Be it shaken, stirred, served on the rocks or neat, the cocktail is the protagonist at The Hawthorne, a swanky libations lounge co-authored by award-winning barman Jackson Cannon.
But tucked into Cannon’s voluminous beverage book are two pages entitled “Sustenance.”
And while this brief — but highly appealing — list of bar bites, gourmet cheeses, small plates and sweet nibbles may seem a minor character, it does play an important part in The Hawthorne’s narrative.
After all, they were created by chef Jeremy Sewall, who heads the kitchens at top-rated big sister eateries Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard. (All three establishments are housed in Kenmore Square’s chic Hotel Commonwealth and run by Cannon, Sewall and restaurateur Garrett Harker.) And really, who doesn’t get a craving for a little something when they’re savoring a Paper Plane or glass of sparkling rosé?
Sewall describes the menu offerings as “food you want to eat when you’re having a cocktail.”
But bear in mind, this isn’t just any bar food. The Hawthorne, which opened in November, promotes what it calls a “pantry program.” The idea is to lavish guests with the world’s finest quality artisanal comestibles — vinegars, olive oils, imported cheeses, caviar.
“If you were in a chef’s home, it’s what the chef would have in his refrigerator or pantry,” says Sewall, who laughingly admits that his home refrigerator is actually rather bare.
My old college buddy Robin and I snacked on a few of Sewall’s “accessible and shareable” finger foods as we relaxed in our plush, zebra-striped chairs and caught up on life before heading across town for dinner.
We started with Sewall’s simple, creamy white bean dip served with a munchable, peppery mimolette cheese cracker and seasonal veggies ($11).
“There’s definitely a touch of whimsy in [the menu],” says Sewall, who also offers items such as fresh-baked soft pretzels with bourbon mustard ($10), robiola due latte grilled cheese with Dijon ($13) and house-made petite coffee éclairs ($8). Robin and I agreed that mini-Reuben toasts ($12) sounded fun. And the bite-sized layering of rye toasts, salty corned beef, Brooklyn Brine barrel-aged sauerkraut and melted cheese proved more than just adorable.
My favorites bite, however, was Sewall’s fingerling potato skins ($11), which he fills with nutty raclette cheese, bacon and tangy horseradish cream. The tiny skins were a posh version of classic twice-baked potatoes.
Sewall, who is committed to seasonality in all his kitchens, has some menu changes in store as spring takes a firm hold in New England. For example — if they’re not already there — a fresh asparagus salad and a green onion dip with house-made potato chips will soon be featured on the menu.
Notably absent from the upscale bar menu, however, are oysters — destination items at both Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard. The Hawthorne’s kitchen and food prep areas are “the size of a closet,” and too small to accommodate oyster service, the chef says. However, because The Hawthorne and its sibs pride themselves on impeccable service, says Sewall: “I’d bring you oysters if you wanted them.”
500A Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02215