Many people here remember Kristin Canty best for her provocative 2011 documentary, Farmageddon, chronicling government crackdowns on raw dairies and other small farms.
Kristin’s heart is still with small farms, except these days she is expressing her commitment to locally-produced food via a group of exciting Boston-area restaurants—she’s opened three since 2015. It’s perhaps fitting that she’s opened her grandest creation during this Thanksgiving week. It has the name Woods Hill Pier 4.
Woods Hill Table is the name of her original restaurant, in Concord, MA, featuring scrumptious pork and beef dishes from chickens, pigs and cattle raised at her bucolic farm in Bath, New Hampshire. (Her second restaurant is a casual Mexican restaurant, Adelita, also in Concord—one of the only Mexican restaurants you’ll come across that features locally-produced meats for its enchiladas and tacos.)
Given the close health and food-safety oversight that urban restaurants have to deal with, the only connection to raw milk she’s been able to maintain is providing a selection of raw milk cheeses from small New England producers. (Raw milk cheese aged at least 60 days is legal under FDA regulations.) Kristin remains an advocate of raw dairy, crediting raw milk with helping her infant children overcome serious health challenges.
The “Pier 4” part of her newest restaurant’s name is a carryover from a landmark Boston restaurant, known as Anthony’s Pier 4, which seated hundreds and in the 1970s and 1980s was a brassy gathering place for celebrities and politicians; it was thought in those years to be the highest grossing restaurant in the country. Her “Pier 4” version is on the same site, which has been rebuilt in just the last few years with condos and offices, and is a smaller and much more elegant eatery. One great keepsake from the old restaurant is a view of the Boston Harbor waters from every seat in the restaurant.
Whereas the original Pier 4 was all fish all the time, Canty’s Pier 4 features less popular fish, like hake, (though it does offer a lobster newburgh based on the original Pier 4 offering). My wife and I just visited the new place and found the food unbelievably well prepared, and interesting. I loved the hake, which was served raw (saviche), along with glazed pork butt , and a very rich lamb bacon pasta dish. The dishes are all served as either small or large portion plates that are shareable, as opposed to the traditional soup-appetizer-main-course approach.
As glamorous as it all looked on the evening I was there, as Kristin personally seated friends from Concord and elsewhere in the area, Kristin told me it’s been a lot of hard work. She moved earlier in the year from her house in Concord into one of the beautiful new condos above her restaurant, “and lots of days I don’t even get outside, I just go up and down between my condo and the restaurant.”
That’s what it takes, of course, to be successful at any new venture. The new restaurant has already begun attracting lots of local media attention, such as this preview in Boston Magazine.
The local write-ups focus heavily on the Pier 4 connection, which Kristin has encouraged by adorning the new restaurant with a few original photos of celebrities that were everywhere in the original restaurant. One thing the reviewers tend not to notice is the prominent placement on a table near the new restaurant’s entrance of Sally Fallon’s classic cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.