Jamaica Plain is a remarkably green Boston neighborhood, with a palpable closeness to nature. Frederick Law Olmstead in the late 19th century designed and built Boston’s Emerald Necklace of parks with much of the southern section of the connecting parkland in or bordering on Jamaica Plain. Residents and visitors to Jamaica Plain can easily enjoy a hike around scenic Jamaica Pond or on paths through the 265 acres of the Arnold Arboretum. With more than 370 lilac plants of 175 different kinds, a special time to visit the Arboretum is in early to mid May. On Lilac Sunday, usually the second Sunday in May, the huge display of lilacs of bloom is celebrated by thousands of visitors.
It is not too surprising that this green, urban and diverse neighborhood would have a farm to table restaurant or two. Still it’s a bit of a wonder that Jamaica Plain would be the home of Ten Tables, a farm to table restaurant in a special category, which inspires the diner who appreciates finely prepared food utilizing fresh ingredients from carefully selected local purveyors.
We arrived for a nine o’clock evening reservation and spent the next couple of hours nibbling on numerous delights. A light, fresh bluefish paté, with house made pita chips and pickles, began the savory feast (superbly delectable when paired with the whole-grain mustard). A charcuterie plate featuring creamy chicken liver mousse, duck prosciutto, pickled mussels, and cured pork gave way to a tasting of the house made Boudin blanc–a mild, balanced pork sausage flavored with milk. A tart pickled cherry sorbet amazed my tongue in between sips of celebratory champagne as we waited for dinner. Ten Tables also offers biodynamic and organic wines as well as some unique cocktails, including its Lavender Fizz, vodka infused with fresh lavender from Boston’s last working farm, Allandale Farm, and blended with a puree of Blue Heron Farm organic blueberries, topped off with a touch of honey sweetness from the restaurant’s beekeeper Mike Graney in Jamaica Plain.
We sampled three of the main courses, increasingly impressed by the array of complementing flavors and variety between each dish. The summer vegetable ragout, with saffron basmati rice and gremolata, sang with every bite, bursting with perfectly acidic, freshly marinated legumes. A perfectly pan-seared bluefish was adorned with delicate fingerling potatoes, wilted greens, and fennel relish. But my personal favorite was the house made tagliatelle (a traditional Italian pasta similar to fettuccine) with braised duBreton pork, collard greens, salt cured olives, and anchovy sofrito; a dish poised with perfect flavor proportions of salty anchovy, bitter greens, and sweet pasta.
Just when we thought we could eat no more, an irresistible dessert menu beckoned. Olive oil cake with lavender ice cream and pine nut brittle was airy and refreshing. Chocolate terrine with Thai basil ice cream cleansed the palette and left the perfect seal on a wonderful meal.
Ten Tables’ commitment to building a menu “with deference to seasonal rhythms of what’s locally fresh and available, wild and organic” has found appreciative diners not only at its original location (since 2002) in Jamaica Plain. It recently (2011) opened a seasonal restaurant in Provincetown on Cape Cod, and it also operates (since 2009) another location in nearby Cambridge.