The opportunity to gather six of the city’s most talented chefs together at one table and engage in a lively heart-to-heart about all things culinary is extremely rare. In fact, I didn’t get said opportunity. Hell, didn’t even try. These folks are just too ridiculously busy, thanks to you all, clamoring for grub out there. Like baby birds, the lot of you.
But I did get a few of them to take five and chat with me one-on-one. I pestered Daniel Bruce of Meritage (Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, 617.439.3995), a local pioneer of the trend toward wine-paired small plates; Ian Just of longlived French bistro Les Zygomates (129 South Street, Boston, 617.542.5108) and its Italian counterpart, Sorriso (107 South Street, Boston, 617.259.1560); David Kinkead, who, with his brother Bob, has created a two-in-one contemporary menu inspired by fraternal oneupmanship at Sibling Rivalry (525 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.338.5338); owner Krista Kranyak and chef David Punch of intimate nook Ten Tables (597 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, 617.524.8810); and Peter McCarthy, the man behind Somerville fine-dining destination Evoo (118 Beacon Street, Somerville, 617.661.3866). They all showed me the Beantown dining scene through their eyes — confiding their pleasures, preoccupations, and predictions. Wanna see?
You’re sitting down to a nice, quiet meal at your own restaurant. What do you order off the current menu, from start to finish?
Peter McCarthy: That’s a tough one. Everything’s so good — of course I’m going to say that. But I’d have to say, in the mood I’m in right now, I’d want the pâté I made from a pig we got from southern Vermont that came out awesome, just right. I’d start with that and then get the Duck Duck Goose [an Evoo signature] . It’s duck confit, goose breast, and foie gras. The only thing that ever changes is the availability of the vegetables that go with it. This time of year, it’s kale from Verrill Farm and green beans from the local farmers’ market. And I’m in a chocolate mood, so I’d say the brownie custard with raspberries. I’m amazed at the quality of the local raspberries. But if you asked me again in 10 minutes, I’d probably give you three different answers.
Krista Kranyak: I would do the rock-shrimp-and-clam cassoulet for an appetizer, our braised beef short ribs with rosemary polenta, and the warm Arborio rice pudding with coconut, cardamom, and pistachios. This time of year you want heartier food, braised meats, warm desserts. I love warm desserts.
David Kinkead: The spicy tuna tartare with cheese pupusa. The roast duck with dried cherries, candied quince, and port — it’s the bestselling thing on the menu, which is unusual for duck. And we’re doing this passion-fruit-caramel cheesecake — it’s not really a cheesecake, but that’s what we’re calling it. One dish is [Bob Kinkead’s], one’s mine, and one’s the pastry chef’s.
Daniel Bruce: I’d want to start light, with a nice, refreshing sauvignon blanc. So I would have to begin with my sweet-pea-and-ricotta-filled cannelloni with sauvignon-blanc-braised rabbit and autumn greens. I think of rabbit in the fall because the meat’s actually better [now]. Hunting season for rabbit is in the fall and winter. From there I’d go to my scallops dish [pan-seared sea scallops with Macomber-turnip purée and cider butter]. I think of scallops as particularly flavorful this time of year. You know Macomber turnips are only produced in Massachusetts? They’re like a cross between a radish and a turnip. And the butter — it’s winter so I don’t have to worry about my weight so much [laughs]. A Burgundy-style chardonnay would go really well with that.
Next one? Am I eating alone? [Laughs.] The ostrich next [cocoa-rubbed ostrich fillet over roasted autumn vegetables and creamy potatoes], because the fingerlings were just harvested at the co-op I buy from in Maine. The cocoa I prepare similarly to a mole. I would serve that with a nice syrah from the Rhône. And then I’d go for a robust red pairing, probably the prosciutto-wrapped venison loin with lentils, bacon, and blackcurrant sauce, because the lentils have an earthiness and the bacon a smokiness that’s right for this time of year. I’d have that with a big American Meritage. I’m not a big dessert fan, even though I love to be involved in the creative process of making them. For our heese plates, I go and find out which cheeses just came to Boston that make good eating right now. I might have some sort of aged goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves . . . [or] Tuscan sheep’s cheese dusted with paprika. I’d have that with an older wine, like an old Bordeaux — not necessarily one from a vintage year, but a wine from an off-year that should be drunk now because it’s at its peak.
When you dine out locally, where do you go? Describe one of the meals you remember best.