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Chef’s Best: The Rovezzi Experience

Chef Chris Rovezzi talking with the group about his culinary journey

On Tuesday January 6, we hosted our second Chef’s Best event. The purpose of these events is to offer a unique dining experience that breaks convention the right way.

First off, you aren’t burdened with surveying the menu and picking out the best dish. I think we all know ordering for ourselves is futile. We don’t know what we’re doing. We pick items we’re comfortable with, or we overshoot and pick an entrée that contains fancy-sounding ingredients we couldn’t pick out of a line-up. Then we’re plagued by regret as we envy other orders. Instead Chef’s Best allows chefs to cook what they feel best showcases their culinary talents.

Mass Foodies_Rovezzie-0041For the second Chef’s Best, Chef Chris Rovezzi of Rovezzi’s Ristorante in Fiskdale, Mass. was invited to make a three-course meal of whatever his heart desired. Right away, his heart desired more. He changed the three to a four and he prepared a fantastic four-course meal for us.

Before I make you very hungry by telling you what we ate and how delicious it was, you need to know two more important details about Chef’s Best.

You know how normally you go out to eat with people you’ve met? Well, we’re breaking that convention too. At Chef’s Best there are some Worcester Foodies in attendance but there are also couples and friends who join in to meet new people. That is one of the best parts of the night: dining with people who want to support local businesses and eat high-quality food.

Here’s the second tidbit. You know how normally the chef is a stranger that maybe you’ve stalked on Instagram and Facebook to see what his or her spouse, children, friends, and selfies look like? Well, we’re not going to stop doing that. But at Chef’s Best, the chef comes out and tells you about the dinner as well as his or her philosophy on cooking.

Chef's Best, Rovezzi ExperienceIn the case of Chef Chris Rovezzi, he read a passage from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by a titan of authentic Italian cuisine, Marcella Hazan. He prefaced the reading by saying these words inspired him to become a chef.

The passage read, “All that really matters in food is its flavor… It matters not that it be novel, that it look picture pretty, that it be made with unusual or costly or currently fashionable ingredients, that it be served by candlelight, that it display intricacy of execution, that it be invested in the glory of a celebrated name. Such things may add circumstantial interest to the business of eating… but they add nothing to taste, and signify nothing when taste is lacking.”

He followed up the reading to say, “This basically defines me as a chef. I will never steep myself in the current fads and fashions of the edgy rock star chefs of today’s culinary climate. If my guests don’t find my foods lusty and delicious, then I fail.”

Mass Foodies_Rovezzie-9996“This means you won’t find any foam on your plates tonight,” he added. The joke landed perfectly. Everyone laughed with gusto.

With that, he went back to the kitchen to plate our four-course dinner. The dish he added was The Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad, which is one of the restaurant’s most popular items. When it arrived, we knew why—and we knew his philosophy was accurate. Each element was done well. The brussel sprouts were shredded and cooked perfectly. The dressing tasted great without saturated the other ingredients: focaccia croutons and out-of-this-world shaved Reggiano.

The Grilled Scallops over Pumpkin-spinach Couscous accented with maple gastrique came out next. Chris mentioned earlier that he wanted us to try this popular entree, which is why he served it as a smaller portion of two scallops.

For the main course, Chef Rovezzi prepared Handmade Porcini Mushroom Panzerotti with an Oxtail Ragout topped with imported burrata. These pasta triangles were packed with flavor. I didn’t see a bite left on anyone’s plate.

The Blooming Apple with Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Ice Cream and Rosemary Caramel presented beautifully and was inhaled by most patrons immediately even though we all devoured the panzerotti entirely and delightfully.

While our first Chef’s Best was an outdoor dinner with when the temperature was still cooperating, this Chef’s Best in the dead of winter was timed just right. Rovezzi’s Ristorante is probably wonderful in the summer. However, the cozy atmosphere of the house turned restaurant is a quintessential New England setting for a comforting night out this winter.

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Boynton’s Whiskey, Beer, and Cider Dinner

Charcuterie board from Boynton in Worcester

Charcuterie board from Boynton in Worcester

Whiskey and Beer and Cider dinner at the Boynton? Say no more, I am there.

Drink pairing from Boynton in WorcesterI am always up for something new and when I the invite came out for the most recent Fall Equinox Whiskey and Beer dinner at the Boynton, I didn’t have to think twice about going. It also wasn’t hard to get some friends to come along for the night and no one left disappointed.  There was a good crowd of about 40 or so people attending the dinner which was held in their upstairs side function room.  It was a cozy fit but I was glad to see smaller tables for 5-6 people so my friends and I could still feel like we were going out to dinner together.  It’s not something you see all the time but it was nice to have the chef come out before each course to describe the food and the pairing while being supported by representatives that could speak to the Whiskey, beer and cider.  I think the excitement in the room grew when one the beverage representatives highlighted there were “freebie” take away items (e.g. glasses, t-shirts) for guests to take home – people started strategizing on what they were going to get.  But that was easily forgotten for a short bit as the opening course was set on our table.

Opening Course

Large charcuterie board of home cured meats and cheese – good sampling that we could all share and still leave some on the board.  Hard to do but when you have more courses coming you have to stop yourself.  Paired with a Maine Brewing beer called  “Zoe” – a darker than normal Amber Ale and a little heavier for me for the kick off drink.

Pastrami Cured Gravlax Salad from boynton in WorcesterFirst Course

Bright Orange Carrot Leek Soup with bacon chutney and crème fraise garnishing the dish, served with a Cider Creek Hard Cider.  Loved the soup – how can you go wrong with bacon in it.  Normally, I am not able to eat a lot of soups like this due to them being cream based but this one was perfect without the need for cream for the flavor.

Second Course

The surprise dish of the night – Pastrami Cured Gravlax Salad – the taste of pastrami but we were eating salmon.  Good pairing served with our first whiskey beverage – Jameson cocktail over ice.

Algonquin served with beef skewer from Boynton in WorcesterIntermezzo

This one stumped a few people – a shot sized glass of Algonquin served with beef skewer laying on top. The Chef instructed us to dip the beef skewer into the drink for the best effect.  Many were nervous to try something so unusual. While it seemed like a cool thing to do I think it failed as it made the drink oily and not a pleasure to drink.  Thankfully it was only a shot size.

Stir fry of local cherrystones from BoyntonThird Course

Described as stir fry of local cherrystones, this was the big hit of the table. The spice meter of the broth was high but not too high you could not eat it.  I think everyone at our table couldn’t get enough of the broth as there was nothing left behind. Served with a double IPA  – Southern Tier Unearthly.  Note the glasses of beer got smaller as the night went on.. which was probably good with so many courses.

Rack of lamb, polenta, crispy Brussel sprouts with pan jusFourth Course

Considered as our “Main” dish – rack of lamb, polenta (more like polenta fries), crispy Brussel sprouts with pan jus. A friend at my table suggested the best way to eat the dish was to take a small piece of each of the items – and all agreed it was the best for flavor tasting.  It was a good balance for the main dish but I was so full I ended up taking most of the dish home to enjoy later. Accompanied by a American Strong Beer – Coronado Red Devil.

Fifth Course

Finally another whiskey beverage, Jameson Black to balance the Whiskey Glazed Cider Donuts.   I am not a sweets person, give me savory anytime, so was glad to see the donuts were balanced with a touch of whiskey flavor in the glaze.

This dinner had a lot of components to it and the wait staff at the Boynton did a great job keeping the food and drinks flowing and ensuring all at the table were eating at the same time. By the end of the night it felt like everyone in the room knew each other – might be due to the casual atmosphere, the # of beverages or just a fun crowd.  All at my table agreed that we had a fun time, food was great and a good balance between whiskey, cider and beer beverages.  Though some of us might have preferred more whiskey beverages versus beer. I have been to many similar dinners to this but I have to say this was one of the better ones for fun, value and food.  Be sure to check out their next dinner as I bet it sells out fast.