Last Tuesday night, some fellow Citysearch folk and I headed to Back Bay Social Club on Boylston Street for dinner. The restaurant is fairly new, having been open only a couple of months. The space evokes the feel of an old-fashioned dining establishment with high ceilings, dark wood, and mirrors adorning the walls. As per usual, I did not actually photograph the interior, but my dining mates got some excellent shots. The theme of the dinner was pork. Maybe not the ideal dinner theme for a non-meat eater. I would have been perfectly content to eat around the meat and enjoy the non-meat courses, but the staff went out of their way to provide a non-meat dish for each course. I was impressed and appreciative to say the least.
My first course of the evening was a salad of roasted slices of acorn squash on a bed of frisee with Manchego, toasted pumpkin seeds, and maple dressing. It was a very satisfying combination of flavors and textures. The tanginess of the dressing complemented the creamy, starchy squash, the seeds and frisee adding a nice crunch to the dish. Acorn squash is not usually my preferred variety of squash, but it was cooked and seasoned perfectly in this dish.
While I very happily enjoyed the salad, the rest of the table was devouring the Back Bay Social Club’s own version of pigs in a blanket: house garlic sausages, wrapped in soft pretzel and ale mustard for dipping.
At this point in the meal, our server brought us half portions of the White Russian. I have never ordered a White Russian, as liquor and milk does not appeal to me very much, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. The coffee helps to lessen the aggressiveness of the liquor with just a touch of sweetness.
The most whimsical dish in presentation was definitely the meat candy-slices of Boston smokehouse kielbasa, with a brown sugar sauce and chunks of pineapple. The sausage was drenched in sweet, syrupy sauce. I had a few of the pineapple chunks which were intensely juicy, covered in the sauce, and with a slight smokey flavor from the kielbasa.
The next dish was imported Irish Country Ham, with Pop’s pepper relish and arugula on slices of baguette.
I was thrilled to see our waitress bring over a dish of pumpkin ravioli. The pasta is made in house and is topped with roasted pumpkin, brown butter sauce and crispy fried sage. I ended up not being entirely thrilled with the dish though. I often find pumpkin or butternut squash pasta dishes to be so sweet that they verge on being dessert. This is one was not, but it was also lacking any other dominant flavor. Salt or something else to brighten the flavor would have been good. The pasta was also a touch too thick and not quite tender enough.
Photo courtesy of Katie Barszcz
The cheese board was comprised of a fairly diverse group of cheeses including a Great Hill blue, Capri goat cheese, cheddar, Mobier, and an aged pecorino. The cheeses were served with sliced baguette, arugula, tupelo honey, and a heavily spiced chutney. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to cheese. I don’t like anything very stinky or pungent, so the blue and the Morbier were not for me. But I loved the more inoffensive pecorino, cheddar and goat cheese. They were delicious, especially when paired with the honey.
I stayed far away from the head cheese which came atop a salad of baby arugula, smoked onions and a Massachusetts cider gastrique.
At this point in the evening, my camera decided to say an early goodnight, but luckily Katie was able to share her shots of the desserts. My absolute favorite dessert was the sticky toffee pudding. I have had sticky toffee pudding before, but only a few times. I always expect it to be gooier, since it has the words sticky and pudding in the name. Turns out it is not so gooey. Instead, it was a dark, hearty yet tender cake, soaked in a warm, sweet toffee sauce. The flavor of the sauce was perfect, the butter and sugar nicely browned but not burnt.
Not quite as excellent as the sticky toffee pudding but still quite nice was the caramel apple with cider reduction. Slices of apples wrapped in phyllo dough, butter and sugar, and baked. I often find that the crust on apple pie is too thick and overwhelms the apples. I much preferred the thin and crispy phyllo dough, which allowed the juicy apples to take center stage. The cider reduction tasted more like a simple caramel sauce than cider. I actually preferred the apple pastry on its own, without the sauce.
I loved the presentation of the chocolate ganache cake with peanut butter and jelly. I knew though, that I probably was not going to like it. I love chocolate peanut butter cups, and chocolate peanut butter cookies. But for some reason, I do not like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter in cakes. Something about a soft, rich chocolate cake with the addition of thick, heavy peanut butter ends up being too cloying. In this specific instance, the chocolate cake itself was delicious, nicely moist and chocolatey. But when you tasted it with the sauces, the peanut butter completely overpowered the cake, and its lovely flavor and texture got lost.
Last week’s dinner was my first time sampling beignets, which were served with a chocolate fudge sauce. If I ever visit New Orleans, I will probably give them another shot, although I’m fairly certain that I do not like beignets. You see, I like doughnuts, but I do not like fried dough, as in, the kind you get on a paper plate at a carnival. I was hoping beignets would tend more towards a doughnut, but alas, they resembled fried dough. They were nicely prepared, but now I know they are not a dessert for me.
I want to extend my gratitude to the staff at Back Bay Social Club for their warmth and hospitality. Our food was delicious and the restaurant itself exudes an an old-school charm. The staff went out of their way to accommodate us and made the entire experience thoroughly pleasant. If satisfying a non-meat eater at a pork-themed dinner does not scream accommodating to you, I don’t know what will.
Back Bay Social Club
867 Boylston Street