It’s been a while since I last visited Stir, the South End’s small 10 seater demonstration kitchen. If it sounds familiar to you, it’s because Stir has been a talent mill for chefs like Kristen Kish and Stephanie Cmar, Top Chef winner and current Top Cheftestant. As a lovely birthday surprise, Mr. E nabbed us two spots for the All About Mushrooms dinner.
The night’s fungus variety
From the very beginning of our relationship, Mr. E has come to know that I love mushrooms. It was our happy medium when Mr. E was toying with the idea of becoming a full fledged vegan, which thankfully for this carnivorous girl was short lived (but not short enough, cough).
chanterelle, cremini, creme fraiche
2009 Chindaine Montlouis sur Loire
Eric LeBlanc, the Chef de Cusine, said his mushroom broth had 4 beautiful hours to simmer down. Man, oh man, could you tell. The taste was so pure. The soup was so luscious and velvety finished with my favorite and yours, sherry vinegar. Sherry vinegar is a superhero ingredient in my kitchen. You cannot make rich soups without it. Next time you make a chowder, throw a splash in towards the end. Such a game changer. On top was a truffle creme fraiche and some homemade croutons. There were some grumblings among my fellow diners that there was not enough truffle flavor, but I’m going to be honest, that soup stood on its own two feet.
2012 Terre Nere Etna Bianco
The risotto dish was earthy both in flavor and in appearance. It looks like mother earth planted these little morsels in my dinner! This was preconceived many days in advance and the planning really paid off. Mushroom risotto is a very classic dish, but the addition of squid ink took this unctuous beauty from Awesome to Star World level. It added just a touch of ocean brine, which paired so well with the Terre Nere wine pairing. It was as if wine pairings suddenly all made sense to me. The wine was crisp and light, with a mineral essence likely from the vineyard’s rich volcanic soil. It’s also a Sicilian wine, so hey, I have no problem with that. Before you judge that last comment, I’m no wine expert. In fact, I put my wine knowledge in the same bucket as my college football knowledge. I pick brackets based on jersey color and mascot. So needless to say, I pick my wine based on label appeal and cost.
The chicken of the woods mushroom was our first really beefy mushroom of the night. It is the light orange mushroom in the picture of the uncooked mushrooms above. The underbelly is a neon yellow, which is pretty daunting as a diner. Is neon even a natural color?
Mr. E getting fancy with the camera
galantine, chicken of the woods, egg
2011 Rion Bourgogne Pinot Noir
I loved this dish. It was definitely a playful move by the chef. He deconstructed a chicken, turning the insides of a chicken into a galantine encased in its own skin. Still didn’t top the risotto, which was such a stand out for me. Maybe it’s a surprise, maybe not, but chicken of the woods is one of those foods that actually does kind of taste like chicken. As if the neon didn’t puzzle me enough. My mind was a bit blown by that particular mushroom.
Slow poached eggs and the anatomy of a chicken
The egg, a very slow, low temperature poached egg was like a thick comforter on top of the galantine. The method for cooking the onsen egg leaves the egg in its shell, like a boiled egg at a much gentler temperature, resulting in a very thick pudding like yolk. Texturally, this dish could have used some snap, crackle, or pop, but it was still a yummy dish nonetheless.
porcini dust, hen of the woods, truffle
2011 Dei Rosso di Montepulciano
At this part of the meal, I started feeling extremely full. Watching Eric prepare the pasta and seeing the handfuls of butter he kept adding to the rich sauce made me want to take a timeout and come back to tackle the pasta an hour later. The pasta itself incorporated dehydrated porcini, which was turned into a powder. Amazing. Then to revisit the sauce, he used his mushroom broth, an obscene amount of butter (not complaining), and not one but TWO truffles. I would have liked my pasta to have a bit more bite, but the truffles and the healthy dose of parmigiana drove me bonkers. So so good.
apple, chanterelle, lobster mushroom
2009 Heinrich Red Cat for the Butcher Shop
The finale of the meal was the scariest mushroom of them all, the lobster mushroom which seriously smells like fish. Whoa baby. It was prepared in very thin slices, so really not that intimidating at all. It also lent itself as a side to the pork, which was accompanied by a very smooth, tart apple sauce. Now, I’m not one to turn down bacon, but I’m definitely beginning to feel the effects of the bacon bandwagon. That being said, the dish was delicious and tasted like fall on a plate. Beyond it tasting good, nothing was too memorable about the dish.
Big thanks to Chef de Cuisine Eric LeBlanc and his assistant Christine Milam
We left with good notes and very full bellies!
102 Waltham Street
Boston, MA 02118
Restaurant Week. We have a love/hate relationship. I feel like a restaurant’s RW menu is very telling of its understanding of the value of customer growth and retention. If you find only cheap items, then you’re truly getting what you pay for. Whereas other restaurants pull out all of the stops or simply let you choose from their entire menu for the same fixed price. I always think the latter is wiser as it leads to a better diner return rate. Restaurant week should be about dazzling diners in the hopes that we’ll be back with our wallets full from the savings you offered us the last time.
Sadly, I’m compelled to think restaurants take the low road and jazz up some cheap cut of meat to make a nice margin on your meal. Alas, the charm of restaurant week and knowing the restaurant will be buzzing with activity has enough pull to get me to round up friends and get my wine and dine on.
Kim and Kate, my willing dining mates
‘Sup you beautiful, dippable bread morsel.
Bruschetta con Burrata e Speck
Grilled Bread, Burrata, Smoked Prosciutto & Pignoli-Currant Marmellata
Insalata di Cavoletti
Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Pancetta & Ricotta Salata
Polpette e Polenta (Restaurant Week Menu)
Veal and prosciutto meatballs with soft mascarpone polenta
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Veal, Pork, Pancetta & Parmigiano
Pollo e Farrotto (Restaurant Week Menu)
Roasted chicken breast with charred onions, farro risotto and rosemary jus
Panna Cotta di Ciacolatto (Restaurant Week Menu)
Chocolate panna cotta with toasted hazelnuts and amarena cherries
Torta di Ricotta e Ananas (Restaurant Week Menu)
Ricotta cheesecake with grappa soaked pineapples
Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. Kate, who ordered from the Restaurant Week menu, went so far as to say this may be her favorite Aquitaine group restaurant. Bravo, Cinquecento.
As for the food — burrata, it’s everywhere and I’m ok with that. Simple bruschetta topped with this gooey, milky cheese that was studded with oh so sweet current and punctuated with the salty speck made for a very nice first appetizer. I also stole a bite of Kate’s meatballs which were good and had a lot of flavor potential. They just needed a little extra sprinkle of salt, which was disappointing and surprising considering the addition of the prosciutto. The table also split a shaved brussel salad. Vegetables that include pancetta (think bacon) and ricotta salata are ok in my book.
Kim and I both ordered the tagliatelle bolognese. For starters, bolognese pulls on my heart strings. Always. I feel pangs of guilt if I leave a bolognese on the menu without ordering it. Why? Because I’m a fat kid at heart and rich meat sauce covering ribbons of pasta is my idea of heaven on earth. There I said it. The bolognese did not disappoint. Give or take a mouthful or two taken by Kate, I cleaned my plate. Still, my two top bolognese are from Sportello (Waterfront Boston) and Frank (East Village New York).
Kate ordered the chicken with farro risotto. I’m never one to order chicken in a restaurant. I fall into the snotty group of people who “don’t order what I can cook at home”. Well, that chicken was damn good. It was so moist and flavorful. Definitely NOT what I make at home.
We rounded off the meal with a chocolate panna cotta and ricotta cheesecake. Both were ok dishes, not great but that clearly didn’t stop me from picking at the cheesecake until it was all gone.
Our server left something to be desired unfortunately, but she definitely got an A for effort and somewhat awkward enthusiasm. If nothing else, hop over and grab a seat at their beautiful bar. Their small plates are delicious and anyone who has the gusto to decorate their space with pillars of Aperol and Campari deserves a visit or two.
500 Harrison Street
Boston, MA 02118