The best burger on Cape Ann may have its origins in Mrs. Klopotoski’s 1989 third-grade class at East Gloucester Elementary School, where Doug Papows was “the Boy Scout” and Christian Collins was “always in time-out.”
Those third-graders, now 32, have reunited in the kitchen of Foreign Affairs, a great new local restaurant in Manchester. Papows is the head chef; Collins is his sous chef.
The Foreign Affairs signature is a menu stacked with just what one wants in a local joint — a great roast chicken; a thick, meaty pork chop; luscious braised lamb shank; a burger – prepared with beautiful, educated technique; Papows attended the Cordon Bleu in Chicago, and spent a number of years in Chicago kitchens, notably Japonais, a 4.5 star Japanese-European restaurant in downtown Chicago.
Foreign Affairs is wooing those who want their traditional dishes to come with delicious surprise. There’s fiery creativity in the kitchen, perhaps some of it born in all those hours of third-grade time out? Lest anyone forget, Christian Collins’ combustible imagination kept him on our television screens to the bitter end of the 2011 Fox “MasterChef” series, where he finished third.
At Foreign Affairs, the “stack,” a salad of grilled local zucchini, summer squash, marinated eggplant and olive tapenade, recently sprouting a field of micro-greens, is no less beautiful than a plot of woodland garden, an example of the swooshing culinary paintbrush behind Collins’ wild child reputation.
To the Boy Scout and bad boy in the Foreign Affairs line-up we add Rockport native — “good student, a bit of a dreamer”— Matt Rose, just a couple of years behind Collins at Rockport High School. Once the general manager at Alchemy, Rose acquired there a haloed reputation for his wine passion, regularly charming customers with his new and reasonable wine finds. Now a sales representative for Martignetti’s, New England’s leading distributor of fine wines and spirits, but instrumental in organizing this new interpretation of Foreign Affairs (The restaurant opened a year ago, but closed and recently reorganized with new staff.), Rose designed the restaurant’s wine list, which has impressed even his new circle of Martignetti experts. He sometimes appears behind the bar at Foreign Affairs for an occasional celebrity bar-tending shift. The intimate, chic wine bar is a welcome Cape Ann addition.
Other local favorites found within the bold red, black and white Foreign Affairs interior ‚ Sasquatch smoked fish, one of Cape Ann’s best foodie secrets. Sasquatch, aka Paul Cohan, smokes his own high quality salmon, cod, and mussels in a building behind the Gloucester Daily Times offices. A Lanesville neighbor of Collins, “Squatch” offers Foreign Affairs the prized, hard-to-find, Sasquatch-smoked scallops for some of its dishes. Another Lanesville native, Celia Gibson of Celia’s Flowers, brings her young, contemporary flower style to the Foreign Affairs tables.
Back to that burger: Wagyu beef is a Japanese-style beef with fine marbling; it’s higher in omega 3’s and lower in saturated fat than most commercial beef. The Foreign Affairs version towers with sauteed onions, wild mushrooms, spicy kimchee, cool avocado, sriracha aioli, and crackling wontons, all on a Virgilio’s St. Joseph’s roll, which, Collins explained, is perfect because the crossed top allows the roll to fan the burger better; it better releases the burger with each bite. Some local burger.
It may be the perfect symbol of these two Gloucester kids’ reunion in a restaurant kitchen: very smart, a little local, that kimchee the mark of an enfant terrible. Matt Rose, in a “what the hell” kind of wine pairing moment, recommends the Riesling, Paul Cluver estate 2010, with this almost impossible to pair burger. (That kimchee! That sriracha aioli!) Riesling is the most versatile and food friendly wine around, Rose says, but adds that the sweetness of the Dolcetta D’Alba, Beni di Batasiolo 2011, would complement this burger-deliciousness, too.
On contests: Collins may be known as only taking third place on “MasterChef,” but in Mrs. Klopotoski’s 1989 class he won the Valentine’s Day contest. The prize: dinner for his family at Twin Lights Manor. There is a photo circulating online of Collins beaming, holding his winning Valentine, while the rest of the class, including Papows, glares.
For all this, we say “Thank You, Mrs. Klopotoski.”
Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought column. Questions and comments may be directed to email@example.com. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.
If you go What: Foreign Affairs Wine Bar and Bistro Where: 26 Central St., Manchester. Hours: Sunday through Wednesday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; bar's last call at 11:45 p.m. Reservations for parties of six or more. How much: Entrees from $19 to $27.