The allure of the Chef’s Best dinner series is that it gives chefs the opportunity to cook what they want while giving us insight into their process. To date, chefs have interpreted this idea differently.
July’s event featuring Chef Damian Evangelous of Armsby Abbey came at the perfect time. In addition to showcasing local farm-to-table cooking with a Spanish influence, the Evangelous Experience fell a few days after the Boston Globe article claiming we Central Massers finally have a food scene in Worcester.
Armsby Abbey is not only considered one of the best places to grab a beer in the country, they are also celebrating their tenth anniversary next year. Without intending it, Chef Evangelous symbolized an important reminder that not only have we had a show-stopping food scene for longer than a year, our feasts rival the holy mecca of Boston—and maybe even King’s Landing.
This feast was certainly fit for lords and ladies. We arrived to find a reception of ten pre-meal bites. Highlights included the house-made charcuterie, seasonal pickled vegetables, gazpacho, and the Mushrooms en Escabeche with chevre, honey, and thyme.Chef Evangelous expressed an affinity for preparing one ingredient many ways in the first course. Raw, charred and pickled tomatoes came out with onions, fennel, sheep cheese, and ajoblanco, a popular Spanish soup. Damian explained that a tomato and onion salad he had in Spain inspired the simple, yet flavorful, concept.
While the color and shock of the second course’s phytoplankton may have stolen the visual show, the perfectly cooked lubina, Spanish for sea bass, could have stood alone. The crispy skin and the light seasoning alongside the phytoplankton risotto made for a hearty dish. Bright green phytoplankton is a micro-organism drifting on the oceans’ currents, and recently it’s becoming a popular spicy new take on spice.The decadent third course of slow-cooked lamb, summer squash and lamb marrow puree, local potatoes, celery, and lovage jus was fit for a coronation.
Chef Evangelous humbly warned us that he is not a pastry chef. However, the fourth course fruit tart filled with Tougas Farm cherries, blueberries, rhubarb, and strawberries topped with a hop and herb ice cream had everyone raving. This was no easy feat considering we lamented how full we were then inhaled our dessert while simultaneously asking if they had any hop and herb ice cream cones to go. The whole wheat crust (made using flour that was ground from grains at The Abbey’s new in-house mill) and natural sweetness of the fruit produced slightly less internal guilt for the indulgence.