Foodstuffs: Commonwealth sounds the alarm, while the party planning goes on for New Year’s
Commonwealth and Kendall’s fund
The Kendall Square Association used its email newsletter last week to highlight the failures of the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund, part of the American Rescue plan. Funds went to only about one-third of applicants, leaving stranded restaurants such as Kendall’s Commonwealth – and around 200,000 more. “It’s a really bad time right now,” Commonwealth owner Steve Postal told the hosts of Bloomberg’s “Baystate Business” radio show Dec. 8. “The help that was promised never came.”
Forty-four restaurants have shut down in Cambridge from pandemic-related challenges, Postal said, and pressures on the industry are only increasing. One way Commonwealth has been trying to pivot: An increased focus on providing food and reception spaces to weddings, an effort that has almost wholly taken over the restaurant’s social media. (Commonwealth closed Thursday and hopes to reopen Jan. 6. “We’re going to give it one big last push,” Postal said.)
The association is urging people to show support, including through its own Restaurant Relief Fund – as of Dec. 14, help from Alexandria Real Estate, Broad Institute, Facebook, Innovators for Purpose and Synlogic have pushed the fund to $32,000, some already distributed as restaurant gift cards to people found walking through the neighborhood. Most of the gift cards are meant to go to area employees.
The goal of the fund: $100,000 to support family-owned restaurants in Kendall Square.
New Year’s eating
Not to rush through Christmas, but if New Year’s is more your thing, restaurants are ready to serve. One caveat is that this year on Dec. 31, many places plan to put you out on the street before midnight so you can attend some theoretical First Night event.
- Chef Eric Cooper’s Forage, a neighborhood bistro of locally sourced foods, offers a four-course tasting menu for $95 (or $75 to-go) with omnivore, vegetarian or vegan and pescatarian options. The menu includes highlights of seafood or vegetable tarts and mains of delicata squash roasted over juniper, cider-braised pork shank or swordfish marinated with pink peppercorns and prickly ash. There’s an optional $20 cheese course, but you’ll likely want to save room for the unique dessert charcuterie that ends the night – chocolate salami, a sweet potato ricotta terrine, cured carrots, digestive cookies and candied mustard seeds with jams. Forage (5 Craigie Circle, West Cambridge)
- Michael Scelfo’s Harvard Square restaurants Alden & Harlow, The Longfellow Bar and Waypoint have New Year’s offerings of specialty cocktails and specials that include a tomahawk rib-eye, caviar chips and dip, Nantucket Bay scallop crudo and shaved wagyu flatbread.
- The party at Summer Shack is family-friendly “Around the World” style, with a balloon drop every hour to celebrate each New Year’s Eve as it happens globally. Jasper White’s restaurant will have its regular menu and a lobster-centric prix fixe addition. (Less family-friendly, perhaps, Summer Shack says its Boston location will be open for brunch on “National Hangover Day.”) Summer Shack (149 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Alewife)
- Bambara has live music from 6 to 10 p.m. from folk rock singer-songwriter Ryan LaPerle that the eatery says will add a “cool, melodic vibe” to New Year’s Eve foods such as crispy fried oysters with fennel and a miso remoulade; a petite filet with lobster, lobster sherry butter, Yukon mashed potatoes, haricot vert and crispy shallot; and a chocolate pot de crème with salted almonds and biscotti. Bambara Kitchen & Bar (25 Edwin H. Land Blvd., East Cambridge)
- Bar Enza has a truffle-centric five-course prix-fixed menu for $180 per person that includes mozzarella sticks with truffled dipping sauce; tuna crudo with caviar; a robiolina ravioli with black truffles; a chestnuts beef trio with carrots, shallots, sunchokes and roast truffle jus; and a white truffle trifle for dessert. Bar Enza (1 Bennett St., inside The Charles Hotel, Harvard Square)
- Clover has New Years Eve Box options that include fulls meals from $120 to $300 (for two to 10 people) with treats such as “fondue without the pot,” as well as smaller treats to take away: a $60 cheese board curated by Formaggio, $50 midnight dessert kit, one component of which packs in five piece box – a sub-box – of Petrova Chocolates, $45 midnight breakfast kit (among other treats, it has potato and pickled pepper tortilla Espanola to be warmed and scoop-and-bake Maine blueberry muffins) and $30 midnight cocktail kit. Order online.