At the table with Anna: Rail Epicurean Market

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Where to go: Rail Epicurean Market, 211 Park St., Westfield.

What to get: Shakshuka.

Price: $16.

Anna’s take: The Rail was constructed within an old barn, and the upstairs bar prompts images of what the barn may have been like before The Rail inhabited it. A window in the upstairs bar overlooks Westfield’s popular Park Street and the patio. The restaurant specializes in farm-to-table meals, with many of the ingredients locally sourced in Westfield. I ordered the Shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish comprised of tomato compote, herbs and spices, feta cheese and an egg. The egg is cooked in the oven with the compote, then topped with mixed microgreens and parsley. The compote’s spices are mostly made up of za’atar, a Middle Eastern herb mix heavy in thyme and toasted sesame, and sumac, which has a lemony-flavor. The egg yolk is still runny, and the traditional way of eating Shakshuka is to break the egg, mix the yolk in with the compote and scoop the contents with a baguette.

The counteract the heaviness of the dish, it is paired with a spinach salad tossed with cucumber, tomato, radishes, red onions, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. The salad is topped with mint, which adds a Midwestern twist.

The entire dish is vegetarian-friendly and can easily be made vegan by excluding the cheese and egg. The compote is full of flavor, but not spicy in terms of heat. The entire dish was beautifully presented on a wooden plank.

Suggested pairings: La Yunta Torrontes Argentinian white wine, a lighter beer such as a pilsner or a wheat or, for the cocktail drinkers, the Bramble Mule or the Gin Blossom, both made with clear liquors to counteract the heaviness of the dish.

Chef’s take: Co-owner/chef Toby Miles said he was taught that tasting a dish is the third step in eating one. The first is seeing the contents and tasting it with the eyes, which is why Miles said presentation is so important. He provided some tips for the home cook to follow when plating a meal.

“Everybody eats with their eyes first. Sight and smell are the biggest triggers for memory,” Miles said, noting that smelling a dish is the second step to eating. “When you plate something, you want all your components to be able to stand alone by themselves but complement each other at the same time. We like grouping to make the dishes pop a little bit more.”

Although every chef is different, Miles suggests using colorful ingredients, letting them stand out and adding a little bit of salt are all ways to turn a novice chef into one who is up and coming in the cooking world.

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