Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Now Batting: Ted Williams at Tapastre

Anyone over the age of thirty knows that Ted Williams was arguably baseball's greatest hitter. The Red Sox hired him as their hitting coach after he retired, which would seem a smart move. Except Ted had some difficulty in translating his considerable prowess into others. Because his hitting came so naturally, he couldn't understand why others couldn't duplicate it.

So it would seem with 29-year-old Michael Proske of Tapastre in Somerville. He has an exceptional talent for recognizing great beer, and his tapas-type bar has a winning draft lineup. Along with his Head Chef Victor Sguera, they also have a thing going that all beer and food lovers should know about.

Since 2006, Tapastre is located downstairs in an architecturally gorgeous building that dates back to 1840. It's a welcoming, comfortable, clean and upscale pub with a twist on food. Tapas-style dictates smaller portions with big flavors that are often meant to be shared. So Michael put together a tapas-style beer dinner--his fourth, actually--and I was invited to attend his most recent.

Michael, Victor and Carlos

Following the "less is more" principle which seems to be trending, Proske and Sguera hit this one out of the park, in my humble opinion. Five tapas-style courses were accompanied by Proske's hand-picked beers--all available on tap--and every pairing was not only on target, it fulfilled precisely what a truly great pairing is supposed to do. One item not only complements the other, but actually enhances the flavors of the other. And astonishingly EVERY pairing did that. You can view those pairings here.

Proske opts for a laid-back beer dinner style, going from table to table to personally explain the pairings and answer any questions his customers may have about either beer or food. On this particular day, there were two seatings: one for 6:30 and one for 8:30, each hosting approximately 20 patrons. That makes for easier distribution of the products, and that distribution is smooth and seamless, thanks to dedicated waitstaff like the ever-smiling  Kristyn Allena, a 7th grade math teacher who moonlights at Tapastre.


Tapastre has also increased its menu to include soups, salads and sandwiches, and if their regular fare is anything like what I tasted, make a beeline for this outstanding, subterranean gem. In fact, I took the liberty of suggesting to Michael and Victor that some of the food for the beer dinner should be incorporated into the regular menu. Take that Chateaubriand, for example. Perfectly cooked, very flavorful and melt-in-your mouth good. The Thai Crab Cakes with the Lime Sauce did something I didn't think possible--it enhanced an already great beer from Ramstein, the Double Platinum. And the Rustic Apple Cake was nothing short of incredible. Proske actually took a measured risk with this pairing, using a saison. Saisons are not usually dessert beers, but using Allagash Interlude was a Ted Williams stroke of pure genius.

Michael and his Mom, Suzanne

Certainly just the beer offerings alone would justify regular trips to Tapastre, as "Ted Williams" changes his beers as it suits his fancy. If you'd trust Ted to know which ball to hit, you can trust Michael to know which beer to put on.

I confess that when Proske wouldn't reveal the beer dinner pairings ahead of time, asking us to "trust" him, I had some reservations. Now the only reservation I have is for the next Beer Dinner at Tapastre, which I will apprise you of when I learn the date. Do yourself a favor and reserve a spot.

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