Monday night, a few of my favorite ladies and I gathered at Stone Hearth Pizza in Cambridge for dinner. I have long been a fan of Stone Hearth, but for most of the others this was their first time dining there. I was excited to share one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants with Megan, Daisy, Emily and Bianca.
This being early June, we got to sample several new items on the menu for June and the summer. Cold soups, particularly gazpacho, are one of my favorite summertime foods. These little mugs of soup were a delightfully refreshing appetizer. It was the exact texture I prefer for gazpacho, pureed well with tiny bits of crunchy onion and cucumber.
It is readily apparent that Stone Hearth does food well, but they also know their beer. Stone Hearth’s craft beer sales rep Dave Aresty was on hand to provide excellent beer pairings. He started us off with Cisco Brewery’s Summer of Lager. We all agreed this was quite hoppy, and bit much for my taste.
The meatball poppers, stuffed with fresh mozzarella, came in two different sauces, a spicy tomato sauce and above, an onion and sage cream sauce. I availed myself of the cream sauce, which was velvety rich, filled with thinly sliced caramelized onions and fragrant with sage.
I was very much looking forward to trying the June special salad, called Spear Me the Details. I was absolutely smitten with the salad I got on my last visit and this one sounded delicious: blanched local asparagus spears with sliced radishes, orange slices and cashews – tossed with arugula and watercress in Stone Hearth’s honey & orange dressing. Executive Chef Michael Ehlenfledt told us that he had picked the asparagus himself that morning, and the freshness was readily apparent. The crisp asparagus paired beautifully with the sweet oranges and cashews. The sweet orange dressing tied the elements together perfectly.
I almost never order Caesar salad so this one was a treat. Chunks of crunchy romaine and radicchio were tossed with homemade croutons, grated parmesan and a very rich and creamy Caesar dressing.
And I am a longtime fan of the spinach and avocado salad, served with shaved red onion and a vinaigrette. The second beer, not pictured, Wachusett Brewery’s Green Monstah IPA, I also found to be rather bitter and hoppy, but the third beer I loved. Sixpoint Brewery’s Sweet Action was lighter in color and not at all bitter. I found it similar to a hefeweizen.
We did our best to leave room for the main attraction of the evening, the pizzas. Stone Hearth has long offered their pizzas on gluten free crusts, but they just recently debuted their own housemade gluten free crust, a recipe that has been months in the making. Chef Michael decided to serve us the pizzas without telling us which was the gluten free crust to see if we could tell.
Everyone was looking forward to trying what is probably my favorite, the Farm Fresh, with garlic oil, roasted cherry tomatoes, charred red and yellow peppers, Yukon gold potatoes, artichoke hearts, green and black olives, fresh mozzarella, and topped with arugula and red onion.
It ended up that gluten free crust was set beneath the Divine Goddess, a white pizza made with broccoli, spinach, ricotta and mozzarella. The toppings were delightful, big chunks of fresh broccoli mingling with soft gooey cheeses. But the crust was really remarkable. Since we were not told which was which, we all made our wagers as to which was the gluten free. I had a hunch that it was the Divine Goddess, because I have had Stone Hearth pizza many times before, and this crust was a tad thicker than their usual. But the texture was comparable to any wheat-based crust. It was nice and chewy in the middle and crisp around the edge. It was actually nice to have a slightly thicker crust (and by thicker, I clearly just mean thicker than Stone Hearth’s standard crust, which is almost paper-thin) for such hefty toppings. In all honesty, I would consider ordering the gluten free crust over the standard crusts any day. And sadly, I was too full after the first two pizzas to try the third, the Bacon & Blue with garlic oil, julienne zucchini, cheese, smoked bacon, Great Hill blue cheese, and cherry tomatoes, sprinkled with fresh basil.
The final beer was my second favorite of the evening, following closely behind the Sweet Action. It was actually at Stone Hearth a year ago that I first tried Pretty Things‘ flagship beer, the much-loved Jack D’Or, made right here in Cambridge. This time around, we tried their Once Upon a Time East India style porter. This was thick and dark but without being heavy. We all agreed it had a strong coffee flavor, and I actually thought it was reminiscent of coffee ice cream.
And to end the meal, we enjoyed the flourless molten chocolate cake served with locally made vanilla gelato. I have had many a lackluster molten chocolate cake in my lifetime, that I sometimes fail to get excited over any of them. This one, however, is one to get excited over. The texture was velvety, rich and moist but not goopy, with a nice contrast between the firmer outside and the softer middle. Vanilla gelato melting into the warm crevices made it downright heavenly.
As always, Stone Hearth excels on so many fronts. The pizza and salads are wonderful, in addition to the other menu items. The dishes are inspired and well-made and I have always found service to be exceedingly kind and friendly. And their commitment to supporting area growers and producers is something that always wins points in my book. Many thanks to Alex Chamberlain, Chef Michael Ehlenfledt, Dave Aresty and Andy Stone for their kindness and hospitality.
Stone Hearth Pizza Co.
1782 Mass Ave.