It is now about 6:30 PM on Friday, May 9, 2008. After several months of planning we are on the last leg of the reason we went to Boston.
We've battled traffic, and the near insanity of east coast drivers. I've decided that the only difference between driving in Boston and Saigon is that instead of all the motorcycles in Saigon, the people in Boston drive cars. Both are just as crazy, in my opinion.
The rain is light but steady. I've dropped Keely off at the restaurant on Prince St. She’s going to run in and ask them where I should park as I weave in and out of traffic. She calls me on the cell phone and tells me to hurry because she's standing in the middle of a parking spot along the street holding me a spot.
The streets around the restaurant are just about wide enough that you can stand in the middle and touch the brownstones on both sides with your arms spread. Parking is at a premium. This is old north Boston. It is an area filled with neighborhood bars, restaurants, and ethnic bakeries that have stood for literally hundreds of years. It is an area of history. I can feel the lives as I drive the narrow streets.
Hurrying back to the spot that Keely is protecting with her body, I see the sign above her head that says "resident parking only, permit required". I imagine taking a cab to bail our car out of the Boston impound lot somewhere in another state, and wind up in a lot four blocks north of the restaurant. Keely has my rain coat.
But we have finally made it to:
Grezzo? You mean you haven't heard of Alissa Cohen's new restaurant at 69 Prince Street in Boston? My heart goes out to you. If you haven't heard of Alissa Cohen, or her new restaurant, you are in a drug induced coma, and under the control of aliens from the planet Rombulus that is circling a star 500 light years from earth.
Alissa has one of the top raw foods recipe books you'll ever find. The only thing she's done that is better is to open Grezzo.
Grezzo opens at 5 PM. It is small, seating only about thirty people. But Grezzo, like her owner Alissa, is full of energy, vitality, love, and creativity.
The staff is outstanding. They couldn't have made us feel more welcome. It was like sitting down in someone's home. But unlike a home, I would highly recommend making reservations. Ours were made the first day reservations were accepted.
The menu changes on a weekly basis. Alissa, and the staff at Grezzo, are committed to providing the highest quality, fresh organic foods available.
I had pretty much decided weeks ago what I was looking for, and unfortunately, I wasn't in top form after two days of driving. Keely, after being able to miss massive portions of the audio book we were listening to because she kept falling asleep, was primed, and ordered the Chef's Tasting for $59.00.
The first course was soup, and it was wonderful.
The soup on the menu was Sweet potato and pink grapefruit soup with red chili, and Thai basil, or Sweet white corn with jicama, avocado and cayenne. Both soups were $8 each. With the Chef's Tasting, you get both soups. Like with any raw food, the flavors were a riot and exploded in your mouth.
Unfortunately we had a problem keeping our mouths closed. We were hooked.
Course two was the appetizer. Oh, it just keeps getting better.
The chef's sampler gives you both appetizers. I had already decided that I had to order an appetizer and wasn't about to share with Keely.
Keely's first appetizer was the Gnocchi carbonara. This was a wonderful dish of house-made dumplings, creamy rawmesan and fresh English peas with crispy eggplant and pea shoots. It is listed on the menu at $11 a plate. I've never had the cooked version, and after sampling this one, have no wish to eat it unless I eat it at Grezzo's.
Remembering my dead flesh eating and drunken nights at Ohio State University in the mid 70's when we'd slink off to White Castle for a 25 cent burger, known at 3 AM on a Saturday morning as a "slider" ( aka "rat burger", and "kangaroo meat", normally to be regurgitated an hour later in the most unpleasant of manners) I had to go for a Grezzo Slider.
I cried, and considered offering my body to the chef for the recipe.
The slider was messy. I picked one of them up with both hands, and the tomato and raw blue cheese, slid into my beard, and back onto the plate (not my lap for a change). I wanted to crawl up on the table and just roll in whatevah I wasn't able to lick off the plate.
Keely got one slider with her Chef's Tasting, while I got two for $12. We almost came to blows. I felt like a caveman protecting his kill. There was no way I was sharing. It was fortunate that the plate couldn't soak up any of the slider, or it would have been history.
Alissa stopped by our table several times to talk to us despite the restaurant being packed. She is a wonderful person. She told us that the idea behind Grezzo was to show people that raw foods didn't mean you couldn't eat like a gourmet. Raw foods wasn't just a plate of greens, a smoothie, and some nuts. Raw foods can be as gourmet as you want it to be.
Then one day a friend of hers was sitting at the bar, and pointed out that at every other restaurant in the area he could order a great salad, but in the one raw vegan restaurant in the area, there wasn't a salad on the menu!
Keely had the house salad which was soft baby lettuce with house-made cheese, croutons and green goddess vinaigrette and was listed on the menu as $11, but was included in the Chef's Tasting. Thank you to Alissa's friend!
As we were waiting on our main courses, Alissa showed up with a plate we hadn't ordered. "Here, I want you to try the papaya steak, its my favorite!"
Keely and I looked at each other in disbelief. We weren't expecting this at all, and neither one of us really like papaya. But what could we do? Here was the owner who cared enough to share her favorite dish with us. We couldn't say no!
We looked at the dish and thought something was wrong. This papaya dish which was served with creamy dill vermicelli with marinated cucumber and olive salad, and was listed on the menu at $21, looked like a piece of salmon crusted with star anise. It was even ribbed to look like a piece of cooked salmon with the flesh starting to flake.
We approached it with caution, took a bite, and looked at each other with amazement. It wasn't salmon, and it tasted nothing like the papaya we had prepared at home. It was wonderful, and gave us a new appreciation of a fruit we had turned our nose up at in the past. Oh Alissa, we thank you for caring enough to force our palates and eyes open to the wonderful papaya prepared by a real chef!
I'm getting tired at this point. I'm full, I'm sated, I want to curl up in a corner and fall asleep. I feel like a Roman General who has eaten his way to the top of Mt. Olympus, but we still have two courses to navigate.
Keely ordered the Native tomato ravioli with house-made Boursin, micro mint, Italian parsley and truffle which was listed on the menu as $21. Of course the entree was part of the Chef's Tasting. This was a wonderfully light version. It was satisfying, but not overpowering. It was a work of art and included a great raw Italian bread stick.
Being on the East Coast, I had to go for a dish that reminded me of the Atlantic Ocean, so I ordered the "Land and Sea" for $23.
I have read several reviews of Grezzo online. There was one uncomplimentary review that complained that the servings were too small. I can only believe that this in"duh"vidual was used to bellying up to the local buffet and spending hours at a time seeing how many plates that they could devour for their money. Whoever you are, I'm sure your cardiac surgeon will be happy with their new sports car.
When the "Land and Sea" was placed in front of me, I asked for a box before I picked up my fork. I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish it. The "Land and Sea" is a very earthy dish made of lobster mushrooms, yellow oyster mushrooms and hedgehog mushrooms, smooth ricotta, dulse and kelp . It demands your attention as it towers above the plate with a wonderful salad of greens and mushrooms to the side.
This dish draws you to the very brink of creation. You taste the sea, and the earth. The Chef has created a dish the gives pleasure to the senses and fills you with wonder as to why anyone would ever want this dish to be cooked.
I think it was at this point that Alissa stopped by the table again, and I told her I was considering just titling this blog as "Burp!". In some cultures the belch is the best compliment you can give your host.
And then there was dessert.
I don't think there is a person who practices a raw foods diet that hasn't tried to make ice cream. If you think you've done a great job, like I have in the past, accept the fact that you're a failure at making this dessert. I'm ready to admit my failings after eating at Grezzo.
We decided that we wanted two desserts, but couldn't eat much more. So we ordered the "Rich Brownie Sundae for $11, and asked for the cheesecake to go.
Every time I make raw ice cream it is chunky. It lacks the creamy consistency of a dairy product. The house-made gelato, with chocolate truffle sauce, and brazil nut crumble, was unbelievable. It was rich and creamy, and tasted just like a high end dairy product.
The entire evening felt like we were there for only 30-45 minutes. It was almost three hours. We were both in shock.
I hope that everyone gets the chance to visit Grezzo. Alissa Cohen is a wonderful host, and has an absolutely fantastic restaurant. I tipped more than 30% of the final tab. You might be shocked when I tell you that the bill for the two of us, with tip, was $165.00, but consider that in 1978 I ate at what was considered a five star restaurant, and paid $125.00 just for myself. Grezzo outshines that experience by a million fold! As Keely said “The meal was more than worth the cost of the gas!”
If you can’t make it to Grezzo, do yourself a favor, and buy Alissa’s book “Living On Live Food”. You can get both her book, and companion DVD on her website at: http://www.alissacohen.com/ or by ordering them through your local independent bookstore (our recipe book is now autographed!).
As we walked back to the car and proceeded to get lost for more than an hour in downtown
Boston, trying to find MA-1 north, I kept asking over and over: “Can I PLEASE have the Slider recipe? I promise I won’t tell!” (I can beg worse than any two year old, and I have fifty more years of practice than they've got!) Maybe there's a New York Butterfly....
For reservations at Grezzo call: 1.857.362.7288
You can find them on the web at: http://www.grezzorestaurant.com/
All I can do is say, “BURP!”
Don’t forget to watch for the last installment of our raw trip to Boston: “Keely’s Salem Fantasy Comes True”.