I was so happy to do another dineoutwith.us dinner last week, this time at L’Espalier, a wonderful French restaurant – you really have to call it an institution – in the Back Bay. We enjoyed an amazing 8-course tasting menu prepared especially for our group by award-winning chef and owner Frank McClelland and his incredible team of food artisans.
I’ve visited L’Espalier a few times, and I’ve always had such an incredible experience — they have a beautiful space, excellent food, and unparalleled service — the most kind, smart, and wonderful staff I’ve ever encountered. I always recommend L’Espalier to my friends who are looking for a great restaurant to celebrate a special occasion, or even just a phenomenal place to treat themselves.
Anyway, I was so happy to go back to L’Espalier last week with some friends. We booked our dinner through dineoutwith.us, a service that sets up dinner parties at restaurants in the Boston-area. What I love about dineoutwith.us is that it addresses all of the key challenges with arranging group dinners. First, it can be hard to even find a restaurant that can accommodate a large group, and dineoutwith.us already has a portfolio of restaurants that are ready to host you.
Another issue with group dining is arranging for everyone’s allergies and dietary aversions, and dineoutwith.us gathers all of this information beforehand and works with the restaurants to assure that these issues are addressed before your meal.
Another challenge can be awkwardly dealing with payment at the end of the night. Fortunately, with dineoutwith.us the payment for your group dinner, including gratuity, is all handled beforehand — something I find is a huge motivator in not having any guests drop out last minute.
With all of these challenges out of the way, it’s easy to have fun and relax. That’s what I did last week with my friends at L’Espalier, where we enjoyed the most wonderful 8-course dinner with exquisite wine pairings.
We started the evening with some fresh bread, a spread of amuse bouche, and some roasted oysters. To me, a perfect way to get the culinary adventure started!
Then, a dish of rosé poached Maine lobster with fennel, cashew butter, yuzu, espelette pepper and yogurt.
The third course was a decadent foie gras Royale with banana custard, parsnip muffin, malted barley, and coffee.
For the fourth (fish) course, roasted black bass with maitake, bresaola, black trumpet purée, sweet potato, and kale.
Before the next course, we enjoyed a beautiful little palate cleanser (it reminded me of a mini terrarium!), and an appearance from Chef Frank McClelland to check in on everything. I always find that it’s a wonderful personal touch when chefs make a visit to their guests, and I was especially excited to meet Chef McClelland, whom I’ve admired for so long. He spent a few moments welcoming us, and warning us that we had a long way to go…and was he ever right!
For the next course, we each had a choice of goose pâté or roasted beet risotto with black Périgord truffle. My friends all chose the pate, but I went with the risotto. I was so glad I had made that choice – our amazing waiter came out and shaved luscious, thick slices of truffle over the risotto! Needless to say, it was one of my favorite courses of the night. While everyone who went with the pâté also loved their dish, I have to say — they were pretty jealous of my truffles.
Next, for our main dishes, we had a choice of a roasted lamb loin, or roasted beef ribeye. I chose the beef, and loved it — although my friends who went with the lamb had no regrets either.
For our seventh course, a wonderful selection from L’Espalier’s world-class cheese cart. Since I visited for the first time a few years ago, I’ve been raving about the excellent cheese plates they put together, and tonight was no exception. They even had a few cheeses from my favorite spot, Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. Excellent!
The final course was a deeply decadent dessert of Chocolate mousse with an almond and Meyer lemon cake, cocoa crumble and vanilla ice cream. It was a sweet way to end an evening that nobody wanted to end!
I’m sure you can tell by the photos that to say we enjoyed ourselves is an understatement. It was a night of great food, great conversation, and lots of laughs — almost like a mini vacation in the middle of the work week, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Check out L’Espalier’s full menu here, and explore dineoutwith.us here. You can also read about my previous dineoutwith.us experience at La Brasa in Somerville here. I'm also teaming up with dineoutwith.us and L'Espalier to give away two $100 gift cards to L'Espalier. Check out more details on my latest Instagram post here.
And finally, thanks to the incredibly talented, Michael Malyszko for capturing the evening (his photos have a watermark on them in the corner). You can check out more of his impressive work here.
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