Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Oh, what a fond farewell to Boston. Well, Cambridge, really. Thanks to the recommendation of a foodie friend and fellow grad student (Thanks CASEY!), Ry, Jon, and I went to Craigie-On-Main for a feast of a feast. The restaurant is known for local, organic, fresh food, with a menu that changes daily to reflect what is seasonal and best at the market. They also offer several tasting menus, including one for vegetarians!!
We originally planned to do a six-course tasting ($90), vegetarian for me, and meat and fish for the boys. But after the third phenomenal course, Jon asked the waiter if we could go gung-ho and do the full ten ($115). Oh yeah, we also just HAD to get a side of the bone marrow (more on that later), meaning we were full-on gut busters. By course seven, I'm pretty sure Ryan could hardly even look at the food, but oh it was worth it. A play by play:
Course 1: Trio of fish/ Trio of vegetables:
Both dishes were very light, refreshing, and definitely the way 'amuse bouche' should be: a total tease. My trio featured lily bulbs in a rice wine vinegar, a red beet slaw/salad, and one that alas I can't remember. The boys had squid noodles, a piece of sashimi, and a clam that was fried- and delish. I was really impressed with how the vegetarian dish parodied the flavors and look of the fish trio!
Course 2: Avocado salad/ sashimi and avocado salad
I seem to recall this was when the real fireworks began. The description from the website: red onion-shiso salsa, avocado, harissa-rose vinaigrette. It was awesome! I couldn't identify all the flavors, but there was a really nice citrus/acid and yet a slightly spicy flavor- which is the harissa, most likely.
Course 3: Grilled hearts of palm with a ramp puree for me, and a light, white fish with a great skin for Ry & Jon. There was some debate on this course for the boys, Ry thought the fish was slightly overdone, but Jon did not find it so. Either way, this is a great place to mention the phenomenal service- constant attention and amazing table side presentation of every dish. The executive chef and owner even presented our final course (how cool is that!?) Also, two delish bottles of wine, one suggested by the staff- a white Gruner Vetliner($65) and a bottle of red cairanne from the rhone ($41), rounded out an amazing experience!
Course 4: spring vidalia onion soup with comte grilled cheese, olive oil and ramps
This might have been the holy crap course, at least IMHO. Dipping the grilled cheese in the savory, creamy, and sweet onion soup was seriously a bite of heaven.
course 5: lamb meatballs for the boys and pasta with cheese curds (sounds bad, tasted AMAZING)- I really enjoyed my pasta course- but the boys were probably the least into their lamb course. The lamb was spiced with a moroccan or persian blend- including cinnamon, which just isn't the flavors we love. High quality, but not our taste...
course 6: Ragoût of Forest Mushrooms, farro verde, farm-fresh poached egg (Divine, like OMG- it sliced open and spilled out like a dream), ramp purée, herbs and flowers and rabbit and lamb sausage and blood sausage (for the boys)
This dish I can not do justice to in this description. When I cut open the egg the runny yoke to spill out, filling the bowl like a soup. Little purple flowers and microgreens, and mushrooms were all soooo flavorful and savory- it was so rich, we could only eat a bite or two at a time, and would then have to sit for a while... probably one of the best dishes I have ever had.
course 7: pork 3 ways: spicy rubbed rib, pork belly, and pork confit/
Four Grain Pilaf and Haroseth-Stuffed Vidalia Onion maitake mushrooms, spring farm vegetables, sorrel purée
"The rib was unreal- tender, but crispy outside... yummy" says Ry. "The confit was like velvet"
On the other hand, this was probably my least favorite dish, and the only one I wont dream of every night of my life- though I did love the sorrel puree of veggies on the side, the pilaf once again featured the persian spice and cinnamon that just isn't my thing. The onion itself was incredibly tasty!
And because that just wasn't enough food:
Side Dish: roasted marrow
-The vegetarian confesses: marrow is one of my favorite gourmet treats and I just could not resist. The size of this bone was ridiculous- way bigger than any I've ever come across- and with a piece of toast... oh man. I could see myself sitting at the bar with a glass of red wine, the soup and the marrow and being in my glory. Don't be thrown off by the idea, it is like... the best butter in the world.... with lots of salt...
course 8: panna cotta with jasmine and mandarin orange
course 9: peanut butter parfait and banana rice pudding and pina colada ice cream
course 10: shot of hot cocoa with smoky mexican peppers
I really, really needed a veg experience like this one! I have been feeling both some cravings and the stress of eating out while maintaining my vegetarian/ whole food diet. It was tough especially when I was home in MA and PA with our families- a lot of restaurants only offered a veggie burger, maybe a cheese quesadilla, and a side salad as "vegetarian". Here, I think my tasting out- shined the meat and fish, even. I went a solid 5 courses declaring that the dish was the best I'd ever had. The food felt inspired, and never like my dish was merely the sides or garnish with the meat left off. Best of all, several staff members came to chat about my experience, as they don't get to do the vegetarian as much as they like! YAY! It really showed me that I CAN be a gourmet foodie and a vegetarian- something I was really beginning to doubt.
If you live within 2 hours of this place, get thee to Craigie on Main!