Letter from the Editor: A New Identity for New England Vol: 109

April 2014
Antoinette and Will
Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor-in-Chief
Will Blunt, Managing Editor


On Coastal New England, we were swept away by the scent of wild roses (so much so that, with windows down, the cops pulled us over). We got weird sunburns from hastily applied lotion en route to sunny, outdoor tastings. We had chowder followed by oysters followed by stuffed clams followed by whole lobsters at Larsen’s Fish Market. We saw a turkey in a tree. We were served sweet-chile cauliflower while swinging on a swing in a vegan dining room. And we stood mouths agape, gulping cocktails from a porron.

We were there, too, during the dreaded polar vortex, and found the food to be just as vibrant and honest in the off-season. The push toward the spring rebirth of the coast is an apt metaphor for the work of the newest class of Rising Stars, who is taking the regional cuisine they’ve inherited and transforming it without losing the character and vitality it has always drawn from the sea. Chefs such as Rising Stars Matt Jennings and Chris Fischer are breathing new life into bluefish. Even the tradition of charcuterie in Rhode Island is still thriving and evolving from the iconic hot wiener to Chez Pascal’s fine frankfurters.

Teeming with community and possibility, New England’s small town culture packs a potent, powerful punch. There’s space, infrastructure, and support to do whatever the hell a chef or artisan can dream up, from Rising Star Artisan Eli Cayer’s kombucha and Rising Star Chef Ravin Nakjaroen’s curry to Rising Star Chef Jake Rojas’ beef tongue-stuffed piquillos. We visited the 34-year-old restaurant institution, Al Forno, whose kitchen was the early home of great chefs such as Suzanne Goin, Wylie Dufresne, and Ken Oringer, among others.

Rising Star Chefs Andrew Taylor and Michael Wiley of Eventide Oyster Co., served us the lobster roll to end all lobster rolls, applying technique and playful personalities to a staple. It’s just one example of how Rising Stars are forging a new identity for New England cuisine. And on the islands, we met the somms, including Rising Star Tanya McDonough, who lead the double life of the seasonal wine professional, with all its opportunities and extremes.

We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of world class establishments flourishing on America’s North Atlantic shoreline. Chefs from this part of the country have a blatant disregard for fads and fashion. They’re not following trends—they’re following their own imaginations, and reinventing, reinvigorating tradition. This New England mentality has also attracted chefs from across the country, who’ve made it their adopted home. A generation on the coast is showing their peers the possibilities for a chef’s life and the life of a food community, all from the New England coast.

Antoinette Bruno
Will Blunt
Managing Editor