Fall Bites … at Valley Restaurants

Valley Advocate, October 6, 2015 by Emily Atkinson

With the chill of fall finally beginning to bite, it’s the perfect time to indulge in something more substantial than summer fare. Pumpkin, squash, apple, maple syrup, and any number of other fall delights await at restaurants throughout the Valley.

So, when you’ve had your fill of Pumpkin Spice™ and want to give some more interesting autumn treats a try, you’ve got to pay a visit to local chefs. Below is a sample of some of the seasonal fare at area restaurants:

Chez Albert, Amherst

At Chez Albert, fall is too big for one menu.

Chef Paul Hathaway is creating two seasonal menus, one for early fall and one for late fall. As the cold returns, Hathaway says fall represents a time to enjoy food, family, and friends, and to indulge in “red wine, spiced beers, and comfort food.”

Hathaway sees the harvest as a time to “reflect and rejoice” over the passing growing season while preparing to use its bounty through the fall and coming winter — a time to savor the last of the summer’s fresh vegetables and ripe tomatoes as beets, beans, and pumpkins take over. It’s also a bit nostalgic. In the fall Hathaway revisits old cookbooks and recipes and ponders how they will taste with seasonal produce. This season’s menu will include a restaurant staple — the beet salad — as well as a pan-seared cod filet with pumpkin curry, an apple-glazed grilled pork chop.

Hathaway’s favorite dish he’s cooking this season is the grilled calamari with white beans, rosemary, and lemon. He says the dish was inspired by tasty Rhode Island squid. Here’s how he does it:

Chez Albert’s Grilled Calamari

1 can of organic navy beans

½ cup of ground Mir Piox (an equal mix of carrots, celery, and yellow onion)

1½ cup of either chicken or fish broth

Zest of one lemon

¼ cup of organic sundried tomatoes

¼ cup of organic extra virgin olive oil

5 ounces of baby organic spinach

1½ pounds of calamari, cleaned

4 teaspoons of aioli

In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the mir piox 30 seconds later. While stirring the mir poix, open the can of navy beans pure into a colander and rinse under cold water. Once the mir poix has cooked for about 5 minutes add the beans and stock. Stir the beans and turn the heat to low. Add the rosemary and sundried tomatoes to the pan and allow them to cook for 5 minutes. On a hot grill, or grill pan, grill the squid. Cook the tentacles first and after a couple of minutes, add the bodies. It should only take about 3 minutes after placing the bodies on the grill to cook, but it will always depend on how hot your grill is.

On four plates divide the baby spinach, allow it to fall naturally. Then add the zest to the beans and distribute them equally over each plate of spinach. Place your grilled calamari over the beans on each plate and top with a small dollop of aioli. If you don’t have aioli, use half Dijon mustard and half mayonnaise.

Hope and Olive, Greenfield

The fall menu at Hope and Olive is almost set, and chef Maggie Zaccara credits “the flavors, colors, and textures of fall,” especially orange squashes, wild mushrooms, parsnips, and rutabagas, with inspiring her new seasonal dishes. As fall approaches, she finds herself spending more time in both the woods and the kitchen, seeking inspiration.

Brussels sprouts are popular among customers. So, using ingredients from the kitchen garden, Zaccara plans to introduce the vegetable fried in maple sugar and chili and served with a sriracha mayo. Another dish on the menu this fall is chicken crusted in wild rice, accompanied by sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, bacon hash, and apples. Zaccara, too, is inspired by the efforts of local farmers, who “keep things interesting” by cultivating new crops and expanding growing seasons.

Bistro les Gras, Northampton

Bistro les Gras has new fall drink and food menus inspired by the markets and farm stands around the Valley, says chef-owner Daniel Martinez. Favorite dishes include a delicata squash and endive salad with a maple vinaigrette, charred scallop crudo with bacon jam, pickled mushrooms, and chives, and a roast quail stuffed with date and pecan and served with turnips and oats. Chef Peter Bunce calls his cooking style “rustic and homey,” and often uses inspiration from dishes he creates for himself at home in his work. Because he loves cooking comfort food with a twist, fall is one of his favorite seasons, allowing him to use the squashes, turnips, sweet potatoes, and other produce from the “amazing” Pioneer Valley farmers. Drinks include a Hemingway Fizz, sumac and rosemary daiquiri, and English Heat, which includes chili and honey.

One of Bunce’s favorite dishes this season is braised chicken velouté, with root vegetables and butternut squash gnocchi. This dish, inspired by classic chicken and dumplings: “consists of chicken thighs braised in stock and aromatic vegetables. The braising liquid is then strained, thickened with roux and enriched with crème fraiche to make a velouté sauce (aka gravy). Next we pull the chicken off the bone and add it back to the sauce along with roasted root vegetables, some fresh herbs and our squash gnocchi (aka dumplings).”

The recipe, which serves 4, is as follows, straight from Bunce:

For the braise:

6 chicken thighs (bone in/skin on)

1 medium onion, cut in half

2 medium carrots, peeled

2 ribs of celery

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs of thyme

1 quart of chicken stock

Season the chicken liberally with kosher salt and pepper. In a deep-sided sauté pan — large enough to fit the chicken thighs in a single layer — sear the chicken, skin-side down, over medium-high heat until golden. Turn the chicken over, add the vegetables and cook a few more minutes until they begin to color. Add stock, bay leaf, and thyme and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender and starting to fall off the bone (about 1 hour). Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and set it aside. Rinse and dry your pan to use for the velouté.

For the velouté:

3 ounces butter

3 ounces flour

Strained braising liquid

2 ounces crème fraiche

1 lemon, juiced

Salt to taste

¼ cup chopped parsley

Pulled chicken meat

2 cups roasted root vegetables of your choice

In the same deep-sided sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, and whisk to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat while whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Add the strained braising liquid and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened. Add crème fraiche, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper, roasted root vegetables and the cooked chicken meat.

For the gnocchi:

2 pounds butternut squash (peeled and seeded)

3 large eggs

1½ cups flour

Olive oil


Cut the butternut squash into 2-inch cubes and toss with olive oil and salt. Place the butternut on a sheet pan and roast in a 400-degree oven until very tender (about 25-30 minutes). In a food processor, blend the squash, eggs, and salt until smooth. Add the flour and pulse until combined (be careful not to over mix, or your gnocchi will become gummy). Transfer this mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large straight tip. With a small paring knife, cut half-inch pieces as you pipe the mixture into a pot of salted simmering water. Cook the gnocchi for 4-5 minutes. Either serve immediately or transfer gnocchi to a sheet pan to cool. Gnocchi may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for several months. To reheat, drop the dumplings into boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until heated through and they float on top. Drain and add to chicken velouté, or another sauce of your choice.•