10.11.2011

"The Time Is Ripe For Pears" Dinner At Rialto

Vin Santo chocolate tart with seckel pears

USA Pears hosted a dinner at Rialto last Tuesday night, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Rialto, located in Cambridge, Mass., is helmed by Chef Jody Adams. Jody and her team of talented chefs worked with USA Pears to put together a four-course pear dinner, using a different kind of pear in each course.

The evening started with mingling with representatives from USA Pears and other attendees (including Elizabeth, Renee, Cara, Aimee, and Rachel), sipping pear cocktails, and talking about pears.

Pear cocktail

Did you know there are more than 3,000 varieties of pears? I had no idea. I am most familiar with Anjou, Bosc, and Bartlett pears. The dishes we had that night incorporated Concorde, Bartlett, Forelle, and Seckel pears. We may also have cut up the Starkrimson pear sitting on our table so we could sample this sweet, juicy variety.

Before we were served dinner, Jody came out to talk to all of us and to tell us her thought process behind the different dishes we were about to eat, including which pears she chose for which dishes and how the pears were prepared.


After Jody headed back to the kitchen, our servers placed bread baskets and small dishes of oil and salt on our tables, and we happily dug into these while anticipating the first course. We also sipped on wine. I tried the white, which instantly became one of my new favorites: Michele Chiarlo, Le marne Gavi 2009. I found it very smooth, almost creamy, if you could call a wine creamy.



The first course was an autumn Concorde pear salad with crinkle cress, Baylee Hazen Blue, walnuts, fennel, and Moscato dressing. What looks like parsley in the dish is actually the crinkle cress. The fennel was mild, the blue cheese creamy and nutty, and the pears definitely stole the show. They were thinly sliced, nicely ripened, and added a sweet crunch.

Autumn Concorde pear salad

Our second course, which is actually on Rialto's regular menu now, was a crispy mackerel escabeche with pickled Bartlett pear puree, currant, pomegranate, and mizuna. The mackerel was very lightly fried and had a strong but balanced flavor and a flaky texture. The pickled pear puree was the perfect complement in this traditionally sweet and sour dish, and the tiny pomegranate seeds made for a beautiful presentation.

Crispy mackerel escabeche

For the main course, we had roasted breast and braised leg of chicken, with smoked bacon, roasted Forelle pears, scorched brussels sprouts, and mustard seeds. I loved how the pears had been scooped with a melon baller. The crisp, tangy pear bites soaked in the broth around the chicken and were delicious eaten with bites of moist chicken. The brussels sprouts hiding underneath the chicken and studded with smoked bacon were one of my favorite parts of the dish and the first of many brussels sprouts I plan to eat this season.

Braised chicken with Forelle pears

When I say they saved the best for last, I'm not quoting a cliche. They really did save the best for last. I was beyond impressed by this seemingly simple dessert of ginger-spiced Seckel pears perched atop a Vin Santo chocolate tart. The chocolate tart not only had a chocolate filling but also a chocolate crust and was so rich and decadent. The spicy ginger-poached pears cut some of the sweetness and added their own strong flavors. But even the littlest touch added so much to this dish. On the plate itself were crumbled bits of candied ginger that added a pop of flavor when scooped up with the tart and pears. I am already thinking about how to recreate this dish at home. It was amazing, and I wish it was on Rialto's regular menu because I'd try to go back every night to eat it.

Vin Santo chocolate tart with seckel pears

We ended the pear dinner, tummies full, knowing so much more about pears -- the different varieties, the flavors, the ways to cook with them, and so on. We learned that the best way to tell if a pear is ripe is to check the neck because pears ripen from the inside out. Even if you're like me and love to eat your pears when they're still crunchy, it's good to know this little trick. Also, unlike apples, pears do most of their ripening after they've been picked.

The lovely representatives from USA Pears gave us all what I've dubbed "pear-aphernalia" as we headed out, which included a pear in a pear packer (to keep our pears safe when we tote them to work), a water bottle, pear and pear cocktail recipes, and a little stuffed pear. I thought Gunner might like to hang with the little pear, so I gave it to him when I got home.

Gunner, our chocolate lab

A huge thank you to everyone at USA Pears and Rialto for hosting such a fabulous dinner. (This dinner was complimentary, but as always my opinions are my own.)

I usually just eat pears plain, but this dinner has inspired me to incorporate them into my cooking and baking. I'm so excited to make some pear things now!

What pear dishes have you had or made?

30 comments:

  1. That tart seriously blew me away. I will be over in a heartbeat whenever you make it yourself.

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  2. FunandfearlessinbeantownOctober 11, 2011 7:34 AM

    I'm bummed about missing this dinner. It all looks great. And Gunner looks SO adorable!

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  3. I love pears, even more than apples! That dessert looks amazing.

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  4. I wish I had been in town to try all these pear goodies. I never really think to cook with pears but clearly I should remedy that!

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  5. gunner and that little pear is melting my heart!!! what a phenomenal dinner, I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself, everything looks so good.

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  6. That dinner looks amazing! Great Review! and the picture of Gunner is too cute :)

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  7. This is a fabulous review, Megan! Pears are so aromatic, and all of these dishes look beautiful. I love making pear frangipane tart, but I never think to combine pears and chocolate. Yum!

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  8. Reisey destroyed her little stuffed pear friend withing 2 minutes of meeting him. It was sad. I could not agree more about dessert. It was the kind of chocolate tart you dream about!

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  9. This looks like a great meal! I haven't done too much cooking with pears, but I love eating them all on their own!

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  10. This looks like such an amazing meal. Love the way pears were used in all the different courses.

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  11. first time @ your blog and love the use of pear ....awesome photography

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  12. I've never been a huge fan of pears, but this array of food looks divine. Lucky you to get to dine at Rialto for that! I've been once---and loved it. Can't wait to go back

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  13. Everything sounds delicious, especially the crispy mackerel! So nice seeing you last night!

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  14. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  15. As always, a great restaurant review - that chocolate cake with pears look divine! However, your chocolate pup is the star of this entry lol What a gorgeous doggy!

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  16. I definitely usually have issues with the textures of pears but I haven't given them a try in a while. Maybe my tastes have changed? Either way, I'm pretty sure some of these fabulous dishes would be enough to sway me!

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  17. If it's the gritty, grainy texture you don't like, that should go away if the pear is properly ripened. And we learned that pears are purposely picked under-ripe, so you can buy them and let them ripen up to your desired ripeness on your counter. I tend to eat my pears under-ripe so they're nice and crunchy.

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  18. Thanks, Lisa! He's so handsome. :)

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  19. It's funny... Gunner can be really gentle with some of his toys. I won't promise the pear just sat there untouched. I tried to get some good shots of the little feet hanging out of Gunner's mouth, but he moves too fast for my camera skills!

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  20. Oh wow--I had no idea there were so many varieties of pears. And you have my mouth watering with the pictures and descriptions of all those dishes. Ooooh . .. how long until dinner?? (7 hours seems like an awfully long time to wait now)
    I recently made poached pears and loved them--now I want to branch out and experiement with different varieties of pear.

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  21. Ooh, do you have a good poached pear recipe? I want to try making some ginger-poached pears.

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  22. oh my, what a treat! i LOVE pears, and that picture of gunner is too cute :) i'll take the salad and dessert, please!!

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  23. A Boston Food DiaryOctober 12, 2011 4:55 PM

    Megan- your photos are outstanding! This looks like and amazing dinner-I had NO idea there were over 3,000 varieties either!

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  24. This sounds so incredible. I absolutely adore Rialto - it's one of my favorite restaurants in the city - so naturally I'm just drooling over all of your photos. What a great opportunity!

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  25. Wow. This dinner looked fantastic. I've always wanted to go to Rialto, but have yet to make it there. I think your photos just moved it to the top of my list next time I'm in Boston. Who knew there were so many varieties of pears. Sounds tasty!

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  26. Looks like a great meal -- I love Rialto. I love roasting pears and adding them to salads this time of year, and also folding them into a quickbread.

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  27. That salad looks amazing. I made a pear tart with bleu cheese once and was incredibly disappointed with it. That pairing seems perfect to me. Maybe I should try it with a different recipe...

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  28. i like a good pear martini- can be really refreshing. that salad looks soooo good! can't wait to see your nespresso post :)

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  29. I always say I'm going to cook and bake more with pears but still don't do it as much as I want to. I love how versatile pears are! This dinner looks fabulous :)

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  30. This looks like a great evening. Love the pic of Gunner. I had no idea there were so many pear varieties.

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