Gone are some of the heavy comfort foods of the winter and room has been made for lighter, fresh changes to reflect the changing of the seasons at McEwen’s on the Oxford Square.
Chef Dustin Little, in his fifth year at McEwen’s, noted that the two reasons to change a menu are a change in fresh produce and the temperature outside.
“You don’t want something that’s really heavy, made with a lot of cream. You don’t want something with a bubbling cheese sauce or something that’s radiating heat, but you do want that in the middle of December,” Little said. “For the spring, you want to find a balance between hot food but surround it with pops of freshness all around it. You try different things, and sometimes they don’t work, but you tweak it until you get it right. Balancing flavors is what being a chef is all about.”
Front and center on the new menu is a refreshed take on each section of both the lunch and dinner menus. Both menus feature a new compressed watermelon salad, replacing the winter salad. The compression of the watermelon changes the texture by vacuum sealing the juices in the fruit; it is then served with an array of fresh spring produce. A salmon and berry salad replaces a butter lettuce salad from the outgoing menu.
A no-bread crab cake has been added after Little was able to keep the texture of the cake while removing the heaviness of the traditional filler of the dish. Certain items have simply been changed to reflect the season rather than being removed. Chicken dishes have been tweaked to include spring chickens, in-season vegetables and lighter sauce pairings. “Pork 4 ways” has been added to break down what may seem like a heavier dish.
Seafood dishes have also gotten a refreshing, including the Back Bay Bouillabaisse, a French stew with fresh seafood. The dish features fresh clams, mussels, oysters and the catch of the day. The dinner menu’s lobster mac and cheese is now a lobster spring roll served with a sweet chili sauce.
With daily specials at lunch and dinner, Little is always looking for new ways to stay innovative even after rolling out the new menu.
“I’m here every day, and we come up with a brand new farmer’s plate, which is four items every morning at 7:30, then we come up with a lunch special. After lunch, we erase that and come up with a dinner special, so it never stops,” Little said.
Constant change leaves Little always wanting to improve. Throughout his 15-year career as a chef, Little has stayed away from having a specialty dish in pursuit of staying hungry to remain innovative when it comes to his menus.
“My specialty is food, there’s not a certain item that I want to cook all the time, and I think I’d be stagnant if there was. My specialty dish is trying to outdo the last one,” Little said. “We’re innovative, and we are always on the cutting edge, so we really hope you’ll come check out what we’ve got going on.”
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.