Archives for November 2015

Lexx Restaurant Continues to Evolve

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)By Jim Shaw

As a community, Lexington continues to evolve on many fronts.  From real estate development and our public schools, to local government and commerce, the complexion of Lexington is changing.  There has been a great deal of discussion lately about the business mix in Lexington Center.  One of the most significant changes over the past ten or so years has been the increase in up-scale casual dining options.  While several new restaurants have opened in Lexington Center, Lexx Restaurant essentially paved the way and helped to put Lexington on the map as a destination for dining.

It must be said that Lexington is home to several very good local restaurants that have served this community well for many years.  Among them are Mario’s, Yangtze River, Dabin and Via Lago.  However, Don Rosenberg and Chris Bateman wanted to introduce the concept of an up-scale American fare menu with a casual atmosphere here in Lexington.  Towards that end, Lexx was opened in October of 2004, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Rosenberg, the son of Dunkin Donuts founder William Rosenberg, had previously established and operated Aesop’s Bagels for several years at the same location as Lexx.  Lexx managing partner/owner Chris Bateman explains the transition from Aesop’s to Lexx. Chris says, “I was original hired to be the general manager to help fix an opening that wasn’t quite perfect and run the restaurant the way a restaurant should be run. I came from Vinnie Testa’s where I saw the company grow from three restaurants to a chain of eleven restaurants.  I managed their Lexington location for five years before Don asked me to join him at Lexx.  I knew I wanted to work with Don.  He was a visionary and an entrepreneur with lots of experience.  I knew I could learn from him and help him bring structure and organization to Lexx.  Don had decided that it was time to shift concepts from Aesops’s Bagels.  He thought that Lexington needed an upscale casual restaurant that served cocktails and craft beer. Lexx ended up paving the way for Lexington to become a dining destination.”

Apparently, all did not go well when Lexx first opened.  Operations needed to be revamped and wait times needed to be reduced.  Chris explains that his first challenge was to right the ship.  He says, “In the beginning, the buzz about Lexx wasn’t so good.  People thought the waits were too long and they weren’t completely happy with the menu.  That was the real challenge.  Getting people here in Lexington to be open-minded about giving Lexx another opportunity.  Don and I had a long interview and he saw that I could bring the systems and operations that was needed at Lexx.  In the beginning, I spent a great deal of time in the community.  We wanted to partner with great community organizations like the Lexington Symphony and help other organizations.  In fact, each year we donate about $5,000 in gift certificates to local charitable organizations.  I think our sincere commitment to the community has helped to breed good will.”

Chris explains that while Lexx was always a good restaurant, it needed to go to the next level.  While he was good at operations, he wasn’t a trained chef.  So he set out to find one, and he did.  Chris says, “We were really never a chef driven establishment.  Over the years our menu has morphed with changes that we thought were good.  We wanted to move from being a good restaurant to a great restaurant, and now in year eleven I hired a chef that can help us achieve that goal.  Chef Jonathan Post was brought in because of his culinary prowess. He’s going to do great things here.  His new menu items have been off the charts. Our guests love them. I would honestly put his dishes up against any of the great Boston chefs.  So, I’m excited about what the future will bring.”

Working with a new chef can be an adjustment, but Chris decided to trust in the recommendations of his new chef.  Chris says, “From day one, we were focused on fresh, quality ingredients. But when chef Jonathan arrived six months ago, he was adamant that everything should be made from scratch.  Right down to the ketchup.  I know it sounds silly to be so concerned about ketchup, but Jonathan made the argument that ketchup can touch off allergies for sensitive people, and that making our own ketchup would illustrate our commitment to offering truly fresh food.  I was concerned because people have been using Heinz here for eleven years, but it only took three months to move people towards our fresh ketchup.  Now they love it, and it contains no sugars, preservatives or coloring.  It’s as fresh as it can be.”

After achieving the level of success that has sustained them over the last few years, Chris’ challenge had been about keeping regular customers satisfied.  He explained that their always seeking new ways to keep things fresh without letting go of what works.  He said, “I always said that we had to have enough items on the menu so people can visit us on multiple occasions.  During the week, if they want to stop by for a burger and a beer that’s great.  If a couple wants to come in on a Friday or Saturday night and have a more upscale meal, or if someone wants to have a business meeting here or celebrate a special occasion, we need to be able to have enough offerings.  One thing that I’ve noticed at other similar restaurants is their limited menu selection.  Often I’ll see only five or so entrees or only a couple of salads to choose from.  For us, we try to bill ourselves as the neighborhood restaurant with a great selection where you can spend as much or as little as you want.”

Chris continued, “The challenge for chef Jonathan is he’s always looking to introduce new things to the menu, but I say that our formula has always been to have a much broader menu.  We literally have guests who eat here six or seven times a week.  We have to keep our selections fresh, but consistent with a broad selection.  I know we can’t be all things to all people, but we have to try.”

 

Mediterranean Hummus _ Lexx-1

Mediterranean Hummus

Lexx4

Beet Salad

Lexx5

Lemon Bar

When asked about where he thought he’d be after eleven years in business, Chris was pretty confident that he has risen to the challenges he set for himself.  He says, “I think we’re about where I expected us to be after eleven years.  For me personally, I thought I’d only be here for a couple of years.  I wanted to put structures in place and get the place where it needed to be.  However, after the original chef left, I accepted the challenge of seeing just how good we could become.  As I said, I originally came on as the GM, but after a few years Don gave me equity in the company.  I then became managing partner, so now I’m one of the owners of the company. Don has now pretty much retired and has left 100% of the day-to-day operations to me. We talk several times a week about the business and how to always keep things fresh and interesting.”

Clearly, Lexx has become a staple for local dining.  It’s where you go to be seen and to see others.  Rarely do you go to Lexx without bumping into someone you know.  That’s a tribute to the success they have achieved and their commitment to the community.  When asked about the future Chris smiled and said, “I hope that our menu will grow and that we always seek to improve all facets of Lexx. We’ll always have our Lexx classics like osso bucco, the burger and our Moroccan stew, but the challenge has always been and will continue to be our focus on offering the very best food in a warm friendly atmosphere to our friends here in Lexington.”

 

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, brings his seasonal, locally-inspired, New-England-through-a-Southern-lens style to Lexx Restaurant’skitchen and hopes to make the next ten years there even more successful than the past decade.

It’s easy to glimpse the influence of the down-home cookin’ on which Jonathan was raised when he’s in the kitchen.  Whether it reveals itself in the myriad of pickles and preserves, or in the multitude of containers of bacon drippings and animal fat stacked in the cooler, there’s no doubt that Jonathan carries his heritage close to him like a tattered old wallet photo.  His simple, approachable food isn’t fussed over, just presented honestly with the ambition of doing justice to the raw product, and the people who cared for it.

The people responsible for his ingredients are never far from Jonathan’s mind.  Being in close contact with the farmers is a priority, as they are the ones who really dictate the menu.  Often, on the few days that he’s not in the kitchen, Jonathan is on his knees with his hands in the dirt, helping to transplant seedlings, or hand-weeding a bed of carrots.

In the decade that Jonathan has been in New England, he has been blessed to have spent time in the kitchens of some exceptionally talented chefs.  There was a several-year stint at Blue Ginger, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Ming Tsai, where he was exposed to exotic ingredients, but most importantly to the Asian philosophy of balance.  Jonathan was on the opening management team at 80 Thoreau, where he honed his attention to detail, refinement, and realized the significance of impeccable technique.  At Moody’s Delicatessen he was given the opportunity to witness, and absorb the knowledge of a master charcutier.  All of these experiences, among others, are visible in his approach and deliberation, and ultimately his food.

Jonathan is thrilled with the new opportunity to be heading up the kitchen at Lexx  Restaurant and just as eager to get to know all of his new neighbors.  So, even if he looks busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, be sure to stop by the kitchen and say hello!

 

 

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)

Click image for LEXX Menu

Lexx is located at 1666 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington Center.  Call them at 781-674-2990, or visit them at LexxRestaurant.com for more information about their menu and hours of operation.

 

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THE LEXINGTON TEA BURNING

PHOTO BY RICK BEYER

PHOTO BY RICK BEYER

Sunday, December 13, 2015
Lexington Visitor’s Center
1875 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA
Free And Open To The Public

Lexington Historical Society and The Lexington Minute Men invite all to an all-day event free and open to the public. The events will take place on the grounds of another sponsor of the event, the Lexington Visitor’s Center (1875 Massachusetts Avenue) and will begin at 9AM with an 18th century soldier encampment, followed by musket drills, 18th century cooking demonstrations, parades, and music, and culminate with the burning of the tea at 1:30PM. Historic Buckman Tavern will also be open for special holiday tours beginning at 1PM. Please see below for a complete itinerary of events.

ABOUT THE LEXINGTON TEA BURNING
Three days before the Boston Tea Party, citizens of Lexington burned all their tea in a common bonfire, and issued a stirring resolution supporting the people of Boston, announcing that anyone in Lexington who used tea would be treated “as an enemy of this town and this country.” The resolution also contained these fiery words which resonate down through history: “Should the State of Our Affairs require it, We shall be ready to Sacrifice our Estates, and every thing dear in Life, Yea & Life itself, in support of the common Cause.”

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4 Great Holiday Events

Holiday Events

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Join The Lexington Symphony for the Holiday Pops Concert!

Lexington Symphony Nov-Dec 2015
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Lexington Remembers

Remembers Committee members (left to right) Francine Edwards, Mary Gillespie, and Bob Edwards . Photo by Digney Fignus.

Remembers Committee members (left to right) Francine Edwards, Mary Gillespie, and Bob Edwards . Photo by Digney Fignus.

LOCAL CABLE SHOW CHRONICLES THE HISTORY OF LEXINGTON FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

By Digney Fignus

“Know what’s under your feet.”  It’s the familiar mantra of Mary Gillespie, the driving force and Chair of the Committee for the long-running Lexington Remembers television series.  One of the staples of LexMedia’s local programming, the show documents an oral history of the Lexington community.  Mary recalls what inspired the project: “I was a Social Studies Specialist at the Harrington School.  I was surprised to find that many of my students didn’t know anything about the history of their own neighborhoods.  One day I brought members of the Busa family in to talk about their farm and personal history with the town.  What was supposed to be a one-hour talk ended up lasting the whole morning.  The Busas went home for lunch and then came back and spent the rest of the afternoon talking with the children.”  The school program was an instant success.  At the time, Mary was also involved with the Lexington Historical Society.  After enthusiastic responses to the program at a number of other Lexington Elementary Schools she felt a real need to create a more permanent record of this unwritten history.  The die was cast when Mary approached LexMedia with the idea of putting on a show about the “people behind the woodwork.”  As Mary says, “to preserve the contributions of the people who served our community and helped to make it what it is.”

Mary began to gather together a small team to produce what she thought would be “just a few shows.”  The project was seeded with a $500.00 grant from the Lexington Friends of the Council on Aging to purchase equipment and supplies.  Everyone involved in the project is a volunteer.  The shows don’t need a fancy sound stage.  Most of the interviews are shot right in front of Mary’s big white brick fireplace.

Bob and Francine Edwards are the show’s production team.  Bob is a retired Electrical Engineer who worked at Raytheon and helped to father the technology that led to the invention of the microwave oven. Bob heard about Mary’s idea for a community access show through the Council on Aging.  Being an engineer, Bob liked the idea of learning a new technical skill.  Francine was very involved in the Girl Scouts in Lexington.  Her outstanding work as a leader had earned her a “Wonder Woman Grant.”  As part of the prestigious award she attended a seminar about how to study and record woman’s oral history.  Francine recalls, “I only came to the first meeting to give a talk about what I had leaned from the seminar.” She laughs, “They roped me in.”

Francine and Bob Edwards filming at Hancock-Clarke House. After Francine and Bob were "roped in" to the project, they took a production class at LexMedia and they have been the production team on Lexington Remembers ever since.

Francine and Bob Edwards filming at Hancock-Clarke House. After Francine and Bob were “roped in” to the project, they took a production class at LexMedia and they have been the production team on Lexington Remembers ever since.

Francine and Bob both took a production class at LexMedia to learn how to operate the cameras and run the editing programs. That was nearly ten years ago.  What started out to be “just a few shows” has grown to a collection of 43 episodes.  Bob and Francine have been working with Mary since the beginning of the project and have shot and edited most of the current catalog.  They make four copies of each show, one for broadcast at LexMedia, and one each for the Council on Aging, Lexington Historical Society, and the Cary Library.  For the Edwards it’s a true labor of love.  Between shooting the show (yes, Bob and Francine each run a camera, set up the lighting, and do the sound recording), formatting, synchronizing, editing, laying the sound track, and making copies, it takes nearly 10 hours of effort to produce each hour of the show.  Their hard work really paid off when in 2010 they were presented with LexMedia’s Producer of the Year award.

Part of the shows longevity and success has to be attributed to the incredible team that Mary was able to assemble at the start of the project. One of the first recruits was longtime resident and Lexington Town Meeting member Dan Fenn.  Dan grew up in Lexington and has had a storied career.  Nationally known, Dan was an advisor to JFK, taught at Harvard University, and was former head of the Kennedy Library.  Dan brings a wealth of experience to the project and is one of the shows principle interviewers.  Almost everyone working on the show has lived in Lexington for years. All in all, they are a testimonial to the adage: you’re never too old to learn.  Most of the current crew is over 80.  Nonagenarians Bob and Dan are 92.

Dan Fenn (right) with Sam Doran appearing on-camera for a Lexington Remembers segment. Dan was one of the first recruits for the Lexington Remembers team.

Dan Fenn (right) with Sam Doran appearing on-camera for a Lexington Remembers segment. Dan was one of the first recruits for the Lexington Remembers team.

The story behind the show should be enough to inspire you, but the lasting value of these first-hand recollections of life in Lexington are priceless.  Any researcher would give their eye teeth to have access to this kind of information.  Yes, it’s community television.  There is nothing slick about it, no fancy special effects, just real people talking about their life and times. But isn’t that the point?

I binge-watched over a dozen Lexington Remembers episodes in between Patriot’s games and the World Series.  As I watched, I couldn’t help reminisce about my own experiences growing up in Lexington.  I remember bouncing rocks off the water tower and scrounging for a baby carriage wheel in the Lincoln Street dump just as one of the “Leading Ladies of Lexington,” long-time Town Meeting Member Shirley Stoltz, did when she was a kid growing up near the Stone Store on Mass Ave.  I recall graduating from a Sinker to a Pollywog at the town pool just as Helen Millican did as she recounted her days as a swimming instructor in Lexington.

The shows cover a range of topics and have no rigid time restrictions.  Some of them are as short as 15 minutes, some are just over an hour.  Some are already tremendously important because the people who were interviewed, like Dr. Winthrop Harrington, have since passed away.  Dr. Harrington is a direct descendant of the Harrington family who fought in the Battle of Lexington.  He was also an avid bird watcher.  Bob and Francine joked that this made the show particularly hard to edit because all he wanted to talk about was birds and not his family’s history.

One of my favorite shows was the piece on Lexington Gardens.  The Millican brothers, Harold and John Hall, told the remarkable story of how their father had lost the family’s 70-acre Lexington farm during the 1929 crash.  Never the type to give up, the family turned its fortune around when their dad was able to purchase the land that eventually became Lexington Gardens from a Harvard professor who had been using it to grow exotic plants for his Botany classes.  The brothers recount how they were able to get started for “$50.00, some furniture, and an old truck.”  It’s an inspiring story of success and hard work.  Lexington Gardens became famous as the home of the “Victory Garden” show that ran for many seasons on public television.

Over the years, Mary and her Committee have been able to secure interviews with some of Lexington’s most prominent citizens.  How refreshing is it to see Bill Dailey, former Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, take us back to a time when Lexington was primarily a farm community.  His family originally came to Lexington in 1828.  What a treasure to hear him talk with pride about the “Dailey Wall” that his family built on Waltham Street and his experience as a pinsetter in the bowling alley that still exists under the floorboards of one of the downtown shops.  He grew up in a Lexington where Carroll’s cows would stop traffic on Waltham Street to cross to the lower pasture where a golf driving range now exists.

Bill Dailey, former Chairman of the Board of Selectmen (center) with Father Colletti and Lillian McArthur at one of Bill's "East Lexington Reunions" held at the Dailey Farm on Marrett Road.

Bill Dailey, former Chairman of the Board of Selectmen (center) with Father Colletti and Lillian McArthur at one of Bill’s “East Lexington Reunions” held at the Dailey Farm on Marrett Road.

I came to Lexington in the ‘50s and I still remember that world: a world where you could buy a nice house in Lexington for $12,500 and tuition at Tufts University was a whopping $250.00 (Harvard was only $500.00).  A recurring theme almost everyone interviewed talks about is how Lexington was so much more a blue-collar community then.  My father and his father were bus drivers for the Boston Elevated, and later the MTA, and then the MBTA.  My granddad had a house on Waltham Street with an upstairs apartment that I lived in as a toddler with my mom and dad.  My grandfather, who had been born in England, kept a pigeon coop in the backyard.  The pigeons are long gone, but some of our family still lives there today.

Lexington was typical small-town America not that long ago.  My dad’s sister Eleanor married Morris Bloomberg who owned Morris Motors that was just a few blocks down Waltham Street at Four Corners.  My cousin Barbara married Larry Carroll, one of the Carroll boys whose farm was a short walk down the street in the opposite direction.  Middleby Road was a just a dirt road in the mid-50s when my dad and mom saved up enough money to get their own little house.  There was no Bridge School.  There was an open meadow with a hollowed out crab apple tree we hid in during games of “52 Scatter.”  The two big chestnut trees near the current entrance to the school were our jungle gyms and just off the path were patches of blackberries, raspberries, and wild grapes.  For me, watching the Lexington Remembers episodes was not only nostalgic, it was informative.  Even though I’m related to the Carroll’s, I didn’t know that the Carroll family was once recognized as “The National Catholic Farm Family of America.”

Lexington was a place where it was not uncommon for a family to have roots that ran back multiple generations.  The show “A Conversation with Dick Michelson” traces that family back five generations.  Michelson’s Shoes was opened in 1919 by Dick’s grandfather who originally came to Lexington because the town needed a harness repairman.  From harness repair, to mending boots, to selling and stocking custom-fit shoes, Michelson’s has been a landmark in Lexington Center for almost 100 years.  Even today it is run as a successful family business.  I happened into the shop this last Halloween to take a photo or two.  Not only were three generations of Michelson’s working that day, they were celebrating Dick’s 82nd birthday.

Michelson’s has been a landmark in Lexington Center for almost 100 years. Three generations of Michelsons: (left to right) Mark Solomon, Dick Michelson, Barbara Michelson, Andrea Michelson, and Jerry Michelson. Photo by Digney Fignus.

Michelson’s has been a landmark in Lexington Center for almost 100 years. Three generations of Michelsons: (left to right) Mark Solomon, Dick Michelson, Barbara Michelson, Andrea Michelson, and Jerry Michelson. Photo by Digney Fignus.

Besides the archived copies, most of the Lexington Remembers shows are currently available for viewing On Demand at the LexMedia website.  From the history of the Boy Scouts, the Police and Fire Departments, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, to recollections of town leaders, and the inspiring stories of well-known families like the Busas and Dorans, there is bound to be something of interest to anyone with a Lexington connection.  The shows are always informative and have a genuine historic value.  The episodes are first-and-foremost entertaining.  How can you not chuckle when Mickey Khazam deadpans the “catchy title” of one of the Friends of the Council on Aging upcoming lectures: “New Neurons in the Adult Brain, Stem Cell Surprises.”

As they approach their 50th show, the Lexington Remembers Committee is putting out the call for more people to get involved.  Mary Gillespie has certainly realized her vision of a program “not only historical, but to honor some of the people who have made a difference in the community.”  In the last ten years Mary and her exceptional seniors didn’t just hit the mark, they struck a bull’s-eye and had lots of fun in the process.

The editing suite at LexMedia where Lexington Remembers is produced.

The editing suite at LexMedia where Lexington Remembers is produced.

If you are interested in volunteering, learning more, or contributing to this important non-profit project please contact:

Lexington Remembers Committee Chair Mary Gillespie 781-862-9166

LexMedia –  www.lexmedia.org 781-862-5388

Lexington Friends of the Council on Aging – www.friendsoftheCOA.org

 

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To view episodes of Lexington Remembers visit the LexMedia Website at www.LexMedia.org and search Lexington Remembers in the On Demand section.

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The Fund for Lexington Seeks Donations

Twenty years ago, then Selectmen Dan Fenn, proposed that a Fund be established in Lexington to act a a resource for the Human Services Department to help individuals and families experiencing temporary hardship. It is called The Fund for Lexington.

In the next week, Lexington residents will receive a letter from Fund for Lexington chair and Lexington Selectman Norman Cohen asking for donations to the fund.

The Fund for Lexington assists those in our community who may need help from time to time to overcome a financial crisis, and also to pay for initiatives that enhance and beautify our surroundings. The Fund is an outstanding example of our community’s commitment to the common good. The fund was

Last year, your gifts provided grocery cards for those in need and gift cards for families with children under 18 years old to purchase winter coats and clothing. In addition, the Fund was a life-line for families who were stricken by sudden illness or unemployment and needed help with rent, fuel oil, and utility bills. All of these needs were verified by the Town’s Human Services Department.

A few months ago, one of the original members of the Fund for Lexington Board, Father Arnold F. Colletti, retired from Sacred Heart/Saint Brigid Parishes and moved away from Lexington. His commitment and dedication to the Fund was steadfast and unwavering. His compassionate and caring guidance will be missed. The Board announces with gratitude that Rev. Paul Shupe of Hancock United Church of Christ