The Gringo Chapin
It seems Anna does not want her photo taken.

It seems Anna does not want her photo taken.

Cucuruchos

Cucuruchos

Alfombra en Antigua Guatemala 2011

Alfombra en Antigua Guatemala 2011

Alfombra en Antigua Guatemala 2011

Alfombra en Antigua Guatemala 2011

Processional en Antigua Guatemala 2011

Processional en Antigua Guatemala 2011

Chef Armetta of Hyatt Regency Boston

On Friday August 13 (yes Friday the 13th!), I had the pleasure of sitting down with award winning Executive Chef Kelly Armetta of The Hyatt Regency Boston. My meeting with Chef Armetta was geared towards doing chef profiles for The Boston Local Food Festival in conjunction with Restaurant Week Boston. Our meeting turned out to be about much more than his using local food on his Restaurant Week Boston menu. He was charming and put me at ease right away and it felt more like two friends having a conversation about food then me interviewing him for a piece I was writing.

Not too long ago Chef Armetta had to plan a Farm to Table lunch for a group that was meeting in house. The planning of the menu was sparked by two dishes he had been dreaming of creating-a chocolate dressing for beef and edible dirt! Wheat grass was used for decoration, along with flower pots from a local home improvement store. The lunch received rave reviews form everyone who attended. This Farm to Table lunch in turn inspired his Restaurant Week Boston menu currently being served at the hotel’s restaurant Avenue One.

Chef Armettas restaurant week menu is limited to 2 options for each of the 3 courses. But what the menu lacks in options it makes up for in flavor and local food goodness. He told me that no matter what menu or at what time of year, there are always certain things people are looking for on a menu in New England. One of those must haves is Clam Chowder that appears on both the lunch and dinner menu. My friend Peppe who joined me for lunch had the clam chowder and gobbled it down, so it must have been good. It was a nice big bowl of creamy chowder with big chunks of potatoes and clams, big, hearty and oh so New England. Another item that is a must have on a menu in New England is fresh fish. The lunch menu offers a New England Fish Fry with broccoli slaw and buttermilk tartar sauce, with the buttermilk being from a local farm. Since Chef Armetta does not specify what type of fish is used, it is probably so that he can use whatever is freshest that day.

In addition, on both the lunch and dinner menus, there is a starter of Grilled Flatbread with roast chicken, locally grown beets and Vermont chevre. The flatbread dough is made in house from scratch and was perfectly grilled. It was then topped with earthy beets, creamy chevre, and comforting roast chicken. I loved the play of flavors against each other. I realized something today about beets, the more I eat them the more I like them.

Grilled Flatbread

The entree that both Peppe and I ordered and loved was the Paprika Seasoned Beef Tender, with clothbound cheddar, house dried raspberry crumbs and the chocolate dressing. As soon as our server placed our beef tender in front of us, our eyes dashed around the plate not knowing what to try first. Of course we went for the infamous chocolate dressing first! Wow! It was sweet, acidic and fruity all at the same time. Both of us loving cooking and food tried to figure out what was in the chocolate dressing, all we could surmise was chocolate and some sort of vinegar. Knowing that Chef Armetta makes his own flavored vinegars and specifically a strawberry one, we thought maybe that was in the dressing. Maybe Chef Armetta will one day share the secret of his soon to be famous chocolate dressing. In addition to the chocolate dressing, the beef tender was topped with the amazing grated clothbound cheddar made by Cabot Cheese, and the raspberry crumbs that he dehydrates himself in house. As we began to eat we both used our knives to pull off some of the cheese that just melted in your mouth and was sharp and creamy and I could have eaten the whole wheel of it myself. Well maybe not a whole wheel, but a good chunk! The house dried raspberry crumbs were sweet and chunky and a nice complement to the cheese. Trying all the different components of the beef tender, they were delicious, but hard to believe they would play well together. But when we put them all together on the beef tender and ate it, they were amazing!

Paprika Seasoned Beef Tender

Luckily, when got to dessert we each chose a different one. Peppe chose the Blackberry Panna Cotta, topped with fresh blackberries and a crispy wafer. During our talk, Chef Armetta told me that his home garden was overwhelmed with blackberries and that he and his 8 yr old daughter had been making blackberry everything. So I can guess where the inspiration came for the panna cotta. Peppe did let me have a taste of it and it was creamy, firm with a wonderful berry essence that just filled your mouth when you took a bite. For my dessert I chose the Chocolate Bouchon with locally made Spumoni. A bouchon is a chocolate brownie type cake in the form of a champagne cork. Spumoni is typically layers of pistachio and chocolate ice cream and dried cherries. The dried cherries found in spumoni were used a garnish for the dish. I got so excited over the chocolate bouchon and the spumoni that I forgot to pay attention to the details of the dish before devouring it!

The dinner menu has the same two starters as lunch and offers the delicious beef tender with the heavenly chocolate dressing. But at dinner the fish dish is a locally caught Striped Bass. This dish is the epitome of local! Accompanying the striped bass is a romano bean salad with cob smoked bacon and a sorrel yogurt. The romano beans and sorrel are locally grown, the bacon is smoked in New Hampshire and the yogurt of course is from Stonyfield. The interesting thing about the cob smoked bacon is that it is smoked with actual corn cobs, sounds delicious! Finishing off the dinner is the same two wonderful desserts that are offered on the lunch menu. Why mess with a good thing?

Lunch was everything I expected after meeting with Chef Armetta. I am so excited about his Restaurant Week Boston menu that I am going back for dinner so I can have the Striped Bass.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my chat, in which I will delve more into how he comes up with these dishes AND some secrets from his kitchen and his past that he shared with me!

Restaurant Week Boston

Running through Friday August 27

Avenue One at Hyatt Regency Boston

One Avenue de Lafayette

Boston, Ma 02111

Hours: Monday through Sunday

Breakfast 6:30am. to 1:00pm

Lunch11:00am to 3:00pm

Dinner 5:00pm to 10:00pm

Dress Code: Casual/Business Casual

Reservations: 617-422-5579

Boston Local Food Festival

Saturday October 2, 2010

11am-5pm

Outside the Boston Children’s Museum

What does this have to do with Guatemalan food? Find out here.

Disclaimer: My better half Carlos does work at the Hyatt Regency Boston, but in no way did this influence the outcome of this article. It did help open the doors to make it happen, but that is it.

Salpicon

Salpicon is a Guatemalan dish that I have eaten numerous times both in the US and in Guatemala, but never knew how to make it until recently. Boy is it easy! Perfect chilled served with rice and corn tortillas on a hot evening. Perfect spooned into sopa on a cool night, this is a dish that is at home year round!

Carlos had made this dish several times for me. But this was before I had even been to Guatemala or taken an interest in learning about their food.

 I do believe salpicon was one of the first things I ever ate at in Guatemala and it was at Aida’s house in Guatemala City. Aida’s house is always our first stop in Guatemala, even before heading “home” and dropping the suitcases off etc. That first trip was 5 years ago and all I remember is sitting down to the table and having dish upon dish upon platter upon bowl of food getting placed on the table in front of me. There was carne asada, tortillas, avocados, chirmole, pappas, rice, sopa de res and of course salpicon and lots of limes! Half of it I did not even know what it was, but I tried everything including chiltepe sauce (that is a hysterical story for another time).

This dish is hugely popular in Guatemala because you can feed at least 10 people with this recipe and it is fairly cheap. Field laborers pack this in their lunchboxes along with tortillas, rice and limes because you do not have to worry about utensils, spoilage or how to heat it up.

Whenever we go to someone’s house, this is inevitably on the menu. Whether its Carlos’ parents here in the USA or Vicky’s house in Guatemala City. My favorite memory of salpicon is the time Vicky made it with radishes and onions we bought at a farm stand way up in the mountains of who knows where. This was a time when we were lost and I would love to go back to that place but I don’t think anyone knows where it was or where we were. You can read more about that day trip here.

Salpicon
 
Ingredients:
3 ½ to 4 pounds beef roast (round eye or round roast)
1 pound fresh radishes, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1/3 cup packed chopped mint
1 cup fresh lime juice (from 6-8 limes)
4 tbs salt, divided
Directions:
1. Cut beef roast into 4 even chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove chunks from water and let cool for a few minutes.
2. While beef is cooking, finely chop radishes and onions and add to a large bowl. Finely chop mint and then measure it out and add to the bowl. Squeeze limes until you have 1 cup of lime juice measured out.
3. Once beef has cooled cut into 1 inch chunks. Add chunks of beef a handful at a time to a blender and pulse the blender until beef has a shredded consistency. Add beef to the bowl. Repeat until all beef is “shredded”.
4. Add lime juice and salt and toss all the ingredients together. Taste and add more salt or lime juice to your liking.
Like everything, this dish is best made a day ahead. But if time does not allow, at least serve well chilled. In summer I serve this with rice and warm corn tortillas. In the cooler months I let it come to room temperature and serve on the side with sopa for everyone to add themselves to the sopa.
Radishes

Radishes are big in Guatemala, literally and figuratively! On one of our trips to Guatemala, we took a day “off” and drove out to a water park that was only supposed to be a few hours away near Quetzaltenango. Now where were going was on the other side of the sugar cane area of Guatemala, and guess what it was sugar cane harvesting season! TRAFFIC! Big semis full of sugar cane being carted from field to the mill. It was at just this time that one of these semis decided to tip over and block the road for hours! Anyways, you are probably wondering “isn’t this post about radishes, not sugar cane?”. Yes it is!

So after spending the afternoon at the water park, it was decided to go home another way. Unbeknownst to us no one was really sure how to get home another way. So up, up through the mountains we drove. At one point we drove through a fertile valley where all sorts of vegetables and flowers were growing (I have gone into more detail about this valley in another blog post). Outside of the valleys “farm stands” lined the road. We stopped at one where among other things radishes were purchased. These were no ordinary radishes. These radishes were the size of a baseball. I had never before seen radishes this size and even asked what they were, only to be told by Carlos,” radishes, duh!” Those may not have been his exact words, but the intent was there.

Radishes as we know them in the USA are red and usually round or elongated. Cut them open and inside you will find a crisp white flesh with a flavor ranging from a mild peppery flavor to almost spicy. Radishes are available year round and are grown in the ground like a potato and can often be found in stores often with the greens attached. In summer I buy mine at the Salem Farmers Market (the picture above).

When selecting radishes to buy, look for smooth firm red radishes with no black spots or bruises. If the do not feel hard, leave them there! These “soft” radishes will not be crisp. If buying radishes with the leaves attached, make sure the leaves are not wilted and are bright green. When you get purchase radishes with the greens attached, cut the greens off when you get home. Often times you will find bags of radishes in the store with the greens already removed. No matter which way you purchase your radishes, do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Store radishes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.

When using radishes, trim the stem and root ends off and give them a scrub to get any dirt off. Radishes never need to be peeled. Part of the appeal of radishes is their great color.

Some great Guatemalan dishes using radishes are Salpicon (pictured below) and Ensalada de Rabano y Pepino (both near future blog posts)