Taste of Travel: The crust of Cape Cod
Great food finds can occur in the most unlikely places, and that’s exactly what happened during a recent overnight stay in Cape Cod — more specifically, Hyannis, Mass. Driving in from Boston after Labor Day weekend, traffic is light on a Saturday afternoon, and we arrived just in time for a seafood craving. Something fishy lured me and my husband into a local pub for a quick lobster roll and appetizer of lobster mac ‘n’ cheese to tide us over until dinner. Alas, this was not our great food find.
Cape Cod isn’t a new destination for either of us, so we didn’t plan on doing much of anything other than having dinner out. We checked in for a one-night stay at the Anchor-In, a motel sufficient for an overnight stay along the harbor. The view from our harborside room revealed a boat rental shop to which we contemplated motoring around the ocean, but it was a bit too breezy for comfort, so we chose a leisurely stroll instead, hoping to gain our appetites for dinner.
And, oh, what a dinner we had. In fact, Pain D’Avignon was indeed our great Massachusetts food find of the summer.
Tucked in an industrial area on Hinckley Road for the past 20 years, this 60,000 square foot facility has been busy building a business of baking breads, pastries and bagels for distribution to restaurants, gourmet shops and grocery stores. Four years ago, however, a decision was made to include the public. Pain D'Avignon opened Café Boulangerie (French bakery), offering freshly baked baguettes and almond croissants, Greek olive oil, as well as offering brunch — bistro-style — serving French menu items such as Croque Monsieur and Madame (with egg), best enjoyed with a cup of cappuccino and a chocolate croissant for dessert.
As we sat and enjoyed our culinary selections, we watched in amazement as the crowds poured in, hovering about the pastry counter to order brunch items for now and later. Families, couples and friends would enjoy time spent out of the fish-centric eateries of Cape Cod, and leave with a French impression, as well as a large brown paper bag filled with breads, crackers and pastries to bring home.
If the pastry shop weren’t enough, the French bistro and red bar in a design of basic red, chrome and black accents, with black framed photographs of bakery-in-production images, certainly filled the bill quite well. The red bar is where you may enjoy an aperitif of wine served in a glass without the stem (Italian-style), while feasting your eyes on some old western films running on two televisions lodged in corners from the ceilings. While watching "A Big Hand for the Little Lady," I enjoyed a glass of 2011 "Whispering Angel," - Caves d’Esclans, C’tes de Provence before heading to the dining room where Chef Rebecca Arnold, a mere 27 years old, has whipped up quite the culinary gifts utilizing local producers for meat and produce, such as Cape Cod Organic Farm. The menu includes entrees of pan seared foie gras over brioche ($17), grilled octopus ($14) and beef tartar ($15), with specials such as an incredible Parmesan flatbread brushed with olive oil and topped with tiny garlic blossoms that burst with intense flavor, and a signature boeuf stroganoff ($27) served with house-made pappardelle pasta and mushrooms.
The growth of this mega-bread winning bakery/boulangerie/bistro has been featured on Chronicle, TV Diner and Phantom Gourmet, and its success continues in its rise through Boston (Pain D’Avignon is the bread served at Four Seasons) and its North Shore.
A sheer curtain in front of a walled window reveals the bakery-in-motion to any patron sitting in the bistro. You can’t help but to peek in to see the workers loafing around. And you won’t be able to resist coming back for more. In the meantime, you can enjoy a taste of Pain D’Avignon at home, with recipes for beef stroganoff and flatbread pizza (sans the dough recipe, as this is proprietary).
- courtesy of Pain D’Avignon
1 quart Braised Beef Short Rib (recipe follows)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups maitake mushrooms
1 lb. fresh pappardelle pasta
1 cup veal stock or short rib braising liquid
1 cup crème fraiche
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, seasoning with salt until it tastes salty. Add a teaspoon of olive oil in the boiling water.
In a large sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add red onions and maitake mushrooms and sauté until cooked through, 2-4 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Add veal stock, crème fraiche and shredded short ribs to the pan, and cook over medium heat, simmering and reducing until the sauce coats the bottom of a spoon, approximately 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water, (2-3 minutes for fresh) and strain. Add pasta directly into your stroganoff base, toss and serve immediately.
Garnish with a touch of fresh parsley for color and flavor!
Braised Beef Short Ribs
5 lbs. beef short ribs
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, leaves removed, chopped
1 cup red wine
2 cups veal stock
Salt and pepper
Canola or grape seed oil for searing
Puree the carrot onion and celery in a food processor until you have a paste. Set aside.
Heat the Dutch oven (or cast iron pot) over high heat, coating the bottom with a shallow layer of canola or grape seed oil.
Season the short ribs on each side generously with salt and pepper. Sear ribs in the Dutch oven until nicely golden brown on all sides.
Add red wine, mirepoix puree and veal stock to the Dutch oven.
Cover and braise in a 350-degree oven about 4 hours, or until fork tender.
Once the ribs are tender, remove from the liquid and cool until easily handled. Remove any excess fat and discard. Shred the short ribs into bite sized pieces, discarding any bone or fat along the way.
Meanwhile strain the braising liquid and bring to a simmer, skimming the fat off the top. Season and add the shredded ribs back into the juice.
Garlic Flower and Parmesan Flatbread
Pain d’Avignon uses its own white French dough for these flatbreads. The secret to acquiring the super thin dough lies in the pastry room, with the sheeter used to make croissants. They roll the pizza dough out on the sheeter to get it nice and thin, and then stretch it further by hand before grilling it. Once grilled, the pizza is brushed with roasted garlic oil and sprinkled with Parmesan and chives. To melt the cheese, use a broiler, and then top the flatbread with local garlic flowers.
Charlene Peters is editor of special features at GateHouse Media New England. She can be reached at email@example.com.