The Regional Redux (Nova anglia resurrectus)
Chefs are increasingly finding inspiration in New Englandâ€™s rich culinary history, causing a new sort of locavorism to emergeâ€”one characterized by direct, thoughtful references to traditional recipes that hadnâ€™t seemed relevant in years. And by traditional we mean honest-to-goodness dishes and staples that once defined our regionâ€”boiled dinners, johnnycakes, and syrupy Moxie sodaâ€”not faux New England mash-ups like lobster mac â€™nâ€™ cheese.
Long relegated to gimmicky-tourist-food status, fading standards like baked beans and Boston cream pie are getting a new lease on life, particularly within the confines of the thoroughly modern dining room at seafood havenÂ Island Creek Oyster Bar. Or the farmhouse-chic digs ofâ€‰Puritan & Company, where chef Will Gilson has demonstrated that with the right inventive touch, everything from Parker House rolls to hardtack crackers can be given a fresh start.
This new wave of regional cookery can also be spotted elsewhere in town: in the exquisite Indian-pudding-like dessert of corn grits with brĂ»lĂ©ed Demerara sugar, fruit, and anise hyssop ice cream atÂ Craigie on Main; the Rhode Islandâ€“inspired johnnycake with honey butter, smoked trout, and caviar atÂ Neptune Oyster; the poached Harvard beets with Wagyu bresaola, barley, and hazelnuts atÂ Bondir. It even appears in the smallest of brush strokes: the Moxie-soda glaze on the wings at Watertown favoriteÂ Strip-Tâ€™s; the round slices of homemade brown bread alongside pĂ˘tĂ© at South End gastropubÂ The Gallows; the delicate â€śBoston bakedâ€ť rice beans with maple-spiked soy sauce and braised pork from the high-style Japanese specialists over atÂ O Ya, in the Leather District.
Hover/click for details. (Photographs by Bruce Peterson. Food Styling by Rowena Day/Ennis.)
The Boiled-Dinner SaladÂ from Puritan & Company
For this dish, chef Will Gilson takes the building blocks of a New England boiled dinnerâ€”corned beef, carrot, turnip, potatoâ€”and turns them into an avant-garde reinterpretation of the classic. Our forefathers would hardly have made potatoes into a crunchy crumble, or relied on tweezers to artfully arrange pickled onions, or used molecular ingredients like agar-agar to morph brisket jus into the â€śbrisket jus consommĂ© gelâ€ť that dots the plate. Which, of course, is the entire point.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/article/2013/10/29/boston-restaurants-new-england-regional-dishes-redux/