A Hamburger Today
Jamaica Plain, MA: A Meat-Lover's Duo at Ten Tables
I hadn't been to the original Jamaica Plain location of Ten Tables in at least two years, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Without some advance planning, it's usually impossible to get a table—both because seating is obviously limited*, and because it's the best restaurant in the neighborhood. The pastas are homemade and exquisite. The raw materials—bluefish, olive oil, corn, butter, strawberries, whatever—are high-quality and always fresh. And the execution is always spot-on, particularly when it comes to preserved meat preparations like sausage and charcuterie.
Truth be told, it was the sausage appetizer ($11) I'd come back for. The flavor profile changes regularly, and this late-summer preparation featured a pork and paprika link with sautéed fennel, toasted green garlic chips, and crispy breadcrumbs. Nothing unusual about the combination of sausage and fennel, of course, but I couldn't help but think that this dish is a textbook example of why these two flavors are paired up so often. Pork that's rich and savory but not overtly salty up against tender, anise-y-sweet sautéed fennel. Perfect.
There were also some subtle tweaks to this preparation that made it stand out. For starters, the link was soaked overnight in orange juice—a pretreatment step that, according to the staff, tenderizes the casing. I can't comment on the effectiveness of this step, but given the delicacy and juiciness of the meat, I'd say it probably helped. The green garlic was also brilliant—even the burnt pieces. Usually burnt garlic tastes harsh and ashy, but not these slivers. They were cleaner, brighter, and sweeter than mature garlic, with the barest hint of bitterness.
The charcuterie plate ($13 for the smaller appetizer, $16 for the bar plate) is arguably chef/owner Krista Kranyak's signature dish, and has been since long before charcuterie became every chef's pet project. This particular selection was well-rounded and included country pork pate with cherries and rosemary, chicken liver pate, chorizo, duck prosciutto, and pork lomo, as well as a handful of traditional fixin's: grainy mustard, pickles, saba sauce, and a few slices of very well-toasted (read: slightly overdone) baguette. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, but there's something about the coarse-yet-light texture and milky sweetness of country pate that always grabs me. Add tangy-sweet cherries, pine-scented rosemary, and a slather of good mustard to the loaf and I'm sold.
* Last year, they expanded the space and added a bar area with a few tables. That makes "Ten Tables" a bit of a misnomer, but we're happy to ignore technicalities if it means we can grab a seat.