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Fall Preview: Comfort from around the globe

by Emily Gelsomin
Contributor
Wednesday Sep 15, 2010
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Fall trends that even provide a good excuse for dessert

Comfort Food, n.: Food that provides a sense of wellbeing.

Fall is on its way, like it or not. Luckily, the change in season brings food that comforts when the temperature starts to drop. So this year, three very different trends will provide three very different ways to enjoy the season while still offering up exciting food you can feel good about.

Americana Southern
Starting with the classic example of comfort food is the emergence of food that draws on Americana sentiment, done with a southern flare. Perhaps people are catching on that food that feeds the stomach also feeds the soul? It’s a notion that Charlie Redd, executive chef of Coda-who hails from North Carolina-has likely known for a long time.

"He takes Southern food pretty seriously," said Matthew Brady, general manager of Coda ((located at 329 Columbus Ave.). Brady named Redd’s picnic basket of sticky barbecue-glazed chicken legs and thighs as one of their most popular dishes. The chef also serves all the fixings you’d expect from a Southern boy, including homemade biscuits and greens grown locally from Verrill Farm of Concord, Massachusetts.

If you are looking for some Southern flare with your breakfast, newcomer Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen is a place to get your fix. They have set up shop at 604 Columbus Ave. and start to serve brunch September 18 - complete with classic combos like chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits.

Local and Seasonal
Verrill Farm has a following of over thirty restaurants in the area that feature their produce, an indication that the trend for local, seasonal food is not going away any time soon. South End restaurants are providing plenty of opportunities to take advantage of New England’s finest through the fall.

Mark D’Alessandro, general manager of Mistral, said that while their fall menu is still being finalized, they hope to offer an escalope-or very thin slice-of veal with Madeira-glazed local Hen of the Woods mushrooms. They also plan to offer a scrumptious pear tart with goat cheese and wildflower honey from Hudson, New Hampshire. As local food also helps the community through its support of local farmers, you can feel comforted that you are giving back when opting for dessert.

If you wish to use do-gooder local logic further, you could even rationalize attending the October 19 four-course dinner at Coda with beer pairings from Geary’s Brewing Company of Portland, Maine. The entire dinner is only $40 - including the beer - and the family-style meal is by reservation only. Included in the line-up is a cask-conditioned IPA not usually available in Massachusetts, which a Geary’s Brewing representative can tell you all about while you dine.

Semi-Vegetarian
Restaurants and businesses all around the country have adapted the "Meatless Mondays," campaign to help reduce Americans’ meat consumption. This is part of a growing trend that balks at the notion that a vegetarian lifestyle has to be all or nothing. As health and environmental concerns deepen, even foodies are jumping on the meatless-bandwagon.

No longer limited to Portobello mushroom burgers, many vegetarian options in the South End are now as exciting as their meaty counterparts. The best part: opting for a vegetarian meal on Monday leaves you room to try some southern-style chicken later in the week.

Skeptics should head to Myers + Chang, which has an entire vegetarian section on their menu, including specials like their option this week: a vegetarian version of a braised short rib taco with kimchee sesame salsa. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they even host ’Cheap Date Night’ for forty dollars per pair; they offer both a "vegetarian date" and a "seaside date," providing Asian-style options for vegetarians, pescatarians, and everyone in between. Their spicy red curry squash-whether you are vegetarian or not-is not to be missed. Nor is the addition of dessert for a mere five dollars. On a recent outing, my server suggested the lemon-ginger mousse coupe that comes with a homemade fortune cookie. It was like eating a cloud of lemon meringue pie.

Looking for an inspired way to get your veggies? Head to Rocca. Just named one of the Best Top Chef Restaurants in the country by Travel + Leisure, Tiffani Faison, finalist on season one of Top Chef, is the head chef there. She has developed a seasonal menu based on the cuisine of the Italian Riviera and the September issue magazine notes the "grains, vegetables and leaves" section of Rocca’s menu is not to be missed.

Whether it is looking to the South, the Northeast, Italy or Asia you are bound to find some food to excite your palate this fall. As the trends run from classic comfort to nouveau vegetarian, the common thread is the use of local, seasonal food whenever possible. The moral of the story: take comfort in comfort food and you can even feel good about getting dessert. Especially if you’ve already eaten your vegetables.

Emily Gelsomin believes that thoughtful food and a well-lived life go hand in hand. A self-taught cook, a nutritionist, and a lover of all things food-related, Emily writes a food blog called A Plum By Any Other Name, which focuses on eating locally and eating well. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe as well. On a mission to discover the latest and greatest food-related news and events in the community, Emily hopes The Savored End will satisfy South Enders’ hunger pangs and - with any luck - inspire a little more savoring of both food and life.

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