diners in shadow

There are times when I really have to pinch myself and ask, “Is this really my life? How the heck did I get here, to this place, with these people… how the heck did I get so lucky?”

This past Thursday was definitely one of those times.

Amanda signs our copy of the book

When I heard Amanda Hesser would be speaking at the Boston Athenaeum as part of her book tour for The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Mike and I knew we’d want to attend. When I got an email that Amanda would like to share a post-event dinner with us and a few other Boston-area food52 folks (Dave and Mary Reilly, Peg Loftus, and our wonderful coordinator Steven Dunn), I was even more excited. I had met and even gotten a chance to cook with Amanda (and Merrill Stubbs, her food52 co-founder) a little over a year ago at the food52 launch party, and though I was nervous as could be about meeting someone I so admired, I found her to be incredibly warm, funny, and totally down to earth, so I was thrilled to have another chance to spend some time with her.

What made this dinner extra special was the venue, Chef Jason Bond’s not-yet-open restaurant Bondir in Cambridge. Jason and his staff greeted us warmly, handing us flutes of bubbly as we gathered around a roaring hearth, and then proceeded to treat us to a wonderful feast. There was cheese, heirloom apples, and tiny sweet carrots draped in tissue-thin sheets of house Mangalitsa pork guanciale which we nibbled on in front of the fire, then once seated in the dining room, we were each presented with a pair of sweet tender scallops harvested that morning from waters off Scituate, Mass.

four course meal

Also from those waters, beautiful lobster tails, poached in Vin Jaune and served with buttercup squash, crosnes, Roxbury russet and onion greens. Chef brought out a beautiful copper roasting pan with racks of roast Tamworth pork next, the aroma of succulent meat and bronze fennel filling the dining room before he returned to the kitchen to carve and serve it forth. The finale was probably the biggest revelation, a tart of Jerusalem artichokes enrobed in a black pepper caramel and served with a cardoamaro cream. As I’ve said many times, I’m not big on desserts, but this one hit all the right notes.

"Amanda brought her posse"

The food, drink, and conversation flowed, the cozy space was filled with laughter, and though we were there for hours it felt all too brief as Mike and I bid our farewells and headed back to South Station to catch the last train back to Providence. I felt more than a little zombie-like on Friday as I struggled through my workday on just a few hours of sleep, but it was so worth it.

"eat like you mean it"

Huge thanks to Amanda, to Chef Jason and Monica and the staff at Bondir, and to my wonderful food52 friends. Evenings like this are truly what community, what gathering around a table and sharing the gift of a good meal, what savoring life, is all about.

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