L’Espalier & Boston, Mass.


We set up camp 30 miles outside of Boston at Winter Island Park in Salem, Mass. It was still foggy, just as in Portland, the perfect setting for exploring this town with its grim history. The following morning, we packed a backpack, parked in the commuter lot, and took the T into Boston’s North Station. Chase then got his first experience with a big city subway system. I almost missed our stop…not realizing that there are 4 different green lines. We did pretty good, though, having not traversed Boston’s underground before. We stopped into the Prudential Building’s food court for a quick bite and then over a block to 30 Gloucester Street, the home of L’Espalier, sister restaurant to Sel de la Terre. Through an old and fancy looking iron gate door, down beautifully polished marble stairs, and back up a winding stair case, we met with the Chef de Cuisine, James Hackney. His English accent and blue bandana made us feel instantly comfortable. He invited me back into his kitchen later during service to take some fun action shots of the restaurant. Chase and I then headed back to the harbor area to explore the aquarium and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market area while James introduced Marcus to his crew. The garde manger chef turned out to be a NECI student on his first internship, Jonathan Till…He seemed quite surprised to have a NECI chef/instructor there.

After a fun (and all-too-short) day, (Aquarium, balloon animals, a street act, pizza and lemonade, oh, and ice cream, and lots of walking and subway rides and a peek at Fenway- there was a game going on- we could feel the energy from 3 blocks away) and and and…

Where was I? Oh, after an all-to-short day, Chase and I walked back into L’Espalier with our Tee-Shirts on, and were warmly greeted by the hostess and Matre’d and led up two flights of stairs to the kitchen. Marcus and the staff all seemed very much to be enjoying themselves… Laughing and exited about the intimacies of the food they were plating (as the chef plated the item, the entremetier would veg, the sous chef would garnish, the server would wipe the plate…there seemed to be total-kitchen interest in each and every plate served). I took a few pictures and listened to Marcus tell me of his night. The menu starts at 2 courses, $75 and goes up from there. This is a very high end French fine dining establishment. Each plate is put together meticulously and skillfully. Most ingredients are brought in daily from fresh local vendors. There is even a garden on the roof with fresh herbs, mixed baby greens and cucumbers! How cool is that! There’s a smoker up there as well for any house-smoked items. Each chef is responsible for the prepping and ordering of each of (their) own stations. If they miss something, it’s on their shoulders. Marcus got to cook and plate on the line tonight, something that he greatly enjoyed judging by the smile on his face. He had to opportunity to view (and sample some) such treats as Italian caviar, rich Hudson Valley Fois Gras served on “dirt” (crumble dark chocolate), Vermont rabbit ravioli, fresh striper bass, fresh whole lamb, and Grilled Tenderloin with morels and amazing homemade onion rings in which they substituted vodka for the water in the onion ring batter…what a concept! There is a cheese tray which is offered a la carte…they work directly with the farmers to get what cheese they want. Marcus even was asked to check-in the mushroom order…an hour long adventure in itself. He saw black truffles the size of his fist and fresh shitakes that looked like button mushrooms their caps were so full and many more exotics I can’t remember the names of. A statement made from James Hackney which stuck with Marcus was (and this was announced to the kitchen) that NECI students are more prepared for the industry than CIA graduates because they already know how to cook.

Just as I say my night ended all to soon (it was after 8), Marcus said the same. He certainly enjoyed working in L’Espalier’s kitchen with James and Alex (the sous chef) the NECI intern and the rest of the staff. Thank you, L’Espalier, for a wonderful stage…Please visit them online at www.lespalier.com and in person when you are in the area. L’Espalier is moving to a new location nearby within the year complete with a brand new commercial kitchen with a center island to give the chef more control.

And thank you, Boston for a fun day in the city. Tomorrow we leave New York where we are visiting my family, and drive down to Hershey, PA to see a friend whom we haven’t seen in 7 years. Can’t wait………

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Published in: on July 22, 2007 at 4:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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