Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turners Fisheries, Boston

Last night I had the extreme honor of being invited to the roll out of the new menu at Turner Fisheries at the Westin Copley here in Boston. The honor, really, was two fold. First, of course, it is always incredible to see what new ideas a Chef is coming up with, where his creativity is headed, and how he executes those new creations. Second, but only second in listing and not in importance, was the reason for the new menu. Executive Chef Chris Masco has made a commitment to preserving our earth by embracing the ideals of Sustainability. The new menu that they are rolling out will utilize seafood and produce that has been harvested by those fisherman and farmers who work under the premise of responsibly using natural resources, and giving back to the earth where they can. That means using energy more efficiently, breaking down recycle ables in the cleanest way possible, and cutting down on waste. Its amazing how simple of a concept it is, but incredible how much we all seem to forget. I'll stop myself before I get off on too much of a bandwagon, but I will say that it is impressive for a company to make such a commitment, and a great example to set.

The menu that we dined on last night was the brainchild of Chef de Cuisine Armand Toutaint, and what a journey of well prepared seafood it was. He started us off with a quad tasting of their first course offerings: their "hall of fame" clam chowder, a fried oyster, beet tartar and a seared diver scallop. The clam chowder was rich and full of flavor, the broth thinner than I am used to, but so delicious with big pink clams spotting through out. Delicious, and very satisfying on a cold night. I could have eaten quite a bit more than I allowed myself to, but I had to move on to my fried oyster. This was such a beautiful presentation. The golden fried oyster sitting in its shell on top of just a bit of creamed spinach, and topped with a beautiful yellow hollandaise sauce dotted with pancetta. Gorgeous to look at and delicious to eat. The thickness batter was a bit surprising but it held the whole dish together really well and gave it a real backbone. I then moved on to the seared scallop that was so nicely complimented with a Bosc Pear chutney. The scallop was perfectly cooked, beautifully golden brown, and the chutney had wonderful flavors of sweet and tang they really played well off of each other. The final piece was the beet tartar that was dressed with an apple balsamic, and complimented with rocket greens (arugula) and a lovely piece of bruleed goat cheese. Now, let it be known, as my mother can clearly testify to, I am NOT a fan of beets. Never have been. But I have to say- these were some tasty beets. The golden variety, beautifully dressed with the balsamic that added a nice sweetness to them, and then combined with the rocket-really lovely. The bruleed goat cheese was the scene stealer of that plate though- that beautiful golden crust with its smokey hints, atop the tangy soft cheese-perfection. Sad as it was to come to the close of our first course, it had to be done, and then it was time for the second course.

With another showstopper for presentation, we were each served a little bowl of Pappardelle pasta mixed with chunks of fresh lobster meat, cured tomato, edamame, held together with a chervil cream and topped with a substantial sized piece of lobster. The chervil cream mixed with the tomatoes to make just a beautiful sauce for the dish, decadent at the same time as being light, with just hints of the herb throughout. The pappardelle had great texture to it, and was nicely offset by the toothsome edamame. John, the lucky boy who got to accompany me on this journey, did think that perhaps the pappardelle was a bit too large of a noodle for the dish, and we decided that it did make it a bit difficult to combine it with the different elements of the dish. The lobster though- wow. It was just perfect. Sweet and tender each piece left me excited for the next.

Our third course for the evening was our entree course- three perfectly sized servings of three different types of fish, each complimented with their own sides. The first was a beautiful piece of Loch Duart Scottish Salmon, sitting on top of a beautiful scoop of Laughing Bird shrimp fried rice, accented with thinly sliced jicama and apple, with a tamarind reduction. Our extremely helpful waiter was quick to point out that the Laughing Bird Shrimp, comes from one of, if not the only, sustainable, eco friendly shrimp farms. Now that's a feat! I actually somehow managed to not not receive a shrimp with my portion of rice so I had to steal one from John- and it was just as you'd think, sweet and delicious. I loved the combination of the fried rice with all of its wonderful salty smokey flavors with the salmon- a great combination. The ahi tuna had been seared with an orange and sesame crust which gave the fish such a wonderful flavor, though I would have loved even more of the orange. It was served with a lentil succotash which added just enough texture to the tuna to really compliment it and tie it all together. The final piece was a lovely piece of haddock, dressed with a fennel buerre blanc with an accompaniment of blue crab mashed yam side. The yam was simply enhanced really allowing the natural sweetness to shine through, and the blue crab was just an added decadence. The haddock itself was well cooked and that buerre blanc...well there is nothing wrong with buerre blanc!

We ended the evening with with a white chocolate mousse terrine. Not only was this delicious, but beautiful to look at. They had used a mold that had three sections to it, and each had been topped with a different sauce, one a simple caramel, another a port inspired and the third had been enhanced with the flavors of Baileys. Each one was so delicious, it was impossible to stop nibbling on them. To lighten the dish the terrine had been placed on a berry smear that was enhanced with toffee chips. The whole dessert was perfectly held together and held my interest much further than white chocolate normally does. A wonderful end to an amazing meal.

Though I normally don't discuss the libations of the evening, I think it is important to mention the wines that were served. Both were products of the Frei Brothers Reserve, a division of the Gallo Winery. The first and second courses were served with a Chardonnay, and the third and fourth courses with a Pinot Noir. I have always been under the impression that red wine just doesn't match well with fish, some of it I'm sure comes from my own want for color palates to match-light protein, light wine, dark protein, dark wine- and the rest comes from simple tradition. Luckily I was sitting with the representative from the Gallo Vineyard and his statement clarified it all for me- either contrast the flavors (sweet wine with a spicy meal), or match the weight of the dish- salmon is a strong fish and it can stand up to a nice red.

I bring up the Gallo Vineyard though for another reason as well. In the spirit of the eco friendly menu and efforts of sustainability- the Gallo Vineyard has embraced these ideals since the 1930's-far before the rest of the world caught on. A family run business they are doing their part to preserve our land and give back where they can. Another inspiring company....

My evening at Turner's was an absolute joy. The meal was incredible, and the premise even more so. I want to say a thank you to Tom, Brie and Marija from 451 Marketing, the wonderful folks at the Westin and Turners, and Joe from Gallo Winery. I can do nothing more than to tip my glass to the Chef Armand Toutaint for an amazing experience.

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