The highlight was a 10-course tasting menu at Craigie on Main in Cambridge. I had been told about this restaurant by the only person I know who is, perhaps, more picky about restaurants than I am. A restaurateur himself, he told me this food was so good it made him want to cry. Obviously, I had to go.
I did my research and made my reservation about a month in advance. The chef is Tony Maws, 2010 James Beard Semi-finalist (Northeast) and 2009 James Beard Best Chef Finalist (Northeast), amongst many other awards. All about the seasonal and the local, the menu is printed daily with a time stamp based upon their last delivery.
So I'll let the 10-course menu begin, with descriptions as best as I can remember.
Salad of Hiramasa Sashimi: red onion-shiso salsa, avocado, harissa-rose vinaigrette
Seared Scallop with Maine Sweet Shrimp and some crazy broth...juniper is all I remember
Grilled Spanish Octopus: grilled cipollini onions, fresh hearts of palm and lemon salad, garbanzo bean purée
Ridiculous Pasta with Lamb Ragoût
Grilled Pork Belly with Pomegranate Seeds and Chestnuts with a Green Apple Purée
House-made Venison Sausage Crépinette and Venison Leg
Sour Milk Panna Cotta
Peanut Butter Parfait: house-made hobnob cookie, cocoa nibs, banana foam
Hot Chocolate Cardamom
Overall, the meal was incredible. It was by far, the best meal I've had since I went to Alinea last March. This is saying quite a bit. I did not want this dinner to end. The meal was nearly perfectly executed, and the flavors were creative and delicious. The homemade pasta was some of the best I've ever had, and the venison crépinette, I want to eat forever and ever. While the seafood was perfect, I felt the kitchen really hit its stride with the meat courses.
The service was also incredibly attentive. That's not exactly hard to do for a solo diner, but still they were lovely. When they realized that I had been drinking my first glass of wine too quickly, they gave me a few more ounces of white wine to carry me through the seafood dishes. This was a nice touch. Most restaurants don't care, don't pay attention, or are so corporate that they couldn't even give you a few extra ounces of wine.
That being said, the one let down was the lack of a beverage pairing option. When I go to a restaurant for a lengthy tasting menu, I don't want to think about anything. Bring me whatever you like, I trust you. This goes for beverages too. I don't want to pick glasses of wine. I want something selected to pair with each dish. Call me snobbish, but this meal really could have been taken to the next level (and it was very close to the top anyway), with beverage pairings.
Regardless, if you are ever in Boston, this restaurant is a must. The food was so incredible that I did want to cry. It reminded me of the place that food can take you when it's just indescribably good. I haven't been there for a while.
And for that, I thank you, Craigie on Main.
Craigie on Main
853 Main Street Cambridge, MA 02139-3512