The Breakdown: The Roasted Apple Dessert at Oak + Rowan
1. Known as “autumn olives,” these currantlike berries add a tart note.
2. The composition is finished with an airy tuile made from puréed apple.
3. Mercury poaches a baby apple in Privateer rum from Ipswich, then brûlées it.
4. This twist on the traditional French financier cake uses hazelnut flour.
5. Accents like rum foam and spiced apple dust bring a touch of molecular gastronomy to a familiar comfort dish.
6. South African Rooibos tea lends warmth to ice cream made with milk from nearby farms.
Brian Mercury, executive pastry chef at Oak + Rowan, wants us to get over being “hung up on the concept of ‘New England food.’” It’s not that there’s no such thing—it’s just that most people define it too narrowly, he says: “Yes, when New England started, it was stews and braises, but we’re not a colony anymore; we’re a diverse culture.” He’s quick to point out that our regional cuisine is rich with worldly influences.
Mercury, who earned his reputation for stellar sweets at Harvest, has been busy applying that ideology to his dessert menu for Oak + Rowan, the first Boston venture for noted Newburyport restaurateur Nancy Batista-Caswell (of Ceia Kitchen + Bar and Brine) officially opening Tuesday, November 4. Here, Mercury transforms New England comfort foods into modern masterpieces. Take his roasted apple dish—a humble classic elevated by the addition of French and South African flourishes. “I challenge myself to use products I’ve never used before,” Mercury says. “We’re doing desserts with a purpose.”
319 A St., Boston, oakandrowan.com.