A Favorite Restaurant: Spoke, Somerville, MA
I hold a personal philosophy that food doesn’t begin in the soil or end in the eater’s gullet. It is a circle, passing through the sun and conspiring in a hand-off of chloroplasts and pollinators on a journey of gratitude to power our hearts and season our thoughts to put more love in the world. I mean this actually, and while I’m not fully conscious of this all the time, I have come to recognize a particular feeling of well being, generosity and creativity given to me by a meal grounded in skill and thoughtfulness.
I had such a meal recently with friends at Spoke Wine Bar in Somerville Mass. This vibrant space, its smart staff and their stunning food fired up my muse and inspired me to share this.
We started with sweet briny fresh oysters that came with an ethereal jade green granita churned from a base of dill pickle brine. I usually prefer my oysters naked, why mess with the perfection, but in this genius combination the oysters found a soul mate. I jumped the fence and loaded it on.
The chips that came with the smoked salmon were so crisp the seasoning dusted on them lifted the whole bite like a zephyr into my mouth.
I’ve been chary of chilies since being traumatized by too-bold encounters in the past. Every once in a while though, a skillfully placed chili will activate a longing. Unfortunately my capsicum-adverse wine-importing household has limited experimentation. At Spoke we had two dishes where chilies were visible. Out of habit I began to sort them out. But then, they were so perfect and balanced with the flavors! How deeply GOOD they made the core of my body feel. So I ate more, then all, and entered the club feeling like when I did my first headstand in yoga class.
I can see why Spoke’s charred Kimbe carrots would be a house regular. The sunflower crunch they came with is something to covet, making me toss and turn about it for nights to come. Lover of Heliantheae that I am, I hope Spoke’s cooks will experiment with a sunroot version of this dish some day.
I’m wild about chestnuts, so their generous use in the farrow risotto was a joy. Then there were the duck meatballs. So silky! Their surrounding chop of jicama, smoked almonds and grapes supported a perfect level of crunch-sweet-acid. It was fun watching Terry wolf down the almonds; a food he swears he doesn’t like. I bet he even slurped a slice of chilé or too.
My only unmet craving was for more leafy greens to offset all this splendor. That, and a desire to live north of the Charles River so I can go to Spoke all the time.
Finally… those bitty chocolates layered with sesame ganache that came at the end, the last of which I now deeply regret having left on the table in my sated state.