Welcome to Chef Faves, an Eater Boston series where local chefs share their current favorite dishes, ingredients, and more. Here are David Punch and Lydia Reichert of Sycamore.
[Photo: Lydia Reichert (left) and David Punch/Katie Chudy]
What's your current favorite dish in Boston?
Dave: I'm going to have to go with the charcuterie dish at Bergamot. I think they do an incredible job throughout the whole restaurant. It's diverse and interesting — some cured stuff, pates, and sausages. Some of it is hot and some of it is cold, and I think it's some of the best charcuterie in Boston. It's always exciting to just go there and get a big plate.
Lydia: I went to Spoke recently and I had this razor clam dish that was a ceviche type of thing with nice bright chilies and garlic on there.
Dave: A close second for me is always the seafood tower at Eastern Standard. I had one a couple days ago; I was doing a classy pre-game before a Bruins game. I had a nice bottle of rosé and the seafood tower, just like everybody does before Bruins games, right? It's just so good; there's some ceviche, Island Creek Oysters, some littlenecks, half a lobster, and some giant shrimp with cocktail sauce. I mean, that's my food, dude.
What's your current favorite ingredient to use?
Lydia: Spring is starting, so green garlic. I love ramps as soon as they pop up.
Dave: I'm super psyched for fava beans; I love shucking favas, which is very strange. It's just calming and soothing. We just put them on the menu yesterday, and they are young and small and sweet.
Where's your favorite place to go for food inspiration?
Lydia: I go to Book Fair. I can spend hours in there. I always spend way too much time there every time I go. It's like, Damn, I had stuff to do today.
Dave: New York for me. I don't know why; I think it's just the energy. I was just there a couple weeks ago. It was my first real vacation since we opened, and I was there for six days. It was just inspiring to see current food trends and to see how hard those restaurants push themselves every day. It's just an incredible city, and the diversity of the restaurants is so great. I mean, I ate at a Basque restaurant. How many Basque restaurants does Boston have? I'm going to have to go with zero. You know what I mean? New York just has that population of people that can support restaurants like that. The quality and quantity of restaurants that they have there is just so staggering.
What is one of your favorite food memories?
Lydia: Both of mine are in Spain. There's this amazing restaurant that's out in the middle of nowhere. He grills and smokes everything, like caviar and oysters. It was just an amazing, fresh meal. I had this caviar that was ever so lightly smoked, and it was slightly warm and perfect.
The other one was in Barcelona. It's the brother of Cal Pep; it was a decent-sized restaurant, but you went into an apartment building to get there. You don't think there's a restaurant back there, and then they just sit you down and give you a bottle of cava and food, and then you just tell them when to stop. They just keep pouring you the cava, and they charge you by how much you drank. I liked their paella with black rice; it was just a really good meal.
Dave: One of the best food memories for me — it was a fine-dining one. I was in New York City with my (now) wife, and it was the first time we went away together. I was a young cook at Upstairs on the Square at the time, and we went into Cafe Boulud. It was the first time going to a super high-end restaurant together, and I was totally broke — like, probably didn't even have enough money in my bank account to cover the check — and we were terrified. I asked if we could do a tasting, and they were just so nice, and they immediately knew.
I just remember they sent over the sommelier, and he asked what we wanted. I told him that I just wanted a glass of wine that could go with the entire tasting menu. He just looked at me and was like, Okay, got it, kid. I also remember that I ordered a cosmopolitan when I first sat down. It was ridiculous. It just ended up being a small world, and we knew some of the same people. He just kept my wine glass full all night, even through dessert, and they gave us coffee and madeleines. They went bananas for us, and then we got the check, and it was $130 or $150 or something like that. My wife and I were just buzzing. When we were leaving, we saw some of chefs outside, and we talked with them. It was just an amazing experience, and at that time, that's what I needed.
What are your favorite dishes currently on the menu?
Dave: For me, certainly, it's this salmon dish that we just put on the menu. We're getting in this beautiful, organic Sea Whistle Irish salmon from Clean Fish, which is just an incredible company, and it's served with a really bright green and fresh herb and pistachio puree and a raw fava bean salsa on top and grilled trevisano and meyer lemon juice. It's just light, fresh, and healthy. It just screams spring to me, and it's really our first spring dish. It's exciting. Ha, spring is just the season of fabrication; that's what I call it. Everything is more work in the spring; you have to either peel or shuck everything. Like, we're getting in fresh garbanzo beans, and it's one bean per husk, and then double-peeling fava beans and English peas.
Lydia: Yes, and everything is green, so you blanch it and get one day out of it before it turns into that army green color. But I'd have to say that my favorite right now is the chitarra. It's a saffron chitarra with shrimp that is coming from Florida, and it's this nice, sweet shrimp with lobster sauce.
What is your favorite thing to cook at home in your (limited) spare time?
Dave: [Laughs.] Dial a Pizza? Nah, I usually try to cook healthy at home, because if I didn't, my wife would kill me. My wife and cardiologist usually team up on me. If I'm cooking at home, it's usually just fish with crushed potatoes, rice, veggies, and a salsa verde. I think that sounds more romantic than it usually is. It's really just simmering potatoes and crushing them with some olive oil. Usually I just bake the fish because I don't want to smoke up my whole house. I'm very lazy at home; I have those Whole Foods marinades. I mean, I give it all to the restaurant. My wife is coming in for dinner so I can make her dinner.
Lydia: I don't really cook much at home either, except in the summer when it's warm. In the winter, I'll make soup.
Dave: I do whole grill meals in the summer. We do dishes here all day long, so it gets increasingly more difficult to cook at home the further I get into my career. I used to cook all the time at home, but now I'm like, I can't properly sear this fish at home. I do one-pan wonders, or in the summertime, I use my grill. It's just salads and grilled vegetables and grilled fish with salsas on top. Salsas are great; you just chop it up and go.
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