Friday, November 16, 2018
The Table at Season To Taste: An Intimate Gem
The Table at Season To Taste, located in northern Cambridge on Massachusetts Avenue, not far from the Arlington line. Having opened in 2016, the restaurant has an unassuming facade and it adjoins their catering division. The restaurant is owned by Robert Harris, a chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at other local restaurants including Olives, Rialto, East Coast Grill, EVOO, and Casablanca. I'd never dined here before and knew little about it until recently. Now, I can't wait to return and try their new menu when it changes.
Executive Chef Carl Dooley, a Cambridge native presides over the kitchen, and his passion for cooking and restaurants extends back to high school, when he started working at a lobster shack in Maine. He eventually graduated from the New England Culinary Institute, and in time, started working as Chef de Cuisine at Craigie on Main under Chef Tony Maws. He earned a “Rising Star Chef” award in 2015 and participated in the 13th season of Top Chef. In 2016, he went out on his own, to head the kitchen at The Table. I'll note that several of The Table's employees also once worked at Craigie on Main.
The Table offers a Four-Course Tasting Menu, priced at $98 (with tax and hospitality included). For each course, you have your choice of two options, and the entire menu changes every 4-6 weeks. A Vegetarian menu is available upon request and you can order a la carte options ($17-$35) at the Wine Bar seats.
Their pricing system is progressive, intended to benefit everyone who works at the restaurant, both front and back of the house, and your gratuity is included within the pricing. As their website states, "As a means to more equitably support our team and cultivate a sustainable staffing model we have all decided to no longer accept gratuity, but rather include labor costs in the price of our food and beverage. This ensures a living wage for our entire staff, both front and back of the house." Thus, when you look at their menu prices, including their beverage costs, consider that tax, gratuity and hospitality is built into those prices.
The wine list certainly perked my interest, which contained more fascinating small producers, some using more unique grapes. They have 9 wines available by the glass, including 1 Sparkling, 3 White, 3 Red, and 2 Rosé wines, priced $15-$17. They also have about 50 wines available by the bottle, including 3 Sparkling, 12 White, 17 Red, and 17 "Last Call" wines, priced from $59 to $143. Almost half the list is from France, with others coming from Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Oregon, California, Texas, and New York. The list changes on a regular basis as well. Wine lovers will be excited as they peruse the list, curious to sample so many different bottles. The Wine Pairing option is a good choice to experience several different wines, chosen specifically to match each dish.
For example, we began dinner with a flute of the Hild Elbling Trocken, a German sparkling wine made from the more unique Elbling grape. I've never tasted this grape before and this example was impressive, with bright acidity, pleasant flavors of tart lemon, apple and peach, and an underlying minerality. Dry and clean, this bubbly was an excellent aperitif and it's inclusion is indicative of the type of intriguing wines that Jesse has compiled.
Another of the wines we enjoyed was the Filipa Pato Tinto, a Portuguese wine made from the Baga grape. This is a killer producer who always delivers, and this wine wasn't an exception. Silky smooth, with delicious black fruits flavors, enhanced by spice notes and a touch of chocolate.
During our dinner, the wine service was conducted by Felicia Aronson, who usually spends about half her time working the floor, and the other half working in the kitchen. She brought plenty of passion and wine knowledge, providing excellent service.
As for dinner, as there were two of us, we could each order a different option, and thus have the opportunity to experience the entire menu. I highly recommend this course of action if you don't mind sharing.
The Pumpkin-Nicke Bundt Cake, with rum raisin ice cream, bittersweet chocolate sauce, and fried pepitas, was a fine seasonal dessert.
Overall, The Table at Season To Taste and Executive Chef Carl Dooley earn my hearty recommendation. From the intimate feel of the restaurant to the creativity and taste of the cuisine, the restaurant delivers a quality experience. Combine that with stellar service and a fascinating wine list, and the experience is even greater. I look forward to checking out their next menu, to see the new creations of Chef Dooley and his team.