Around TownDinner Series

The McGladrey Culinary Challenge

Around TownDinner Series

Contributed by Bryce Lambert McGladrey was kind enough to invite The Dinner Series to attend a culinary challenge it threw to raise money for local charities at its Charlestown office. About 700 attended, raising over $60,000, and enjoying seven dishes from some of Boston's best eateries, each paired with a wine selection. With searchlights, live piano and bagpipe music, and what I was told was the world's largest snow globe, this weeknight evening was a fantastic success, transforming a waterfront office building into a veritable pleasure den of food and wine. I'm sure McGladrey's employees wish their office was like this every day. A Neptune Oyster raw bar, over seven open bars, and food from the likes of L'Espalier, Dante, and Prezza beat your usual break room vending machines.

I stopped first at Prezza's table, where chef Anthony Caturano was serving Crispy Shrimp, Italian Slaw & Cherry Pepper Aioli with some help from TV Diner's Billy Costa to benefit the Boston Police Activities League. The slaw had an Asian taste to it and its texture was a great counterpoint to the crispy breading on the shrimp. The aioli worked to tie everything together, making this plate worthy of seconds. Nearby was Dante deMagistrus of Dante, dishing out Five Cheese Ravioli with a Ragu of Wild Mushrooms, Chicory & Pancetta. The ravioli shells were light and silky and the cheese filling was rich and succulent. Whatever five cheeses were chosen, they combined to create a subtly flavored rush of creamy cheese when you bit into a ravioli. Not over-filled or overwhelming with too much ricotta, these raviolis were beautiful on their own. Top with crispy burnt chunks of pancetta and moist mushrooms and chicory, and you have something really special.

Anthony Caturano of Prezza serves up Crispy Shrimp, Italian Slaw and Cherry Pepper Aioli

The most substantial and popular plate of the night was served in the building's fourth floor boardroom by Lydia Shire of...well she's practically everywhere. This heaping serving of duck breast, risotto (served from half a hollowed-out cheese wheel), and a lobster claw popover pulled in the crowd. After all, most of us had skipped dinner. A line looped around the entire circumference of the large conference table and if you really wanted a taste of this, you had to put in at least half an hour of waiting. Thankfully, there was a vino pit-stop half way around, where a rep from Erath Winery poured glasses of their delicious Pinot Noir and Sabazio.

Natalie Jacobson of The Genesis Fund and Lydia Shire of Towne prepare Duck Grilled over Cherry Wood with Fresh Chestnut Risotto and Lobster Claw Popover

After a glass or two of the gently tannic well-balanced Sabazio, I approached Lydia's counter plate in hand. With so many components and about half a duck breast that needs to be sliced, serving was slow. Just as my plate was topped off the lobster popover and a generous helping of butter, Billy Costa wandered in the back door, and my plate went right into his hands! Those behind me in line were polite enough to help me out with another.

McGladrey Culinary Challenge Billy Costa

Although it was popular enough among the event's guests and I wouldn't mind eating this in a restaurant, I felt the dish was a little much for something you're expected to eat standing up with a glass of wine. With a whole lobster claw, half a duck breast, a creamy, cheesy risotto, and several tablespoons of butter, it was too rich--my girlfriend actually had to abandon hers. I would've preferred one or two more small dishes than this entrée.

Outside, in a well heated tent Jeff Nace of Neptune Oyster had laid out an admirable raw bar about an ice sculpture octopus bar that alone made the this worth the price of admission. Limiting yourself at an open raw bar is perhaps the truest test of will. I cut myself off at about half a dozen, based upon my wine intake, the time of night, and the fact that I had to work in the morning. On the other side of the tent, Chris Damian of the Legendary Restaurant Group served a Braised Short Rib Taqiza with Avocado Relish, Chipotle BBQ Sauce & Pickled Red Cabbage that, although the barbecue sauce was a little strong, was a delicious couple of bites of succulent pork and fresh guacamole.

Neptune Oyster Raw Bar

Janet Wu of Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries and Chris Damian of Legendary Restaurant Group with their Braised Short Rib Taqiza with Avocado Relish, Chipotle BBQ Sauce and Pickled Red Cabbage