Boston: Dining at 80 Thoreau in Concord
80 Thoreau in Concord, MA is located approximately 30 miles outside of Boston. To get there, I took a commuter train which conveniently drops you off at the doorstep of 80 Thoreau. There’s no real signage but luckily the only other people in sight were also searching for the restaurant. We found it together and while they waited for an elevator, I took the stairs. I was slightly worried about how busy it’d be since they were slammed the evening before.
And luck was on my side again and I squeezed onto a barstool at the small bar. It seats about nine with some tables in the lounge. There’s also the main dining room with some more sitting down the hall near the open kitchen.
I met the lead bartender Steve Schnelwar at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this past summer. He had told me 80 Thoreau is the only fine dining in the area. I can believe it.
For my first drink, I ordered the Milano del Sol (Plymouth gin, Lillet blanc, Campari, lemon bitters). I was interested in it since I love Campari and rarely see lemon bitters. I like a lemon peel in my Negronis though it’s traditionally served with an orange peel. So I was very interested in this drink. My photograph of the drink didn’t do it justice so here’s Steve making it. As you can see, it’s a lovely orange color, reminding one of the sun.
The restaurant was lovely to send out an amuse bouche. It was a tasty gazpacho.
It was a cool evening so I ordered the celery root soup. Who am I kidding? I love soup and will even order it if it was 110 degrees out like it was earlier in the week in L.A. (this was early October). I was told the stock is veggie stock which reminds me of Chef Gary Menes and his amazing veggie stock-based soups. 80 Thoreau’s soup with creme fraiche was topped with mushrooms. I had almost forgotten they were mushrooms! They were extremely savory and had a “chew” like meat.
80 Thoreau also sent out a mid-course pasta, the crisp gnocchi. Like the soup, the gnocchi had a deep depth of flavors. This time, it was brought on by the smoky eggplant, eggplant and proscuitto. Everything is better with a little pork. I had to stop myself from finishing the pasta because I knew what was coming next.
Woah! The grilled pork chop was massive. I really was beside myself. Where do I even begin? So I started nibbling on the barley then the quince. Oh wait, hold the phone. There’s bacon too? Pork times 2! Love! The pork was very juicy and I decided the plan of action was to slow down. I needed to conserve my energy if I wanted to finish the chop. Sadly, I didn’t actually finish it. I probably should have brought the leftovers back with me but I only had a day left in Boston and that day was just one stop after another on Minty’s Tour of Boston and Cambridge (did I really eat at Empire Garden, Neptune, RendezVous, Moksa and Park all in one day? Sure did).
It was also time for a fresh beverage. Steve handed me his Sherry Cobbler which is on the fall cocktails list now. As it happened, he had to steal back the sherry from the kitchen (they needed it for some dish) and then he whacked the heck out of some ice to crush it for the cobbler. Presented with cranberries, mint and his housemade peach shrub, it takes all the best flavors of two seasons- the peach and a little tartness from the cranberries. I know Steve who trained as a sommelier first would have picked out a really great glass of wine for the pork as well since he did a good job with other meals but I wanted to stick to cocktails.
But I did get a little dessert wine as dessert. I’m rather proud I managed to have no sweets on this trip but I more than made up the calories with booze.
80 Thoreau is worth a side trip if you’re in Boston. The commuter train makes it easy to get to. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get Steve to pair your food with wine or cocktails.