What makes an event awesome? Since both of us have worked in events – planning and execution – we do have some cred here. A list of must-have elements are friendly, engaging hosts, stellar food, well-chosen beverages, solicitous and knowledgeable staff and, last but not least, good tunes. “Two Chefs Tables and a Microphone”, held at the Urban Grape wine shop in the South End recently, nailed all of these. The event – this season’s kick-off in the ongoing series “Pop-Up Chef Nights” – was awesome, highlighting not just one but two chefs. The evening also inaugurated the South End branch of Urban Grape as a serious player in the Boston food and wine scene.
To begin with, the space is impressive – an uncluttered showroom with high ceilings, displaying 600+ bottles of wine along two walls. (There are also sections of the store devoted to craft brews and spirits.) One end of the room is anchored by a large custom-made dark wood island – perfect for both storage, presentations and tastings; on the other end, a casual seating area done up in uber-hip mid-century modern – several Eames DSW chairs around a Noguchi cocktail table. With a space such as this, let the party begin.
The concept here was that two chefs – namely Seth Morrison of the Gallows and Michael Scelfo of the Russell House Tavern – would each offer a menu of five small plates ranging from starters to dessert; TJ Douglas, co-owner of Urban Grape, would pair the beverages for each course. The twist was that the wines paired with Chef Scelfo’s food would be “Old School”, aka Old World, while the pairings for Chef Morrison’s menu would be “New School”, aka New World; thus, a New School versus Old School smackdown of sorts was in the works.We enjoy and admire the cuisine of these two talented chefs – both bring a certain elevation to the greater Boston dining scene – and both helm successful restos. Re-imagining and re-working classics – often with New England roots – they create exciting and delicious new dishes.
The event kicked off with TJ and Hadley Douglas, husband and wife co-owners of the Urban Grape welcoming us all and setting the upbeat vibe for the evening. DJ Pfranchize kept that vibe going with a “new school/old school” selection of tunes. TJ would introduce each set of dishes, elucidate his wine choices for each – then we tucked in. These were excellent small plates – all winners – as were the wines. A few of our faves and raves were –
- Chef Scelfo’s oysters with wood-smoked cocktail sauce, brambly bacon, sea bean vinaigrette – hauntingly memorable.
- The Punkt Sparkling Grüner Veltliner – excellent with the oysters, outstanding on its own.
- Chef Morrison’s classic baked beans which – in a twist – utilized Gigante beans rather than the traditonal Pea or Great Northern beans.
- The cheddar biscuit with the wonderful Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris was spot on.
- Our favorite pairing was the “rosé/pâté” – Chef Morrison’s blue fish pâté with the Ehlers Estate Rosé. This pairing was superb – the richness of the fish contrasting with the lean, racy wine.
- When it comes to whiskey, make ours “New School” – the Willet “Pot Still Reseve” Bourbon, served chilled with a frozen Luxardo cherry, was the perfect ending to the evening.
So the outcome – Old School or New School – Chef Morrison or Chef Scelfo? We would have to say a draw. The winner of the evening, though, was the Urban Grape for having hosted such an impressive, well-run event.
Kudos to TJ and Hadley Douglas, Chefs Morrison and Scelfo, Harry Silverstein of the Urban Grape, Sam Yaffe of the Gallows and of course, the DJ.
The evening’s fare
Seth Morrison of the Gallows, South End
Oysters “Kennedy” with spinach, lobster aioli, Irish Whiskey and Cape Cod Potato Chips
2009 Robert Foley Vineyards Pinot Blanc (Napa Valley, CA) $31
Pumpkin Chowder with corn, ham, common crackers and sage
Sam Adams “Fat Jack” Double Pumpkin Ale (Boston, MA) $8
Blue Fish Pâté with apple-horseradish fresh preserves and brioche toast
2011 Ehlers Estate ‘Sylviane” Rosé of Cabernet Franc (St. Helena, CA) $32
Pork Confit & New England baked beans and brown bread
2010HamiltonRussell Pinot Noir (Hermanus,South Africa) $38
Mini Apple & Brick Cheese Pie a la mode
Willet “Pot Still Reserve” Bourbon Whiskey (Bardstown,KY) $40/750 ml $72/1,75 lt
Michael Scelfo of Russell House Tavern, Harvard Square
ICO Oysters with wood-smoked cocktail sauce, brambly bacon, sea bean vinaigrette
Torched Delicata Squash with a Cabot clothbound cheddar biscuit, maple & ginger aioli
Warm Roasted Char Belly with bone marrow brioche, red wine & pickled onion jam
2010 Occhipinti “Il Frappoto” Frappoto (Sicily,Italy) $41
Duck Fat braised Pork Neck with herbed white beans and crispy chard leaves
2010 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso (Tuscany,Italy) $35
Robinson “Barnyard” Cheese with prune & honey jam, sweet Tango apples, smoked almonds
303 Columbus Avenue Boston MA & 7 Boylston Street Chestnut Hill MA