Nick Deutmeyer, chef de cuisine at Restaurant Post 390 in Boston’s Back Bay, called the dinner he presented at the restaurant this week a “cheesy” dinner, but he meant that the meal was filled with a tremendous number of special cheeses.
No Velveeta showed up, nor any of those orange squares wrapped in cellophane and cut to fit over a hamburger mind you. Instead, Deutmeyer made use of some of the most exotic artisanal cheeses from the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts, making them even more elegant and unusual than if he had just served squares of them as he did for the hors d’oeuvres at the dinner, one of the restaurant’s special series of Farm-to-Post dinners making use of local food products.
Ever heard of “chive quark”? “bianca”? “Harvest Moon”? They’re all fine cheeses produced by some of the dairy farms of Massachusetts, including Old Chatham Sheepherding, Hawthorne Valley Farm and 5 Spoke Creamery. Dominic Wolff of the Hawthorne Valley Association explained that in addition to producing some of the great cheeses that were presented at the dinner, Hawthorne, which practices biodynamic agriculture, i.e returns nutrients to the soil, the association owns a school with 200 students in grades K through 12; runs a farm store, gives farm tours and makes fermented foods such as its own sauerkraut at the farm.
You could tell, by the tray at the reception offering hors d’oeuvres of Stuffed Alpine Gougeres with fig caramel, Berkshire prosciutto with mosaic fondue and Vietnamese spring roll with pickled daikon, along with the special “Berkshire 75” cocktail from Berkshire Mountain Distillers aged ethereal gin, elderflower, colette, lemon and whipped egg white, that this dinner was going to be no grilled cheese sandwich.
What followed was the best course of the night, a first course of Bourbon Barrel smoked salmon belly crudo using Hawthorne Valley cow’s milk yogurt, asparagus, fava beans, pickled ramps, aged alpine cheese and Carr’s cider house syrup, a delicate mix of the earliest spring greens touched with just a taste of the cheese in the sauce.
The second course was pan fried ricotta gnocchi using Welsh cheddar, Tasmanian mountain pepper salumi, English peas and shaved Harvest Moon, the latter a cheddar the exact color of the moon at that time of the year.
Third course was charred beef ribeye with salt roasted potato skins, melted ewe’s blue cheese, chive quark and pickled shallots, and the dessert course was cannoli using Hawthorne Valley bianca, a delicious pickled rhubarb and almond nougatine. With each course, beverage director Jason Percival paired beers, rather than wines, from the Berkshire Brewing Company. The first was a cider from Normandy called Clos de la Fontaine Hugo. Second came “Lost Sailor IPA” beer, a strong flavored beverage. Instead of the usual red wine with the beef, Percival brought out a red beer called Idle Hands, Charlton Rouge Flemish Red. And even the dessert course was enhanced by Berkshire Brewing’s Raspberry Barleywine from South Deerfield. Post 390 is called an “urban tavern,” so why not have plenty of beer on hand? Meats came from The Meat Market in the Berkshires.
Most of us know the Berkshires as the place where the Boston Symphony Orchestra moves in summer to perform at Tanglewood, and where the magnificent old mansions of writers and cultural icons open up now for tourists to visit. After this dinner, perhaps the foodies of Boston and surroundings will make a farm tour part of their Western Massachusetts cultural trip as well.