The reason why we started this project in the first place was to discuss the whole concept of cooking styles and what it means to have one, where it originates and develops and, if applicable, discuss the concept and story behind a signature dish. This is going to be an ongoing project of ours that started this week, when we met Josh Lewin, Executive Chef of Beacon Hill Bistro, located right on Charles Street. We started chatting at a tucked away table over coffee and then he led us into their tiny kitchen and we got to work.
No matter how many small kitchens I’ve been in, I still get amazed every time when I see the beautiful work that comes out of such small spaces. Josh excitedly showed us around, pointing out beautiful sunny-hued Bergamot oranges, which he proudly told us are some of the last of the domestically grown crop for the season. It was easy to see how passionate he is about his craft and he takes his passion for local ingredients one step further by being intricately involved in the foraging of the ingredients that he uses. Almost surgeon-like, he neatly set out a small steel plate of fresh ingredients before us and then explained the origins of each ingredient. Then, he turned to the small burners and fired them up, searing scallops, sautéing morels and cooking the Kaniwa (a smaller, more delicate cousin of Quinoa) through.
When we discussed the concept of cooking styles, he took a couple of minutes to really take in the question and before he could answer, we got distracted by plating. “Look at the way the lardo just melts over the scallops, we chose the lardo because it’s a fat that leaves behind virtually no flavor” he explained. We watched as he perked up the earthy colors of the dish – the sandy colored morels, golden tinged scallops and deep rust Kaniwa – with beautiful vibrant Orchard petals and candied Bergamot oranges. He then sent us to the dining room to enjoy a sampling of what’s popular at the restaurant now.
On crisp white plates the food was presented. Artfully arranged with vibrant colors and bold flavors, we started with a plate of Evergreen cured salmon, light and delicately flavored, it was a great starter. After the plates were cleared, a chilled Wild Watercress Soup was then placed before us, velvety on the tongue and fresh with bright, peppery watercress it was a refreshing treat. Next to arrive, a plate of house cured meats and pickled leeks and sea beans arrived adorned with a baby radish.
To our own personal delight, a plate of Matzo Brei, a classic Passover dish consisting of eggs and Matzo, were dressed up with delicate earthy ramps and little marbles of Steelhead Roe that popped with each bite. Lastly, the dish that we had made in the kitchen arrived and was presented with the addition of a line of pink salt. The plump scallops were brightened up with the candied orange and floral notes rounded out the dish, courtesy of the Orchids. The morels reinforced earthiness while the Kaniwa gracefully danced around on my tongue, providing quite a unique experience.
At the end of the meal, Josh pulled up a chair and confessed that he had been really thinking about our question on cooking style and he felt that he had his answer. “I cook with not only what’s in season, but I take that a step further and look at what’s in season today. I like the food to reflect what’s going on each day, what’s in season; not just in New England but right here, in Boston. I like to forage as much as I can and even the weather plays into what’s going on my menu, which should be a true reflection of the day.” If that’s not enough to inspire you I don’t know what is. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Chef Lewin and can’t wait to come back and visit again soon.