists to the pit of my stomach, but I knew if I showed it, they’d eat me alive. In this business, if you are told to do something you do it, so that’s what I did. Head down, eager to learn, just.do.work. As a commis, a big part of my daily tasks was to get the list of herbs needed for each station that day, Chef de Partie (CDP) and Garde Manage, meat entremet, fish entremet, meat CDP, Fish CDP, and anything canapes needed. 7 stations ranging with a list from 5-20 herbs each x the amount of garnish per plate times the amount of covers equals thousands of individual herbs a day. It’s amazing how fast these fingers can move. The first few days I spent a lot of time finding out what each herb was. I had no idea what persulane, oxalis, or stelaria looked like! (Culinary school fail here). After 5 hours of hustle and rapidly plucking plooshes, leaves, flowers, and micro greens, roughly 40-60 plastic black to-go containers would adorn a perfectly cut (not torn) green label with the stations name on it. Out of the herb “weeds” yet again. Now for the hard part…

At 4pm each day we had family meal, which I most often dreaded, it meant I had to stop working no matter if I was finished with the herbs, that I had to sit and eat, and wait for our pre service meeting to adjourn. Between the end of this meeting and the start of service was do or die time for me. I had to finish my projects, and also sometimes those of the other cooks, peeling walnuts, turning artichokes, blanching asparagus, getting pots, pans, towels, oils, salts, stocks, more garnishes, you name it! It had to be done 10 minutes ago.

Sweating, always, and running on pure, head-spinning, adrenaline is sort of a great feeling.

From about 6pm to close I had to help the dishwashers run the clean and dirty pots and pans up and down the stairs. All Clad pots to be exact, very heavy, most often 400-500 degrees hot and spitting with oil. I cannot say this was fun, however night after night I had to make a game out of it, how much could I lift? How fast could I run down and back up again? How could I not burn myself? After awhile I treated it as my workout, this part of the job wasn’t going away anytime soon, so I had to make the best out of it.

After about 5 weeks, I was moved up to Canapes. Done with picking herbs and on to something new. This was an exciting day for me, however the work and hustle only got harder. My prep list included: making madelines, onion macaroons, cut fish of the day for tartare, fry potato chips, prep and make mushroom leek tarts, steam off clams for butter soup, make gazpacho, gather all my garnishes; fried capers, chive tips, chervil, goat cheese, creme fraiche, caviar, onion/carrot/herb powders and be set up for service at 5pm not a minute late. Afterall, my food was the first bite the diner would taste and I need to be ready on time. After slingin’ canapes for 5 hours I’d clean up my station and resume pot and pan running, although by now I’m a pro and carrying much more weight than I could during week one.

When service finally came to a close, we’d clean the molteni, polish, shine and scrub until everything sparkled again. Everyone’s remaining mise en place came downstairs again, the low boys were cleared out, the pass was turned off, and the mops hung to dry. And now for my favorite part of the day, beers. We’d spread out the dirty pass linen and throw hunks of cheese, leftover bread rolls and iced down cambros full of miller high life. Finally I stopped sweating, cold beer, even miller high life tasted like the best thing of earth. Left over cheese from the cheese cart felt like my first meal all day, and the bread rolls, oh the bread rolls. The day was over, we’d discuss prep and service, highs and lows, call outs and things to change, each cooks with visible exhaustion on their faces, relished in their soon fate, sleep.

Looking back, this experience has taught me a lot. I couldnt write about it at first, I had to let the moments sink in, settle, and rest from it. It was physically tough, demanding, mentally draining at times, but it also was extremely rewarding, fun, exciting, and hilarious. It only took a few weeks to feel part of the family, and the camaraderie in that kitchen was the most fun I’ve had since playing sports in high school. Good people with common interests. But also because I was working with some amazing talent. Each person with their own story of where they came from, how they started cooking, where they’ve worked, traveled, eaten, and where they’ll go next. On the few days when I thought I wouldn’t make it, I was in the weeds, burnt badly, or just plain exhausted these guys would keep me going, they’d always say “get your shit done, but if you need help, no one will let you fail” and they never did.

I learned so much while working there, from even better work efficiency to meat and fish butchery to doing the best you can or not all. Simple things, like chive squiggles, shelling lagoustine, peeling walnuts- (yes they individually peel walnuts!), making pea veloute chlorophyll, and all things foie gras.

As my time at Menton was coming to an end, I was actually sad to leave. A part of me was relieved it was over, but another part of me knew that if only I had started in this business 10 years ago, it’d be amazing to see where I’d be today. But that’s life, things change. Personally, I feel accomplished with my time at Menton, I was pushed hard, worked harder than I ever have in my life, and also met some of the most amazing people. I wouldn’t change one day of it. I discovered that I’m f-ing great at time management and I can hustle. I can learn and be taught quickly on the fly, that my food memory is stronger than my actual day to day memory, and that I’m so happy I decided to change careers. Food, in whatever capacity that holds going forward, is where I belong. No, I don’t think I want to be a chef in a restaurant setting, perhaps in a private home, yacht (ha! one can dream..), or for my own friends and family but the restaurant world is tough and for the right kind of person. I’d rather keep being a rolling stone in this culinary journey.

meat room shenanigans

A big thank you to Chef Colin, Chef Wyatt, Johnny, Lou, Jeff, Clarice, Matty, Aaron, Oz, Brian, Chef Ian, Chef Chris, Chef Bethany, Kelly, Katherine, Creepy, Ben, and C, it was a lot of fun to work with all of you and thank you for allowing me in your kitchen.

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Paris Gastronomique

Ah Paris. What an amazing city.  It was my first time visiting this gorgeous place and it couldn’t have come at a better time, my schooling at Le Cordon Bleu is just a week away from ending and my internship at a modern French Boston restaurant (Menton) is just about to begin.  The stars aligned for this one.

Throughout my life, I have formed opinions of how the French people are, most of my influence came from movies, books, and stereotypes. Even cartoons such as Pepe Le Pew when I was a child conjured ideas in my head about the snotty and rude French.  However, I must say, after spending seven days in this country I did not encounter one rude, maladjusted, or condescending person. I asked for directions, ordered meals, and participated in everyday language both in English and my horrible French without any problems at all.  Perhaps it was my boyfriend’s ability to speak French so eloquently that enabled us to fit in seamlessly, but, then again he’s English and that’s a whole other story. (Why the French hate the British).

We arrived in France on a rainy and cold afternoon, after finding our way out of the Luxembourg station in the 6th arrondissement, near St. Germaine De Pres we were steps from our rented Parisian apartment (Thanks Airbnb!). Although I was too excited by all the smells, sights, cafes, and well-to-do-frenchies, we decided it would be best to nap off our jet lag a bit.  I awoke to wine, brie, and a warm and crusty baguette…right! I’m in France! Yes I have the best boyfriend ever. I shook off my foggy head and got down to business with wine and travel guides.

After stuffing myself full of cheese, bread and wine, we went to hit the town around midnight. Although the French often eat later in the evening and restaurants’ usually stay open until 2am, this was not so much on a rainy Monday night.  We found ourselves just a block away at a covered outdoor café that faced the Luxembourg gates.  It wasn’t anything special, but my surroundings and company were, so we had a fantastic time.  The elderly owner was still fluttering about serving us and the few remaining Parisians that still imbibed sipping wine and smoking.  We enjoyed a wonderful bottle of Bordeaux until our teeth looked like wood and Dan splurged on a plate of frites while I took in all the sights and smells of the world around us. Our waiter/owner did not rush us albeit approaching two in the morning, he let us sit and sip and relax until we were the last people in the restaurant.

After three bottles of wine and ten hours of sleep we awoke without one trace of a hangover.  How can this be we thought! A spot of coffee and a few croissants later.. ok and a pain au chocolate.. ok AND a bit of baguette with jam we made moves.  Pastry overloaded and quite happy we decided to plop our carbed out bodies on a tour of the city by way of the Big Bus Tour.  Two and a half hours later we had seen all the major sights and scoped out our adventure areas for the week.

On Wednesday we woke up to torrential rain, it was not what we had planned for, however we were in PARIS and it didn’t matter.  After a few train rides on the metro, we ended up in the largest and oldest covered market in Paris. Tiny books stores, craft shops, wine boutiques, tiny restaurants, artisans, and the occasional empty space filled over 4 city blocks of undercover market places. It felt like true old world Paris.  I could feel the tinkers, butchers, and cheese mongers who formerly occupied this space. It was very special.

While most of the lunch spots were bustling with customers, we were starving and a bit defeated when we stumbled upon a rather fancy but empty looking spot; Passage 53, located at the 53rd address of covered arcade.  We entered a modern minimalist dining room adorned with simple art, and colorful place settings. The maitre’d greeted us in a smart-looking, sleek black suit, with a black skinny tie. He was very French looking minus the thin upper lip mustache, and with a bright smile he welcomed us. He sat us and quickly explained that there was no menu, only pre fixe gastronomique tasting menu; the lunch version, or if we wanted to go bigger, the dinner tasting menu.  But before we were to choose he needed to check with the chef to see if he could accommodate two more for lunch. He further explained that they run solely on reservations.  I started to get nervous. I felt under dressed; I was wearing a simple sun dress soaked in rain, and Dan in his t- shirt and shorts. I was convinced he was checking with the chef to figure out a way to tell us to leave. We were under dressed but that didn’t seem to phase the wait staff, the Maitre’d came back with excellent news that they had room for two more. To our delight, we began to discuss the menu options. Without question Dan and I went for the whole shebang, plus the extra course with caviar. We’re on vacation, bring it! My nerves were instantly calm, we had been accepted.  As guests started to arrive, we noticed their anticipation and energy flooding the room and we quickly began to realize that we were somewhere unique.

If I could eat tasting menus everyday of my life I would. They are such a thrill, a rollercoaster for your palate, and always an adventure of new flavors and products. What I am about to walk you through is an endless homage to traditional French cuisine but in the most simple flavors and modern techniques of our culinary culture to date.  It is and exquisite experience to eat such developed flavors and to understand their depths and difficulty.  Fourteen courses of pure amazingness; some simple, some complex, but all fabulously harmonious.

Amuse bouche #1-Grilled salsify, first poached in butter.

Amuse bouche #2- Veloute of fresh pea with a quenelle of pea ice cream

Course Un- Caviar alongside potato strings with chive and chive blossom

Course Deux- Crab, English cucumber, pea gratinee, horseradish cream, poured cucumber jus with verbena

Course Trois- Gentle poached langoustine with cauliflower cream with crisp cauliflower shavings

Course Quatre-White asparagus, Parmesan cream, crumbled egg yolk and parmesan crisp

Palate awakener- Veal Consomme with a 3 minute egg, sorrel mushroom, chives and asparagus

Course Cinq- Turbo with peas, lima bean, and butter poached wheat berries with wood sorrel

Course Six- Veal breast with fingerling potatoes, celery foam, fennel foam, cabbage, mustard micro green and mustard seed puree

Course Sept- Squab, pumpkin cardamom puree, a micro brunoise quenelle of carrots vichy

Course Huit- Crème Brulee with an isomalt crackle

Course Neuf- Lemon curd ice cream with a lime candy and a cold lime crème sauce

Course Dix- Burnt caramel ice cream with a shaved white chocolate crumble

Course Onze- Season cherries, cherry sorbet, grated white chocolate and cherry grantinee on top of a white cherry ice cream

Course Douze- Chocolate ganache tart with citrus honey

All in all; 14 courses with champagne to start and coffee to end.  Our bellies were full, our minds were swirling with excitement and my taste buds were dancing around in my mouth. It was one of the best meals of my life; simple, well executed, unexpected, and entirely memorable.

Paris Part Deux coming up soon!

A pig’s tail…from head to hoof

This story begins with the few clicks of a mouse in a land called twitter, a far off cyber-realm where people share ideas, connect, promote, and exchange information.  Had I not been sitting in a nail salon, obsessing over Facebook, instagram and twitter simultaneously (yes I’ll admit it) while waiting for my pearly polish to dry, I might not have ever seen this tweet “@themightyrib: Boston foodies…if you’re interested in details about attending a Pig Roast @CitizensPub in the near future, pls DM me. Organizing a group”.  Without regard to my polish, I instantly replied and was greeted moments later by a friendly message from Kevin (@themightyrib) that I was in.  Awesome. Finally a dinner crew that will get down and dirty with some odd bits, and maybe a few people I can learn from. A couple of days later he got back to me with the date of Sunday Feb 26@2pm.  Juuuusst Great, iPhone calendar says I have a ski weekend planned, but what the heck, its been a bare bones winter so far.  The Pig wins.

6 weeks of anticipation led to this…

13 foodies

From all backgrounds

and  all walks of life

strangers to each other

came together with one common goal

…to eat. drink. and eat some more.  Did I just write a haiku or something?  anyway…

I am a carnivore and I have no qualms about it.  I like meat, I believe in meat, and our bodies were designed to digest it. I dig the veggies/vegans/pesca’s too and I am not trying to piss you off. However there is something special about nose to tail eating.  I know it’s becoming a little gimmicky but in concept and to actually be a part of it, is something sort of special.

I mean, we had a moment to bond with the little bugger. The chef brought him out in all his baked, crispy golden skin, ready to be hacked apart, glory.

We got to see the before, so that we could appreciate the after.

Whole Hog, 26lbs of goodness

After everyone arrived and beers had been served, we started with a nice 1st round of raw bar appetizers; clams, shrimp, and oysters.  Couldn’t think of a better way to start off a pig roast, if I do say so myself.

Oysters and Clams

For sides we were surprised with tarragon roasted beets, fried green tomatoes, and truffle oil sweet potatoes.

Gorgeous Beets

Killer Green Tomatoes

And it begins…

Pig Pickin'

Shoulders and Butt

My first plate

Crispy Pig Skin.. doesn't get much better! Pork Candy

Since this was brunch after all, the chef informed us that he had stuffed the pigs belly with chorizo, eggs, spinach, apples, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and various aromatic herbs and spices.  It was fantastic and the flavors ran throughout the tender meat.

More Pig!

Stuffed.

After fully pigging out, the drinks started flowin’, and the bourbon punch started giving us a warm feeling in our tummys… liquid courage was building and the main event was upon us.

Bourbon Lemon Tea Punch; deadly yet delicious

Offal; the nasty bits and odd parts. The grande silver platter arrived and I was excited, curious and a little grossed out all at the same time, but hey!  This is what I came for.  When else does one experience something like this?  I don’t think I’ll ever be on fear factor getting yelled at by Joe Rogan,  I sure as sh*t am not eating or preparing this stuff at school, and my usual dinners out with friends don’t get this interesting, so I’m going for it.

Brains, Eyes, Cheek, Tongue

Eyeball is interesting.  If it wasn’t for the bourbon tea plus some random foodie peer pressure I might not have done it, so it was a perfect combo.  With a few meaty parts of the head fat still attached I popped the sucker and chewed only slightly.  Tasted like pork, a little oily, and then an odd viscous feel on my tongue. I immediately grabbed for my beer and swallowed.  It wasn’t terrible, but I am glad to have just had the one.  First and last eyeball consumption I hope.

Pig Eye... not sure if it's the right or left

With that, followed brain on toast with a little kosher salt.  Comparative to an oily pate with a liver aftertaste. Not delicious.

Brain shmere. Brown strings are blood lines or brain veins. yuck

And finally, pig tongue- actually incredible!  Tasted similar to roast beef. If you ever have a chance, try it! Any normal meat eater would like it.

Tongue is just to the lower right of the snout

Look at Carol “I’ll try anything once” Glagola, eatin’ her brain toast like it ain’t no thang! She dug right in. You GO girl.

This was a perfect Sunday afternoon. I met a lot of cool people, heard some interesting stories, shared some laughs, ate some weird sh*t, and got cultured on nose to tail eating. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, sip on whisky, and have some good banter, head over to the Citizen Public House.

The…

End.

Biere-Gruyere soup with fall ale foam and sourdough toast

I’m on a soup kick and this Indian summer that’s been in Boston for the last 8 days is driving me crazy.  Hellooo Mother Nature,  I’ve put most of my summer duds away and the AC is out of the window, so could you please change the leaves, turn down the temps and make it fall already!   There is a rumor it’s coming. The ever-so-non-accurate Dylan Dreyer (our local Boston meteorologist who cares more about her Banana Republic outfit than accurate forecasting) is predicting fall like temps and rain this weekend so I hope she’s right.  Sunday sounds like it’s going to be rainy with a high of 61/ low of 47, so it will be a perfect day to try and replicate Sel de la Terre’s Biere-Gruyere soup with fall ale foam and sourdough toast. HOLY CRAP, this was pure taste bud ecstasy.  If you don’t like cheese,  stop reading.  If you don’t like beer, stop following me all together.

This past Sunday, Dan picked me up from the airport and took me to a place he’d been wanting to try out, Sel de la Terre on the Wharf.   A bottle of wine, some apps… it was a perfect Sunday evening. We started with their Petit Gouters; (bread accompaniments)  Balsamic roasted shallots and garlic confit, french olives, and an Eggplant-goat cheese puree with toasted walnuts.  We were starving but not blown away; they were however, nice little nibbles to start with.   I like to ease into meals, I like to take my time, and I like to take in the flavors while enjoying my company.  I’m the slow eater, pain-in-the-ass servers do not like to wait on, but I’m polite and I also order bottles that I most often tip you on, so whatever.  Since I like to take my time and enjoy a night out to dinner, I’m often frowned upon by management as I do not provide them the burn and turn rate they’d like.  I’m also not often an entree orderer because I get full fast and then wind up being the jerk who’s taken two bites of her meal. I’ve parted ways with entrees for sometime now. I’m all about small plates, taste variety, and eating until I’m 80% full, so I can go out that night, duh!

Because I gravitate towards  small bites, apps and soups, I am a firm believer that if you have good soup, everything else on your menu will be good.  It’s hard to make a good soup.  It requires an enormous amount of time to carefully simmer a stock to the right taste and in a big enough batch. Soups, in some cases also require a lot of straining, which in large volumes isn’t easy! Having the right consistency, flavor profile and depth of flavor can also be tricky.   If you make a soup from scratch (not one poured out of a Cisco bag), you more often than not care about what you are cooking, take pride in your culinary skills, and have the chops to give me hope for the rest of your menu. This may be a biased opinion, but out of all the soup I have had in my life, I can think of one other that is memorable and a favorite: The Sherwood Inn’s French Onion.

Sel de la Terre’s  Biere-gruyere soup with fall ale foam and sourdough toast, described as ecstasy above. is. just. that.  It is a creamy, clean, perfectly seasoned puree of cheesy goodness with a pale ale finish.  After the first spoon full I had an instant vision of my feet up, in ski gear, next to a fire after a few beers, with this soup in hand.   It was amazing and for a moment it felt like real fall. I’ve been scouring the internet for a recipe remotely similar and after a few twitter convo’s back and forth with someone who updates the @SeldelaTerre feed we are now in negotiation for the real recipe. If I don’t get it, I think I am going to try a version of the following:

  • 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
  • 1 (12-oz) bottle ale such Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada or Harpoon pale ale
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lb grated Gruyère
  • 4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled  (optional)

Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander. Get the dirt out!

Cook leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add milk, broth, and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.

To make the beer foam you need:

  • 1 Cold pale ale beer
  • Immersion Blender
  • 1 gram of Lecithin

In a cup, combine 1/2 of the cold beer, sprinkle in the lecithin, and blend with the immersion blender.  The foam will begin to form and the lecithin acts as a stabilizer, keeping the foam intact.   Drink the rest of the beer.

Dollop the foam on top of the soup and serve with grilled sourdough points drizzled with truffle oil.

If you decided to try this out, I hope you like it.  I plan to give it a shot this weekend, so I cannot attest to the complete accuracy nor amazingness that this recipe may or may not offer.  It does however sound very close to the flavors I enjoyed. As a side note, I would strain the soup and serve it as a creamy, fluid, puree without the vegetable chunks.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading! xo-G

Toro, ole!

It’s the first sign of fall; rainy, gusty, goosebumpy kind of cold. It is also a perfect night for dinner in one of my favorite spots; a cozy, energetic, neighborhood gem that is Toro; a Ken Oringer + Jamie Bisonnette love child. Oringer, a local Boston acclaimed chef, opened Toro in 2005 with instant success. He brought dramatic Spanish style tapas along with Chef Jamie Bissonette to a once risky corner of town that now boasts a cult like following in a thriving, posh, part of the South End. I am totally drinking the kool-aid.

Chef, Jamie Bissonette

Dan and I arrive to the undoubted 45 minute wait, perfect. We don’t mind, it’s expected. A little wait time, a catch up chat of our days events, and a boozy cocktail is just fine with me. It will also allow for the insatiable smells wafting from the kitchen to really get inside me, intrigue me, and allow for my hunger to build up even further.

I’m a huge fan of warm, aromatic, inviting, romantic spaces and Toro has the atmosphere down. A rugged, old school, brick building, dimly lit by votive candle light, a bustling, yet well controlled back kitchen area, with staggered high-top to table top variation, sleek bench and titanium chair seating, adds a modern note. It’s a great space for a night like tonight and I’m excited to revisit some of my favorite dishes and tack on a few new ones! My dining companion tonight, Dan, has the famed title of successfully eating through the entire Toro menu, with a worn out menu in checklist, scribbled out pen ink to prove it. I’m impressed and also in store for some new things!

photo courtesy of http://www.hauteliving.com

The menu is extensively diverse. There’s really something for every kind of eater, but mostly foodies of a feather flock together here. Pork butter, veal sweetbreads, tuna belly, uni, and bone marrow are just a few of the oddities/nasty bits/sensational bites one can expect to try.

After a delicious Dark & Stormy, we are seated at probably the best spot for two in the house; a nice little corner table in the window, we sit and begin to plan our attack. Dan is easy and adventurous so this is going to be fun! First stop: Ventresca– Spanish tuna belly, tomato tapenade and celery leaves. It arrived on a thin, crisply toasted, slice of their house bread. It tastes much like chunky tuna, rather than the fatty “belly” characteristics like that of Pork or Lamb Belly which I am more accustomed to. A salty tang and oily finish solidify I am in for a good dinner tonight! Next up: Escalivada Catalana-smoked eggplant, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with sherry vinegar and olive oil. This was served similar to a ratatouille with a smoky, spicy bite; we sopped up every drop of it with the crusty bread. Then onto: Datile con Jamon– Medjool dates filled with marcona almonds and cabrales blue cheese wrapped in jamon serrano. Sweet, salty, mushy, crunchy, in the three bites it took to devour, my taste buds were dancing and I was glad these came one per person; It was a rich and fulfilling 3rd course. Onto my favorite, and a staple I was glad to see back on the menu since my last visit: Costilla de Bourguignon– Braised short rib with bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions. A simple, beautifully braised short rib that fell apart before my fork was even through it. Elegantly presented with a potato or parsnip puree (couldn’t exactly tell), brought me back to my fond first time experience at Toro in 2006. YUM.

Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija

Following a meaty, entree-type progression, we found ourselves quickly diving into the Panza de Cerdo– roasted pork belly, atop a bed of corn, bacon and tomato salsa. This was one of our favorites, very crisp bacon top- almost like pig ear, hiding a delicate, gelatinous bed of pure pork fat. It was like eating savory, stick-to-your-teeth candy and we loved it. The kind of flavor that keeps on giving, if you know what I mean. An interlude was necessary. Another glass of wine, some fun banter, and a quick breather to assess what was next. Ah yes, the house special, a must for any visitor, the Maiz Asado con Alioli y queso cotija– grilled corn with alioli, lime, espellete peppers and aged cheese. Since its’ debut a few years ago, it has never taken a vacation. Any given bite will excite each flavor distinctively; crunchy, salty, limey, cheesy paradise. I’m starting to get full, but Dan suggests we get the Asado de Huesos– Roasted bone marrow with a radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade. Done. Daring. I’ve never had bone marrow, let’s do it. Oh my goodness this stuff is good. After all the times I’ve watched Anthony Bourdain slurp it down, I can’t believe this is my first time, I want more!

Who needs desert after a meal like that! I went home feeling the sides of my teeth and being happy there were a few morsels of goodness still left to enjoy.

Ian, our server was great. He didn’t rush us and he checked back at just the right times. He even gave me a another plate of the Tuna Belly since I clumsily dropped half of it on the floor, nice touch. Thanks for the great service!

Take away: GO TO Toro! 1704 WASHINGTON ST BOSTON MA (MAP) 617.536.4300 http://toro-restaurant.com/

Thanks for reading! xo-G