Friday, September 10, 2010

The Hyatt Regency, Taste of the Seasons, Downtown Boston

I'll be honest.  I had my doubts.  When I received the invitation to the Hyatt Regency Boston's "Taste of the Seasons" press dinner last night, I had some concerns for what I was in for.  The idea of hotel food has always brought me back to high school awards ceremonies, held in our local town hotel, and always consisting of bad chicken cordon bleu.  I can still see the pale piece of chicken sitting on the generic plate, lifeless, covered with an unremarkable "white sauce", and too salty ham smushed into a hallowed out cavity of the chicken. There are the almost brown with over cooking green beans sitting helplessly on the plate next to the forsaken chicken, as if they too knew that they were shadows of their former selves.  All in all it was a pitiful offering, and one that I assumed, even then, was the output of an over worked staff, tired of assembly line meals. The chicken was not the highlight of the ceremonies. So when I received my invitation for last evenings affair, my brain brought up that picture again, and I wondered.  

Three minutes (if that) after entering the beautiful room set aside for us last night at the Hyatt, I realized that this would not be a terrible chicken cordon bleu evening, in fact it couldn't have been further from those terrible days.

As a bit of background, Hyatt Hotels have begun a major campaign to Go Green, and reduce their carbon footprint.  As they are a major corporation, I have to tip my hat to their efforts.  They have brought this goal into every portion of their hotel, from their linen cleaning, to their meeting room practices, and now into their own kitchens.  Hyatt has asked their executive chefs to go the extra mile, (or perhaps save the extra mile?) and begin showcasing the local produce and markets within their seasonal menus.  Now, as we learned last night, this is no small undertaking! From breakfast to lunch to dinner, all of the snack options in between, buffet style services to sit down meals, all are to be showcasing local ingredients.  Executive Chef Kelly Armetta is up for the challenge though, and embraces it on all fronts.  Last nights even showcased his entire seasonal menu, from fall all the way to summer, all celebrating the amazing produce that we have around us.

In keeping with the idea of a seasonal menu, Chef Armetta divided his menu into tastes from each season, each with it's own table.  Though I remained overwhelmed for the majority of the evening with the sheer amount of food that was presented to us, I think that the best way to begin is with the season we are currently in.

Chef Armetta showcased his Fall/Winter selections in a tribute entitled "Cape to Cape- Cape Cod to Cape Anne. He started us off with Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche (Bay scallops peaking in their season in November) which was light and refreshing.  A cold ceviche may seem like an odd choice for the chillier months, but when Nantucket Scallops are in season, they are one of those amazing treats that I agree must be showcased for all that they are.  Accompanying this, were lobster salad sandwiches chock full of sweet lobster meat, very lightly dressed, and full of the wonder of New England, as well as Bluepoint Oysters served with an apple mignonette.  After my first experience with oysters just a few weeks ago, I felt brave enough to check out this next version.  Light and smooth, with fantastic flavor, and perfectly accented with the apple mignonette- these were amazing.  I have a feeling a lot more oysters are in my future!  The other star of this table for me were the Quahogs Casino- lovely breadcrumbs all toasty and buttery, all topped off with cob smoked bacon.  I could picture downing a few of these little indulgent shells on a cold winters eve!

Look at that river of cheese!
The next table I tackled was the summer menu of Soups and Sliders.  The choices were fantastic- soups included native corn bisque accented with shiitake mushrooms, more of that fantastic cob smoked bacon and truffle oil, and a summer vegetable soup with cannellini beans and pasta.  The sliders ran the gamut of choice starting with a sirloin beef slider topped with a tomato-onion jam, a lobster cake slider that included celery slaw and a lemon aioli, and a three cheese slider with Pink Brandywine tomatoes.  The cheese on the tomato sliders a word...insane.  It pooled off the tomatoes, down the buns and on to the waiting tray beneath like a river floating into an awaiting lake.  It was cheese beauty, plain and simple.  I half anticipated seeing a pretzel bear poking out from behind a roll to take a drink of the cheese lake.  Amazing.  It also tasted fantastic- with the perfect amount of creamy cheese to acidic tomato.  The sirloin sliders were also fantastic, great ground beef, fully seasoned and topped with a slightly sweet, lovely with the savory burger, jam.  These were exactly the types of burgers that I crave at backyard barbecues, but can never seem to find.  

Traveling to the spring table took us on a journey to Tuscany, where hearty salads of pulled chicken with farro, olive oil tastings, pizza, gnocchi, and cantaloupe granita greeted us.  Each dish, though wonderfully pulled from the influences of Tuscany, stood on its own, without repetition.  The pulled chicken salad flavored with rosemary and lemon, and heartily tossed with farro was a delicious salad for those chilly early spring days when summer doesn't seen far off, but winter is still nipping.  The gnocchi played along similarly, housed in a bowl made of Parmesan, accented with chef's take on Putanesca.  At this table- I truly enjoyed the cantaloupe granita, served in a shot glass with a toothpick spear of salami and a lovely green olive adorning it.  The salami was a nice thick square and after sitting plunged  into the granita, the sweet cantaloupe took on the lovely salty flavor of it which only seemed to compound the sweetness.  There was much debate over the order in which to enjoy these little treats- but I stand by my decision of salami, cantaloupe shooter, and finishing with the plump olive.

The final station was the dessert table, loaded with unique takes on classic desserts and even a few original creations like white chocolate covered cantaloupe.  The show stopping favorite?  The chocolate and Bing cherry bread pudding.  Hands down this was a tasty treat- impossibly moist, bittersweet chocolate, gorgeous cherries lending their flavor throughout.  I was in love.

The fine staff over at the Hyatt completed this meal with seasonal sangria's and a mulled cider as well. Each offering for every season was completely different from the season before offering the sparkling refreshment of summer, to the heartwarming coziness of winter.  

In all of this, as wonderful as every piece of the evening was from first decadent bite to last, I stood by my favorite of the evening as a chocolate chevre.  I a had two pieces of bread slathered with the rich chocolate tangy amazement, and every bite was heaven.  I left for the evening proud of myself for not sneaking the plate of the chevre into my bag and running for the exit.  I strongly considered that option.  

So gone are the images of bland chicken cordon bleu and tired green beans.  The Hyatt Regency Boston has completely revamped my opinion of "hotel food" and I am so thrilled.  Their offerings are fresh, crisp, local, and artfully executed.  Their attention to detail is spot on, and the heart of the chef is shown in each presentation.  I enjoyed every bite, and I look forward to visiting again for my second helping of many of these delightful dishes!   


bknowles67 said...

What a beautiful piece Fiona! I loved reliving it through your eyes and I totally agree with how the cantaloupe granita should be eaten. Its going to be hard to compete with this!

Unknown said...

That was a PERFECT description of every single dinner we had at the Regency (I hope they're not sad that I named names, but honestly)!

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