Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

From Italy to France: A Progressive Dinner

The concept of a progressive dinner has always intrigued me. I love the idea of getting to try different tastes at different places throughout the course of a meal, but the thought of physically moving from one location to the next always sort of kept me away. I think part of the joy of dining out is getting to settle into a meal and a space, so when you have you pick up and move right in the middle, I sort of expected that’d ruin the experience. That said, I’m always game for new food experiences, and when I finally decided to try the progressive dinner thing, I found it to be a truly wonderful experience.

I met up with several other Boston bloggers at Bel Ari, a modern Italian restaurant on South Street in the Leather District. It’s close to public transit, and only a short walk from my office, which offered time for a lovely little stroll there after work.

Bel Ari is a beautiful place — dim and moody, with a touch of whimsy. There are shades of natural wood and gray tones, and I absolutely loved the artwork and lighting. The whole place exuded a laid back, classy vibe that wasn’t stuffy but wasn’t casual either. We were seated in a private back room, around a luxuriously large table that comfortably sat our entire party, and made conversation easy. Glasses of NV Bellussi Prosecco greeted us on the bar, which was a nice start.

Bel Ari Boston - Sweetly Serendipity

As soon as everyone was seated, Mark Tosi, the owner of both Bel Ari and Les Zygomates (our second stop of the evening), gave a brief introduction to the space and to himself. Before too long, our first appetizer was served, a Whipped Ricotta with honey, pistachios, and crispy sunflower cranberry bread. This was a surprisingly sweet start, but nicely executed.

Bel Ari Boston - Sweetly Serendipity

Our second course at Bel Ari was the Arancini Di Rosi, stuffed risotto balls with goat cheese and basil, served over an onion marmalade. Arancini are delicious when executed properly, but they can also be dry and flavorless. These arancini were maybe the best I’ve had — loaded with tender, delicious rice, the right balance of goat cheese, and an incredible onion jam that was the perfect complement. I had intended not to eat all three that came on my plate, but they went down way too easily.

Bel Ari Boston - Sweetly Serendipity

Before heading off to our second stop, we were each offered our choice of entrees, and I chose the Shrimp and Lobster Gnocchi, which was served with oyster mushrooms in the most decadent lobster cream sauce. I had a glass of 2009 Nebbiolo d’ Alba, “Brumo” San Silvestro, from Piedmont Italy with my gnocchi. Let my just tell you one thing — these gnocchi were flipping out of this world. Seriously — I think they were the most pillowy, dreamy gnocchi I’ve ever tasted. Made in house, each little bit was so tender and delicate, and coated with this luxurious sherry cream sauce. So incredible.

 

Les Zygomates - Sweetly Serendipity

After the gnocchi, I could have easily gone home and died happy, but no! We had more dishes to devour! So we walked a few steps down South Street to Les Zygomates, where we settled into another big table and admired the decor. Les Zygomates has a completely different vibe than Bel Ari. The menu has more of a French flair, and I found the decor to be a bit edgier. The air is almost electric, and we could hear the many voices of fellow diners floating throughout the large space as the live Jazz band set-up for the evening.

Les Zygomates - Sweetly Serendipity

Here we were offered two entrees to choose from, of which I picked the Beef Flat Iron Rossini with pomme puree, wild mushrooms, foie gras, truffle, and madeira. I thought that the gnocchi couldn’t be topped, but I was so wrong. This dish was incredible. I don’t often order a steak when I go out to eat, so this was a particularly special treat. It was a perfectly cooked medium rare piece of meat, topped with a mountain of wild mushrooms, laid atop a smooth as silk pomme puree. Every bite was pure bliss. I sipped a glass of 2010 Chateau Trillol, a French Grenach/Syrah blend. It was just so very lovely.

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When dessert came around, my inclination was to go for the Chilled Chocolate Cake, but owner Mark suggested I try the Poached Apple Napoleon, so I did. Turns out he made a great suggestion! The apples were delicious, and nicely cooked — just barely fork tender. They paired beautifully with the cream and sweet pastry layers. I was also fortunate enough to try the chilled chocolate cake, which had the texture of dense, chilled mousse. It was served with blackberries, a blackberry puree, and little jellies (presumably blackberry as well) and was not only beautiful and sophisticated to look at, but an impressively delicious dessert. We each had a little pour of a 2007 Cusamano Moscato Dello Zucco from Muscat, Italy to round out the desserts.

Les Zygomates - Sweetly Serendipity

The whole evening was wonderful, from the company to the staff, and of course, the food.

Both of these restaurants were new to me, and I absolutely plan to go back. If you’re looking for a great date night, or some live jazz to accompany an outstanding menu, I’ve found a couple new places for you 🙂

Bon appetit!

Bel Ari Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Les Zygomates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer: This meal was provided to me free of charge through my associated with Blog and Tweet Boston. As usual, all opinions expressed here are my own.

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