Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Craigie on Main, a restaurant that requires no introduction. I dined at Craigie with Alex from Tasted Menu and a few of the site’s top contributors including Erica, Rachel and Scott. When people think of Craigie, what often comes to mind is a pork and offal-centric menu, but Tony Maws is a proponent not only of nose to tail but root to stem as well. He does some wonderful work with vegetables and grains. I got to taste this in the Ultimate Craigie Experience, the restaurant’s 8-course tasting menu that is available in a meatless rendition.
1. Three amuse preparations of fennel and watermelon radish salad, crispy brussels sprouts leaves, chai-infused apple, and tempura potato with double grain mustard. The fennel and radish had a wonderful crunchy dressing. It came dressed in a creamy sauce and was my favorite of the three.
2. Salad of local beets and crispy onions with spicy young greens, red onion, miso-mustard vinaigrette. The dressing had a spicy wasabi flavor that complemented the sweetness of the beets, as did the salty onions.
3. Far and away my favorite course was the soup of Long Island cheese pumpkin with grilled two cheese sandwich. The soup had a rich, velvety texture, not too thick and not runny. The flavor was robust and unlike any squash soup I’d had before. Pumpkin or squash soups often achieve their richness from the addition of cream and butter. This soup had a richness that came primariily from the squash and its seasonings. I would have been content having my entire meal consist of this soup.
7. My entree was a glacée of early fall farm vegetables, five grain and mushroom pilaf, savory beet jus, walnut oil. The grain pilaf was the highlight of this dish, with a mix of lentils, quinoa and wild rice. It was creamy and nutty with a nice earthiness from the mushrooms.
Craigie was offering two side dishes that night, both of which we ordered: bone marrow, above, and duckfat fried brussels sprouts. The bone marrow was served with thick slices of toast on which to spread the marrow.
One of the most exciting and memorable dishes was the palate cleanser before we got to dessert, a celery and green apple sorbet with candied celery and straciatella. It packed several tastes and textures into a tiny three-bite dish. The sorbet cold and just the tiniest bit sweet, the candied celery both sweet and tangy with a fun chewy texture, and the creamy, rich straciatella added a bit more salty to the mix.
8. We enjoyed a selection of four desserts. What impressed me most about them were the strong savory flavors like a tangy chevre ice cream, coriander-cashew granola, and miso paired with chocolate. Above, sassafras poached pear with concord grape, graham cracker, and chevre ice cream.
Photo courtesy of Erica
Bittersweet chocolate mousse tart with smoked salt butterscotch, huckleberry, white-chocolate miso ice cream.
Photo courtesy of Rachel
Sour milk panna cotta with coriander-cashew granola, methley plum coulis, and brown butter.
Photo courtesy of Rachel
Chocolate mint affogato with chicory rum sauce, espresso and chocolate mint ice cream. The mint ice cream was barely sweetened and tasted of pure cream and fresh mint picked just off the plant.
When we arrived on a wet and snowy evening, the dining room was bustling. Four hours and 8+ courses later, the dining room had emptied of most of its patrons and the space was suddenly quiet and serene. The kitchen is visible from just about any part of the room and adds to the busy nature of the restaurant. At many points during our meal, we could actually see our dishes being prepared. Service was absolutely flawless, with the servers taking the time to explain both the meat dishes and the meatless. Tony Maws bases his menu heavily on what is in season at the moment. I was fortunate as a vegetarian to visit in the fall when many of the dishes centered around brussels sprouts, squash, mushrooms and other wonderful produce. I would absolutely describe the tasting menu at Craigie as an “experience.” The tasting menus change every night and are not printed up, so you never know what is going to come next. This was a very different mode of dining for me but I took comfort in knowing that every course would be spectacular. Though I only know Craigie from the point of view of the tasting menu, I had a delicious meal and a wonderful experience.
Craigie on Main
853 Main Street
While it may sound contrived, I’ve actually been wanting a website like Tasted Menu for a long time. Tasted Menu is a website that allows users to review and post photos of specific dishes at a restaurant. I am an extremely visual person and I love to be able to see what dishes look like, if possible, before I order it. I am the person who while in a restaurant is craning her neck to see what the dishes on other tables look like. Tasted Menu allows you to easily search for a dish and view photos that other users have uploaded. While general restaurant reviews are helpful, I am often in search of someone’s take on a certain dish. I used to cull through yelp reviews and blog posts just to find a mention of that dish, but now I can quickly find it on TM. Tasted Menu just launched publicly yesterday and I strongly encourage you to check it out. Use it to get a better idea of the menu the next time you head to a new restaurant, or even better, post your own reviews afterward. There are other fun features too. When you review a certain number of dishes at one restaurant, you become the Maître d’ at that restaurant. When you review a several dishes under the same category, you become a Gourmand of that category. I, very unsurprisingly, am a Gourmand of cake. Get started here.