I invited Alicia to come along and, after a miserable wait for the T on Monday after work, I met up with her at Copley, and we strolled down Boylston to the restaurant. There's a cute, spacious patio area out front that I plan to keep in mind for some warm weather, outdoor dining.
On this particular chilly evening, I was happy we were headed to the event space downstairs though. We were immediately greeted by those running the event and got to chat with Damaris Colhoun, the representative from Landmark Vineyards, for a few minutes. Then we were told we could choose our seats and help ourselves to a glass of wine at the bar.
We stopped at the bar first, under the impression that wine was included, but it turned out to actually be a cash bar. We each got a glass of wine anyways. I asked for Shiraz. Unfortunately, the wine tasted as though it had turned. I brought it back to the bartender, and he quickly poured me a glass of Malbec instead. Crisis averted, Alicia and I settled in at a small table with somewhat decent lighting -- food bloggers are always thinking about how the pictures will come out.
Soon the rest of the guests had filled in, and the wait staff brought around some appetizers. We started with apple tarts with frisee and arugula. The tart was sweet and buttery with just a hint of salt and nicely browned cheese.
Then we tried the famous meat candy. I had read about this all over some of my favorite blogs last week. It's roasted kielbasa with pineapple. Cloves and worcestershire sauce give it a hint of spice and a little kick. I loved the sweet, juicy pineapple paired with the smoky kielbasa. (This picture does not do it justice.)
While we snacked on the appetizers, Damaris introduced herself and talked a little about the winery, which her grandmother started in 1974. Her grandmother's great great grandfather just happened to be John Deere -- yes, that John Deere. Many of the wines are named for him. Today Damaris' parents run the vineyard in California while she lives in New York and runs the sales and marketing.
We went back to the food, tasting some of Back Bay Social Club's signature garlic bread. It isn't your run-of-the-mill garlic bread. I'm not sure what they call it, but I'd call it lemon-pepper garlic bread because of the strong lemon and pepper flavors present. I had to have two pieces!
The wait staff came around and poured the first wine and served the first course: roasted native pumpkin soup with 2008 Chardonnay "Overlook." As we ate the soup, Damaris told us about the Chardonnay. The vineyard considers it a reserve wine for a non-reserve price. It's a cooler climate Chardonnay, has great acidity, and tastes of fruit like green apples. It wasn't smoky at all, and it's one of few Chardonnays I actually enjoyed.
The pumpkin soup was incredible. It came with a pool of creme fraiche, a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, and a sprinkling of toasted pepitas. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the crunchy, fried sage.
I had never tried pumpkin seed oil before, so I took a little of it on my spoon and took a taste. It was incredibly nutty, and I'm already thinking of picking some up. Tasting out of the way, I began scooping up all of the components together. I loved the soup. I tend to like all pumpkin soups, but this one was so savory. There was no overwhelming flavor of pumpkin pie spices and nutmeg. I much prefer the natural pumpkin flavor with the savory elements of sage and pumpkin seed oil.
I could have left at this point and been perfectly happy (and perfectly stuffed), but there were two more courses to get through!
The next wine was the 2008 Pinot Noir "Grand Detour." Damaris explained that it pairs well with earthy dishes and has a spicy, smoky deliciousness to it. It would complement either of the options for the next course: braised Berkshire pork shanks and fall root hash or housemade fettuccini with mushroom ragu.
Alicia and I both went with the pork shank, but in retrospect we could have gotten different dishes and shared. I don't think either of us expected such a hearty serving of pork. We joked that it was the size of the Brontosaurus ribs Fred Flintstone always ordered.
I only made it about halfway through. The flavor was unexpectedly more like ham than pork -- maybe I need to learn more about the different parts of a pig.
The shank was set in applesauce and accompanied by the fall root hash -- baby potatoes, parsnips, roasted apples, and smoked onions. This was one of those dishes I would definitely crave on a chilly fall night.
With the last course, we had the 2008 Syrah "Steel Plow." Syrah is one of my favorite wines. This particular one goes especially well with cheese, so it was only right that our last course was an artisanal cheese plate. Damaris told us the wine had a stinky funkiness, and believe me, as soon as I brought the glass near my nose, I got a whiff of that funk. The wine had an interesting flavor and some subtle bubbles.
We enjoyed it with Morbier cheese, topped with apples, oregano, and dried cranberries. The Morbier was much milder than I expected.
Alongside the cheese was a spicy, chunky apple butter, and some thin slices of toast drizzled with honey. The dessert had enough sweet to finish the meal but enough savory to make it interesting. The oregano really stood out to me.
Have you been to Back Bay Social Club, or have you eaten a locally sourced meal out at a restaurant?