Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Return to Family Friendly Nights at Aura-Summer Special Events Style

As we walked along Boston Harbor towards Aura on Friday night, my 3 year old looked at me and said, "Mommy, you wear a nice dress and go out with daddy. But tonight, you are wearing a nice dress and me and David get to go with you and eat food with Chef Rachel and plant gardens. I love this, mommy!" My son loved his first experience at Family Friendly nights at Aura. He remembered the food (yummy chicken), the play space ("Can I play with trucks and legos, again, mommy?"), the other kids ("Will Ethan be there, mommy?"), the welcomeness of Chef Rachel Klein, and, of course, the dessert. We also had fond memories of having a delicious and elegant dinner while our children played nearby.

So, when Aura offered to treat our family to a chance to eat at Aura and check out one of the new approaches to Family dining. All summer, Aura has offered special events at the Family Friendly nights. In early July, author Mary Newell dePalma came to talk to the children, while later in the month, animal specialists from the Franklin Park Zoo brought animals along!

This past Friday was a chance to head up to the herb garden on the roof of Aura and to plant seeds with Chef Rachel Klein, herself. I had been curious about Chef Klein's approach to gardening since she told me about engaging her toddler in growing herbs. And, in fact, after a delicious meal, the kids headed up to the roof deck with parents and Chef Klein. She pointed out the amazing range of herbs (including 4 kinds of mint, lemon verbena, rosemary and more) that are growing in this lovely oasis. The children were given pots and taught how to plant seeds. Each child was able to plant basil, chard, squash or radishes. Chef Klein then showed the children how to pick herbs and gave them a chance to taste. My sons, for example, made faces at the intensity of the peppermint, but loved the herbal basil.

Back at the restaurant, the experience was as fun and delicious as we remembered. While our children played in the adjacent play space, with puzzles, balls, legos, trucks, dinosaurs, we shared a lychee martini from the Tamo bar and had a few precious minutes to peruse the menu.Clearly understanding how hungry toddlers can get, their food arrived quickly. Both of my children had the homemade chicken tenders that were served with sweet potato fries and spicy honey-mustard sauce. In fact, the tenders were so good that my husband and I also dove in. The portions were generous enough that it provided meal for 2 nights. I loved how the carrots and peas were served in a way that kept the integrity and taste of the summer vegetables while having them cooked just enough to be devoured by our 18 month old.Our food was sophisticated enough to feel like we were truly out for a special evening. I also appreciated how the entire meal took advantage of summer produce. We started with one of each appetizer. I enjoyed the spectacular "Scarlet Borscht" of red beets, smoked potatoes, sour cream and dill. It was redolent of spicy ginger and was a refreshing start to the meal. My husband loved his "Tomato Caprese" or a salad of roasted and fresh summer tomatoes, grilled Halloumi cheese, chickpeas and basil pesto. The earthy combination of chickpeas and pesto were a great summer starter with sweet tomatoes.
For a main dish, FoodieDaddy had the perfectly roasted salmon. It sat on a bed of parsnip puree and was topped with a chamomile beurre blanc. I loved the radish and grapefruit salad. Rachel Klein's combinations  often inspire me to try new ways of cooking at home. 
For my main dish, I enjoyed scallops.In a play on a tradition summer dinner, they were served with a range of heirloom tomatoes, a tarragon potato salad and a decadent creamed corn.

Finally, dessert. They were both good, though the names were more memorable than the dishes themselves. The first, an apricot bar with decadent creme fraiche ice cream and honey coulis. The second: a Valrhona chocolate brownie with coconut ice cream and caramelized Rice Krispies!

As I noted in my first write-up of the Family Friendly nights, a 3 course meal for adults costs about $30 a person, while the children's meals are $7 (which includes one side dish.) So, for $70.oo, it is a great alternative for a nice night as a family or when you can't get a babysitter.

Family Friendly nights take place each Friday from 5:30 to 8:00. For more information (including the schedule of upcoming special events and the current menu) you can check out their schedule of special events or the main Aura site.

Aura at the Seaport Hotel, 1 Seaport Lane, 617-385-4300
Tamo Bar at the Seaport Hotel, 1 Seaport Lane, 617-385-4315

1 comment:

  1. oh wow! this sounds way cool.(Kathy from the library) Guess one of these days I start an account so I can log in properly!