Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro - "Welcome Home"

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon, just seven days after the tragic events in Boston. Events that will surely change the legacy of a local holiday that once celebrated the symbolic birth of an idea that would one day become the United States of America. Just seven days after events that galvanized a city, and exposed the heart of its residents turning a nation of people into Bostonians. On this day, just a lazy Sunday, conversations turned, as they often do, to the subject of food.

I like to think of myself as an adventurous person, at least where the culinary is concerned. So as my friends and I pondered the events of the past week and what we should do for dinner, it was decided that we should go out. A small form of defiance, I know, but the idea that an act of terror could force us to fear to live our lives just doesn’t fit the attitude of the citizens of this state. You see, Boston has a very long history of standing up to bullies, and though it was a tiny gesture, going out to dinner felt like a small victory. To that end, my friend Jim suggested we try Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro. As I had never been there, I agreed.

 Off we went, Jim, his wife Melissa, and myself, to stare death in the face (or at least to call him names from really far away) and hopefully enjoy a little bit of food and culture. Patriots Place is a small outdoor mall that is attached to Gillette Stadium; the home of the New England Patriots, and it was deathly quiet. Normally there would be a buzz of shoppers moving from store to store or taking in a movie at the local theater, but today, aside from a few people playing a beanbag toss game outside of the Life is Good store, we were alone.

Tastings is settled at the entrance to the stadium near the official pro shop, and it has a fairly nice view of the field. Patrons are greeted with shelves full of a variety of wine offerings and a rustic setting full of deep cherry, brown stone, and autumn accents. The place itself is comforting and warm without a hint of pretense, and the staff equally welcoming. Alas, just as with the walk leading to its front door, the restaurant was empty. I was a bit surprised to see this as I had observed on previous occasions not too long ago, a full house with a fairly long wait to get in. It had only been seven days after all.

We were seated by our friendly waiter Shawn, and it wasn’t a moment longer before we had menus, fresh water, and a list of specials to choose from. Even before I had a chance to look at the menu, Jim informed me with some enthusiasm that they had a cheese plate. Well now, being that I am the Cultured Caveman, this was something I had to experience. Though many times in the past have I been sorely disappointed by a generic offering of provolone, no-name brie, and some unknown cheddar  with some overly salty wheat crackers being billed as an “artisan cheese plate”. I was a bit skeptical to say the least.

A short time later, a slate arrived bearing four beautiful artisan cheeses from creameries like Boggy Meadow Farms and Rogue Creamery. Around these islands of lactic gold were dollops of a homemade strawberry vanilla jam that were like ruby pools of heaven. All of this was served with a plate of their own homemade crostini to better deliver all of it to our taste buds. In short, this place knows how to serve real artisan cheeses. Caveman happy!

Deciding on a dinner option, and since I was now suddenly on the hunt for fromage, I couldn’t help but notice their listing for an “award winning Mac and Cheese”. I love cheese, I eat cheese, and I write about cheese. This was clearly the right choice for me, and I was not wrong. The dish (an appetizer actually) consisted of small pasta shells bathed in a creamy mixture of Landaff, Boggy Meadow Fiddlehead Tomme, and some Grafton Village cheddar. This was all touched with a hint of truffle and topped with smoked bread crumbs. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Now that I had visited culture heaven, it was time for me to come back to Boston, and this little bistro was happy to oblige. You see, Executive Chef Ben Lacy, who was responsible for our creatively prepared meals, had come up with a dessert you would not only enjoy, but could be proud to have eaten. Chef Lacy, feeling the need to do something to help those affected by the recent tragedy, came up with a most amazing creation. A deconstructed Boston cream pie that featured towers of moist cake standing above a field of dark chocolate with dollops of vanilla custard and chocolate ganache, all of which reminded me of a city skyline. The best part of it was that portions of the proceeds went to “The One Fund Boston”. Bravo Chef Lacy, Bravo.

Now that I’ve given you some insight into my food experience, let me talk about the social side of Tastings. Our waiter Shawn was very personable and had no problem getting involved in our banter and definitely had a great sense of humor. If you can’t find something in life to laugh about, there really isn’t much point to it. In passing, as we were ordering the cheese plate, I had mentioned that as a blogger on the subject, I had an imperative to try it. Well, Shawn had heard me and took an interest in my blog. After explaining what it was and giving him the address, he disappeared into the back and a few seconds later we met the manager.

Cassandra Bader is the manager at Tastings, and that young lady knows her cheese. She came back to our table with a binder of cheese. (Not as controversial as a binder full of women, but in my opinion, just as sexy.) It was alphabetized and included so many wonderful cheeses from many excellent creameries. There was a decidedly pointed focus on farms and producers that were noted for their support of local growers and sustainability. It was quite refreshing to see a restaurant that clearly cared not only about what food they served, but where it was grown. The love of food was deeply rooted in the menu at Tastings, and it begins in the soil.

Lastly and certainly not least, Cassandra (We’re like besties in cheese at this point.) presented me with a jar of the amazing jam they served with the cheese plate, as well as Line Cook Thomas Norton's recipe for it printed out on parchment paper. With her permission I now share it with all of you so that you too can experience a little bit of the love we were served that night. Enjoy!

To sum it all up, I highly recommend you pay a visit to Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro, whether you like wine or not. This rustic and classy establishment will treat you more like family than paying customers, and it is my opinion, as well as my recommendation, that at some point they hang a small sign above the door that reads “Welcome Home”.

Do you have an experience at this restaurant or recommendations for the next time I go there, leave a comment below! If you found this blog helpful or interesting, or you just like cavemen, share it! Thanks for stopping by the cave!

1 comment:

  1. Love the review! I'll be sure to put 'Tastings' on my must visit list. Write more! - Colleen