Park. Strong-walled and the very foundation of a multi-story parking garage in the heart of Harvard Square. Nestled firmly at sub ground level with little room for natural light, yet the atmosphere is warm with spots of illumination smartly placed throughout the venue. Dark wood covers the ceiling in one room and illuminated curved bricks on the other side where light beams shine against each scallop creating an engineered spotlight.
The traditional romantic charm is sure to inspire any writer or scholar fan where chalk boards line the walls, familiar living room furniture set the focus of the room, and stacks of books and vintage items decorate shelves. It’s a time-honored place with well adored charm that’s a bit of an old school style.
I do remember visiting here on a cold spring day, seated in cozy red L-shaped booth that are situated on a seam between the bar and casual, yet slightly upscale, dining room. I lean back and let the soft leather hug my shoulders as I observe the interface between the late night diners and bar hoppers. Meat pies and glasses of classic drinks float to a variety of patrons; older couples, the obvious tourists, college students, and fellow 30-something year old broads.
Amidst the classic and masculine atmosphere of Park, I felt that a vintage-type drink would be the perfect fit for me. I wanted something a bit rugged with a smooth finish. So, I order the Brooklyn. We also order the award-winning patty melt which, the bait for our visit. When the famous Park Patty Melt arrived at the table, I’m gaped at the oozing cheeses bathed over juicy meat patties hugged with rye bread slices. Each bite was sinfully delicious and I enjoyed every one. Here I am with a classic drink and cheesy sandwich as the worst Paleo role model.
“It’s not Paleo, Fondue.” A thought constantly ringing in my head.
That day especially. I contemplate my blog, “Paleo Fondue” and wondered if I could continue its upkeep. I felt uninspired, worn, with a veil of fear on whether this was just a common blogstacle or a permanent literary drought. I feared if Paleo Fondue had run its course.
Paleo Late Night
Inspiration can stem from anywhere. Some instances, people or even places can ignite it. I didn’t know at the time, but Park lead to a series of ideas and motivating thoughts that exposed a harboring passion. I realized..the other half is “Fondue.” Fondue turns eating into an interactive event. It’s enjoyment, it’s culinary pleasure, sassy, and fun. F-U-N. The letters are there ;) Fondue.
I glance through the menu again out of plain curiosity, despite my tummy full of their amazing patty melt. As I study the contents of Park’s dinner menu, I am surprised to find that not one, two, but a considerable majority of the appies and entrees are Paleo friendly. And most choices can be easily modified to adjust for gluten and dairy food allergies.
Slow roasted brisket, stuffed veal, plancha salmon, local redfish, confit chicken. So many meat dishes and prepared with an accompaniment of root vegetables, Chermoula roasted eggplants, greens, braised peaches, and grilled watermelon.
And that was the spark for Paleo Late Night.
Stories about restaurants and venues that exemplify the traditional roots of dining and explore the many variances of meat and vegetables. But more importantly, praising chefs that honor the time tradition of “Farm to Table” dining, celebrating real food.
I return for a lady date, both of us are doing the Whole 30 challenge. At this point, I already knew that Park had substantial listing of food items that are Whole 30 approved. She studies the menu posted outside the doors and I hold my breath waiting for approval. She nods and smiles in acceptance, “This is good!” And we head inside.
I’m once again seated in the familiar red booth where my spark of inspiration ignited. But here I”m taking the bull by the horns. Or rather the veal. Vegetable stuffed veal with green beans. So unbelievably rich and flavorful, it’s amazing how subtle additions of herbs and spices can drastically amplify meats and veggies. The dish naturally is prepared grain free, boasting the unprocessed flavors from meat and vegetables as nature intended. I was more than satisfied to have this glorious meal, without breaking Paleo.
Since Park has so many options for what I’m looking for, a third visit was necessary, but even so, I’m still not complete with the menu. And once again seated at my favorite red couch. Must be fate.
Heirloom tomatoes are in season, and I couldn’t resist ordering it from the appetizers. It comes paired with a fluffy light cheese which is the primal focus in this dish. Of course, heirlooms are always excellent and refreshing on summer days, but when paired withlightly herbed ricotta, it holds the taste of a heaven kissed cloud.
The Salt and Pepper Shrimp is something hot. I informed our server that I am avoiding gluten and he offered to grill the shrimp for me instead of their usual flash in the fryer (to avoid cross contamination). I thought that was sweet, and it shows that Park really does have an attentive staff when concerted food allergies. The shrimp is tossed with picked jalapeño peppers, garlic, shallots, cilantro, and nestled over cabbage. It’s intense and fiery but balanced with the pickly jalapeño glaze.
One entree ordered was was the stuff local redfish. I was immediately attracted to “local.’ And “stuffed.” Skin left on, the deliciousness of it, and even a little tail for a cute flair. The fish is perfectly seasoned and citrused with slices of lemon for its stuffing with a bit of spice. Light, flaky, and cooked to perfection. The fish is accompanied with a chermola roasted eggplant and usually with bulgar wheat. I asked if I can have the dish without the wheat, which the server happily obliged and also took the time to discuss many other gluten free options.
But the star of the menu is the slow roasted brisket. This, this is everything I could ever want on my plate. A substantial piece of meat soaked with gingery BBQ spices, bursting and dripping with robust masculinity. Only a slow roasting process could infuse such flavors at this capacity. Hearty and assertive, this hunk of beef complements with the traditional warmth of Park.
As strong and thick as it was, the meat was so tender that each piece gently falls apart at the touch of my fork. Then melts into butter as it grazes my lips. The meat is not alone; it’s accompanied with a marsala braised peach. Naturally sweet with a sassy spike, its delicate touch softens the ruggedness of the brisket for impeccable harmony.
Park, with its extensive list of meaty dishes paired with sustainable produce amidst a warm inviting setting, is the prime spot for a Paleo late night at the seam of classic american dining and craft cocktails.
It lead me to you, Paleo Late Night.