Posts by: Alexandra Hall, Senior Editor

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off wearing a hat–an amount that typically hovers above the (mostly hatless) heads of most Bostonians. Hats say: Look at me, damn it. Now. And: That’s right, bitch. I’m someone to be reckoned with. If not even sometimes: You know you wish you had guts enough to wear this. None of which are sentiments most New Englanders are exactly comfy with. The ubiquitousRed Sox cap notwithstanding, hats just aren’t our thing.

I’d reckon that was all changed last Monday night. The Boston Fashion Week show of Marie Galvin, milliner and longtime Boston fixture who for years has struggled with a local aversion to flamboyance, had just that kind of impact.

That’s largely because Galvin made two very smart decisions for the show: First, she went for wearability. Gone were her outrageous sculptural creations that may look beautiful behind glass, but would all but eclipse their wearer. (And have, in the past, emitted squawks of, “Where on earth would I wear that?“) No, she kept things earthly, unpretentious, and simply pretty with intricate fascinators festooned with netting and feathers; pom-pom topped wool caps; ’20s, ’30s, and ’60s-inspired numbers topped with petite poofs of feathers. The only hints at architectural derring-do–a fascinator of silk multi-curls here, a gorgeous, asymmetrical black meringue for the finale–were still sized well enough that they stayed proportionate to the models’ heads. Meaning they came off as daring rather than overwhelming or silly.

Her second smart move was tapping CONTRA to style the show, all the clothing and accessories pulled from Neiman Marcus with an eye toward elegance and streamlined refinement that still nodded to the runway. Gauzy blouses, python-patterned pencil skirts, silk shift dresses, and fur-collared coats–all of it a mostly neutral palette, and all of it as ladylike as it was edgy. They were the perfect foil for the hats–and arguably the most convincing argument for the hats themselves.

Together, Galvin and Contra showed Bostonians that not only are hats wearable every day; they showed them how to wear them–as an improvement to an already spectacular outfit. That’s the kind of equation capable of proving to the hatless public that style statements are nothing to be afraid of. And that, even as vintage-inspired as many of Galvin’s creations may be, is an idea that’s time has finally come.

On a recent morning I picked up a package of lemonade and glanced at its label. “Farm to bottle,” it read. It reminded me a new restaurant in Maine—one I happen to otherwise genuinely love—that advertises “farm-to-fork” dining. Sigh.Enough already with this “farm-to-everything” crap. It’s not that I don’t applaud the concept; I co-wrote one of New England’s first cookbooks spotlighting the idea with Peter Davis—a real-deal, agro-loving chef who’s been hanging out with suppliers, touting farmer’s markets, and running a restaurant serving farm-fresh ingredients since back when many of today’s biggest proponents were still getting fed Happy Meals by their parents.

But if the concept’s going to stick around long enough to survive fad-dom—and I sincerely hope it does—then let’s stop these all-to-cloying stabs at pushing the phenomenon one step further. We need a new, all-encompassing label for farm food. One as simple as the ingredients itself, minus any douchebaggy attempts at cleverness.

Either that, or we need a new batch of even dumber, more cringingly specific labels. To wit:

Farm-to-nostril: That glut of high-end perfumes, body lotions, and room sprays that exploit the trend with scents like “organic lavender” and “field basil.” (See: Whole Foods personal hygiene aisles.)
Farm-to-newstand: The piles of magazines and books now so obsessed with organic eating, sustainable foods, and whole-animal eating, they nearly exclude all other types ingredients and of cooking.
Farm-to-liver: Organic vodkas, gins, and rums. Liqueurs infused with organic fruits and/or herbs. As if you can taste the difference with something that’s 80 proof.
Farm-to-back alley: Marijuana growers who tout their product—hydroponic or otherwise—as superior because it’s lovingly made in small batches by a lifelong farmer.

 

Remember when I wrote this? Eh. Probably not.

Well, I stand corrected on it. A tad, if not completely. OK, I’ll get there. Keep reading.

Every once in a while, something sneaks up on you and messes with something you knew you were absolutely right about. Maybe it’s J. Lo getting weirdly beautiful post-40 after you long ago decided she was a mall-rat-wannabe has-been. Or maybe it’s just a Robert Frost poem, which struck you as a lovely ode to how delightful nature can be, but is actually about, you know, keeling over dead. Or maybe only slightly less dramatically, it’s a plate of food that catches you completely by surprise.

I showed up at the bar of just-opened Forum with expectations of nothing other than getting a solid drink. (This was, after all, the new incarnation of Vox Populi. Which is all I’ll say about that.) And while they may still be working out a few kinks delivery-wise,the program is indeed already cocktails-solid. Incredible, flavor-sharp martinis. Beautiful, citrusy gimlets. After one of each, to make sure I got home alive, I also wolfed down an order of raviolo.

That’s not a typo. Ravioli’s a bunch. E replaced by O means you get one lone, gleaming pasta dome. It’s three bites at most, but who cares? In those three forkfuls, worlds intermingle. Because inside that pastry is an egg, meticulously poached during the cooking process of the pasta, so its yolk flows as soon as a fork splits it. Bacon shards and shingles of black truffle are scattered about it, and ricotta turns it into a something more like a savory dessert.

But really, it’s all about that damn egg. To which I, having thrown down my gauntlet strongly in the anti-egg-topper camp, must now admit that there’s just something ridiculously cool about having an egg ooze out at you surreptitiously, meaning from inside a dish as opposed to from its top. Maybe it’s the element of surprise a hidden treat imparts (though from a culinary standpoint that makes zero sense). Maybe it’s respect for novelty in the cooking process that demands. Mostly though, I’m guessing it’s that this dish just simply works, thanks to the strength of the bacon’s flavor, richness of the ricotta, and the texture of the pasta’s delicacy—all of which don’t just stand up to, but actually kind of demand the egg. Yes, yes, even if it were on top.

That just about justifies my 180, then, right? Good. Now I can go order another and still sleep tonight.

Raviolo, $16, Forum, 755 Boylston St., 857-991-1831, http://forumboston.com.

The Top Five Meals on Wheels Ideas That Will Never Be:

1. Martini Popsicle Truck: Gin, vodka, dirty, extra dry, whatever. I want little more than a full menu of boozy frozen treats on a stick, preferably either olive-, lemon-infused, to roll up my street right about 5 p.m. every day.

2. Nutella-Grand Marnier-Banana Crepes Truck: A heady creation, so overwrought with disparate flavors, they actually taste a little like bubble gum taken altogether. But the combination, while disgusting on paper, is one of the world’s most glorious street foods. Regular orders kept me alive in Paris. And would give me one big reason to live now.

3. Fat-tastic Truck: Dutch chocolate beignets, duck rillettes, Awful Awfuls, triple crème cheese. If it’s jacked up with saturated fat, it’d be peddled off this diet-destroying rig. Healthy? Hardly. Will it all be positively dripping with flavor? You bet your fat ass.

4. Vampire Mobile: A fix for Sooki Stackhouse addicts between Sundays. Think True Bloody Marys, garlicky crostini, red velvet cupcakes. Okay, so it’s a pretty thin concept. But get Alexander Skarsgård to serve it all shirtless, and you’ve got yourself a slam-dunk of a biz.

5. Mean, Lean, Green Machine: Any putz can get a prescription for legal marijuana and fire it up. But to clarify it in butter perfectly and roll it out into beautifully rich chocolate chip cookies takes a special kind of pastry chef. Or, more specifically, a special kind of baker.

This may be the summer of food trucks, but last Friday, something else entirely rolled up to my front doorstep: a gleaming maroon motorcycle complete with a World War II-era sidecar that had been painstakingly converted to a freezer compartment-cum-delivery vehicle. And it was full of—uhm, what else?—brownie/marshmallow/ice cream pizzas. Duh.

It was all the handiwork of Bob Rook, owner of Emack & Bolios—the original ‘70s-born bohemian ice cream operation (yes, precursor to Ben & Jerry’s) that’s still churning out hormone-free, insane flavors like “Caramel Moose Prints” (butterscotch ice cream blended with caramel and chocolate peanut butter cups) and, apparently now, an equally insane riff on frozen pizza.

It happened that my four- and six-year-olds were home. It happened they were in the mood for ice cream, which is essentially their permanent state of being. And of course, it happened they went absolutely ape-shit over the delivery. They dove almost literally headfirst into the pie—a brownie-crusted creation, loaded up with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, an epic ooze of marshmallow, and chocolate hearts, stars, and peace signs. Needless to say, sugar rushes ensued. As did requests for more—and for motorcycles as future birthday gifts.

I’d offer you a snapshot of the Cosmic Cruiser, but you really need to see it for yourself:
Serves 10-12 adults or 14-16 kids. $24.95 (plus a $3 delivery fee). emackandbolios.com.

We aren’t halfway through our (spectacular) lobster-brioche sliders at Russell House Tavern when we realize we’ve been lied to. As G.M. Ian Grossman sets down a slab of wood set with morsels beautiful enough to warrant of a national food rag cover, we dive immediately in, and it’s achingly obvious: Russell House is no “Tavern.” Hell, with charcuterie this delicate and meticulous, it barely even qualifies as a gastropub–even the new brand of relatively elevated gastropub. No, there’s full-on, serious, take-no-prisoners kitchen wizardry afoot here: We’re talking smoked, diced lamb belly with velvety harissa and marcona almonds on garlicky grilled bread. Bluefish pate like I haven’t tasted since stepping off a schooner on Nantucket. And the kicker? A glistening terrine of foie gras zapped with Laphroig, then scattered with smoked almonds, black pepper syrup, and subtly tart cherry gelee. It’s got to be one of the most gorgeously balanced foie renditions I’ve wolfed downed in years.

I’m a little partial, of course, to that last dish. Anything that good, which also takes one of my favorite single malts as a key flavor note, only makes me shudder with pure jealousy.  The cookbook I’m currently writing, “The Drunkard’s Cookbook: Tasty Booze-based Recipes and Other Excuses to Drink in the Kitchen” could damn well use an entry that genius. And I just wish I’d come up with it. Never mind that exec chef Michael Scelfo’s skill wouldn’t be out of place at a fine dining spot; RHT’s ultra-chill atmosphere (especially this time of year, on the sun-speckled patio), its chatty and funny servers, and the dining crowd’s swirl of joviality–they all conspire to camouflage just how ambitious the food actually is.

That’s because, whether we’ve got the recession to primarily thank (probably), the public’s exhaustion with stiff, pretentious restaurants (just as probably), or the fresh-off-the-farm craze (definitely), RHT is the latest and most extreme example of nigh-fine dining recontextualized in order to put diners at ease enough (mentally and financially) to make regulars out of them. Ten years ago we were stacking imported status ingredients on a bone-china plate next to candlelight and damask-covered banquettes, and hoping diners didn’t mind overpaying for it on special occasions or date nights. Now we’re luring diners back once or twice a week with lower prices (which means they’re still spending about as much as they were before, ultimately) and easygoing atmospheres, and food that seems unfussy but has, in fact, a stupendous epicurean soul. Because no matter what else has changed in our collective unconscious, now that we’ve all had a taste of incredible food over the last decade, there ain’t no going back. No matter how it’s dressed up. Or in this case, down.

Speaking of which, I’m getting Scelfo’s foie recipe if it kills me. Just watch.