A field day at Woods Hill Table in Concord – The Boston Globe

The smell of wood smoke gently scents the air around Woods Hill Table, as if ordered there by the Concord Historical Commission: All new restaurants must emit odors appropriate to and enhancing of the surroundings.

The restaurant is nothing if not suited to its environs. Owner Kristin Canty is a Concord native and the director/producer of “Farmageddon,” a documentary about government crackdowns on farmers producing raw milk and other such foods. (Raw milk, she says, helped one of her children overcome allergies and asthma.) She and her husband purchased a New Hampshire property, the Farm at Woods Hill, to supply Woods Hill Table with meat and dairy. The farm-to-table philosophy isn’t a talking point for the restaurant. It is the reason to have one at all.

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This is an area with plenty of small farms but few restaurants. The eggs and asparagus and corn commute into the city like everyone else. Any new opening is hotly awaited. The difficulty of securing a reservation at Woods Hill Table on a weekend night is a measure of just how well aimed it is.

The space was formerly West Concord Supermarket, and the exterior looks much the same, with a white sign protruding over a green-and-white striped awning. The letters that once spelled “West Concord” out front have been moved inside, where they adorn a weathered wood beam. There is a big stone fireplace, a generous bar, a kitchen fronted with glass panes and white tiles. Chairs are covered in leather and fabric with flour-sack stripes; walls are hung with photos of grazing animals and paintings of barns in sunlit fields. It is an appealing mix of rustic and sophisticated.

Likewise the menu. Executive chef Charlie Foster has worked at Ken Oringer’s Clio in Boston and Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar in New York, and has cooked his way around Europe (he was for a time personal chef for the Guinness family in Spain). Pastry chef Douglas Phillips was also at DBGB. Beverage director Kelly Coggins, who brought his enthusiasm to places like Bistro du Midi and Rialto, does the same here. (There’s less experience at the host stand and tableside, where some are clearly, gamely, learning on the job.)

24 Commonwealth Ave.,
Concord
978-369-6300.
http:http://www.woodshilltable.com

Local fields and waters provide the raw material for the dishes. Foster shapes them, using classic (sometimes ancient) techniques and elegant flavors.

Each meal begins with fermented chickpea hummus and excellent crackers. It may seem overkill, after, to get the baked-to-order epi baguette, shaped like a wheat stalk. But this earthy, whole-grain bread is so good, served with whipped butter and a spread of pork fat.

Fluke is turned into ceviche, its mild flavor punched up with the golden Peruvian chile aji amarillo and cilantro. Puffed wild rice lends airy crunch (popcorn is a common ceviche garnish).

Puffed quinoa performs a similar role for roasted beets, served with earthy tahini and sumac-spiced pine nuts, sorrel providing tart contrast. The delicate flavor of spring parsnips is highlighted in a lovely soup, with accents of hazelnut, preserved lemon, and mustard greens.

MAY 06, 2015 - CONCORD- MA- ining Out review of Woods Hill Table in Concord. , roasted beets. (globe staff photo :Joanne Rathe reporter: devra first section: food : topic:13dinpic)

Joanne Rathe/globe staff

Roasted beets with tahini and pine nuts.

Grains are used to great effect again in buckwheat risotto, like a very non-kosher kasha, made with crab, lobster, butternut squash, and chorizo vinaigrette. Ricotta gnocchi are light dumplings that serve as a vehicle for maitake mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and pecorino.

If farm-to-table is the religion at Woods Hill Table, pork from the Farm at Woods Hill is its vessel. Appetizers will make one a true believer. The kitchen aims to use every part of the animal, and the menu is a tour of the whole pig. It becomes rillettes, the rustic pate served with pickles, mustard, and crackers. It is braised into meat sauce spiced with chile threads and tossed with spaghetti. Pork belly confit — all crisp skin and lush fat — gets bathed in prosciutto consomme alongside poached oysters and bok choy.

But the main courses, pork and otherwise, aren’t as strong as the starters. Chops are glazed in sassafras, served with pickled pearl onions, roasted carrots, tiny turnips, and asparagus, spring on a plate. But the meat is fatty and slightly tough. Sausages made from the belly and mushrooms, on the other hand, are gorgeously tender and light, curled atop a potato cake alongside terrific, tangy sauerkraut and mustard. The spicing in the sausages is too intense, overwhelming some of the dish’s virtues.

MAY 06, 2015 - CONCORD- MA- Dining Out review of Woods Hill Table in Concord. confit pork belly. (globe staff photo :Joanne Rathe reporter: devra first section: food : topic:13dinpic)

Joanne Rathe/globe staff

Confit pork belly with poached oysters and bok choy.

The beef used here is also from the farm. It appears as steak frites, made with whatever cut is currently available, until the kitchen runs out. It is served alongside watercress salad with tallow fries, thicker but with the crispness and flavor of classic McDonald’s. They are great. The meat is nicely cooked. But, oddly, it lacks the flavor of most grass-fed beef. (Sorry, cow, no offense. The nose-to-tail nature of the restaurant makes one extra aware when speaking ill of the dead.) The same goes for the WHT burger — hello, gorgeous — better looking than it is tasting. There is a distracting sweetness to the tomato preserves on its challah bun.

The farm’s chickens get the wood-grilled treatment. Perhaps because meat is dear, it is served as a few awkwardly sliced slivers, rather than the impressive whole pieces we are accustomed to seeing. This may be more realistic — chicken is not the commodity we often treat it as — but it also feels paltry. It is the exception at Woods Hill Table, where presentation is a strength.

MAY 06, 2015 - CONCORD- MA- Dining Out review of Woods Hill Table in Concord, today's cut of beef with tallow fries. (globe staff photo :Joanne Rathe reporter: devra first section: food : topic:13dinpic)

Joanne Rathe/globe staff

Beef with tallow fries.

Fish fares better, such as moist lemon sole crusted in buckwheat, with potatoes and house-made bottarga. A vegetarian dish of salt-baked celery root with wild rice, curried yogurt, and cranberries is well-meaning, but it tastes surprisingly plain.

The meal regains its footing with dessert: a perfect little lemon tart with meringue and mint ice cream, a finger of flourless chocolate cake with toasted milk ice cream. Cream cheese mousse is wrapped around a rhubarb center, like an elegant Twinkie. It comes with a scoop of lemon sorbet over crisp almond praline, scattered with slices of red rhubarb that look just like rose petals.

Coggins’s wine list is filled with intriguing selections, marked sustainable, organic, or biodynamic in practice, or certified organic or biodynamic. He offers a brief, poetic description for each. Much of the beer is local, and there is kombucha on tap. Cocktails also further the restaurant’s aesthetic, incorporating preserved apple syrup, beet shrub, rhubarb bitters, and the like. With bottled cocktails and cocktails on draft, the bar program is on par with many in the city.

And Woods Hill Table would surely be a hit in Boston. Lucky for Concord, it’s local.

MAY 06, 2015 - CONCORD- MA- Dining Out review of Woods Hill Table in Concord. the rhubarb and cream dessert. (globe staff photo :Joanne Rathe reporter: devra first section: food : topic:13dinpic)

Joanne Rathe/globe staff

Cream cheese mousse with rhubarb center.

Extraordinary Excellent | Good

Fair | (No stars) Poor

More coverage:

– Dining out reviews

Devra First can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.

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