Countless restaurants stud Tremont Street in Boston’s South End. I’ve had the pleasure of eating at many and documenting a few. I rarely end up with blog worthy pictures when I do my late night South End dining. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught myself longingly eying The Butcher Shop and B&G Oysters. For one reason or another, I’ve been delinquent in making reservations, the root cause of separation between myself and Barbara Lynch’s restaurants. Refer to my Lynch madness here, here, and here. Nestled just beyond these two restaurants on Waltham Street is heaven’s pearly gates, otherwise known as Barbara’s demonstration kitchen and cookbook library, Stir.
Stir releases two months of classes at a time a week or so ahead of the first class. I will say this – good luck getting a spot. Booking yourself at a Stir event is not for the faint of heart. I played the phone game, which involved thirty minutes of high anxiety levels, endless ringing, no ringing, an answering machine that would cut off, and finally a voice at the other end telling me most of my desired classes had been filled. I managed to grab two spots at July 9th’s Quick & Impromptu Suppers but lost out on the small bites class I had my sights set on. Now I know better. Actually going to Stir the morning of the release bearing some hot pastries and good beverages as gifts will give you at least a fighting chance at your top picks. This is what my morning will consist of on July 21st.
The stars aligned on July 9th. First of all, I found a parking space almost immediately. This is unheard of. I always go into the South End with the expectation 15+ minutes will be spent driving around aimlessly looking for what will end up being the most far and inconvenient parking space. Second, Mr. E arrived early… not earlier than me, let’s not be ridiculous, but early nonetheless! Finally, we grabbed corner seats, which is something I love on dates. It is definitely more interactive than sitting side by side.
The kitchen filled quickly with the class’ 10 participants. Our class leaders were Elle, Stir’s GM, and Chef Dave, The Butcher Shop’s sous chef. Right off the bat I liked them. Elle explained the two went to Marshfield High together and the night’s class was particularly special as it was their first collaborative class together. They recalled the day’s events which included walking around the neighborhood to buy some last minute ingredients and more importantly, eating pizza and ice cream.
We went around the room table giving introductions, something that made me feel like I was at one of my firm’s national trainings. I gave a brazen “Hi I’m Katie and I’m obsessed with Barbara Lynch,” which got me a chuckle or two and seemed to satisfy my dining mates. We were an eclectic mix of young and old, newcomers and regulars, and beginner and advanced home cooks. Dave got right to his “30 minute meals” and Elle hit the music.
Small portion of Stir’s library – already spotted a few favorites
“Don’t try this at home” – Dave on sticking a whisk in the Vitamix
Tomato & Watermelon Salad with chevre, mint & Fresco chiles
2010 Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiandene Crede
Trimming the shrimp
Dave and Elle
“Sauce always waits for pasta. Pasta will not wait for sauce.”
Shrimp Fettuccine with Italian sausage & parsley
2010 Gaba do Xil Godello
Not brave enough to eat the heads
Dave discussing the importance of salting your meat
Hanger Steak with Kabocha squash, salsa verde & bayerischer blauschimmelkäse
(aka Bavarian butter aka the freaking most delicate blue cheese EVER!!!)
2008 Heinrich Red Cat for The Butcher Shop
Salsa Verde made with chives, parsley, lime, Fresno chiles, and olive oil
Enjoying our third course
Whipping the Pistachio Cream like a pro
Cherry Shortbread Steak with pistachio Chantilly cream
2010 Saracco Moscato D’Asti
My Top 3 Take home Dave and Elle-isms
1) “Sauce always waits for pasta. Pasta will not wait for sauce.” – Dave, on making any pasta dish (mentioned above, but worth repeating)
2) “Powder puffs, soda spreads.” – Elle, on the difference between baking soda and baking powder
3) Take advantage of the Manager’s Special at your grocery store. Just because it doesn’t look pretty on the shelf doesn’t mean it’s not usable.
If you’re interested in cooking, this is such a great chance to get in the kitchen and watch a pro in a very intimate setting. You can literally ask questions until the cows come home and everyone is so happy and willing to answer you. I could tell Dave and Elle were passionate about food and service, which is nice to see considering one of Barbara Lynch’s greatest criticisms is the condescending service. Admittedly, and painfully so, I have experienced some of this first hand. I refuse to let it shake my unwavering love for my girl.
Dave and Elle moved so artfully around the kitchen throughout the evening. I sat for the most part, silently observing whilst enjoying the wonderful soundtrack. Notable songs included Cupid by Sam Cooke, It’s My Party by Lesley Gore, The Shoop Shoop Song by Betty Everett, and Don’t Worry Baby by the Beach Boys. Nice right? And of course, the food was nothing short of wonderful. Dave had a flair for heat and I found him spontaneously adding the Fresco chile to dishes he hadn’t planned to. Big ups. He was also pretty heavy handed with citrus and other acids to cut through his sauces. This isn’t something that’s necessarily unusual for chefs, but I love, love, love that he did that during the class so everyone could maybe learn a new thing or two.
Mr. E and I stuck around a little while after the other guests had cleared out of Stir. We chatted with Dave and Elle for a bit and learned more about the whole reservation process and about some of the regulars. Hiro, one of their real heavy hitters, even made an appearance as if on cue. In true food family spirit, Hiro told us he’d be seeing us on the 21st, when the bookings opened.
I loved every minute of that night and I’d say it’s going to be a goal of ours to become one of these regulars.
102 Waltham Street
Boston, MA 02118