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Poetry-Level Cuisine at a Restaurant Named Prose

Debbie Shore has been at the helm of the literary restaurant for 14 years.

This is the fourth in a series profiling local chefs and sharing their favorite summer recipes.

After 14 years in Arlington and hundreds of theme dinners, Debbie Shore is worried that her restaurant - Prose - may be closing.

'I don't know if we will make it through the end of the year or even end of the summer," Shore said during an interview in the small restaurant a few weeks ago.

It is partially the economy, she said. But it is also partially because of the restaurant itself, a place that feels more like an intimate dining room than a bustling restaurant.

The restaurant holds about 25, which means on any given night, Shore – who cooks, seats, waits tables and buses – has to turn people away at the door.

"I always had a limited appeal," Shore said. "I always knew that."

Her menu is eclectic and changes every night. It is the kind of restaurant where the people who love it are loyal and keep coming back night after night.

Her theme dinners are often based around books – "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" or James Joyce. The name came to Shore because "Poetry sounded to presumptuous," she explained, but a good meal, well that "the stuff of everyday life."

Unlike poetry, which is frilly and often esoteric, prose is down to earth and comfortable, something Shore aims to be at her restaurant.

Originally from New Jersey, Shore worked for years in restaurants before opening her own. And although some complain that her service takes too long, those who appreciate the creativity and irreverence that creates a "De-evolution" meal celebrating "On the Origin of Species" that is eaten in the order the diner wishes to evolve – land to sea or sea to land.

Shore crafts the menu around foods that interest her and that which she would serve to friends. It is a unique model for a restaurant, one that has certainly garnered her quite a following over the years and it is those same friend she hopes will pull her through the tough economy.

"It has always been my customers who come through and keep me open in the end," she said.

For them, she offers a recipe for one of her most delectable desserts.

Baked Custard with Massachusetts Maple Syrup, Goats Milk and Farmers Market Duck Eggs:

Ingredients:

9 whole duck eggs(or if you can't find duck eggs use 6 large chicken egg yolks and 5 whole large chicken eggs)

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups goats milk (if you can't find goats milk -which is readily available at Trader Joes and Whole Foods -you can substitute lowfat buttermilk to get that tang)

11/3 cup Grade B maple syrup. This is most important. You want to use the richer more mapley and less sweet Grade B as opposed to the more commercially available Grade A. However the choice is ultimately up to you as whatever maple syrup you use should be one that you like as that is going to be the primary flavor of the custard.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature an hour prior to making.

1. Whisk eggs by hand until frothy (with wire whisk) approx. 2-3 minutes) in very large stainless steel bowl.

2. Whisk in maple syrup.

3. Whisk in heavy cream and goats milk till smooth. (The mixture will still seem very thin)

4. Pour into 8 by 11 Pyrex baking dish. (No need to grease)

5. Place filled Pyrex baking dish into a slightly larger pan and fill the larger pan with hot water half way up the sides of the baking dish.

6. Place in middle rack of 400-degree oven. Every 15 minutes turn pans clockwise so custard bakes evenly.

7. Check just before 1 hour. If custard slightly jiggles even if top is not browned, remove both pans from oven.

8. Place baking pan still inside water bath on wire rack to slowly cool down.

9. When cooled down to room temperature remove baking pan from water bath. Custard can be stored in baking pan.

10. Eat when still warm or refrigerate and eat chilled!

Prose is open Tuesday to Thursday from 6-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m.

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