Actually, Chef Sáenz needs no introduction to Boston, having spent time in the kitchens of both Spire and Great Bay. He then decamped to the Cape and Islands for several seasons, working at The Straight Wharf on the Vineyard and most recently as the opening Executive Chef at Ten Tables in Provincetown. Then it was time to return to the metropolis, landing at LiNEaGe as Chef de Cuisine. Having worked with Jeremy Sewall, chef-owner of Lineage at Great Bay, it was an auspicious opportunity. To celebrate Chef Sáenz’s arrival, the restaurant in collaboration with Nicole Kanner of All Heart PR threw a media dinner. I was fortunate to be invited. Though Julia may have gotten the food culture ball rolling, Alice Waters added the notion that cuisine should be seasonal and local. And so it is at Lineage: the evening’s menu showcasing the larder of our New England spring. We began with a welcoming cocktail of Mount Greylock Gin, Cocchi Americano, Creme de Violette and lemon juice. It was excellent, even converting some “gin skeptic” members of the group. Chef Sáenz offered a few words of welcome – then it was time for the food to do the talking. Before each course was served, though, he would appear briefly and succinctly explain the dish, answering whatever questions we had. What I found refreshing was his humility. The world of chefs has a plethora of overly egotistical denizens, a situation that gets tedious quickly. Fortunately, Chef Sáenz doesn’t present himself as a rock star.
paired with Gatinois NV, Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Ay FR
The fluke had a clean fresh taste highlighted by its brief cure in Meyer lemon juice. The silken fish provided a canvas for the sweet and tart flavors of the dish – lemon, pepper, pickled shallots. The puffed quinoa was an unexpected crunchy contrast. I enjoyed the playful aspect of this dish- the bold colors of the shallots, pepper coulis and black quinoa. The pairing with the champagne – all apple and bread – worked well.
Wood Oven Roasted White Asparagus
paired with ’10 Henri Bourgeois, Sauvignon Blanc, “La Chapelle des Augustins”, Sancerre FR
Roasting these beautiful asparagus intensified their delicate flavor perfectly. The fried chickpea croutons provided an earthy element; the Gribiche offering an herbal contrast while the almonds lent texture and sweetness. Though asparagus can present a problem for pairing, this Sauvignon Blanc stood up to all the aspects of this course.
paired with ’12 County Line, Rosé of Pinot Noir, “Elke Home Ranch”, Anderson Valley CA
A perfectly seared scallop – melting and sweet inside – paired with briney clams, braised artichokes, the distinctive flavor of grilled ramps, purple and yellow fingerling potatoes and crispy fried shallots equaled a well realized dish. The excellent rosé provided the right acidity and fruitfulness to both contrast with and compliment the dish.
Grilled Hangar Steak
paired with ’06 Vina Alberdi, Temparanillo, Rioja SP
This course was visually stunning – and delicious! The intensely colored and flavored spinach puree perhaps a riff on steakhouse creamed spinach? The meat was full flavored, accented by the excellent rendition of the classic Spanish Romesco sauce. (Chef Sáenz using hazelnuts instead almonds). Springtime came through with the accompanying vegetables – beets, baby carrots, peas and favas, all precisely cooked. The big wine – one of the wine lists outstanding bargains – was an excellent match to the grilled meat.
Fromage Blanc Cheesecake
paired with ’10 Brooks, Late Harvest Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills, OR
And finally, dessert. This cheesecake – reminiscent of the “no- bake” cheesecakes I grew up with but exponentially better – was just right to end the meal. Fromage Blanc – similar to Greek yogurt – provided the lightness in this deconstructed dessert: graham cracker crust functioned as a garnish. The candied kumquats added a bright citrus note.
In addition to the great interplay of ingredients and textures throughout the meal, I was impressed with the plating of each course. Chef Sáenz presents his cuisine in a bold and robust manner. There is none of the preciousnes of “tweezer cuisine”.
And a word about the wines. Amy Audette, General Manager of Lineage is like myself and my colleagues at WDWU an alum of Boston University’s Elizabeth Bishop Wine Program. Besides her duties as GM, she’s also the restaurant’s sommelier. Her choices for the evening were outstanding.
My thanks to Nicole Kanner and Liz Greene of All Heart, Jeremy and Lisa Sewall chef/owners of LiNEaGe and Chef Alex Sáenz whose tenure is Boston will be most notable.