Boston Chef Barbara Lynch on Her Love of Instagram, Her Biggest Competition + Pig Bladders

Boston Chef Barbara Lynch

Those who’ve enjoyed the unforgettable white tablecloth experience at Menton or toasted with a craft cocktail at Drink may be surprised with the New England specialty that Boston chef Barbara Lynch kicks back with — anyone not from Boston, that is. The James Beard Award winner and sole female Relais & Châteaux grand chef in North America has stayed true to her humble roots while creating an empire for fine-dining and imbibing just a few miles down the road from where she grew up as one of seven kids and entered the hospitality industry as a waitress. Today, she has three kids of her own, six restaurants, the demonstration kitchen Stir, and a legacy that makes her a household name in one of the country’s most historic cities.

So a chef can’t eat four-course dinners every night. What’s your typical meal or favorite indulgence?

If I make something for myself quickly, it’s probably spicy hummus and cucumbers and lettuce. But I love fried clams and French fries.

Sounds like a true Bostonian! You were one of the first people to take the step and invest in the Seaport District and now it’s booming. But why take a chance when you did?

I just love being part of a community. A community strengthens your success in a way, and you’re always part of it. Fort Point had soul. Those old warehouses still had bones in them even though they were empty. It was desolate but I even knew as a kid that I wanted to be there. … I’m so glad I did three restaurants [Menton, Sportello, and Drink] instead of one at the same time. That would have been a $@*&ing temple sticking out down there, and you need the support and diversity. Now every two seconds there’s another building going up and it’s different than I envisioned — I thought it would be more of an urban environment with a school or a grocery store. But I’m still glad.

Boston Chef Barbara Lynch

Why not branch out of Boston, and lend your name to like, a hotel restaurant in Vegas or something?

I don’t have partners, so I don’t just go in and do a turnkey. I don’t want to go in and sell a name. Not to say I wouldn’t with the right deal and that I feel my team is ready to move with me. It’s like giving birth and saying, ‘Oh, okay, I didn’t really like this kid, I’ll just give it away,’ and walk away. I can’t do it. It’s not me.

Did you know as a kid that you wanted to be a chef?

I was definitely around 12 or 13, and I was talking myself into ‘I’m a chef. I want to be a chef.’ I literally thought I was going to own a sub shop, though, not be where I am now. My pivotal moment was my first job on a boat [a Martha’s Vineyard dinner cruise]. It was a huge success, and I said, ‘Wow, this is fun!’ That’s the difference between our company and others. We’re here 90-plus hours a week, so you’ve got to just have fun with it. It’s going to be hard sometimes, but, most of all, it should be a great place to work.Continue Reading

Cheers to Shrimp Cocktail: 12 Takes on the Classic

Ah, the iconic shrimp cocktail. Especially popular in the 19th-century, one theory has it that the dish was served in a cocktail glass because of the ban on alcoholic drinks during the 1920’s Prohibition. Like Prohibition, the days of limp shrimp with a side glop of ketchup and a few tears of tasteless iceberg lettuce are long past. Today, the dish, which typically stars on appetizer menus, has evolved to eye-candy shrimp cocktails with sassy sauces and whimsical presentations. Here are 12 creative takes on shrimp cocktail that would make Forest Gump’s’ Bubba especially proud.

St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, Indiana
Funny for a restaurant located in a landlocked state that it’s the shrimp cocktail that put this steakhouse on the map — in fact, it is the only appetizer on the menu. “People come from all over the world to have the shrimp cocktail,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. Named The World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail, it stars four jumbo shrimp served with the restaurant’s spicy, signature cocktail sauce. The local restaurant, which opened in 1902, shares its secret for what makes its shrimp cocktail so sought-after — pssst, it’s the shaved-daily horseradish (the restaurant typically goes through 5,760 pounds of horseradish a year, or 15 to 20 pounds per day). In fact, the shrimp cocktail has been deemed one of the world’s spiciest dishes. Pssst — another secret, you can now buy a bottle of the sassy sauce for bloodies at home. Make a reservation at St. Elmo Steak House.

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Legal Harborside-Floor 2, Boston, Massachusetts
Time to chill. Legal Seafood’s flagship restaurant presents its Shrimp Cocktail in a hollow ice globe. A hole is poked in the orb so the succulent shellfish can be placed inside. The sphere eventually melts, of course — all good things must come to an end, after all. Make a reservation at Legal Harborside-Floor 2.

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Todd English’s bluezoo, Orlando, Florida
Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel doesn’t Mickey Mouse around. The Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller is a “deconstructed shrimp cocktail served in a glass tube that is consumed by creating a vacuum with your hand and sucking the contents into your mouth.” Note: The dish isn’t on the current menu but it is offered at the hotel’s annual food and wine festival and will likely be offered on an upcoming menu, according to a spokesperson for the restaurant. Make a reservation at Todd English’s bluezoo.

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Coasterra, San Diego, California
Order the Cóctel de Camarón and you’ll get a California twist on the classic Mexican shrimp cocktail — fresh Mexican white shrimp tossed with avocado, chopped romaine lettuce, and housemade Baja sangrita. The dish is served in a tumbler with a guajillo chile salt rim and accented with corn tortillas and cilantro garnish. Make a reservation at Coasterra.

shrimp cocktail

Herons, Cary, North Carolina
Chef Steven Greene serves an elevated shrimp cocktail designed with chilled shrimp, mango salad, mint, and mango chili sauce. Greene sources shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, which are quickly poached in a court bouillon (broth of mirepoix, lemon, white wine, and bay leaf.) The mango salad is a mix of diced mango tossed with picked mint leaves, picked basil leaf, cilantro, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, and scallion. And the mango chili sauce is a bewitching blend of mango puree and a Thai chili sauce. Make a reservation at Herons.

Shrimp Cocktail

Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, Florida
Josh Thomsen, the executive chef of this five-star diamond resort restaurant, along with chef du cuisine Manlee Siu present a Poached Wild Florida Shrimp Cocktail on the menu, which stars lemon caviar, beet, and horseradish sauce. First, the shrimp is butterflied and gently poached in shrimp stock. Next, the shrimp are chilled, sliced, and topped with faux lemon caviar and garnished with a tomato-free beet ketchup-horseradish sauce. Make a reservation at Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.

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7 of the Best Prix-Fixe Menus in Boston

Let’s be honest; there are prix fixes, and then there are prix fixes — the multi-course meals to remember that really are a steal. The ones for which you pay less but still enjoy an experience that tastes like a million bucks. Whether you’re headed to Boston or you live local, here are nine of the best prix-fixe menus in Boston (including one just north of the city) where you’ll find prix fixe lunches, brunches, and dinners that also show off the chef’s culinary chops.

Bar Boulud, Boston, Massachusetts
The menu at Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental hotel is French-inspired with seasonal New England dishes, too, and then there’s that’s wine cellar (think Burgundy and Rhone Valley). Come for the Bouchon dinner prepared by chef de cuisine Jonathan Kilroy — you’ll choose two courses for $36 (add an additional course for $6 for more bang for your euros.) Featured appetizers include Celery Root Veloute (lardo vinaigrette, pickled shallots, and celery leaves) and Pâté de Campagne (country pate, wild mushrooms, and sourdough toast). Featured main courses like Coq au Vin Traditionnel (red wine-braised chicken, bacon lardon, and pearl onions), and Fish and Chips (beer-battered local haddock, hand-cut French fries, English peas, and tartar sauce) are solid options. For dessert, pastry chef Robert Differ’s Gateau Basque (traditional Basque custard cake, brandied cherries, and vanilla anglaise) is a trip to Paris without the jet lag. Make a reservation at Bar Boulud.

Best Prix-Fixe Menus in Boston

Davio’s, Boston, Massachusetts
A power prix-fixe lunch is served Monday through Friday “for the busy young professional.” You’ll get an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert for $22. Highlights include Grilled Petite Ribeye (with Parmigiano potato puffs, pepata sauce) and Seared Haddock, Cauliflower (with golden raisins, peppadews, and toasted pine nuts), and, for dessert, Davio’s homemade cookies and gelato. Perfect for the power hungry. Make a reservation at Davio’s.

Best Prix-Fixe Menus in Boston

Gaslight, Boston, Massachusetts
Start the day with savings with the prix-fixe brunch special at the South End Parisian-style bistro that is Gaslight. Served from 9AM to 3PM on Saturdays and 9AM to 11AM on Sundays. What you’ll get: fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, coffee or tea, Julia Child’s Spiced Shortbread with raspberry jam, and a choice of Vanilla French Toast (with sautéed apples and sweetened fromage blanc), Omelette Lyonnaise (with gruyere cheese, potatoes, and caramelized onions), Scrambled Eggs Forestiere (with roasted mushrooms and Boucheron cheese) or Omelette Florentine (with garlic spinach and French feta cheese). And, it’s all for just $11.95. Make a reservation at Gaslight.

Best Prix-Fixe menus in Boston

The Elephant Walk, Boston, Massachusetts
Hurry up and make a reservation for lunch on Thursday or Friday at this South End French and Cambodian-inspired restaurant. The prix-fixe Fast Lunch is promised to be served in half an hour and features a two-course tasting menu for $15. Expect items like Poulet a la Citronnelle (available vegan with organic tofu) and a Braised Duck Sandwich. This is fast food redefined. Make a reservation at The Elephant Walk.

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The ‘Burbs: The Best New Restaurants in the Boston Suburbs

For New England foodies, spring is about farmers markets, food trucks, and flowers, but this season there’s something else growing: new restaurants in the Boston suburbs. A cadre of notable city chefs are tossing their toques into the Interstate 95 ring, attracted by more space, lower rents, and excited diners waiting, fork and knife in hand. Take a look at the best new restaurants in the Boston suburbs.

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Chef Rachel Klein, formerly of some of the city’s top hotel restaurants, gave up her gig as executive chef at Liquid Art House to pursue something closer to home in Needham – leading RFK Kitchen, slated to open in late summer. “I’ve been living here for 10 years, and I wanted to do something a little bit more upscale but with price points that the town already has,” she said, also noting that it’s easier to overcome hurdles like liquor licenses that can go for half a million dollars in Boston. “We’re trying to bring a bit more of that Boston aesthetic and feel with a serious bar program, people who are on the cutting edge of their craft. But nothing pretentious or anything that makes you feel stupid. Nothing hoity-toity!”

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The mother of two is looking forward to offering other parents a cloth-napkin option that welcomes kids; the open-kitchen concept is ideal for upcoming classes for families and singles looking to mingle during bar seminars. Having fine dining within an Uber’s ride away also means that no one needs to skip out on the fun to be the designated driver or add on the cost of valet and a babysitter to the meal check since RFK is in the heart of town. “It’s really about being part of the community,” Klein said. “And yes, sometimes it’s good to be a big fish in a small pond.”

Restaurateur and chef Joe Cassinelli just expanded to Metrowest as well, with the opening of Osteria Posto in Waltham. While most of his locations are in Somerville, a hip, smaller Boston-area city accessible by public transportation (Posto, Painted Burro, and Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar also call it home), a trip to Osteria requires a car. So why take the chance with a new audience and locale? “I live in the suburbs, and most of the options out here are chains,” he explained. “Waltham is really centrally located, and it’s not overdeveloped, although there are a lot of families and tech people coming in now — the time is right.” Some of his guests even include fans of his chef-driven Mexican food hot spot and thin-crust upscale pizzeria.

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What they’re finding is a more refined menu of prime steaks and homemade pastas with an airy 8,000-square-foot space that seats 240 (in addition to a 100-person function space) that wouldn’t be available in a city as built up as Boston. “With more space we’re able to offer a great wine program with extensive vintages so it’s really a cool experience,” Cassinelli said. “The palate is a little more foodie-driven and the service is more refined, but it’s still casual fine-dining.”

osteria posto lobster pastaContinue Reading