Ostra

Screenshot 2014-01-16 20.19.47For a city on the water, there aren’t enough seafood restaurants in Boston that are worth bragging about. Neptune Oyster, obviously. Island Creek Oyster Bar, of course. Union Oyster House, sure. Are you sensing a trend? It was time for a change, for someone to really make a new statement in the seafood world. Enter Ostra!

Part of the Columbus Hospitality Group, Ostra joins Mistral, Sorellina, Mooo…, Teatro, and Burlington’s L’Andana as the newest addition to Chef Jamie Mammano’s impressive resume. Following in the footsteps of his previous restaurants – excluding the casual TeatroOstra is an upscale, fine-dining establishment, with top-notch service, a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere, serving high quality food with sky-high prices to match.

Fingerling potato and onion ciabatta bread was served with a side of softened butter sitting in a shallow pool of EVOO. Slightly warm, pre-cut and easy to tear; we were not disappointed when they brought us another loaf after we devoured the first.

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I started by splitting a “salad”: Crisp Snow Pea, Sunchoke, Watermelon Radish, Sunflower Sprouts, Bianco Sardo Champagne Vinaigrette. I put salad in quotes because there’s no actual lettuce or greens. This is strictly a plate of crunchy lightly dressed vegetables, which was a welcomed change to a typical leafy salad appetizer.
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Compliments of the chef, we received a mid-course tasting of Ricotta Gnocchetti, Maine Lobster, Beech Mushrooms, and Truffle. This dish now appears on the menu, and I highly recommend it! With what I’m assuming is house made pasta and large chunks of lobster, you can’t go wrong.
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For the main course I ordered the Grilled King Salmon, Heirloom Squash Velouté, Market Vegetable Rôtí. I don’t think I’ve ever seen salmon served in two thin pieces, rather than a single filet. Doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s a decent portion, which this was. Squash puree and grilled vegetables to accompany, my favorite!
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The Perfect Bite of the evening was hands down the Baked Apple: crumble, cider caramel, brown butter ice cream. This presentation was the most impressive: a thick slice of baked apple sits among the crumble and caramel on the bottom of the plate and is topped with a waffle shaped pie crust-like piece. Finish with a dollop of brown butter ice cream and an intricate design of crispy apple skin… and voilà! We ordered 1 for the 4 of us. Big mistake!
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Ostra is completely stunning; from the lounge (soon to feature nightly live piano music) with its high-backed chairs and booths, to the sleek bar, the fish on ice display, the jellyfish-like chandeliers… everything about Ostra is completely elegant. Even the bathroom is crisp and pristine. The service is of course of fine-dining standards, as are the prices. This was a special occasion meal for me and my family, and I’d go back for another one in a heartbeat.
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http://www.ostraboston.com

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Helping Hands Monkey Helpers: Food Festival

Saturday September 28, 2013 marked the annual Helping Hands Monkey Helpers Food Festival fundraiser at the WGBH studios. Every year food and beverage sponsors come together to support Helping Hands and raise money for the non-profit organization. Established in 1979, Helpings Hands is a unique group that provides service monkeys to disabled adults with mobility impairments. The organization cares for and trains each capuchin monkey for about 4 years before donating them to one of their applicants. It costs on average $40,000 to train each monkey, and as they are provided to recipients free of charge, it’s imperative that Helpings Hands receives support from generous donations.

Enter Columbus Hospitality Group! CHG is one of the many event supports, with the largest presence hosting five restaurant tables: Mistral, Sorellina, Teatro, Mooo…, and L’Andana. Other great Boston restaurants were represented, each serving up tastings of knock out appetizers.

This was my second time attending the fundraiser, and both years my favorite station was Mistral’s. The French bistro served Duck Confit and Wild Mushroom Cous Cous “Risotto” with Parmesan and Black Truffle. I don’t even like mushrooms and I had two bowls of this stellar dish.
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I think L’Andana was next on my list with their House Made Ricotta Bruschetta with fig and their own harvested honey. Fig + ricotta + honey may be one of my favorite food combinations. Sweet, light, and irresistible.

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Mooo… offered tiny but hearty Beef Sirloin Sliders with Mooo Sauce and Caramelized Onions on House Made Rolls.
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Being pregnant, I wasn’t able to taste Sorellina’s Tuna Tartare with spicy mustarda aioli and chili vinegar, although I’ve had it in the past at their restaurant and it can’t be missed!
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Along with raw tuna, other treats I couldn’t indulge in were…
Cinquecento‘s Red Wine Poached Pears with Whipped Gorgonzola & Olive Oil Crostini. If I were able to have “moldy cheeses” I would have probably consumed this enter plate.
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Jody Adams’s Trade and Rialto were represented at one table, offering Ceviche with dukkah, harrisa, and lime. Another raw fish option I had to avoid.
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I shouldn’t have tried Masa‘s Wild Mushroom Empanadas since they contained caramelized onions and feta cheese (some “soft cheeses” are a no-no while pregnant), but it was half way down when I realized there was feta in the middle. Oh well! It was worth it 🙂
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Back to the things I could eat, and ate a lot of!
The Catered Affair had incredible Butternut Squash Agnolotti drizzled with Sage Brown Butter and topped with Fried Sage. I had to walk away from the table after my second helping, because I could have stayed there all night.
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Zocalo may have had the best table, simply because they were serving three options, each one out doing the last. My husband probably had five spoonfuls of the Tuna Ceviche with lime, tomatoes, mangos, avocado, onion, cilantro and EVOO.
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Thank goodness avocados are not on the pregnancy “do not eat” list or else I’d be in major trouble. I was able to try (quite a few of) Zocalo’s Guacamole Tostadas.IMG_5803
And last but not least were the Chilapitas, which are sweet plantains stuffed with pulled pork, crema fresca, avocado and pickled onions, topped with ranchera sauce and cotija cheese. YUM! Out of all of the restaurants mentioned, this is the one I haven’t been to, and after their showing at Helping Hands I think I’ll be making a reservation very soon.
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After consuming all of the savory apps, my sweet tooth was calling. Thankfully Konditor Meister represented for desserts with unforgettable cream puffs, mini pies, tarts, and more.
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I couldn’t enjoy the open bar this year, but Ketel One was serving cocktails at their vodka bar, and beer and wine were flowing from Harpoon Brewery, M.S. Walker, and William Grant & Sons.

With guaranteed amazing food, live entertainment, a silent auction, raffle prizes, and knowing I’m contributing to an incredible cause, I look forward to attending the Helping Hands Monkey Helpers Food Festival every year! If you want to learn more about the organization or donate to assist in the care and training of the monkeys, visit www.monkeyhelpers.org