Each Spoonful Contains the Universe

Chef Carl Dooley poses with us at the Table at Season to Taste
“Each Spoonful Contains the Universe”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Buddhist teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book How to Eat, explains that practicing mindful eating involves paying attention to each spoonful of food that you place into your mouth.  We pay attention, with the awareness that each bite is a gift.  This is how I would describe the four course meal I enjoyed at the Table at Season to Taste, a new restaurant from Robert Harris with Chef Carl Dooley in Cambridge, MA. 

Each time I’m in Cambridge or Boston, usually three or four times per year, I’m always on a quest to find “my place,” meaning a restaurant that will be on my list to visit every single time.  Ramen noodles at a hole-in-the-wall place at Lesley University is an automatic yes to visit every time, of course.  The Table is also now on the list.  I have to admit that I found out about it while I was watching the current season of Top Chef.  There are two chefs from the Boston area on Season 13.  Chef Carl Dooley has been doing quite well so far.  His new restaurant was scheduled to open on January 12, 2016 which was the day after I was heading back to Tucson, but fortunately I was able to get on the list for the soft opening.

Chef Dooley prepares an extremely well thought out Prix Fixe Menu each night, including three courses and a dessert.  I was able to order from both the regular menu and the vegetarian menu, which worked well together.  I used the Thich Nhat Hanh quote because each dish was clean and balanced, yet complex.  The portion size was just right for the amount of courses served.  There was enough to enjoy, without that uncomfortable feeling of being too full to enjoy the next course. 
House made bread with cultured butter.
I particularly enjoyed the house-made bread served with cultured butter.  Cultured butter brings out both sweetness and tanginess, which balanced well with the fresh mushrooms that were infused into the butter.  Given the chance, I could have enjoyed a snack or small meal of the crusty fresh bread and butter with coffee or green tea.

TOP: Salad of Roasted Sunchokes (Smoked Trout, Watercress, Whole Grain Mustard)
BOTTOM: Grilled Oyster Mushrooms (Hazelnuts, Currents, Lemon)
I chose the Salad of Roasted Sunchokes as my first course.  The thinly sliced apples balanced extremely well with the tanginess of the whole grain mustard.  The trout was fresh and delicate.  The textures were spot-on.  My daughter Logan is a great dining partner, as she instinctively knows to order a complementary dish, so I can try more than one thing.  The Grilled Oyster Mushroom salad with hazelnuts, currents and lemon was rich and earthy.  I enjoyed the delicate lemony vinaigrette. 

Whole Wheat Garganelli (Roast Broccoli, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Parmesan)

Stew of Pumpkin and Quinoa (Black Garlic, Cilantro, Ginger)

I switched to the vegetarian menu for the second course.  Who can resist homemade pasta on a cold Boston night?  The Whole Wheat Garganelli did not disappoint!  Roasting the broccoli not only brought out earthy flavor to complement the mushrooms, but also ensured that the texture worked well with the rest of the dish.  Heavenly!  Logan chose the Stew of Pumpkin and Quinoa, which was also a great choice for a winter night.  I am picky about the texture of quinoa, and this did not disappoint.  I had not tried combining black garlic with pumpkin before.  This is a great flavor combination!

Glazed Local Hake (Celery Root, Meyer Lemon, Capers)

Roasted Celery Root Hake (Garbanzo Beans, Carrot Pickle, Green Apple)

Returning to the non-vegetarian menu, I selected the Glazed Local Hake for my third course.  I always recommend local fish in Boston.  You can’t compare the choice, freshness and availability.  This dish highlighted Chef Dooley’s classic French training.  The dish was rich, yet delicate.  The dish was buttery yet not heavy, and I am guessing there was white wine in the glaze, which was a nice touch as well.  Every flavor was intentional and belonged there.  Celery root is a great choice instead of a starch.  It really holds its own, so no need for something heavier, plus it had great flavor to complement the Meyer lemon and capers.  This was a clean-your-plate kind of dish.

In my opinion the winning dish of the night was Logan’s third course, from the vegetarian menu.  As much as I enjoyed the hake, the Roasted Celery Root Pave stole the show.  A pave is similar to a gratin, and is generally served in a square or rectangular shape.  This was an outstanding dish.  The flavors were layered perfectly.  Celery root adds such a nice richness to a vegetarian dish.  As I described in other dishes, each component was intentional and belonged in the dish.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Spice Cashews, Rum Ice Cream, Caramel)

Citrus Pavlova (Grapefruit Campari Sorbet, Graham Crumble, Lemon Curd)

We ordered both dessert choices at our table.  The Pineapple Upside Down Cake was served with spiced cashews, rum ice cream and caramel sauce.  The cake was served warm and was absolutely marvelous, the perfect comfort food.  The Citrus Pavlova was served with a grapefruit campari sorbet, graham crumble and lemon curd.  The sorbet was refreshing after a nice adventure for the palette.  I had to rely on my tablemates to try the Pavlova, as I am allergic to eggs, but it looked perfect… crisp on the outside, and creamy on the inside.

At the close of our fabulous meal, we were treated to a lovely surprise.  The pastry chef prepared granola bars, individually wrapped, for each of us to take with us.  I actually saved mine, and waited until I was back in Tucson to enjoy it, probably four or five days after this meal, and it was still delicious and tasted fresh!  The granola bar was made with sesame seeds and oats.  I would love to get the recipe!  (Hint, hint!)

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