North Cambridge award winner the Table at Season to Taste, an intimate tasting-menu-focused restaurant with Top Chef alum Carl Dooley at the helm, is closing permanently after a little over four years, Dooley announced via an Instagram post.
“Well, we had an awesome run!” he wrote. “After 4+ years, 2 softball championships and countless memories, our little restaurant is permanently closing. I want to thank owner [Robert Harris] for believing in me and giving us a platform to be awesome. We crushed it! I am indebted to our team both past and present. Your dedication and enthusiasm created a culture of excellence, respect and positivity. I am so proud of what we built together. We have been so fortunate to have hosted an amazing group of guests. Thank you so much for supporting us, and sharing special moments both big and small. I look forward to cooking for you again someday.”
A newsletter signed by “the team” sent on May 8 read, in part:
Very sadly, we are here to tell you that The Table at Season to Taste has closed. For the rest of the letter, we are not going to focus on the why, but on the who and what ... We just want to take this time to personally thank all of you. Because of you, our lives were infinitely better than they should have been. If any of you has ever worked in a restaurant before, then you know how rare it was to be part of a team that genuinely, and in the truest sense of the term, cared. Cared about how your family was or about your most recent vacation. Cared about your feedback on weird ass wines or different food experiments. Cared about, well, you. ... We were so blown away when we realized that the work we put in was being understood, appreciated, and loved. We couldn’t have been happier celebrating birthdays and anniversaries with you, last dates before giving birth and first dates after, Black Sea dinners or just an ordinary Wednesday night.
At the start of 2016, Dooley, a Top Chef alum, opened the Table with Harris, turning part of Harris’ Season to Taste catering space into a 20-seat restaurant centered around four-course meals and featuring an open kitchen. The cozy but special-occasion-appropriate restaurant quickly garnered critical acclaim for Dooley’s high-end techniques and focus on seasonal ingredients. For most of the restaurant’s lifespan, it was included on the Eater Boston 38, a collection of the Boston area’s 38 “essential” restaurants, and Dooley was awarded Eater Boston’s 2016 chef of the year award, both by editorial choice and a reader vote.
The Table’s menu on opening night included dishes like house-made garganelli with mussels, roasted broccoli, and Calabrian chile; roasted local hake with butternut squash curry, carrot pickle, and almonds; and citrus pavlova with grapefruit campari sorbet, graham crumble, and lemon curd. The desserts by pastry chef Mary Edinger, an alum of Craigie on Main and No. 9 Park, were another highlight of the little restaurant that could. (Dooley, too, is a Craigie alum.)
While the Table at Season to Taste is bidding Cambridge farewell, Harris’ catering company, Season to Taste, is continuing on, currently in the form of individual meal delivery and takeout rather than event catering. The newly created takeout/delivery service is operating under the name Season to Go and offers dinner Tuesday through Saturday for pickup in Cambridge or delivery via Grubhub and DoorDash. Season to Taste’s catering activities are suspended for the time being.
“As we try to navigate a new normal for restaurants and all food businesses in the midst of a global pandemic, as business owners we are left to make very difficult decisions,” said Harris via press release on May 8. “In a matter of hours both my award winning catering business and restaurant were decimated. As we work to restructure and rethink what catering will look like in the year to come, we quickly gave launch to Season to Go, our new takeout and delivery brand. Sadly and after much consideration beyond the loss of Season to Taste Catering we had to shut the doors of The Table at Season to Taste as well. With no business coming into either venue this is the sad and harsh reality I and the teams I employ all had to face. As we plan for the next stages we will be restructuring our catering business and growing our new concepts that are more in line with what the dining public is seeking in terms of pricing.”
The current pandemic is having a devastating effect on the restaurant industry locally and worldwide. Some restaurants have pivoted to takeout and delivery while forced to remain closed to dine-in customers for the past two months, but that’s barely enough to get by for most businesses and not at all viable for others. While Gov. Charlie Baker’s latest timeline gave the possibility of a May 18 reopening, most industry workers think that’s overly optimistic and unsafe; summer may be here before the restaurant phase of the yet-to-be-announced, multi-step reopening process actually comes around.
Despite the mountain of challenges facing restaurants, many have opted to close “indefinitely” or “until further notice” for now rather than definitively announcing a permanent closure, instead waiting to see how various relief efforts and legislature pan out. The Table is one of only a small group to publicly say goodbye at this juncture. Last week, decades-old Allston music venue Great Scott did the same.
The closure of the Table will leave a gap in the Boston area’s shrinking fine-dining scene — a scene that may be particularly hard hit by the current crisis given the more difficult pivot to takeout and delivery. Here’s hoping Dooley, Edinger, and the rest of the close-knit team are able to find a new home for their talents soon.
Update, 11 a.m.: This piece has been updated to include text from a newsletter sent by the restaurant and additional details announced in a press release, including a quote from owner Robert Harris.