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North End diabetes benefit CityFeast expands to Seaport and South End

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  January 22, 2013 03:10 PM

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Chef Robert Tobin.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for

Chef Robert Tobin directs staff in his kitchen at Aura, in the Seaport Hotel.

On Sunday, Chef Robert Tobin will be braising carrots instead of glazing them and serving a purée of parsnips and milk rather than potatoes and heavy cream.

In his risotto, he’ll substitute fregola, a Sardinian pasta, for Arborio rice, and he’ll skip the crème fraîche when making his savory tuile.

Tobin, chef of Aura Restaurant in the Seaport Hotel, is creating a version of his menu friendlier to diabetic diners taking part in the eighth annual CityFeast, a benefit for the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Aura is one of seven CityFeast restaurants new for 2013 and among five that for the first time expand the event’s borders beyond the North End.

Its participation came about through the efforts of Jim Carmody, vice president and general manager of the Seaport Hotel, who has long been a supporter of the American Diabetes Association and learned in November 2011, to his surprise, that he had developed Type 2 diabetes.

In a phone interview, Carmody said he had never worried about becoming diabetic because he got regular exercise, watched what he ate, and didn’t consider himself overweight. He didn’t know he had a genetic predisposition to the disease.

After Carmody’s diagnosis, family members told him his grandfather, who died before Carmody was born, had succumbed to complications from diabetes. Later, Carmody’s 22-year-old nephew, a college football star, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after he reduced his workout regimen post-graduation.

Over the past 14 months, Carmody has cut from his diet his beloved bread, pasta, and cheese, doubled the time he spends at the gym, and lost 30 pounds.

“It is a manageable disease, but you have to pay attention,” Carmody said.

Tobin, the chef at Aura, is also paying attention. He is part of a movement taking place in restaurants across the country toward serving more fresh, unprocessed, locally sourced ingredients and creating dishes that take into account various dietary restrictions.

While Aura’s special diabetic-friendly menu will only be in place for CityFeast, the restaurant already has many gluten-free and no-sugar-added dishes in its menu, Tobin said.

“We’re hyper-sensitive to any allergies or food sensitivities,” he said.

Tobin isn’t diabetic, but he does feel a need to watch what he eats, as difficult as that can be for someone overseeing a restaurant kitchen.

“It was much easier as a line cook,” he said. “When you’re the boss, it’s hard to say no, plus you have to taste everything anyway to make sure it’s correct.”

CityFeast was founded in 2006 by Carla Gomes, owner of North End eateries Antico Forno and Terramia, whose son has received care at Joslin for almost 20 years.

In previous years, Gomes garnered support for the event from fellow North End restaurateurs, but this year’s CityFeast offers expanded options around the city.

Aura, Temazcal Cantina, and Strega Waterfront will bring the annual fund-raiser to the South Boston Seaport for the first time, while the Gallows and Tremont 647 give it a new presence in the South End.

Returning are Gomes’ own Antico Forno and Terramia, along with North End stalwarts Lucca, Taranta, and Tresca. Lucia and Pulcinella Mozzarella Bar will be first-time North End participants.

Starting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 27, the 12 eateries will serve five-course dinners with wine pairings (Temazcal Cantina will instead offer tequila pairings) at a cost of $150 each, $100 of which is tax deductible.

Proceeds from CityFeast benefit Joslin’s High Hopes Fund to support their efforts to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and to search for a cure.

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