here may be no place like home for the holidays, but
your restaurant might be where locals and those far
from home choose to gather during fall and winter
festivities. And although it’s the season of culinary traditions,
chefs often put their own spin on the plate.
Dave Becker, chef/owner of Sweet Basil in Needham,
Massachusetts, gives tradition its due, but says, “I don’t like to
compete with nostalgia, so we’ll make whatever it is with some
other ingredients, so people can say, ‘Oh, that’s different from
the traditional—but nice.’”
At Juniper in Wellesley, Massachusetts, opened by Becker
two years ago, a pecan pie baklava with flaky phyllo dough and
pecan pie filling is served with cinnamon bourbon ice cream, a
Middle Eastern-inspired dessert created by executive chef Tim
Fichera. Of the cinnamon bourbon ice cream, Becker says, “We
were trying to incorporate cinnamon with savory dishes—it’s a
traditional combo in Southern cooking.”
Fichera also gets credit for Juniper’s date cake, a toffee pudding
chock-full of chopped dates with salted caramel sauce and carda-
mom whipped cream. “Instead of regular whipped cream, it’s a
little bit perfumey—almost like an herbal tea,” Becker says.
Traditional pumpkin pie is swapped out for North African
Yam Cheesecake. Large yams are roasted, peeled and pureed, then
folded in with cream cheese, cinnamon and cardamom, along with
ground fennel seeds as the garnish, almost like an anise cookie.
Woods Hill Table, West Concord, Massachusetts, purchases
produce at the peak of freshness. The 265-acre Farm at Woods
Hill is the source of much of the food served in the restaurant,
including a wide variety of grass-fed protein as well as pesticide-free fruits.
“In the fall, with wild apples from our farm, we’ll make
apple butter cake,” says executive pastry chef Douglas Phillips.
“It includes a layer of brown butter chiffon on the bottom, then
a layer of jellied apple butter with a layer of cinnamon/apple
mascarpone cream.” It’s garnished with candied apple and served
with cinnamon ice cream.
Phillips also menus an apple frangipane tart, with the apple
sable crust the base for the almond cream filling and spiraled
layers of thinly sliced Granny Smith apples lightly brushed with
melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. It’s covered
with foil and baked for about 15 minutes at 350ºF, then the foil is
removed and the tart baked an additional 10 minutes until the top
BY KAREN WEISBERG
CloCKwise From above: 1) swift & sons’ chocolate trolley. 2) apple tart
at woods hill Table. 3) Juniper’s pecan bourbon baklava. 4) bourbon caramel
apple tart at apple Pie bakery Café.