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Stacy Cogswell on New Job, Menu at The Regal Beagle

Photo: Chris Coe

"With recent chefs we have strayed from being the neighborhood joint we are known for and Stacy Cogswell is bringing us back," says a rep for Brookline's The Regal Beagle (yes, it's named for the bar in Three's Company). Opened in 2009, The Beagle has become a popular neighborhood hangout for Coolidge Corner residents. Its bar, run by Mark Young, has been called a "hidden gem" by drinks writer Fred Yarm, and Yelpers love their burgers and macaroni and cheese. Eater sat down with Cogswell, formerly of places like Atlantic Fish Co., Market, and UpStairs on the Square, to speak about what it means to cook in a neighborhood restaurant, her first month on the job, and her new summer menu that debuted this week.

What drew you to the job at The Regal Beagle?
I live fifteen minutes away, so that's great. I've always been in large scale restaurants. I like that this is smaller, more intimate. You get to be face to face with your guest and really make the experience great.

Comparing your menu to the last one from before you got here, I see the hamburger and macaroni and cheese seem to have remained. Have you put your own touches on those items?
The burger and the [bacon and blue cheese stuffed] dates are a staple here. You don't fix something if it's not broken. The mac & cheese is also a staple; I just changed it up. The summer version has duck confit (which the staff calls "quack and cheese") or crimini and shiitakes. Mushrooms are so delicious right now.

Walk us through the menu. What are your favorite items? Is there anything that screams, "this is Stacy's food?"
The squash blossoms. I probably shouldn't tell you this. I wrote the menu, thinking "oh it sounds good." Then yesterday, with the menu rollout, I realized I hadn't really thought about or conceptualized it. But the one thing I do kind of extremely well is just let it flow, and let it come out. That's kind of what happened. When I finished it yesterday morning finally I was like "That's just me." I love the barbecue watermelon pork chop with jalapeno cornbread. It uses everything. Pickled watermelon rind. The watermelon makes the sauce; I don't use ketchup. I'm also making my own merguez sausage. I don't have a grinder, so Savenor's grinds the lamb for me. I season it myself and cure it myself. I bought myself a $200 sausage stuffer with my money; I'm really excited about it. The fatoosh salad is the best salad on the menu - very traditional middle eastern, all fresh vegetables, but no lettuce. Mirna, the line cook I call my pastry chef, is really excited about learning how to make cookies for an ever-changing ice cream sandwich. The s'mores sundae. You cannot miss that. Chocolate sauce, graham crumble, bruleed Fluff. Yes, I bought a six-pound tub of Fluff.

Invented right in Somerville...
That's why I bought it; it's local! And I eat it. Every. Day. I was recently in Ireland and was in a candy shop because I'm a sugar freak, and I found a jar of Fluff, and I went nuts.

Have you brought over any of your old purveyors?
I've always used Savenors. Ronnie Savenor is a good friend of mine. I'm also using D'Artagnan. I'm getting Painted Hills beef from them for our new sirloin. I use my friend Ian at Constitution Seafood...Island Creek as well. I love Island Creek.

When The Beagle's reps tell Eater that you're bringing the neighborhood feel back, what does that mean to you?
To me, it means just using seasonal fresh stuff that people can get over at the farmer's markets. It ties that all in with the neighborhood - people buying the same stuff. It means being able to be one on one with the guests, making connections every day with regulars and with new people that come in. I do it all from running the food to cooking. To me it's really important to engage in your customer that way. It makes it feel more like home and more like what I expect when people come to my family for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

What have you noticed about cooking in this neighborhood?
In just one month, from putting up daily specials and having just put out the new menu, they're more adventurous than I thought they would be. They know good food. They're not looking for plain and simple. They're into the gastronomy of it all and want to be surprised. It's the type of crowd I love cooking for.

You worked for many years with Susan Regis at UpStairs on The Square, most recently as chef de cuisine. How have you carried with you what you learned from her?
Working with Susie was probably the best experience of my career. I learned more from her than school or anywhere else. She's a genius with food. She does everything by hand. Nothing is pre-bought. It was a very intense learning process, and it's what I do here. All my cooks think I'm crazy when they see me rolling out puff pastry five times a day and they see me making fresh pasta. The staff is excited to be learning new techniques and learning the rustic way of doing things. They think I'm crazy sometimes, but they're really into it. We're a scratch kitchen except for bread; our ovens don't have the capacity. We get our breads from Iggy's. Their black pepper brioche buns are the most amazing things on the planet. We're using them on our burgers. Oh, and Christina's ice cream. You need a special permit to make ice cream, and we don't have it.

When you do get the rare night off, where do you go?
I love jm Curley so much. Every time I'm there, everyone knows me. There's always fernet going around. Have you had their ez-cheese? It's the best thing on the planet. That makes me so happy. I love Sweet Cheeks 'cause I like eating like a fatass, basically. I love Lone Star. It's close to my house, so if I get out of work at a decent hour I'll head over there and get a margarita and a taco and be super happy. Barcelona - I've been going there lately; the chef [Steven Brand, also formerly of UpStairs] is a friend of mine.

Have you been working much with the other restaurants that are part of Dramshop?
I talk to John Rush at Church once a week even if it's not about work. His chorizo mac & cheese is ridiculous. It's what I ate the first time I ate there. We share a lot of cooks, too. I haven't been to our other locations {whispers} (but I also haven't had a day off). By choice! Let me point that out; I'm just crazy.

I believe that. When we interviewed Josh Taylor at West Bridge, he said one of their owners forced him to take a day off a few weeks after opening.
I went to a wedding a couple weeks ago by Lake Winnipesaukee and I was having panic attacks all weekend because I had no cell phone service. I was calling my sous chef from payphones. He was like, "Jesus Christ, Stacy, will you go enjoy yourself?!" I think that just comes with the job if you're really passionate about what you do. Sometimes I'll wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning wondering if I ordered enough hamburger meat. That's just what it is and I'm used to it. I love it. I wouldn't want to do anything else.
- Drew Starr

· All coverage of The Regal Beagle on Eater [~EBOS~]

jm Curley

21 Temple Place, , MA 02111 (617) 338-5333 Visit Website

Atlantic Fish Company

761 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116 617 267 4000 Visit Website

Sweet Cheeks

1381 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215 617 266 1300 Visit Website

Market by Jean Georges

100 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116 617 310 6790 Visit Website

Church

69 Kilmarnock Street, Boston, MA 02215 617 236 7600 Visit Website

The Regal Beagle

308 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446 617 739 5151 Visit Website

Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar

1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445 617 264 8900 Visit Website

UpStairs on the Square

91 Winthrop Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 617 864 1933 Visit Website

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