Arrows chefs go Big in Boston

MC food

Outside, a cold night with parking valets shuffling to stay warm. Inside great warmth flowed through M.C. Spiedo at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.

Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, the duo that woke up Maine cuisine with Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit 25 years ago, is doing the same for Boston’s Seaport. Their bold new restaurant, which opened Thursday night, is not farm-to-table, but past-to-present.

“It’s totally out of our comfort zone. We never thought we would do an Italian renaissance restaurant,” said Frasier as Boston’s food media descended to wish him well.

MC pork spit

Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier

That means a salad that Leonardo Da Vinci dreamed up — lettuce, garlic, fennel and light vinaigrette — called Leonard’s Notebook replaces goat cheese and beets, hopefully forever.

The James Beard-winning chefs have been working on dishes like lasagna from the Borgia table and a Tortelini and Meat Torta, “from the banquets of Cosimo di Medici Grande,” for 10 years. Served occasionally at Arrows’ historical dinners, at M.C. Spiedo they take center stage.

MC trio

“After 25 years we thought we want to do more things like this,” said Fraiser, who announced last fall that Arrows is for sale. “Twenty five years is a long time. It’s been a great run, but it’s good to go out while you are still alive.”

Alive and pushing the boundaries once again. At the lavish opening, where bowls of fresh pasta, Arrows’ house-cured prosciutto, polenta fries in farmer’s ketchup, and trays of absurdly fresh cow’s cheese were devoured between glasses of prosecco, they told the crowd: “We are the carpet baggers from Maine.”

polenta

polenta fries in farmer’s ketchup

If that’s the case, these newcomers, who also run M.C. Perkins in Ogunquit, were hardly sent packing. Scores of Brahmins, New Yorkers and Maine summer people welcomed Mark and Clark with open arms and wide gullets.

With immense, high ceilings, iconic renaissance images reflected on giant light shades overhead, there is nothing subtle about M.C. Spiedo.

 

MC decore

“This is much more happening and cooler than Arrows, which was an 1840s farm house,” said Nick VanAlstine, a New Yorker who frequents the seaside village in Southern Maine. “I think they will do well.”

To Gaier, opening a-chef-driven restaurant in Boston’s burgeoning Seaport District with an open kitchen, pig roasting on a spit, pasta made daily and a rolling market cart filled with jars of marinated lima bean salad is “the most exiting thing we’ve ever done.”
It will be exciting to watch these Maine talents adapt to Boston’s more demanding diner. But from the updraft Thursday night, their second (or  fourth?) act arrives right on time.
Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.