Monday, November 18, 2013

Foodies have lots of choices outside Boston, too

Food, glorious food!

By Taryn Plumb |  Globe Correspondent 
November 17, 2013

Foodies generally know where to go: the hot spots, the new, the trendy. Boston, Providence, maybe Portland, Maine (or its sister city on the opposite coast). But here in Boston’s western suburbs, fans of fine food do not have to wander as far as they may think. There are plenty of established and new entries where you can get gourmet, exotic, home-grown, and handmade eats.
Visit Hudson and taste a pumpkin whoopie pie at the Harvard Sweet Boutique. Drive through Westborough and try some “kalbi” — beef short ribs — at Sapporo Korean Barbecue and Sushi. Settle in at the Oregon Club, a onetime speak-easy in Ashland, for one of its famed steaks. Or check our list of locally made foods you can buy in shops or online.

Former speak-easy with a modern flair

By Taryn Plumb |  Globe Correspondent 
November 17, 2013

The pans have seen a lot of beef — 90 years’ worth. Originally from Boston’s Omni Parker House, they sizzled up literally thousands of steaks over the course of the 20th century at the Oregon Club in Ashland, where they’re still in service to this day.
“They sit on the burner all night long,” said chef Chris Scanlon, who took over ownership of the restaurant, which served as a speak-easy during Prohibition, in 2009 with Judy MacLeod.
The continued use of the now-antique pans exemplifies the Oregon Club of the 21st century: embracing the past with modern flair, the owners say.
“We wanted to keep the great aspects of the Briascos’ era while also making it our own,” said MacLeod, a onetime waitress at the former private club that was owned and run by the Briasco family for eight decades. “They worked hard. They kept it simple. We want to carry on with that.”
It started 91 years ago when Giuseppe Briasco opened the Briasco Inn in a farmhouse on Oregon Road in Ashland. The rooming house served just two dishes — spaghetti and steak — and also operated as a speak-easy until the end of Prohibition in 1933. With limited liquor licenses available in town after America’s 13-year dry run, Briasco opted to transform his establishment into a private club (and with the transition came the name change).
“You couldn’t get in the door if you didn’t have their membership card,” MacLeod said.
Among the regular customers were Red Sox icon Ted Williams, Boston mayor and state governor James Michael Curley, and Louis Farley, a prominent Framingham judge and 30-year patron. It served as an escape for Farley’s family, who found it nearly impossible to go out in their hometown without being approached with some legal question or another, said MacLeod.
During its nearly 100-year run, it built up a reputation for its steaks, which are prepared the same way — and in the same carbon steel pans — today, along with other Briasco specialties such as spicy mushroom soup.
Scanlon, who attended the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and has cooked professionally for 22 years, has added such items as pan-roasted cod and crispy duck confit to the menu, and experimented with offerings like cod puree, pork and duck terrine, and foie gras.
“There are any number of things that you can’t get in any other restaurant around here,” he said.
And, he said, his regular customers as well as foodie-types who venture west from Boston “are willing to try things they’re not used to.”

Chef Chris Scanlon cooks in the kitchen of the Oregon Club restaurant.
An old recipe book in the kitchen of the Oregon Club restaurant
Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

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Gourmet baker hits sweet spot

By Taryn Plumb |  Globe Correspondent
November 17, 2013

Not many people have this on their resume: Sue George is a former software engineer and project manager who has become the owner and operator of a gourmet bakery.
Just over a year ago, the mother of two teenagers opened Harvard Sweet Boutique in a downtown Hudson storefront, building on the immense success of her Internet-based business of the same name.
“People are so excited to have a gourmet bakery in town,” said George, a Harvard resident who describes herself as self-taught in the kitchen. “There hasn’t been anything like it in many, many years, if ever.”
It began in 2007 as a small mail-order business that specialized in care packages full of sweet baked treats. But thanks to the Internet, it quickly grew into a nationwide opportunity, said George, who found herself creating packages for an array of corporate and nonprofit clients, including the Boston Celtics and Youk’s Kids, a charity founded by Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis (before he traded in his “B” for Yankee pinstripes).
Today, the care-package business continues to flourish, with customers of all types choosing from numerous flavors of brownies, cookies, truffles, toffee, and other goodies colorfully wrapped up, topped with a bow, and dispatched to their doors.
The bakery’s storefront, meanwhile, opened a year ago last month. Its pastry chefs create all manner of cakes, cookies, macaroons, gourmet cupcakes, brownies, scones, muffins, and sweet rolls, as well as seasonal specialties like pumpkin whoopie pies with maple cream cheese filling, and lunch items that include soups, fresh bread, and pizza.
“It’s all made from scratch, fresh ingredients,” said George. “I don’t cut corners, I never will. I want people to come in and say, ‘That’s the best scone I ever had,’ or, ‘That’s the best cookie I ever had.’ ”
George’s specialty is cookie batter, although she does not get around to doing much baking herself these days due to business demands. But as she was raising her children, she said, “I did tons and tons of baking for every event I could get involved in in my town.”
With the new retail space, she has also taken the opportunity to support other local food artisans she met through the years at various farmers markets. Currently on the shelves are items from Berlin-based Gracenote Coffee, Quinn Popcorn of Woburn (various flavors of organic microwave popcorn with bags free of chemical coatings and susceptors), Salt Traders in Ipswich, and Sweet Lydia’s of Lowell (gourmet marshmallows and handmade candy bars).
Ultimately, she said of the shop, “we are really a cool foodie destination. And the word is starting to spread. We get people who take a Saturday drive to come out here.”

The Harvard Sweet Boutique, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Hudson, is an example of suburban foodies making their mark.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

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Expanding horizon for Korean cuisine

By Taryn Plumb |  Globe Correspondent
November 17, 2013

Korean restaurants can be a hard sell in suburbia, Jay Chung acknowledges.
The country’s cuisine has not enjoyed the popularity of other Asian fare — such as Chinese, Japanese, or Thai — because often the food and the service are not “Americanized,” he said. The dishes themselves — how to order and how to eat them — can also be perplexing.
So the goal of his family’s restaurant, Sapporo Korean Barbecue and Sushi in Westborough, has been to make their traditional cuisine more accessible for Americans.
“People want to learn more about the food,” said Chung. “The majority of our diners have never tried Korean food elsewhere, but they keep coming back.”
His family came to the United States from Seoul in 1992; almost seven years ago they opened their East Main Street restaurant, with patriarch Moon Chung drawing on his culinary experience to serve as chef.
The town has been both supportive and willing to experiment with an unfamiliar cuisine. “The community aspect of Westborough is great,” said Chung. “It’s very tightknit.”
Korean food is often described as rich and bold, with staple ingredients including garlic, soy beans, red pepper paste, and sesame. Signature dishes include kalbi (beef short ribs) and bulgogi (beef rib eye), which are both marinated in soy sauce.
But perhaps the most well-known Korean dish, Chung said, is dolsot bibimbap , which literally translates to “stone pot” and “mixed rice”. Rice, vegetables — such as bean sprouts, carrots, and mushrooms — and beef topped by a raw egg are served up in a heated stone pot.
“It’s a very spicy Korean dish,” Chung said. “It comes out sizzling, and stays sizzling throughout the meal.”
Of course, Sapporo is also popular for its sushi offerings. Chung said the favored dish has become a bit like fast food in recent years, transformed to suit the Western palate (take, for instance, the introduction of the California roll).
So Sapporo strives to serve up sushi (or nigiri, raw sliced fish atop rice) the traditional way, which, as he described it, takes “someone who knows a lot about fish, a lot about rice, and the preparation, which takes years to learn. A lot of it is the care put into it.”
But the restaurantalso experiments with more creative contemporary offerings, including designer rolls with various ingredients, sauces, flavors, and textures.
For example, its Hawaiian roll, which combines shrimp tempura topped with spicy tuna, shaved mangoes, spicy mayo, and macadamia nuts.
“There’s a lot going on in that one roll,” said Chung. “You take one bite and you get all the flavors.”
Overall, Sapporo’s offerings are a blending of old and new.
“We have a little bit of both — the traditional and more of the modern,” said Chung.

Jay Chung and his family offer a mix of Korean dishes old and new, including the avocado ball

The "dolsot bibim bap" at Sapporo Korean Barbecue and Sushi in Westborough
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

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© 2013 Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC

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