Fall in Boston
Few American cities are as synonymous with fall as Boston. Here, flaming orange foliage and crisp air beckon you outside for all the quintessential activities of the season: apple picking, leaf peeping, nights by the fire pit, and eating…lots of eating.
For an authentic taste of fall in Boston, we caught up with Chef Tatiana Rosana, Executive Chef at The Envoy Hotel in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood. In conversation with Independent Collection, Chef Tatiana shares her favorite fall experiences in the city, what she’s cooking up at her seasonal pop-up, Para Maria, and how nostalgia inspires her culinary creativity. Plus, the four-time Chopped competitor shares one of her favorite fall recipes to try at home.
You grew up in Miami, which isn’t exactly known for its changing of seasons. How does fall remind you of home?
One thing that reminds me most of fall in Miami is pumpkin. My grandmother made this amazing pumpkin soup around this time of year. It was warm and filling. It always reminds me of her. Now living in Boston, when I feel that change of season, I break out my grandma’s pumpkin soup recipe, and it reminds me of Miami, of my family. When I think of fall in Miami, it’s not the change of seasons but the gathering of family that I remember most. That social time spent together over great food.
Speaking of family, Para Maria – your seasonal pop-up restaurant at The Envoy – is dedicated to your grandmother. Are there any special menu items that remind you of your abuela?
Tostones! We wouldn’t have a meal without tostones or maduros, but tostones are my favorite. My grandma would make a bunch of them and freeze them, so we could bake them whenever we craved. I knew they were a must for Para Maria’s menu.
She loved ceviche, too. We rotate a new ceviche recipe every week or so. It’s nostalgic for me, and it’s a great dish to get creative with.
But the one that tugs at my heartstrings the most is the mojo pork taco. That mojo recipe has been passed down generation to generation. It takes me back to Noche Buena, when my grandma and grandpa made gallons of this mojo recipe. We’d use it to baste the pig roasting over an open fire. I want to stay true to those traditions. My version is made almost exactly like my family’s recipe, and now others can enjoy it, too, at Para Maria.
I’ve seen you share some secret Para Maria menu items on your Instagram. Can you tell us about these?
Para Maria is a seasonal pop-up with a smaller menu, so I like to experiment and get people excited to come back and try something new. We create secret tacos and limited-time specials every week based on whatever inspires me at the time.
A recent favorite is the grilled Spanish octopus taco. My team wasn’t sure about it, but I asked them to trust me, and they came out amazing! We used spicy mango salsa and smoked paprika oil with pickled cilantro stems, which results in no waste and a delicious flavor combo.
The secret menu is a great way for my staff to get creative, too. I’m big on mentorship and allowing them to explore who they are as chefs and cooks. I encourage them to come up with different sides and toppings, and they’ve really impressed me! It’s wonderful to watch them blossom.
What are you cooking up for fall at The Envoy restaurants? Any sneak previews to share?
Produce is outstanding in the city this time of year, so I’m focusing on veggie-forward dishes for our fall menus. Meat and fish are always big fall favorites, but there’s something about the heartiness and meatiness of fall vegetables. They can stand alone! Especially sweet potatoes and pumpkins. They’re so satisfying and warm the soul.
Your approach to cooking seems to draw on the emotional aspect of food and a sense of nostalgia. What emotions do you hope to evoke with your fall menus at The Envoy?
Especially during fall, I want to evoke a sense of family. That feeling of coming together on the holidays, hanging by the fire pit on a chilly night with a mug of mulled wine. Those emotions ring true to me. It’s what I remember most when I think of fall – spending time with family. If I can evoke that emotion, even with just one ingredient, I’ve done my job.
When you’re not in the kitchen at The Envoy Hotel, what are you cooking at home when the weather cools down? What comfort foods do you crave?
When fall arrives, I really crave soups, stews and chilis. They’re obvious comfort foods, but they’re so warming and delicious. I make huge batches of chili at home for my family to enjoy. And the great thing about them is you can get as creative as you want! I love experimenting with one-pot meals. Just pick up whatever looks good at the markets, throw them in, and cook it over the stove for a few hours. Plus, the whole house smells amazing.
Another fall favorite of mine is my festive Calabaza dish. It’s so comforting and reminds me of being home, surrounded by family, with great food at the center.
As you know, Boston is considered one of the top travel destinations for fall. Where do you go to experience that fall atmosphere? What are some of your favorite fall experiences in the city?
I really love walking Boston Commons during the fall. There’s such a variety of trees, so it’s a wonderful place to watch leaves change color. There’s one tree that always changes first in the Public Garden. I go every year just to see this tree. It looks like it’s on fire. When I see that tree change colors, I know fall is coming.
Of course, apple picking is a must. There are countless farms with amazing produce just a short drive away from the city. Togus Farm is great for families. They take you out to the orchards on a tracker, and there’s a wide variety of apples to choose from, like Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps. (Pro tip: if you want Honeycrisps and other popular apples, go earlier in the season!)
Another fall activity I love is café jumping. Most people go bar hopping, but my wife and I love to jump around Boston’s cafés to try their seasonal pastries and specialty coffees. You might not know this, but apple cider donuts are huge in Boston during the fall, so we scope out the best ones each year. Flour Bakery is one of my favorites. The owner, Joanne Chang, is a pioneer of Boston’s food scene, and her bakeries are full of fun, seasonal pastries. Tatte Bakery & Cafe is another great spot for pastries. You have to try the shakshuka, too! And La Colombe has delicious chai lattes.
Wherever you go, you’re bound to be inspired. Boston does fall right!