|Local Ingredients Shine at Bergamot|
|Features - Chefs and Restaurants|
|Written by Michelle Collins|
With some restaurants, it’s all about the food – the taste, presentation, cooking methods. But with other restaurants, it’s about more than just what’s served on plates. It’s about a staff that’s more like family than colleagues, an atmosphere that’s comforting and homey, and a relationship with local farmers and vendors that’s personal and understanding. That’s Bergamot.
Keith Pooler, Owner and Executive Chef at Bergamot in Somerville, is a Gloucester native who graduated at the top of his class at the Culinary Institute of America. His restaurant credentials include The Boston Harbor Hotel, Harvest and Scampo, to name a few. While serving as Executive Chef at Harvest, Pooler met Servio Garcia, who was working at Casa Blanca a few doors down. The two became close friends, sharing a passion for quality food and local, fresh products, and decided to open a restaurant together in 2010.
“I didn’t want to be cookie cutter,” Pooler said. “I didn’t want to be like every other restaurant.”
Due to the focus on local food, the menu at Bergamot changes at least one to two times per week, with a 3-course, prix fixe blackboard menu changing almost daily.
“I believe that there are a lot of positives to a constantly changing menu,” Pooler said. “It keeps the cooks inspired….It allows our guests to come in and taste something different.”
Taste something different – and incredibly delicious. Last week, this diner dabbled in Bergamot’s prix fixe menu for $39 (which is available every night until 7 p.m.), which, on this particular evening, included a Potato Cod Cake, Fettuccine Bolognese and Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake (left). My dining companion also ordered the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Soup ($11), made with a short rib fritter, watercrest and truffle oil, as well as the Pan-Roasted Cod ($25), with melted leeks, chanterelle mushrooms, scalloped Yukon gold potatoes, roasted vegetable fumet and bacon aioli. Our generous waiter even brought us a small sample of the Hand-Made Potato Gnocchi (normally $22), made with red kuri squash, portobellini mushrooms, braising greens and Parmesan.
Despite the progressive menu, Pooler uses very simple, clean flavors in his cooking. The pan-roasted cod, for instance, had a lot of interesting and fresh flavors on the plate, but the star of the show was the cod. The main flavor of the fish was – well, fresh fish, which wasn’t overpowered with seasonings or acid.
“I’m all about technique and detail,” Pooler said.
Pooler relies on 40 to 50 local vendors and farmers for his ever-changing menu. Snappy Lobster, for instance, provides the majority of the restaurant’s lobster, scallops and other seafood. Pooler says that most of the vendors he works with have been referred to him by other chefs and purveyors, and the variety of food in small batches that he receives from them allows for the freshest, most in-season ingredients to grace Bergamot’s menus.
“I refuse to have a big trailer pull up to the restaurant,” Pooler said.
After finishing the vast amount of dinner entrees that evening, my fellow diner and I decided to order dessert, in addition to my Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake. We opted for the Orchard Fruit ($9-pictured, right), which came with saffron-poached apple, coconut sherbet, gingerbread, dates and a port reduction. To ensure we ate enough, we also ordered the Semolina Pineapple Cake ($9), with Blue Hubbard Squash Ice Cream, pine nut praline, caramel and candied squash. As with the dinners, each dessert was incredibly, naturally flavorful. The pineapple cake, for example, tasted like fresh, juicy pineapple – it wasn’t even close to being overpowered with sugar, as some cakes can be. Because of the natural flavors the cake possessed, it meshed beautifully with the seasonal squash ice cream and what tasted like homemade caramel.
One new addition to Bergamot is their bar menu, which is a smaller offering of more pub-type food with smaller price tags. On the night I dined there, some of the bar menu offerings included the Bergamot Vegetarian Quesadilla ($7), Lobster Melt ($10) and a daily selection of artisanal cheese and accompaniments ($14).
In addition to the food, Pooler and Garcia take their staff seriously. The interview process – for anyone Pooler and Garcia don’t already know personally - is quite extensive, as Pooler and Garcia want the environment to be more like a family than just a place to work. Even a lot of thought goes into the atmosphere of the eatery – Pooler hired an interior decorator when Bergamot first opened to make the inside more “home-y” and inviting to diners.
“We value the importance of everything,” Pooler said. “We never want to be a flash-in-the-pan restaurant.”
With the attention to detail and quality in the food, staff and restaurant itself – it’s clear Bergamot’s not going anywhere anytime soon.