My talk with Chef Armetta
On Friday August 13 (yes Friday the 13th!), I had the pleasure of sitting down with award winning Executive Chef Kelly Armetta of The Hyatt Regency Boston. My meeting with Chef Armetta was geared towards doing chef profiles for The Boston Local Food Festival in conjunction with Restaurant Week Boston. Our meeting turned out to be about much more than his using local food on his Restaurant Week Boston menu. He was charming and put me at ease right away and it felt more like two friends having a conversation about food then me interviewing him for a piece I was writing.
Not too long ago Chef Armetta had to plan a Farm to Table lunch for a group that was meeting in house. The planning of the menu was sparked by two dishes he had been dreaming of creating-a chocolate dressing for beef and edible dirt! Wheat grass was used for decoration, along with flower pots from a local home improvement store. The lunch received rave reviews form everyone who attended. This Farm to Table lunch in turn inspired his Restaurant Week Boston menu currently being served at the hotelâ€™s restaurant Avenue One.
Chef Armettas restaurant week menu is limited to 2 options for each of the 3 courses. But what the menu lacks in options it makes up for in flavor and local food goodness. He told me that no matter what menu or at what time of year, there are always certain things people are looking for on a menu in New England. One of those must haves is Clam Chowder that appears on both the lunch and dinner menu. My friend Peppe who joined me for lunch had the clam chowder and gobbled it down, so it must have been good. It was a nice big bowl of creamy chowder with big chunks of potatoes and clams, big, hearty and oh so New England. Another item that is a must have on a menu in New England is fresh fish. The lunch menu offers a New England Fish Fry with broccoli slaw and buttermilk tartar sauce, with the buttermilk being from a local farm. Since Chef Armetta does not specify what type of fish is used, it is probably so that he can use whatever is freshest that day.
In addition, on both the lunch and dinner menus, there is a starter of Grilled Flatbread with roast chicken, locally grown beets and Vermont chevre. The flatbread dough is made in house from scratch and was perfectly grilled. It was then topped with earthy beets, creamy chevre, and comforting roast chicken. I loved the play of flavors against each other. I realized something today about beets, the more I eat them the more I like them.
The entree that both Peppe and I ordered and loved was the Paprika Seasoned Beef Tender, with clothbound cheddar, house dried raspberry crumbs and the chocolate dressing. As soon as our server placed our beef tender in front of us, our eyes dashed around the plate not knowing what to try first. Of course we went for the infamous chocolate dressing first! Wow! It was sweet, acidic and fruity all at the same time. Both of us loving cooking and food tried to figure out what was in the chocolate dressing, all we could surmise was chocolate and some sort of vinegar. Knowing that Chef Armetta makes his own flavored vinegars and specifically a strawberry one, we thought maybe that was in the dressing. Maybe Chef Armetta will one day share the secret of his soon to be famous chocolate dressing. In addition to the chocolate dressing, the beef tender was topped with the amazing grated clothbound cheddar made by Cabot Cheese, and the raspberry crumbs that he dehydrates himself in house. As we began to eat we both used our knives to pull off some of the cheese that just melted in your mouth and was sharp and creamy and I could have eaten the whole wheel of it myself. Well maybe not a whole wheel, but a good chunk! The house dried raspberry crumbs were sweet and chunky and a nice complement to the cheese. Trying all the different components of the beef tender, they were delicious, but hard to believe they would play well together. But when we put them all together on the beef tender and ate it, they were amazing!
Luckily, when got to dessert we each chose a different one. Peppe chose the Blackberry Panna Cotta, topped with fresh blackberries and a crispy wafer. During our talk, Chef Armetta told me that his home garden was overwhelmed with blackberries and that he and his 8 yr old daughter had been making blackberry everything. So I can guess where the inspiration came for the panna cotta. Peppe did let me have a taste of it and it was creamy, firm with a wonderful berry essence that just filled your mouth when you took a bite. For my dessert I chose the Chocolate Bouchon with locally made Spumoni. A bouchon is a chocolate brownie type cake in the form of a champagne cork. Spumoni is typically layers of pistachio and chocolate ice cream and dried cherries. The dried cherries found in spumoni were used a garnish for the dish. I got so excited over the chocolate bouchon and the spumoni that I forgot to pay attention to the details of the dish before devouring it!
The dinner menu has the same two starters as lunch and offers the delicious beef tender with the heavenly chocolate dressing. But at dinner the fish dish is a locally caught Striped Bass. This dish is the epitome of local! Accompanying the striped bass is a romano bean salad with cob smoked bacon and a sorrel yogurt. The romano beans and sorrel are locally grown, the bacon is smoked in New Hampshire and the yogurt of course is from Stonyfield. The interesting thing about the cob smoked bacon is that it is smoked with actual corn cobs, sounds delicious! Finishing off the dinner is the same two wonderful desserts that are offered on the lunch menu. Why mess with a good thing?
Lunch was everything I expected after meeting with Chef Armetta. I am so excited about his Restaurant Week Boston menu that I am going back for dinner so I can have the Striped Bass.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my chat, in which I will delve more into how he comes up with these dishes AND some secrets from his kitchen and his past that he shared with me!
Restaurant Week Boston
Running through Friday August 27
Avenue One at Hyatt Regency Boston
One Avenue de Lafayette
Boston, Ma 02111
Hours: Monday through Sunday
Breakfast 6:30am. to 1:00pm
Lunch11:00am to 3:00pm
Dinner 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Dress Code: Casual/Business Casual
Boston Local Food Festival
Saturday October 2, 2010
Outside the Boston Childrenâ€™s Museum
What does this have to do with Guatemalan food? Find out here.
Disclaimer: My better half Carlos does work at the Hyatt Regency Boston, but in no way did this influence the outcome of this article. It did help open the doors to make it happen, but that is it.
This post written by Brian Knowles. Check out his blog The Gringo Chapin!
Hyatt Regency Hotel participated in the Local Food Menu Option for the 2010 Restaurant Week Boston
Brian Knowles is a featured Blogger for Boston Local Food Festival