Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts – Just before that time of year when the clocks jump forward, and the lengthened days begin to smell like spring, Local Pickins headed over to the Fazenda Coffee Roasters Café to partake in a six course vegetarian tasting menu. This final winter indulgence was brought to us by Whisk, a pop-up restaurant that creates fun and imaginative fine-dining experiences, all while still managing to use many locally sourced ingredients. Unlike the Local Pickins’ teams pickin’ in more temperate climates, we’ve endured six long months since farmer’s market season in New England, so we were very excited to taste whatever fresh veggies we could get our paws on.
The two young chefs behind this fast growing pop-up have been renting out kitchens and creating tasting menus for the last two years, and when we arrived, there was a palpable excitement about the room. From the healthy chatter around the bright coffeehouse (dressed up and decorated for dinner), we gathered that this was somewhat of a special event; only the second time Whisk had created a purely vegetarian menu. We also gleamed that there would be an optional wine pairing available, sourced directly from Street Car Wines in JP. Nodding in agreement that we would all participate in the wine pairing, we grabbed our forks, tucked in our napkins and eagerly waited for our server to arrive with the first course.
Whisk maintains diner excitement throughout the entire meal by keeping their menu a secret right up until the moment of service, so when plates are brought out from the kitchen there is a real anticipation and sense of discovery. When our first course was brought out, we saw an attractive, bright green vegetable medley drizzled with a vinaigrette, accompanied by pickled carrots and beets, all topped by a crispy rice cracker. As we dug in, we theorized as to the mix of vegetables in the medley. Although the asparagus and brussel sprouts (not your mama’s brussel sprouts!) stood out quite clearly, there was another flavor hidden within the mix. We never figured it out, but that was part of the fun — tasting original combinations of food and getting a feel for how simple fresh ingredients can come together in such a tasty way!
The second course was a “Farmer Bean” soup dish featuring silky smooth white bean puree and a green tomato broth. This wholesome yet sophisticated soup was paired with a crunchy slice of bread, slathered with a pesto spread. This was followed by a palette-cleansing interlude, consisting of squash, bright red pomegranate seeds, and fennel smoked-garlic yogurt.
As the night progressed, the trend of tasty and artfully constructed dishes continued, but amazingly, no one seemed to get overly full despite the richness of the dishes. Later, we were told that Whisk makes a deliberate effort to limit the amount of carbohydrates on each plate. We found this an interesting tidbit, as this method did seem to work, and, as food lovers who always try to maximize the amount of pickins we can enjoy during one sitting, we were inspired!
The third course was a play on a traditional bacon and eggs breakfast, with a strip of purple yam (the “bacon”) leaning up against a root vegetable lasagna, topped with what was for many of us, our first quail egg. This was a dish that somehow, sans cheese, tasted cheesy! If that isn’t culinary magic, we don’t know what is.
Next, we moved on to the dessert side of the menu, which contained at least three different courses, not to mention an apple iced dessert wine (apfel eis) made by the Holtzman family in nearby Harvard, Massachusetts! There was a bready but decadent pastry dessert accompanied by artfully placed cherries and popcorn cream, along with a banana gelato dessert that would have made Curious George proud. However, the dessert that truly stood out to us was the dark pink cactus pear sorbet, which arrived in beautifully frosted cocktail glasses with sugar-encrusted rims. This was a bright, cheery sorbet, layered on top of fresh cream, partially whipped, and so delicious. It felt chilly and pure, like a big breath on a cold January night, and it was very hard to keep from scraping the bottom of the glass. However, all good things must come to an end, and once those glasses were cleared away, the realization that it was closing time set in.
Saying our goodbyes, finally done with the tasting event, we stumbled out onto the streets surrounding the Forrest Hills T stop. And as we wandered off to our respective homes that night, appetites sated, it seemed as though we had all found the food that we’d been looking for.
Thanks again to the Whisk Chefs for having us, and to Fazenda for hosting the event!
When possible and seasonally appropriate, Whisk attempts to source certain ingredients from local farms and purveyors. Whisk loves Cheese from ‘Twin Maple Farms’, Berries from ‘Ward’s Farm‘, Apples and Pears from ‘Atkin’s Farm‘, and, when they’re not cooking a Vegetarian Menu, Grass-feed beef and pork from Austin Brother’s Valley Farm.