Written by Christine Fennelly
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Worden Hall co-owner Dylan Welsh as he prepared to open Southie’s newest culinary delight. The space is beautiful and inviting and worth your time. So I called his PR representative and asked if I might pop in on Thursday evening. They’d love to have me, she said, however they were booked solid.
Friday night Worden Hall served over 300 meals. The pace has been fast and furious and fabulous.
For saturday lunch, I was warmly welcomed by Manager Jeremy Smirnov and waiter extraordinaire Artur. Because I am a very easily pleased person, I brought along with me my two favorite neighborhood foodies and THE SINGLE MOST PICKY, PARTICULAR, PERSNICKETY 70-LB 9-YEAR OLD EATER IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE.
We ordered drinks – a few local and yummy brews for my friends and a nice sauvignon blanc for me. The drink menu is 12 pages long, with 4 pages devoted to brews and local brews. And let’s not forget the 40+ whiskeys available. But come on – it was Saturday at 1 pm and we can’t be that indulgent…..
We selected the crudite to start and let me tell you, this is not nana’s veggie platter. No celery sticks or broccoli crowns to be found. Rather, on a plate of mesclun mix we enjoyed dark cherry tomatoes, golden honey beets, carrots and pickled beets with an “avocado goddess” blend made from avocado, parsley, chives, cilantro and lemon juice. Um, delish.
Next we moved on to a shrimp salad and a corn salad. The sweet corn salad, vegan and gluten free, was prepared with smoked cippolini onions and scallions. The grilled shrimp and green papaya salad (also GF) was prepared with cucumbers, mango, Som Tom citronette, cashews and unagi sauce. My fellow foodie Michelle said “I hate corn, onions and anything smoked – and this dish was amazing. I’ve been converted.” And for what is it worth she is a born and bred Southie girl who cannot tell you what the heck a Som Tom citronette is.
Worden Hall’s Executive Chef is Tim McQuinn, an upstate New York transplant who now calls Southie home. Prior to Worden Hall, he was the Executive Sous Chef at The Merchant in Downtown Crossing. When I explained the peculiar culinary needs of my 9-year old, he cordially obliged. “I was the exact same way. Nothing could touch on my plate! Until, I started wrestling and had to watch my weight to meet the weight requirements. Then, at 14 I discovered the Food Network – when Emeril was just getting popular and he was, well, in better shape. I was fascinated by the colors and textures of the foods, and knew I would pursue a culinary education.”
Surprisingly, the three deep dish pizzas offered on the menu are a huge hit. Who woulda thunk it? McQuinn says they easily serve 30-40 pizzas a night – surprisingly to an east coast crowd that would normally eschew anything but the flattest of thinest crusts.
We rounded out our smorgasbord with the red lentil and chickpea falafel and the swordfish entree. Vegetarians, take note – the falafel was so flavorful and filling that you may be hard pressed to find a better veggie sandwich around. Topped with pickled cucumber and red onion as well as the famous avocado goddess, cilantro relish and naan, this “spuckie” is more than enough to fuel your afternoon. The swordfish, prepared with smoky eggplant puree, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and roasted cippolinis, was incredibly tender and just the perfect serving size.
Oh, and how did THE SINGLE MOST PICKY, PARTICULAR, PERSNICKETY 70-LB 9-YEAR OLD EATER IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE fare? Well, Chef McQuinn modified their generous two-patty loaded burger to be just a one patty cheeseburger WITH NOTHING ON IT MUM, OK? AND NOTHING TOUCHING ON MY PLATE! The curly fries were “um Mum, way better than Wendy’s!!” (That, Chef McQuinn is, as we say in Southie, a WICKED big compliment!)
We were treated with some extravagant desserts consisting of strawberry rhubarb ice cream between ginger brown butter cookies and a Victoria peach frangipane tart with mint semifredo and apricot coulis. Ya, I had to look up a few of those words, too.
But hey, go, try, explore and support a wonderful new addition to Southie’s exploding gastronomical hot spots.