Friday, October 23, 2009

Barbara Lynch's Stir, Plum Produce, The Butcher Shop and a Meal At Sportello

On the day I was going to interview Chef and Owner, Barbara Lynch at her restaurant, Sportello, I thought I would spend the morning checking out a number of her businesses and restaurants. I started in the South End at…

Stir-Stir wears two hats (and is pictured above). In the evenings, Stir is the host kitchen for cooking demonstrations (and meals) by Barbara Lynch's chefs. What wasn’t clear to me, though, until I walked in, was how unbelievably intimate this space is. So often cooking classes take place at a distance. However, it was clear to me that taking a class here would be a true learning experience. I would visit Stir everyday if I lived any closer, as Stir is also an amazing library of over 300 books (cookbooks, travel books and books about wine and spirits.) It also has a cozy window seat. You can come in to browse, or become a member and borrow up to 3 books a month.

Plum Produce-In this postage stamp of a store, manager Victoria Kelly was just setting up as I arrived. Plum Produce gets farm fresh produce each day from Verrill and Siena Farms in Concord. They also offer pastas and other assorted items.

The Butcher Shop-You can sit down for lunch or dinner at the Butcher Shop, buy prepared foods, such as sauces or purchase meats ranging from homemade pates to sausages. I didn’t get a chance to stop at B & G Oysters (also in the South End) and haven’t yet found a night special enough to fully enjoy Number 9 Park (in Beacon Hill), though like many of us, I hope to try both places.

Instead I headed over to Sportello, located in the Fort Point area to eat a meal before interviewing Chef Lynch. Sportello is located about a block away from the Children’s Museum. Sportello was bustling on the day I was there, with a range of people perched on counter seats. I enjoyed the open kitchen and the opportunity to watch lunch being prepared. One of my favorite elements of the meal, came first-homemade fresh fig jam sitting on top of whipped ricotta and sitting in a pool of olive oil. Honestly, I may return for this alone and may have to hunt down some fresh figs to try and recreate it. I also enjoyed my salad. It was listed as a “Beet Salad. Pistachio. Feta Cheese.” What actually arrived was a gorgeous plate of fresh greens intertwined with fresh herbs from Verrill Farm. The striped beets were a lovely pink and were delicious with the French feta. The salad was perfectly dressed with a pistachio vinaigrette. This alone could have been a meal when combined with the bread, cheese and fig starter.

Chef Colin Lynch treated me to a taste of the Cacciucco. I expected a bouillabaisse style soup, but what arrived was much more flavorful. Floating in the broth were perfectly cooked shrimp, mussels, clams and calamari against a piece of grilled bread. The broth was clearly a labor of love and tasted of the essence of the sea.I also tried a half order of the Ricotta Ravioli with Duck Polpetti (meatballs of sorts), radicchio and pecorino. This rich dish would be perfect in the fall. I am not sure I could have identified the sauce and meatballs as made from duck, but they were very good, though a tad salty and strong for my palate. I did like the delicate ravioli.

However, I really enjoyed the “Farfalle with Clams, Mussels and Radish.” Again, this was a dish whose name didn’t do justice to how good and complex it was. The homemade and toothsome farfelle were served with perfectly cubed potatoes, slivers of radish and garlic, and plump mussels and clams. It was topped with simple olive oil and butter sauce. This was comfort food at its best. I could eat this every day.

Sportello also has a bakery and cafĂ© area where you can take sweets or savory items to go. Although I thought the toasted marshmallow top cupcakes looked great, I couldn’t resist buying a chocolate-olive tart. Honestly, it may be an acquired taste!  My favorite of the treats we bought was the hazelnut macaroon filled with a dark chocolate filling. They also have pizzas on brioche dough. You can buy ones that are sweet (e.g. with pistachios and ricotta) or savory. Note, too, that the recipe for both of these treats are in Barbara Lynch's new cookbook, Stir, which will be published in November.  Also, f.y.i. she will speaking at the Wellesley Booksmith on November 17th at 7:00. Call to reserve a spot.

No. 9 Park, 9 Park St., Boston 617-742-9991
B&G Oysters, 550 Tremont St. Boston 617-423-0550
The Butcher Shop, 552 Tremont St. Boston 617-423-4800
Sportello, 348 Congress St., Boston 617-737-1234
Plum Produce, 106 Waltham St, 617-423-PLUM
Stir, 102 Waltham St, 617-423-STIR
9 at Home (Catering)
Drink, 348 Congress St, 617-695-1806

Stir, the Cookbook, will be published by Houghton Mifflin on November 2nd.

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