I’ve never met a chef more ingredient-driven than Chris Fisher. Actually, I had never met Chris Fisher until a couple of weeks ago, when I strolled into his new restaurant, the Covington, for dinner and an interview. Sure, his reputation precedes him, with that James Beard Award for his cookbook and various accolades in the culinary world. And as I sidle up to the bar and watch the employees sit down to a staff meal of fresh-cooked pasta and salad, I see the key to his success: Surround yourself with good people, and the rest will follow.
Even before we dove deep into why he has traveled down-Island, and what makes the Covington special, Chef Fisher read the menu to me, pointing out each item, its ingredients, and where they are sourced from. He literally pointed to each menu item (all listed with the key ingredients) and told me where it was sourced from, how he knew the grower, and his connection to it. I was awestruck. “You’re telling me you shook the same hands that grew, picked, harvested, slaughtered, and shipped every single ingredient on your menu?” I asked. “If it’s sourced locally, it’s for a reason. If it’s sourced off-Island, it’s for the same reason,” Chef Fisher said. “We want to showcase the best, no matter where it’s from.”
A New American restaurant with a focus on coastal New England cuisine, the Covington is the new sister restaurant to the Port Hunter, another local favorite. Ted and Pat Courtney, owners of both locales, can be seen walking across the street from one restaurant to the other on busy nights.
We started our dining experience with bread and butter, which at the Covington you do have to pay for. The bread was warm sourdough bread made by Morning Glory Farm and served with butter and a sprig of rosemary. We started light because we planned on doing a pasta course and an entrée. Why do a pasta course at the Covington? The dry pasta is sourced from Bob Marcelli, who runs a company called Abruzzo Pantry. Mr. Marcelli, who has family connections to Abruzzo, Italy, sources everything from this small Italian town, and provides some of the top restaurants in the country with his ingredients.
That night, a lobster bucatini special (market price) was on the menu, served with local corn, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. The light, delicate pasta showcased the lobster in all its glory. My friend ordered the Casarecce with Pork Ragu and Pecorino ($22), a tantalizing dish of Cleveland Farm pork and vegetables slow-cooked and served over casarecce. Both the bucatini and casarecce are made by Pastificio Masiarelli, one of the oldest family pasta producers in Italy. They’ve been making pasta for 145 years, so they know what they’re doing. And so does the team at the Covington, who cook the pasta to perfection. It’s a joy to eat.
For our shared entrée, we decided on the honey-glazed beef short rib with rice grits and salsa verde ($32). The rice grits are made from Carolina Gold rice, which tends to have “low tensile strength,” meaning its grains are subject to fracture. The broken grains are separated during the cleaning process and sold as grits. Talk about repurposing! The beef short rib sits atop the creamy grits and is slathered with an herbaceous salsa verde. I wished this restaurant would stay open during the winter and I could have this comforting dish in the middle of February.
Too full for dessert, we missed out on their honey pie ($12) which is said to be a favorite. Next time, for sure. In the meantime, the Covington is open in season, Wednesday through Monday, for dinner starting at 6 pm. For reservations, call 508-627-7678.