First We Feast Recognizes Boston’s Food Dominance
Writer Sam Hiersteiner of the James Beards Award winning blog, First We Feast, has published a great article on the current rise of the Boston food scene. While acknowledging the foundation laid down by the likes of Julia, Jasper White, and Lydia Shire, Hiersteiner acknowledges what Bostonians have long recognized, namely that the city’s restaurant industry has moved way beyond baked beans and cod.
Whereas a recent Saveur article peeved a number of locals with its stale focus on Parker House rolls and staid institutions like Union Oyster House, First We Feast looks at the scene’s rising stars, the Michael Scelfos (Alden & Harlow), Cassie Piuma’s (Sarma), Will Gilson’s (Puritan & Company), and Tim Maslow’s (Ribelle) of the proverbial block. Wisely, Hiersteiner delves into the pockets of great ethnic food in less well-trodden terrain such as East Boston (Latin fare), Dorchester (Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, African, Portuguese), and of course, Chinatown. More importantly though, he looks at chefs like Row 34’s Jeremy Sewall who are embracing American regionalism and lifting up New England cuisine, analyzing it, and imbuing it other cultural influences. Sewall says:
“If Boston wasn’t a progressive dining city, people wouldn’t buy a lot of what we’re trying to sell. A cup of old-school chowder or a bucket of steamers are still so important, but we have to adapt and evolve and push things forward. What people think is classic New England fish, like cod and halibut, isn’t always available. We are looking at other catch like tilefish, fluke, and black sea bass, because we have to adapt. I make a black sea bass dish with rich broth and buckwheat noodles that puts Asian elements together with a New England product.”
So why the necessity to point out the obvious? Frankly, it doesn’t look like the rest of the world is paying attention—at least not yet. While the national media has fixated on Charleston, Austin, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn, large swaths of the country go unnoticed, even if they are forward-thinking and working with cutting-edge chefs and institutions like MIT and Ferran Adrià. But as Matt Jennings of the widely-anticipated Townman points out:
Part of me says it’s about time that Boston got some recognition, but another part says, ‘I don’t fucking care if the national food media pays attention.’ I know what we’re doing here is great.”