Friends, this is exactly what I’m talking about.
A few snowy nights ago I had the pleasure of joining Chef Tony Maws, a James Beard Award Winner, and the rest of his team for an experience that was less like sitting down to dinner and more like taking a front row seat before a director and his crew. This is love of food. Craigie On Main, 853 Main St. Central Square, is a gastropub that prides itself in the freshest ingredients and most unique ways of preparing food, creating a new menu each day depending on the best picks from their delivery from local farms that morning. During Boston’s encounter with the arctic this weekend this restaurant remained open, offering a special $40 three course menu. This allowed people who might not otherwise be able to experience this top-flight menu to discover the restaurant, and allowed the restaurant to remain cozy with its tables fully booked throughout the storm.
This is a chef that exudes passion for what he does. The kitchen is open and visible from all tables in the dining room. It’s bright. The cooks move fast and call to each other about what they’re preparing – you can’t peel your eyes away. The staff presents the food as if fulfilling their ultimate purpose on this earth to help you experience dishes prepared with so much heart and precision. All the while, the head chef stands right up front at the prepping station looking over every dish brought to him before it departs on its journey to our tables. He tastes the dishes himself on occasion before they leave his sight once and for all. It’s theatre, only here there’s no fourth wall to break: you watch as the servers bring the food straight from its canvas to you.
Wondering about the dishes themselves? Put it this way, I remember when I was twelve and all I wanted to do was hop on a magic carpet and fly off to some distant land. I should have known that all I had to do was wait until I was 23 and my taste buds had developed, and it snowed 2 and a half feet in 4 hours, so I could afford a trip to Craigie On Main to witness firsthand how far you can travel in a culinary experience with love and devotion underneath you.
For the first course, lentils pureed with fried pheasant confit. Who gets to eat pheasant in their twenties? Who even remembers a pheasant is an animal?
My roommates had the pork chop and the chicken for their main courses. Just as our server described, the chicken was cooked to buttery perfection and perfectly accompanied by its wild mushroom risotto. I had the cod, pictured above, which sadly fell third in the ranks among the entrees, although the crab and shrimp shavings on top and squash puree added the character it needed.
After that course was cleared, there was no mention of dessert options although the menu promised a third offering. My palms were getting sweaty, heart being a little faster. The chef must have picked out something good, but what if it’s too savory? What if it’s not chocolate? I hid my terror as I imagined how I would handle that situation. To my relief, out came our server with not one but three different desserts, one selected for each of us.
Before Julia sat a trio of donut holes filled with raspberry syrup and a creme anglaise sauce for dipping. Before Lucy, a sweet oatmeal-like fruit concoction. To be honest, I paid less attention to this one’s character because I was too focused on what was put in front of me…
Hi I just forgot how to breathe.
This was their semisweet chocolate mousse tart, with white chocolate-miso ice cream on top. The chocolate. Dissolved. In your mouth. And miso ice cream, in case you were unaware, is fairy dust in another form.
As we looked over our check, before we could begin to doubt the wellbeing of our wallets, our server brought us one last treat. Hot Taza chocolate with cardamom spice. And with that, I call the curtain.