thing: I'm kind of a secret, Grade-A hermit. Not a hermit in a traditional sense
of course, but more of a lounging afficianado. I do booze around and let my
proverbial hair down way more than my paycheck allows, yes, but it's this thing
where, if you were to hold up my favorite pair of sweats and a free press dinner
side-by-side, for one embarassing and shameful minute I will actually consider
the sweatpants. Those sweatpants almost happened last night, as I stood outside
the office after a long and un-characteristically productive day, waiting for a
cab to take me to West Bridge restaurant in Kendall Square.
sweatpants. That's what the food at West Bridge says. In a sort of sassy, nice way
that doesn't bother you, because you know it's right.
sure what I came on here to say exactly, but a traditional rundown of the
five-course menu and the service and the ambiance, blah blah blah, is not it.
They all rocked, but what I left thinking about last night, as I leaned my
forehead against the car window on the way home and tried to stay awake, was how
the quality of your company can directly affect whatever it is you're shoveling
into your mouth.
Not a novel
concept, I know. Everyone would rather eat with someone who cracks you up and
gets you to a tee than your passive-aggressive neighbor who blasts weird video
game music late into the morning, like some sick form of musical water boarding.
That much is obvious. But as someone who has mysteriously stumbled upon this job
where I eat and drink and then talk about it to whoever likes eating and
drinking and talking about it, I can honestly say that breaking bread with a
bunch of food writers sometimes feels like a uncomfortable industry circle
Writer #1: So, since we were in the neighborhood, we figured we just haaaaad to stop in at Towne. You know,
Lydia Shire's menu is so genius there.
#2: Oh, Lydia?? I just love Lydia.
She is just the funniest person one-on-one.
#1: Oh you know her too?? That's so great. I've known her foreeeever....]
Chill out, guys. Lydia Shire probably has no clue who you are.
So I rolled
up, dutifully decked out in real-people clothes at West Bridge yesterday
evening, half expecting some variation on this theme. What I got was one
of the more enjoyable meals I've had in awhile, thanks not only to the beauty of
Chef Matt Gaudet's dishes, but to the palates and opinions of the people around
By some strange stroke of luck, I was thrown on one end of the table with these three: Lindsey of Beantown Eats, Elizabeth of Free Food Boston (plus, Cupcake Camp Boston, the Somerville Farmer's Market, and Eater) and Megan from Delicious Dishings. These ladies can throw down, food wise (and maybe street wise, too. I'd have to check on that), and their musings and photos--on blogs, and elsewhere--are legit. Somehow I had never crossed paths with them in this tiny little city of ours.
The point of this post, I suppose, is just a nod to the undercurrent of power your dining companions have over your plate at all times--that ability to break the fourth wall of the dish. I've always felt that whenever I was tasting something, it was just me and the food in some weird intimate time-warp place. But when I would look up from taking a bite last night, with a crazy gleam in my eye as I flicked through my mental Rolodex to find the right descriptors, there were three sets of identical crazy eye-gleams looking right back at me. No chef name-dropping, no bragging, no peacocking. If you haven't checked them out, do so, for they are the real-deal, and living proof that food writing in this city is on it's way up.
Now, on to the food porn, before I exhaust myself with all these existential musings.
Here's something you need to know about this very innocent looking soup: it is a total sexpot, and it knows it. Don't be fooled by its shy demeanor or seeming neutrality as it sits there, just below the halfway mark of the bowl. One deep inhale sends a shot of tart citrus straight to your dome, and you don't see any of the foie gras from the menu description floating around on top, so you get a bit confused and waste no time dipping your spoon into that smooth surface to figure it out. That first taste is pure velvet, like the true soul of foie gras without the politics and wariness, and you realize the brilliant bastards in the kitchen have simply pureed it in. Somehow it continues to melt in your mouth, even in liquid form. It's earthy, nutty...and then a sliver of black garlic makes it onto your spoon, and you lose your mind all over again once the sweet tang of it hits you.
That glass there would be the sparkling Malbec, a fantastic invention if there ever was one, that nearly came out of my nose when one of those chicks said something fucking hilarious. I was not quietly sipping and taking notes while I bulldozed through this soup, I was gesturing wildly and laughing my head off. This is how soup should always be eaten.
That, my friends, is calamari, sans soggy breaded coating, tartar sauce, or banana peppers. Straight-up, from-the-sea, Little Mermaid-style calamari where they don't have fryers or mayonnaise. We're talking whelks, cockles, and sweet 100s. It arrived just as boards stacked with doughy country bread landed on the table, pieces of which were immediately dunked in the broth, and the combo was just as you'd expect. Starsky & Hutch. Early Simon & Garfunkel. Cheech & Chong, if that's your jam.
Okay. Here we have halibut, coyly posing in the middle of some snap peas and radishes, diced chorizo, and a nectarine slice, artfully draped with a snappy ramp. I can't believe I'm about to reference what I'm about to reference, but you'll just have to own it with me. You know that scene in Ratatouille, where Anton Ego takes a bite of the ratatouille namesake and his eyes go all big and he snaps back to his childhood in the French countryside? This one:
I know you knew it by heart. This is exactly what happened to me when I tried that nectarine. It tasted like pure honeysuckle (something Gaudet would later tell me is in fact bergamot) to me, and I immediately warped back to my childhood, when I would decimate my neighbor's honeysuckle bush in the summertime, carefully coaxing the single drop of nectar out of each flower before I tossed them back. That neighbor probably hated me.
This is very clearly a picture I took mid-nosedive towards the plate to get a whiff of what antelope from Broken Arrow Ranch smells like. If you can't tell, that meat is perfectly cooked; fading from light pink to vibrantly soft and rare. Turns out, antelope tastes a lot like a really good steak. Also, anyone who has known me for even the shortest amount of time will tell you that I am a steadfast raisin-hater. The raisin puree up in this joint was sublime. Scout's honor.
Oh boy. The S'mores Verrine with miso. Here's about when I started slowing down, languidly scraping that chocolate up through the serious layer of marshmallow and graham crumbs. For once, I wasn't the only one consciously saving a verrine-shaped space in my stomach for this lil' gem, and when I let loose one of those I'm-so-overwhelmed-by-how-good-this-shit-is groans, I wasn't alone. Get yourself to West Bridge and manhandle this.
If you've made it this far, we should grab dinner sometime. It's clear you know how and when (always) to chow down. Cheers, folks.