During college, there was a short-lived phase in which we ironed-on words onto tee-shirts and hoodies. My tank top legend read, “pleasing”, which was my favorite descriptor of the time. To me, this meant all that is tactile and wonderful in the world around us, simple beauty, exquisite textures, sounds, sights and thoughts. Like when Amelie plunges her hand into a basket of dried beans, but this came before. All around us there was art and people making music. I wanted a life comprised of only pleasing things, and for a time, when you could buy innocence for a mere thirty grand a year, I was lucky enough to have it.
When my mother found me at her ironing board, carefully lining up letters en and gee, she shouted/shrieked, with panic in her voice, all too familiar at the end of a trying adolescence together: “You like sex, and you’re good at it”, was the message she thought I wanted to convey. Naively, that hadn’t occurred to me. Really, it hadn’t. And this is one of the confusing and paradoxical aspects of parenting a twenty year old, I would imagine. I wasn’t thinking about sex at all when I decided to wear the word “pleasing” on my chest, even though I had sex, and she knew it. She must have seen red and reacted, as she often did, by lashing out irrationally. I found all this terribly amusing and went on to wear my “pleasing” shirt for many happy years. I didn’t care what anyone inferred; if you didn’t get it, you were dumb. I was such an idiot then.
When I stepped into Fore Street, I was filled with delight. A wood-burning oven burns in the open kitchen. Our copper-topped table afforded us a dramatic view of the the painted brick advertising for “W.L. Blake and Co. Mill and Industrial Supplies,” extant advertising aged into art. Everywhere, happy people were connecting over food and drink, bathed in warm light. The first word on Fore Street is “pleasing.” And by that, I mean they like sex, and they’re good at it.
Too often, really good restaurants present the idea of a meal, a delicious post-modernism, that slightly alienates the diner, even as she enjoys the play. There is nothing clever or ironic about the food at Fore Street. It is viscera and poetry, the thing itself. It’s an extraordinary place and every aspect of our experience there was sumptuous, with depth and breath and butter. The menu is so impressive. It mostly changes daily. I didn’t know where to begin. Because there are Appetizers; Chilled and Raw Sea Food; Wood Oven Roasted and Grilled Seafood; Wood Grilled and Pan Fried Meats; and Chilled Meats and Offal on one side, with roughly six choices under each of those headings for starters, and main course options include Pan Seared Sea Food; Wood Oven Roasted Sea Food; Wood Grilled Meats; Turnspit Roasted Meats; and Vegetables – each category had about four dishes.
Malcolm knew what he wanted immediately. His Exotic Mushroom and Bibb Lettuce Salad ($11) with pea tendrils, English peas, grilled ramps (ramps ran rampant on last night’s menu), bacon and basil buttermilk dressing was languid yet nubile like a Manet nude. Because the lettuce was so soft, mushrooms seemed meatier and the peas popped. I happily traded my Tagliatelle ($10) for a few bites of his sensual appetizer. And the pasta was totally badass. An elegant comfort bowl with a rather musky compte cheese, as well as wild spring ramps, white wine dairy cream, and breadcrumbs. Ideal hangover food, if you’ve been drinking champagne and dancing all night. There were at least seven other starters I would have loved to have tried, including a beet and rocket salad, razor clams, sweetbreads, and rabbit liver pate. So lovely and earthy and divine!
I vacillated between myriad amazing-sounding options for dinner, while Malcolm chose the chicken straight off. Not just any chicken, but Marinated Organic Chicken from Quebec (oh la!) ($23) with duck fat fried sourdough and chard. In his own words, the duck fat fried sourdough was what you hope to achieve when you sneak into the kitchen while the roast chicken is resting, and use crusty bread to sop up the congealing fat and smack down the pope’s nose when no one is watching. It was rich. And satisfying. And melty.
I settled on the Summer Flounder Filet ($27) with braised greens, hon shimeji, and ramp butter sauce. My only metaphor or comparison for the fish is that it’s whole milk of the phylum chordata. The edges were brown and crisp, and the rest was firm, white and wholesome, with greens and goodness all around. I loved the hon shimeji mushrooms, sylvan little creatures that seem like curative ancient friends. We shared the Butter Roasted Sun-Root Mash with Fresh Herbs ($6), which tasted like the woods. I liked these more than Malcolm. But we both devoured our dinners, the Standard Baking Co. bread and sweet butter on the table, and clean Ketel One drinks.
Our greatest regret was that we left no room for dessert. There were sweets and ports and assorted ice creams. Oh, but next time! Next time, I have to order wine and chocolate or cheese. And who knows what other mysteries await. A bunch of cherry blossom branches in the center of the restaurant bring sweet yin verdure into the woodsy space. I could not stop staring at the petals while I sipped my martini and tried to become one with the window panes and wooden beams. It’s light and dark, masculine and feminine, elegant, yet comfortable and easy. Our service was knowledgeable and polite. I think we chose safely and well, and on our next visit, I very much want to be more bold. Here is a place to try things you’ve never had before. Or revel in the best version of a dish you’ve had all your life. Fore Street feels like unadulterated pleasure, the experience of adulthood I always longed to have. It proffers respite from life’s harsher realities, a most pleasing place to dine well, when you can.