Well, I decided that my mind-blowing ethnic meal would have to wait a night, as I made a last second move to Chefs in Shorts --- an impressive outdoor food festival at the Seaport Hotel. In short, I highly recommend the event. Put it on your calendar for next year. It's always the last weekend in July. Good stuff and, in a way, good value.
The concept: Many of the best chefs in and around Boston prepare one "specialty" on the grill. Patrons roam from booth to booth, chatting with the chefs, who prepare and serve little plates of their special dish.
Some of the gang included:
John Merrill, Aura
Tony Ambrose, Ambrosia on Huntington
Mark Sapienza, Le Meridien Boston
Kevin Crowley, Coriander
Ben Nathan, The Fireplace
Mark Allen, Le Soir
Rich Vellante, Legal Sea Foods
Seth Woods, Aquitaine
Michael Rhodes, Sel de la Terre
Joanne Chang, Flour
Charles Draghi, 33 Restaurant & Lounge
Philip Wang, Truc
Dave Robinson, Centro
Chris Ainsworth, Bonfire
Kevin Kapalka, Bedford Village Inn Restaurant
The highlights were many, but I'll try not to ramble on too much longer.
1. Charles Draghi's Roasted Bluefish
He said that the bluefish had just been caught earlier that day, and stressed the difference in taste and texture between fresh bluefish and all other bluefish. It was basically "pulled" blue-fish, as he had several large blufish from which he would pull small purses of flesh. He drizzled over a pesto puree which he made with olive oil, mustard, garlic, and "as many herbs from that morning's farmer's market thet I could fit into it". Some grilled corn from the same farmer's market was the perfect side. Wow!
2. Tony Ambrose's Tuna with Soy Pea Puree
I often am bored by tuna. I find it a little short on flavor. Tony Ambrose did wonders with it. He literally had a huge freakin' tuna right behind the counter and was taking a huge freakin' knife to it, carving off pieces, and putting them on the grill for a matter of seconds before dressing it with a wonderful puree.
3. Kevin Crowley's Opah with Tropical Fruit Salsa
Again, tropical fruit salsa and fish is not ordinarily a favorite pairing for me. Too often, I taste mango and papaya instead of mako, or mahi-mahi, or whatever it is that I'd rather be tasting! And, to be honest, this dish did suffer a bit from that same flaw. However, opah is a sturdy enough fish to stand up to the tropical salsa, which, although strongly flavored with mango, pineapple, and banana ketchup, did allow for some of the opah's flavor to shine through.
There were also great desserts (e.g. Sel de la Terre's grilled peach with almond polenta cake and ginger and buttermilk ice cream), meats (lamb sausage, lamb tenderloin, ribs, ginger angus on a stick, etc.) and shellfish (grilled oysters with cucumber relish and lobster sorbet).
I was so intoxicated by the food that I hardly had time for all of the free-flowing Robert Modavi wine and Harpon IPA and UFO!
At $55 a person for ulimited food and drink, I consider this a "bargain", in its own way.
Tip for next year: the Seaport hotel does a good deal -- $170 for one night's accommodations PLUS two tickets to Chefs in Shorts.