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Holiday Dinner 2009: Striking a Balance Between Sophistication and Comfort
December 2009

The holiday season is big for restaurants as people are in a celebratory mood and want to indulge a little. For L’Espalier, Boston’s bastion of fine dining, the holidays are a busy time when the restaurant is filled with families and regulars who have come to experience something special. Executive Chef Frank McClelland, who has owned the restaurant since 1988, cooks French-inspired cuisine that is influenced by New England produce and flavors.

At the helm of the restaurant is Chef de Cuisine James Hackney, who has been at L’Espalier since 2001. He executes McClelland’s vision on a daily basis, creating his own dishes and putting his own stamp on the menu.

Chef McClelland’s Farm (Apple Street Farm) supplies not only products for the restaurant, but inspiration as well. As winter approaches, the fresh produce they get from the farm is dwindling, but they will still source a number of their proteins, including chicken, quail, guinea hen, and pig, from the farm. This year all of the turkeys for the Thanksgiving menu were raised on the farm.

Although Hackney is British by birth, he is at ease cooking high end French food. But don’t try to box him in; “My personality,” he says, “has lots of avenues and I try not to have just one vision on food.” For the holidays, Hackney designs tasting menus that offer the same level of elegance that diners have come to expect from the five-star restaurant, but set at a more relaxed pace.

Those who choose to eat their holiday dinners out are seeking food that is at once comforting and something they wouldn’t prepare at home. At L’Espalier, Chef Hackney hand-crafts a tasting menu for each holiday occasion. Hackney says, “it’s funny because once we turn the Thanksgiving corner…there are a lot of families and holiday parties, and people are in more of a laid back mood; they want a slower pace.”

In order to accommodate this relaxed holiday mood, Hackney removes a course from the normal tasting menu but makes the portions larger “to make sure everyone is full.” This way the meal moves at a more leisurely pace where people are able to socialize and take their time between courses.

Restaurant Info
774 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199
(617) 262-3023

  • Holiday Baking 2009
  • Winter Drinks
  • Turkey Tips 2009

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