Winter in Boston requires dishes that warm the heart, soul, and mind. Over at Oak and Rowan, owner Nancy Batista-Caswell and executive chef Justin Shoults have just the thing for you. Having worked together at Newburyport restaurants Ceia and Brine, the dynamic duo and their team have launched their first Boston-area venture, designed for success.
In addition to their seasonal menu, which features hearty dishes like the rib-eye with Dorset cheese or the duck breast with sweet potato and smoked pear, the kitchen serves up a pasta tasting on Thursday evenings. With four courses, set at $49 a person, you can go big with an entire tasting to yourself, or add it one to other items to share. (The spinach salad with big, leafy greens, goat cheese, pumpkin, and pumpkin seeds is also a good addition to bring something lighter to the table.)
The first course is perhaps one of the most interesting. Starting on the lighter side, as far as pasta goes, is a passatelli. This dish mimics a soup with a brodo, or broth, that exudes a strong Parmesan taste with al dente, stub-like noodles; simple, tasty.
The second course is a garganelli, a robust dish with large, tubular pasta and thick chunks of unctuous braised pheasant. Pheasant is not something you usually see on menus around town, but Shoults does not shy away from it at Oak and Rowan. Along with their caviar tasting options, pheasant is another interesting and unique ingredient featured on the menu.
Up next, polenta cheese-stuffed tortelli. With grape must and hazelnuts, the secret triple cream cheese ingredient in this stuffed pasta takes you to that moment years ago when you indulged in a fondue stop somewhere in the great mountainous Alps.
Finally, smoked bacon and beef Bolognese lasagna. I know most people have their favorite rendition of this dish. True to much of what makes those nostalgic attachments to a meaty, saucy lasagna, Shoults doesn’t stray far from the traditional path. Served with lightly dressed greens on the side, the sharp cheese and smoky bacon enhance the indulgence level in this dish way above most other expressions of lasagna. It’s so good, it may actually give that nostalgic memory a run for its money.
A variety of interesting wines handpicked by wine director Mackenzie Campbell are available to pair with these dishes. But, of course, a visit to Oak and Rowan would be lacking without enjoying a beverage or two from bartender extraordinaire and bar manager, Chris O’Neill. Along the same lines, dessert from the talented Brian Mercury are also a must.
As daunting as a four-course pasta tasting might sound, it is a solid option as portions are manageable in size. I would highly recommend this new addition to the Oak and Rowan establishment.